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Pointing the Way toward Excellence…..

Marilyn Armstrong:

I try to avoid awards and nominations. This is a new one and at least it doesn’t ask a lot of silly personal questions. If anyone is feeling like being nominated for this rather attractive award, free to contact me by email. Meanwhile, thank you SwittersB for thinking of me and excellence in the same sentence. I try :-)

Originally posted on SwittersB & Exploring:

little bear-smiling bear-wood carving-photography-East L.-Oregon-SwittersBI am sincerely pleased to acknowledge a nomination from Aquiliana at the enormously popular La Audacia de Aquiles for the Excellence Blog Award. Audacia de Aquiles is a most fascinating journey into Greek Mythology, history and the underpinnings to Western Civilization. Always fascinating to visit and learn. Thank you so very much Aquiliana!!! Gosh, I hope I got those vowels right.

As is consistent with the awards, I am to pass on this award to ten or so worthy creators and point the way to their site. There are so many wonderful bloggers out there and each award provides me the gift to point toward those amazing minds. With this award, you are kindly spared knowing the minutiae about SwittersB, so let me immediately point the way to my selections for the Excellence in Blogging Award.

Candy Canes Holly

excellence

Candy Canes Lites

Circadian Reflections   Gossamer Threads   Storyteller   Fabulous 50’s …

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3,000 POSTS

That’s a lot of posts. Today I crossed a blogging Rubicon. There are so many posts I don’t remember half of them. I rummage through them, hoping to find gold. Sometimes, I do. I figure if I don’t remember what I wrote, probably neither do you.

3000 post state screenshot

It’s funny, really. Yesterday, the prompt asked how long I’d been blogging daily. Personally, it’s just about two years, not counting when I was hospitalized and couldn’t do anything, not even breathe. Then there was the memorable vacation at the Cape Cod house of horrible where the WiFi didn’t work.

However, I should point out that even when I was too ill to personally pen posts (love those P words), Garry and Rich jumped in and filled the gap, so there have been daily posts — at least one, and usually more — for a long time.

And of course, the result is 3,000 posts.

Cape Cod Bathroom

The other result — which I attribute in part to my persistent prolific productivity (say that fast, three times without tripping over your tongue), another piece added to my fascinating and ongoing saga of encounters with Death. And maybe writing stuff that people enjoy reading. Oh, and a few nice pictures, too.

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The last couple of month have been the two best months ever, but views are starting to drop as the holiday season gets underway. Of course. Life intrudes on blog-reading-time. It’s been a good year for Serendipity. I’d have to be a total ingrate to fail to say thank you to all of you.

You’ve been here. Reading, encouraging, connecting. You’ve been supportive through some of my most terrible times. You have been more supportive than my family and in a weird way, you have become family.

Thank you. You make life fun and encourage me to soldier on!


As for today’s prompt, it is not stupid. Or silly. It is merely boring, a repetition of a theme which wasn’t interesting the first time around and has not improved with frequent iterations.

I would never strand anyone on an island. If you were stuck on one, if I was able to send you something, I’d send a helicopter to bring you back. Unless, of course, you were “stranded” on Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard. Those are two very classy islands and getting stranded is just fine. I’d suggest a cozy cottage somewhere on the road between Vineyard Haven and Edgartown.

Postscript: If one were to get stuck on one of the aforementioned islands, the thing he/she/they are most likely to run out of, is money. So a handful of credit cards with high limits and low-interest would probably be appreciated, I’m sure. And cash is accepted everywhere.

In that case, I’d be happy to get a couple of tickets and join you.

NEVER BEEN BIG ON BINGO

So, the Great Minds of WordPress asked: “What’s the longest stretch you’ve ever pulled off of posting daily to your blog? What did you learn about blogging through that achievement, and what made you break the streak?”

Well, now that’s a fine question. I was reading CHRONICLES OF AN ANGLO SWISS and realized while I was answering her, I was writing the whole answer (more or less), so really, she was my morning’s inspiration. That and discovering the new little Shark rechargeable vacuum cleaner I bought really picks up the dog hair. I was dubious about their claims, but by golly, this little machine has balls!

Shark Bagless Navigator

I digress and apologize. It’s hard to keep on point this early in the day. Well, maybe it isn’t all that early. Never mind. I need more caffeine before I can properly focus on being witty.

First of all, blogging is my current profession.

Otherwise, life as a senior citizen is 24/7 tech support to family, friends, and sometimes random strangers. I admit, I get a buzz when the young whippersnappers ask for my help because they don’t know anything about their computers except how to turn them on and off. Oh, they also know how to plug them in. They grasp the finer points of supplying electricity and charging batteries, but that’s as far as they can go.

I don’t know exactly when I started daily posting. More than two years ago. It’s not a statistic WordPress provides. My streak was rudely interrupted by a vacation at a Cape Cod dump where WiFi didn’t work. While I was in the hospital, I had to send in substitute authors while I did a little pas de deux with death. I was very lucky that Garry and Rich were there for me or this blog would probably have died, even if I didn’t.

It turned out, Garry got better stats than me, which is embarrassing. What a guy. He didn’t let popularity go to his head , which might have something to do with other prizes he won over the years. I think he only counts success if it comes with a statuette or plaque.

There I go, digressing again.

In any case, the moment I could write, Garry retired. My husband is a noble man.

And so, with all the flaws in the system, I forge (forage?) on ahead (a head?).

72-MorningCabin-10-6_22

The more interesting question is why? I don’t know why I started posting daily. I know I’m as addicted to writing as I am to the coffee I drink while I do it. It keeps my brain ticking along, keeps my writing skills from fading into something I “used to do”. Writing stimulates all those electrical impulses in the cranium. Because I blog, I have a use for the strange thoughts that pop out.

In retirement, blogging is a healthful activity. The alternative would be sitting around the local senior center waiting for the next bingo game. I’ve never been big on bingo.

What did I learn from daily blogging aside from the satisfaction it gives me? Here it goes:

  1. Write often.
  2. Write well.
  3. Post good photographs.
  4. Be nice to the people you meet online.

That’s it. That’s all of it in a nutshell. And beware of enraged squirrels.

HOLIDAY TOURING: APRIL FOOL’S!

I got tapped by Doobster at Mindful Digressions (who was tapped by Willow over at Willow’s Corner) to participate in a “blog hop” called “Holiday Touring.” A blogger chooses a holiday, then poses 3 questions to 2 other selected bloggers. The questions are about how, if at all, other bloggers celebrate that particular holiday.

Dancing in the dark heritage museum

Doobster’s holiday was New Year’s Eve. He tapped me and TC Connor over at For What Is Most Valued to carry on the Holiday Touring blog hop by selecting April Fool’s Day. Here are the questions he posed to us:

  1. What, if any, April Fool’s Day pranks have been pulled on you? Alternatively, what is your favorite April Fool’s Day joke?
  2. Do you pull pranks or practical jokes on April Fool’s Day? If so, please tell us about some of your best pranks or practical jokes that you have pulled off.
  3. April Fool’s Day should be a national holiday — yes or no? Defend your position.

And now, without further fanfare, comes a much longer than necessary set of responses to what appear, on the surface, to be ridiculously simple questions.

1) Nobody has ever pulled a prank on me, not on April Fool’s Day or any other time. I think my friends simply aren’t pranksters. Not to mention this has never been a “big” holiday in New England. Its main significance to me is that Garry’s birthday is a few days away.

2) WARNING! Gratuitously long answer coming up!

Israel, where I lived for 9 years, does not celebrate April Fool’s Day … but Purim is (in part) celebrated in a similar manner. Even more so because other than Purim, most Jewish holidays are pretty grim. On Purim, though, Israel TV broadcasts faux newscasts and other funny shows. One year, they showed a hilarious version of “Candid Camera.” It had us in stitches for a week. This was back in the eighties when we only had one Israel TV channel and your alternative was Jordanian, Syrian, or Egyptian television, depending on where you lived.

You had to be there.

It came to pass … 1985 maybe? … I was doing what I did. Writing manuals. In this case, for a hardware/software combination product which read fingerprints. Nowadays, we have iris scanners, so this doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it was a big deal in 1985. Cutting edge technology.

It was Purim (Note: Purim is not a “get out of work” holiday.) The graphic artist and I colluded to produce a parody of the manual I was writing. I wrote the copy, he did the illustrations. I produced a few bound copies, all very hush-hush, to pass around.

Except the boss found out.

Oy. Busted. I figured I should update my résumé and start job hunting. Instead, he thrust a copy of my mock manual at me and said: “Yours?”

Meekly, I said, “Yes sir.”

“Make me a dozen more of these,” he said. “It’s hilarious. I want to give copies to the investors.” I think I still have a copy of it somewhere in a crate in the attic.

3) Should it be a national holiday? I think it IS a national holiday. Our politics are an all-year-round joke. What, you aren’t laughing?


Boston Commons and Statehouse-HP-1

Now it’s time for my to pick a holiday and pass the torch to some unsuspecting blogger who is just sitting around waiting for me to tag him or her for this honor.

I’m spinning the wheel. Spinning, spinning, spinning … slowing … and it’s …

Swoosique at Cancer Is Not Pink and Bill Brown at Evil Squirrel’s Nest!

And your holiday is … (tension is mounting … the room is silent and everyone is holding their breath in anticipation) … NEW YEAR’S DAY. An official holiday on which nobody ever seems to know what to do. When I was young and still made parties to which people actually came and everything, I gave an annual New Year’s Day Pig Out because I knew that no one ever had plans on New Year’s Day.

Here are the questions:

1) What do you do on New Year’s Day? Sleep off your hangover? Host a Victorian feast for a few dozen good friends? Nothing?

2) What are your plans for the coming holiday, if any. If you have some, tell me (and the world) what they are. If you have no plans or are, heaven forbid, working … explain how you got yourself into that mess.

3) Does New Year’s Day have special meaning to you? I (for example) became engaged to my husband on January 1, 1990. If it doesn’t have special meaning, say whatever is in your heart. Sharing, as they say at WordPress, is caring.

Note: WordPress doesn’t really mean it. Neither do I.

SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION

A friend asked me why I do this, why I blog. So I asked her why she plays golf.

We do what we do because we love it, need it. Or both. Because, despite the fact the many bloggers pretend they “write for themselves,” it’s untrue. We blog because we want other people to read our words, to connect with our ideas. If we wanted to write “for ourselves,” we’d keep a diary.Garry - Writer Christmas Day

Why are bloggers so coy about wanting an audience? Is it because they aren’t getting a good response, so instead of trying to figure how to bring in more readers and followers, they say they don’t care whether or not anyone reads them?

And then when one of us is moderately successful and popular, they get all squinchy-eyed and moralistic, as if  we’ve ruined the purity of the blogging experience.

Really? Seriously? When did we achieve that lofty spiritual level where we are above worldly concerns … like popularity and success? The hypocrisy of it takes my breath away. If that is how you really feel, you shouldn’t be blogging.

We all care. Anyone who says otherwise is lying — probably to themselves and definitely to us. We all want to be read, to be seen, to have an audience. If we take pictures, we want people to look at our images and say “Wow, that’s amazing.” Because we want to be amazing.

Writing is like breathing. If I don’t write, I suffocate. My friend?  She needs to compete. To play golf. Or she will suffocate.

TELL ME HOW TO WRITE

I can’t begin to count the number of people who tell me they want to be writers, but don’t know how to start.

That they ask the question suggests they will never be writers. Writers write. No one has to tell you how or when. You write and will keep doing it because it’s not what you do, it’s what you are. You may not write brilliantly, but you will write. You’ll get it right eventually. Doing is learning.

I started writing as soon as I could read. Putting words on paper was the same as speaking, but took longer. I didn’t mind the extra time because I could go back and fix written words. Being able to change the words and keep changing them until they said precisely what I wanted them to say was the prize.

I was socially awkward and my youthful verbal skills not well-suited to my age and stage in life. I wasn’t good at sports. No one wanted me on the team. In retrospect, I can understand it, but when I was a kid, it hurt.

Games and other social activities let you become popular, make friends, and do those other things which matter to kids. I couldn’t do that stuff, but I could write. And read. I might be a klutz, but words let me build worlds.

75-BookStory HP-2

If you are going to be a writer, you know it. Practice will make you better, help you understand how to build plots,  produce books publishers will buy. But writing itself is a gift. If you have it, you know it.

Writers have words waiting to be written, lining up for the opportunity to be set on paper or in the computer. It may take a while for you to find what you want to write about. But you will write.

Talent comes in an endless number of flavors. If you are a musician, you’ll find a way to make music. The same with painting, photography, drawing, running, hitting a baseball or throwing one so that it just skims that outer corner of the plate at 96 miles per hour. Mathematics, engineering, architecture … creativity and talent are as varied as the people who use it.

Ghost Photographer

ADVICE FOR THE BEWILDERED 

My advice to hopeful writers is simple. Write.

Don’t talk about it. Do it. Write a lot, as often as you can, even if most of it is crap and you won’t show it to anyone. Sooner or later, you’ll find your way. If you don’t write, it’s your loss, but it may also be the world’s loss. You never know how good you can be if you don’t try.

This blog is my outlet for the millions of words stuffed in my head. Yes, I really want you to read it. It matters to me and I see no reason to pretend it doesn’t.

On the other hand, I hate golf. Can’t figure out why anyone would want to walk around an enormous lawn hitting a little white ball. I can’t think of anything more boring, but I know a lot of golfers. They live for it. The rest of the week is just a pause between tee times.

So, if you don’t get why I write, that’s okay. You don’t have to get it. That I get it and can do it and other people read it … that’s fine.

You do your thing, I’ll do mine. And we will all find happiness doing stuff we love.

A LITTLE BIT FAMOUS. MAYBE.

Ready, Set, Done!

I’ve been brooding over statistics. In particular, I keep staring at my follower numbers, puzzled, and I’ve reached a conclusion.

I don’t really have more than 7000 followers no matter what the numbers say. I bet most of these “followers” are spam-bots or people who stopped by once, clicked “Follow” and disappeared. Who knows what motivated them to “follow” at all? Maybe it was a slip of the mouse, pure accident?

Hyannis downtown people

Daily views of posts are something. They lend themselves better to analysis. I disregard surges on a single post. Often it’s situational: a big snow storm and everyone shows up to read Garry’s experiences in the blizzard of ’78. Or I write something about a new TV show so when it’s Googled, I pop up. Voila! Thousands of hits on an unexceptional post.

Most people who come to read a post for a specific reason don’t come back. Maybe a few of them will drop by again, but mostly, they won’t. It’s not personal. These are not people who follow blogs. They are looking for information and when they find it, here or elsewhere, they go home.

But I can’t ignore the more than 213,000 views I have on Serendipity. Or the recent upsurge of daily visitors. This does not seem to be a “blip,” and might constitute a trend.

I don’t know most of the people who “read me.” I don’t generate as many comments as more controversial sites. Sometimes, I regret that, but not usually.

72-Paula-Party_43

Most of my visitors don’t comment. They don’t even click “like.” Yet I’ve started to meet strangers and discover they’ve “read me.” I’m pleased and happily surprised when it happens.

Blogging can be weird that way. You can be a little famous — and never know it. I’m sure it’s the only kind of “fame” you can achieve without realizing you’ve achieved it.

WHY I FOLLOW THE DAILY PROMPT

I’ve been asked why I bother to write stuff based on WordPress’s daily prompt, especially since the quality of the prompts has been more than a bit lackluster in recent months and I’ve needed considerable self-restraint not to snarl, growl, or try to (virtually) bite the editor.

But I do them anyway and finally, I figured out why.

I am an incorrigibly anal-retentive writer/editor. If I give free rein to my natural inclinations, I will edit everything to death. Nothing will be good enough. I will write every sentence over and over until it’s as near perfect as I can make it. What it will not be is spontaneous.

Some of my best prose is written quickly, barely edited at all. Which means that after publication, I spend the following 12 hours finding and fixing typos — a different conversation.

But what the prompts do for me is give me leave to write quickly, off the cuff about a wide range of subjects that I would never otherwise choose. I post them immediately and don’t let myself get into a never-ending round of edits. Sometimes I get a bit fancy with illustrations, but I keep the writing simple and tight. Rarely does a response to a prompt exceed 500 words. Most are fewer than 350 words.

72-Peacham-Sunday_092

It’s hard for me to be spontaneous. About anything. I’m not sure if I was ever a free spirit, even as a kid. I’ve always lived in my head. Never been a party person. Never a “just do it” kind of gal. My two creative outlets, writing and photography, are the only areas where I can break free of my self-made restraints.

So I follow prompts. Occasionally, I use a prompt to publish something I was planning to post anyhow. The prompt, in those cases, provides a link so a few extra people might to read it.

I wish the daily prompts were more original, less repetitive. A “free write” exercise is not a prompt at all. It is the stuff of school assignments. Otherwise, WordPress prompts, even if they are obviously constructed using little effort and less thought, offer me an opportunity to write about something I would not ordinarily consider. Some of my best stuff has been in response to silly prompts. Some of my worst, too.

And that’s why I follow the prompts. (Phew. Finally answered that question. Took me long enough!)

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