BLOGGING – IT’S A NEW YET SOMEHOW OLD WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

I’M NEW. WHAT SHOULD I DO?

It’s interesting, looking at an earlier post and realizing how many “givens” have changed since you wrote it. It was just a few years ago. But oh my, how times have changed.

Maybe I’m just getting a bit beat up from having hung around the blog world too long … or maybe it’s the endless pressure of political reality that is making me crazy and mentally exhausted. Maybe it’s everything.

I think it’s harder to blog now than it was. We used to be able to have fun –without feeling the responsibilities of the world. Funny, light, and airy have become harder to find. Some elements of humor have gone out the window. It’s not that I wanted them to go away, but it has been hard to let go of the awful developments going on around us.

That being said, I can’t talk about the “issues” all the time. I can’t even think about them all the time. In that direction lies madness.

Everyone knows that there are dangerous developments in the world, but we can’t think about them every minute of every day. The world is undergoing a bad turn. We are atop that evil pile. I often wonder if I’m still living in the same country. Is this America?

And it’s international too. Is this my world or have slipped into a parallel reality?

Nonetheless, the basic rules still apply — with a few caveats. WordPress is no longer providing any kind of support to bloggers. No prompts, no awards, no nothing. They ply you with endless advertisements to join up with their “business plan” even if you don’t have a business. They pay no attention to what we ask for. Instead, they give us what they feel like giving us … IF they feel like giving us anything. And they do not believe in beta testing their software.

Don’t count on WordPress to give you a hand. They won’t. Do count on fellow bloggers to give you a hand because we will if we can.

So:

    • Do what you love. If it’s writing, write. Photography? Take pictures. Excuses are boring. A lot of people spend more time explaining why they can’t write or take a sharp picture than actually writing or focusing the camera.
    • Don’t whine. We all have problems. (Remind me I said this.) If you are going to whine, try to be funny too.
    • We are all entitled to a good online rant. Just not every day.
    • Funny is good.
    • Keep posts short or at least as concise as you can — given the subject. Some things need more words than others, but when you’re running over a thousand words, put the post away and read it again later or better yet, the next day. I bet you’ll find at least 500 (or more )words you can cut.
    • Don’t post blurry, bad pictures. Learn to look at your work and appraise it as if it were someone else’s.
    • Work on improving your craft(s). Write better. Take better pictures.
    • Proofread! If, like me, you’re a terrible proofreader, use whatever free proofing device you can find. I’m using the free version of Grammarly. I hate to admit it, but it has helped.
    • Follow your gut. If your gut isn’t telling you anything, try your brain and imagination. If that’s not working, read a book.
    • STICK WITH IT. You don’t build a following in a week or two.
    • PERSEVERE! You need to post regularly and often. If you don’t post regularly and often, your readers will wander away.
    • Many followers will wander no matter what you do. They have their own lives and their own reasons. It isn’t about you. Every two or three years, with some important exceptions, you’ll find you have a new group of followers.
    • You never know who is reading you. Many folks read, but many fewer comment. Most won’t even drop a “like.” I’ve been shocked at who reads my blog.
    • Don’t let other people’s stats make you envious. If you stick with it, you’ll get there too. 
    • Check your facts if you are writing anything that contains facts. It’s called credibility. You need it no matter what your government is doing.

BAD ADVICE – BY ELLIN CURLEY

My mom was a psychologist, so when she gave personal advice, people tended to listen. On one occasion, she gave a neighbor relationship advice that backfired. Things did not turn out the way either of them expected.

The neighbor was in a passionless marriage. Her husband was emotionally distant and uncommunicative. The wife was taking psychology classes as part of a program to become a psychiatric social worker. This made her particularly dissatisfied with her flat relationship. However, she had two young children and no way of earning money, so she didn’t want to end the marriage.

She confided in my mother about her unhappiness. Mom threw fuel on the fire. Mom encouraged her not to settle for an empty marriage. She told her that she deserved more and could get more in her life and her relationships. Mom told her that if she left the marriage, her husband would have to support her and put her through school. She could then have a career, a better relationship and keep her kids in the bargain.

I don’t know how much influence Mom had on the neighbor’s decision to leave her husband. But she did leave and expected a favorable settlement and a rosy future.

I tried to tell my mom that however good her relationship advice was, she was giving the neighbor terrible legal advice. My mom had no idea what she was talking about regarding the state of divorce law at the time. Mom still believed that the law totally favored women. She was sure that women were always awarded custody of the kids and always got good settlements.

But times had changed, and so had divorce law. The neighbor was in for a big surprise. Especially since she couldn’t afford a top-notch lawyer of her own. The neighbor didn’t have a place to live or a means of support. So she lost total custody of the kids to her husband. She didn’t get money to go to school. She barely got enough money to support herself — and that support was only for a short time until she figured out how to make a living on her own.

She ended up living with relatives and getting a dead-end, menial job. The kids didn’t spend much time with her for a while because she had no place for them to stay with her. Her whole world fell apart.

She eventually got a place of her own but I lost touch with her. I know she never got to be a social worker. The kids were never a big part of her life again.

I sometimes wonder if the neighbor had understood the ramifications of leaving her husband, whether she still would have done it. I always thought that if she wanted to leave, she should have waited until she had finished her social work training. Then she would have had a career, an income, a place to live, and would probably have kept her kids. She at least would have gotten joint custody. I know her ex-husband. He’s a nice guy. There was no abuse or unbearable hostility. He was always a good and involved dad. Why was she was in such a rush to leave? She didn’t even take the time to research what Connecticut law would provide for in a divorce.

I worry that my mother filled this woman’s head with unrealistic ideas about her fulfilling and happy future. I regret that I didn’t talk to the woman myself. I’ll never know if I could have changed her future. But I feel guilty for not trying.

ADVICE FOR NEW BLOGGERS

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I’M NEW, WHAT SHOULD I DO?

  • Do what you love. If it’s writing, write. Photography? Take pictures. Excuses are boring.
  • Don’t whine. Funny is good.
  • Keep posts short.
  • Don’t post blurry, bad pictures.
  • Work at improving your craft(s). Do better writing. Take better pictures.
  • Proofread!
  • Follow your gut. If you’re gut isn’t telling you anything, try using your brain and imagination.
  • Stick with it. You don’t get a following in a week or two.
  • Don’t let other people’s numbers make you envious.
  • Fact check before you need to apologize. It’s called credibility. You need it.

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TO CHANGE A LIFE

On my way out the door to the doctor. This is obviously a rerun, but I think it’s appropriate and no time today to do an original. See you all later!!


I had been married about a year. It was probably the thousandth recital of my tale of woe. How I had been beaten, abused, molested, bullied from my earliest memories until my jailbreak at age 17.

That day, my husband looked at me and said: “You’ve told me this before. Often. I hear you. It was bad. Your father belongs in jail. But you don’t live there anymore.It’s time to move on. Let it go. Stop dwelling in the past. Go forward without all that crap hanging all over you.”

the doctor is in

There were a lot of ways I could have answered. I might have gotten angry. I could have pointed out he could take his own advice. But I didn’t. I could have told him it isn’t so easy, letting go of the past, dumping baggage. I didn’t say that, either.

What I said was: “You’re right. I’ll try to do that.”

I did try and eventually, succeeded. I can’t say I never looked back. I looked back plenty. But I never went back into those bad old memories and dwelt there. I never again let those memories dominate me. Getting completely free of all the awful stuff took long years. Half a lifetime and then some. While I worked it out, I didn’t let it control me. It was a piece of advice I needed to hear and heed.

I give to anyone who might need it, the same advice. In the end, no matter how horrible your childhood, no matter how traumatic your life was, unless you want the people who hurt you, molested you, mistreated you, or abused you to rule you, your only choice is to let go and move on.

There is no other way. When you are deep in the morass of painful memories, full of rage and pain at those who hurt you, the suffering you are enduring isn’t hurting them at all. You are hurting only yourself. Haven’t you been hurt enough? Why grant the bad guys power over you? Why would you want to do that?

No one needs to tell me it’s easier said than done. I know that. It wasn’t easy, but I got it done. So can you.

Sometimes, I get to give people who need it, a bit of good advice. That’s my little gift. Maybe I help. Someone, somewhere.


Be the Change – What change, big or small, would you like your blog to make in the world?

LIFE-CHANGING MOMENTS

Not for Thee — What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received that you wouldn’t give to anyone else? Why don’t you think it would apply to others?


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I’ve gotten some really great advice over the years. From professors at college, from people I worked with or for. From a husband or two. From friends. Advice that changed my life, career, and destiny.

I suppose, in theory, it could apply to someone else. But I doubt it because important advice is not pithy or necessarily quotable. It’s specific to an individual. Not aphorisms or “rote” messages. Not the kind of thing you toss around in casual conversation.

I remember the very first piece of life-changing advice. It came from a professor who’d become a friend and mentor. I was a music major, a pianist. Doing pretty well. I aced most of my classes. The only bothersome worry nibbling at my mind was what in the world I could do with this education? My talent as a pianist was limited. To a non-professional, I sounded great. To a professional, not so great. In short, not good enough. In classical music, not good enough is a million miles from good. Either you can compete — or not.

Dr. Deutsch accosted me as I was leaving a practice room one afternoon. “We should talk,” he said. I knew I wasn’t going to like what he had to say. And I knew I should listen.

“You’re good at this. You do well in your courses. Your grade point average is high. Very high. But your heart isn’t in it, not like it needs to be. Music is a hard road. If you aren’t fully committed, you won’t survive. Make a decision to get into it … or get out.”

It was a critical turning point. I was a single credit short of completing the major, but here was time to start a new major without delaying graduation. My choice of music had been based more on loving music than where it might take me professionally. To my surprise, I was more relieved than upset by what he said.

Practical young woman who I was, I selected Comparative Religion for my new major. As we all know, there are so many jobs opportunities in that field. I hedged my bet. I was already involved at the college radio station, so I majored in communications too, though I had no interest in working in radio, television, or theater. I just enjoyed messing around.

By then, it was obvious I would be a writer. I wrote. Always had. Even when I did it with a pencil on lined paper. It was obvious I had talent for words. I had fantasy visions of a Stephen King-like career living in a solitary retreat on a cliff overlooking the ocean. There, alone with my grand piano and a typewriter, great novels would emerge and take the world by storm.

Not exactly the way it all came down. While taking long hours of psychology, philosophy, and history of religion courses, I gained discipline. I had a wonderful, wise, perceptive professor who not only read what I wrote, but could tell the difference between when I’d done the work, and when I was glib and faking it. He was the only professor to ever give me a grade of A+/D on a paper. A+ for style, D for content.

Under his tutelage, I learned research methodology. How to write so others could follow my reasoning. Although I would later be surprised when technical writing became my career, it wasn’t as out-of-the-blue as it seemed. All those papers in college had paved the way.

Could either of these pieces of advice have been given to anyone but me? Would they have made sense to anyone else?

Later, there would be a husband who suggested I stop moaning about the past and move on. Pointing out there was little future in the past, he combined this with keeping my father out of my life to give me a chance to grow up in peace and safety. I will always be grateful.

Sometimes, a relationship lasts exactly as long as it is supposed to. That first marriage let me become an adult, with a husband who supported me, friends who cared. When I was ready to move on, he didn’t stop me. It was a good marriage that ended in divorce.

There was more. A lot more. I wonder, often, if the advice givers knew how much they were influencing me. How much their advice rocked my world, changed the direction of my life and career. Sometimes, a single sentence at the right moment was enough to illuminate the darkness. Perhaps one of my gifts has been knowing when to listen and who to trust.

These days, non-interference is the social gold-standard, but that’s part of the whole “me, me, me” mentality of the 21st century. Thoughtful, intelligent advice is never a bad thing. Whether or not it is appreciated or taken to heart is another issue.

Silence will never offer anything of value — while one important moment of truth can mean everything.

Take a chance. Save a life.

MYTHICAL GRANDFATHER SPEAKS WISELY

Powerful Suggestion

What’s the single piece of advice you wish someone had given you a year — or five, or ten —  years ago?


“Fasten your seat-belts. It’s going to be an exceptionally bumpy ride. Actually, you might also want to wear body armor and a helmet.

“I think there are guys with high-powered rifles out there getting ready to shoot. Oh … one more thing. You might want to consider moving to someplace warm and cheap. Just saying.”

Thanks oh mythical Grandfather for your wise counsel. I’ll get right on it!

THANKS FOR THE ADVICE

I have opinions. About government, life, religion, history, education. The quality of literature and literacy. Dogs, ecology and wildlife. Movies and cameras, not to mention photography and art. I probably have an opinion about you, but unless you ask me directly, you’ll never know what it is.

We should all butt out of each others’ business. My love life, eating habits, whether or not I exercise or drink too much or not enough, is not your business. I’m not interested in your opinion unless you’re my husband, best friend or doctor. Then I’ll at least listen.

Mar and Gar HOF 2013Even if you want my opinion on something personal, I’m wary of giving it. Because I’ve had one too many people over the years offer me bad advice. People who make assumptions about my health, my finances, my choices. My taste. Body shape. Diet. How much or how little I exercise.

I will listen with genuine interest to your experiences, how a particular diet or treatment helped you. I’ll mentally try it on for size to see if there’s any chance it might work for me. It takes me a while to think things over, figure out if I can make a lifestyle change. If I can live with the repercussions of a change.

On the other hand, people who outright tell me it’s my obligation to “get in shape” make me want to hit them with a two-by-four upside the head. Those who tell me “truths” they’ve gleaned from Fox News or Rush Limbaugh. Or the latest exercise or trendy diet.  I immediately visualize taping their mouths shut with duct tape. People who insist I accept Jesus don’t make me want to go to church. They make me want to grab a large-caliber weapon and blow them to Kingdom come where they can meet Jesus in person. Let me know how that works out.

Too many people offer too much advice based on too little evidence, knowledge or even commonsense.

I will offer my experience as evidence — and accept yours too. But don’t stuff it up my nose. Don’t tell me how to run my life. Never tell me what to think.

When I offer advice, I work hard to make it benign. “Calm down and breathe” I will tell someone who is clearly overwrought. It’s good advice. You can’t go wrong with it.

“Think carefully before you make a major life change,” I will advise. More benign advice. It can’t hurt anyone. And that’s as far as I’ll go Oh, I may suggest medication or a second opinion to someone who has an illness I’ve got or had. Suggest that if you need a CPAP machine to breathe while you sleep, smoking two packs a day may not be your healthiest choice. Make sure you get a mammogram on time. Rest when you’re tired, enjoy life while you can. This is advice you could probably get from a fortune cookie. It would be good advice regardless.

The most recent piece of advice came from a woman who told me I should have my breast implants removed and get a prosthetic brassière because sleeping in a sports bra is stupid. I turned purple. Steam came out of my ears. I haven’t seen her since.

If you absolutely cannot control yourself and must offer me advice, be careful. If it sounds like an order, my controlled but evil temper will pop out of its hidey hole. My best friend and I never give each other advice. We make carefully couched suggestions and leave it at that. Wise move, don’t you think?

My last remaining goal in life is to be allowed to live without other people telling me what to do. I’ve earned that.