YOU NEVER CAN TELL

A couple of days ago, I got a comment (via Twitter) from a musician whose work I have admired for many years. It was a wonderful, joyous moment. I’ve previously gotten comments from actors, authors (usually after I reviewed their books), and other famous or sort of famous people who I admire and are my role models and heroes.

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Every time it happens, I’m thrilled, delighted, awestruck. I’m 10 years old again and star-struck.

You never know who is reading or following you.

A few years ago, I bumped into an ex-mayor of Boston … and he was following me. These are people that may never comment. If they do, they probably show up as anonymous. Sometimes, you recognize the website or pseudonym, but often you are just left wondering “Who was that masked man?”

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For all of you who think nobody reads you, nobody follows you because you aren’t getting a lot of comments? Most readers don’t comment, especially people whose names are known to the public. Many (most?) don’t even leave a “like.” It doesn’t mean they aren’t there. I would suggest as much as 90% of your audience is comprised of lurkers. You really don’t know who is reading your blog.

It’s a reason to be optimistic about what those statistics really mean … and cautious about things you say. A note to book reviewers: authors read reviews. Even reviews by relatively unknown bloggers. If you flame an author, he or she will not forget and will never forgive.

I won’t give you names because I think that celebrities in general prefer to keep a low profile when they are making unofficial contact with people. I’m just grateful whenever someone whose work I love lets me know they are reading my words and liking them. It means a huge amount to me. It’s a kind of validation. It’s like winning a prize. It makes the sun shine brighter even on a rainy day.

It can happen to you. If you are patient, it probably will.


NOTES: I thought I’d add a few notes about this. My most frequent contacts are authors, probably because I write about and review books. Typically, when I give a positive review (if I really hate the book, I usually don’t review it), I hear from the author. The first time it happened, I almost fell off my chair. Now, I am less surprised, but no less happy. Garry hears from children of stars he worked with and authors who want to use his encounters as reference material for books. Which is very cool, too.

If you love books and authors, writing good, smart, fair book reviews is an excellent path to meeting the authors. Book reviews don’t get the big numbers that other posts get, but reviews have a long shelf life. You may find you get hits on them for years after they are initially published. Republishing them is easy since they don’t go “out of date.”

Music and movie reviews, and anecdotes about personal encounters with celebrities may get someone you admire to contact you. It’s fun and comes with a bit of stardust. It can make blogging an adventure — in the best possible way.

UPDATE – CHANGING HOW COMMENTS APPEAR

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I wanted to tell everyone so you won’t get confused. I have always put the newest comments on top because I hate having to scroll through a zillion comments before I can add one. But this also makes the order of comments and responses a bit weird. It gets really hard to figure out which response is for what comment. So, I have switched it around and now comments will be in the order in which they were written, with the oldest on top and the newest on the bottom.

There’s no entirely happy solution to this problem. I wish the comment box would appear on top regardless of where the comment would ultimately appear, as they do it on Quora and many other sites. But WordPress doesn’t offer that as an option. You can choose oldest down to newest, or newest down to oldest.

Let me know how you feel about this. I’m ambivalent and not entirely happy with either solution. I’ll be happy to have your input.

REVEAL TO CONCEAL

REVEAL TO CONCEAL

As much as we reveal in our blogging, we also intentionally conceal a lot. I’m sure it’s not just me. I prefer to not expose the rusting underbody of our lives to the world at large.

Marilyn and Garry by Bette Stevens

Marilyn and Garry by Bette Stevens

I do not blog about every tiff I have with my husband or anyone else. I don’t go into the sordid details of every passing  virus, sniffle, or stomach ache. Or the gory details of our lack-of-financial life.

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Why not? Because it’s no one’s business but ours — and also, because it’s not very interesting. Whining is boring. My own included.

I know people who are in constant crisis mode and post all of it on Facebook. They present themselves as the most unlucky people on Earth because everything always happens to them.

A pipe breaks? “OMG we’re doomed!”

Flu strikes? “Why am I afflicted by the gods? Why is the universe punishing me?”

A lost cell phone? “The sky is falling, the sky is falling.”

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The other day, it struck me that we (and probably you, too) have as many of these bumps in your road of life as anyone else. Maybe more. We just don’t document each and every one … unless they make a good story. It’s always worth the virtual ink if I can make someone laugh.

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Part of the pleasure of blogging is we get to present ourselves and our lives in a positive way. Unless you blog for sympathy and some people do. In our virtual world, we can be our best, most entertaining selves. If this presentation conceals our pain and misery and gives others a skewed idea of us? Who says “full disclosure” is what blogging is about?

Marilyn by Garry

Writing about all the grimy and grim details of day-to-day life is like posting ugly selfies. Why in the world would anyone want to do that?

I’d rather make you laugh. I’d rather make me laugh, too. And maybe, just sometimes, maybe (along the way) I make a point or two worth thinking about.

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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MORE GREAT THOUGHTS

Random Greatness, by Rich Paschall

How many random and unconnected thoughts can you come up with in one week? Just how random is your life anyway? If I keep writing random statements, does that indicate a failure to focus?  Uh…what was I saying?

Since I received 15 calendars in the mail from various organizations, down from almost twice as many a few years ago, I had no need to buy calendars for 2016.

I bought two calendars for 2016.  One is the Tom Daley calendar and one is Chris Mears.  Chris’ calendar is autographed, although I can not make out the signature anyway.

You don’t know who Tom Daley and Chris Mears are?

If I was going to the Olympics, I would want to see diving and my friend would want to see basketball.  I guess we will stay home, in our respective countries.

If my friend from Colombia comes to visit I plan to take him to the nearby Colombian restaurant to see how authentic it really is.

When we go to German restaurants, I compare the food to the memory of my grandmother’s cooking, or her sister’s.

When my friend from France visits we do not go to a French restaurant because he can get that at home.  Besides, he says, the French charge too much here for food and wine.

Eat local, drink local.

I did not find any Andes candies in the Andes.

To Rionegro

The Andes

Do you think any Eskimos go to Arizona or Florida in the winter?

My yellow tortilla chips are yellow.  So are the white ones.

The spicy guacamole from the local store is too spicy and the regular is too mild.  We need a medium.

There is a big difference between currency exchanges here and currency exchanges in other countries.  The ones here do not exchange one currency for another.

I think I will have to go back to the airport in Miami if I want to exchange Colombian pesos.

This is not a new story but I just ran across it.  It seems a man practicing his right to “open carry” his brand new gun was robbed of it, at gunpoint.  I guess the thief was glad the other guy displayed the gun openly because he told the victim he liked his gun.  KOIN news story is here.

Every now and then the line from Forest Gump comes to me.  You know the one.  “Stupid is as stupid does.”

There is something called the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act that will never pass Congress.  The NRA is against it.

If an organization supports the right of terrorists to buy weapons (as a second amendment right), does that make them a terrorist organization?

How many people still think Mark Zuckerberg is going to give them a lot of money if they share some Facebook post?

OK, everyone, repeat after me, “I will check Snopes.com or responsible websites before reposting stuff on Facebook, twitter and other social media.”

By responsible websites I do not mean FOX News.

All followers of the news channel whose name should not be mentioned should watch the movie Citizen Kane and keep watching it every week until they get it.

Followers of so-called Patriot radio should watch A Face In The Crowd and should keep watching it every week until they get it.

If you have not heard of Senator Joseph McCarthy, you should definitely read up.

Is it just too random if I switch from politics back to entertainment?

British musician and YouTuber Tom Law says he is moving to Croatia.

From photo shoot in Bath, England

Tom Joseph Law, from a photo shoot in Bath, England

Having missed him at least twice in 2015, I think I will definitely catch MAX Schneider in March.

Sometimes I catch myself randomly watching popular You Tube personalities and saying, “I don’t get it.”

What is your favorite Humphrey Bogart movie?  If you do not say “Casablanca,” don’t even speak to me.  How can you possibly say something else?casablanca-poster

I was disappointed to read that George Lucas does not like the direction of Star Wars under Disney.  I guess he should not have sold it.

How many Congressmen have ever visited the Library of Congress?

If the band Chicago is from Chicago and the band Kansas is from Kansas, where did UFO come from?

Resolutions?  What resolutions?

2015 IN REVIEW – THE WORD OF WORDPRESS

From the WordPress.com monkeys to you! Yes, folks, this is my very own personalized summary of this past year in blogging.

I have never been to the Louvre, but it’s good to know that my followers are filling its halls.

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed more than 115,000 times (not 110,000) in 2015, but you probably already knew that.

If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 5 days for that many people to see it.

Wow. Or they could just visit the Rodin exhibit. Or the Mona Lisa. I’m sure my blog would not be the main attraction at the Louvre on any day of any week of any year.

POSTING PATTERNS

Actually, there were 1,206 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 4,206. No one knows how many pictures I posted because I don’t know.

LONGEST STREAK

365 days, from 1 January to 31 December. They could have merely said “every day.” And more than once most days. Which is why I really need a break.

BEST DAY

Friday (Really? Wow!) 185 posts total. I have no idea why I posted more on Friday, but I think it may be because that’s the day the WordPress Photo Challenge comes out.

You can click here to see the complete report, but I figure you’ve already seen more than you have any interest in. Since WordPress kindly supplied this lovely, official document, I might as well make use of it, right?

Right.

NUMBERS FOR A NEW YEAR

It’s the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016. There’s something timely and almost overly appropriate in that today my total all-time views — or hits as I like to call them — passed 350,000.

That’s so many views I can’t imagine counting that high. It would take way too long.

350,000 Serendipity

More meaningful to me is the number of posts on Serendipity which now exceeds 4,200. Even assuming that many of the posts were short, it’s still a lot. Even including a couple of hundred reblogs, and a few hundred pieces written by Rich, Garry, and Ellin.

I have definitely learned a lot from blogging. I’ve made more friends than I imagined possible in places that were previously just exotic names on maps. My writing has gotten leaner, tighter. More crisp, more focused. I still can’t proofread and I will forever see what I meant to write and not what’s actually on the page.

I’ve also learned that there’s a direct correlation between how much I post and how many people come to visit. New material generates traffic. Be that as it may, the closest thing I can make to a New Year’s resolution is that I can’t keep up this pace. I’ve already slowed a lot from last year. You can expect to see fewer posts from me, but hopefully good ones. Maybe more pictures, less text … or just fewer posts altogether. I’m not yet sure how it’ll work out.

I know I need more time off the computer. Among many other issues, my wrists and shoulders are warning me of dire consequences if I don’t move around more. That won’t happen unless I set limits and stick to them. Which is very difficult because I like writing more than pretty much anything else.

Fewer posts will have the side benefit of giving me more time to read the stuff you guys write. Or play video games and read books.

Every time I cross one of these “milestones,” I realize I don’t know what it means. Other than I have stuck with this blogging thing. Even when I have been sick. On vacation. Feeling uninspired. Otherwise, I don’t know if it means anything. Maybe you should be telling me what it means.

You’re the hitters and I am the hittee. You know why you keep coming to visit. Thank you! You have hugely enriched my life in more ways than I can say.

Happy New Year to everyone. We are off to Arizona on Monday, so pickings here will be leaner than usual … but I won’t be missing entirely.

And with a little luck, there will be some photographs to remember!