SHARING MY WORLD AGAIN … AND NOW, IT’S AUGUST

Share Your World – 2016 Week 31

What is your favorite part of the town/city you live in.  And what Country do you live?

I like this area, with all the trees (but minus the caterpillars). I love the woods, the winding roads, the way the light filters through the leaves in the summer and fall. I even like the piles of snow in winter.

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Often when we are driving home from someplace else, Garry and I are caught off-guard by the pure beauty of where we live. With all the hassle, this is a fine place to be.

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This is Uxbridge, Massachusetts, the heart of the Blackstone Valley in New England, U.S.A.

Would you rather wear clown shoes every day or a clown wig every day?

I can barely be persuaded to wear shoes at all. I’m kind of a barefoot or socks gal. As for a clown wig? Last time I wore wigs it was because following cancer, my hair fell out. I think I’ll just take a pass on this one, if you don’t mind.

Which way does the toilet paper roll go? Over or under?

Over, if you please. Garry used to tuck in under, but he has bowed to my superior wisdom in this matter.

What do you do to make a living or during the day?  If you are retired what mostly occupies your day? Or if you are a student what are you studying?

I used to be a writer. I started out writing promotions for Doubleday Book Clubs. After moving to Israel, I found myself becoming a technical writer. Which turned out to be a comfortable place for me and I stayed there for more than thirty years.

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Summer amidst the maples – yesterday

Now, in my autumnal years, I’m a happy-go-lucky blogger and photographer. I write whatever I like and there’s no boss looking over my shoulder. I take pictures for fun, not profit and own ten times more equipment that I could possible justify. Fortunately, I don’t have to justify it.

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? 

Last week sort of sucked, but this week has been (mostly) better. Next week is probably going to be better still since we’ll be visiting friends. Which is always a treat.

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CYBER IS FOREVER

A PIECE OF ADVICE | THE WORD PRESS DISCOVER CHALLENGE


For quite a few years, it’s been au courant among America’s youth — and sometimes, not so youth — to spill ones guts on the internet. I share my life, but I’m careful what I say and how I say it. I pick and choose my words and I only publish it if I don’t care who sees it. Hey, I’m retired. I’ll never go job hunting again, apply to a college, or need a government security clearance. I have the only husband I’ll ever need or want.

But you? You’ve got a life to live. Worlds to conquer. The drama you publish on the internet today can — with the click of a mouse — bite you on the ass tomorrow.

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Nothing vanishes once it’s “out there” in cyberspace. Everything you write, every comment you make is going to show up on someone’s Google search. In its most harmless form, this stuff gives your friends something to laugh about. No big deal, right? The problem is that this same material is also stuff those who don’t like you can use against you. Easy ways for people to hurt you.

If you are past the age where you give a rat’s ass what anyone thinks about you, behave accordingly. But.

If you are still in the job market, pursuing a career or building a business. If you are a teacher or other public servant. Doctor or nurse. Firefighter or cop. If you are looking for work in financial services or require a security clearance. If you are trying to get into graduate school, are in the middle of a divorce (or think you might be in the future). If anyone out there hates you for any reason, think carefully before you vent your feelings online.

do you know who is watching you

Nothing you put on the internet is private, no matter what anyone tells you. I can find posts I wrote twenty years ago which were supposedly private. Newspaper articles in which I am mentioned that were published in The Jerusalem Post more than 30 years ago.

I don’t care because I don’t have to care. But maybe you do.

Here are some of the people who might be Googling you:

  • College admissions officers
  • The police
  • This or some other government
  • The military
  • Potential employers and employees
  • Your former wife or husband … and his or her lawyers
  • Your boss and your boss’s boss
  • Your parole officer
  • Your vindictive neighbor
  • Your meddling in-laws
  • Your children and their teachers
  • Your grandmother
  • Your daughter’s boyfriend
  • Your son’s fiancé
  • Anyone with an ax to grind
  • The manager of the bank from which you are trying to get a mortgage or other financing
  • Your customers
  • A stalker.

If your stuff ever appeared on any social media outlet? It’s only a matter of time before someone who is looking will find it.

So. Be crazy. Be free. Be true to yourself. Rage at the dying of the light. Just don’t publish it.

Unpublished, it’s just a rumor.

Published? You’re busted.

AND SO, THE BIG NUMBER DRIFTED PAST …

I wrote about almost hitting 400,000 on the 9th of June, 11 days ago. Endurance, I called it. Still blogging after all these years. Yesterday, the number was 400,792, but it has changed  hand and I don’t know what it is now. It’s a moving target.

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I had an unstable professional life. I worked almost exclusively for startup companies. Venture capital funded and typically, very small operations doing leading edge work. I fit into that kind of place and the people who worked there. It should there be no surprise that bankruptcy was often the final chapter of my jobs. In any case, single product companies don’t keep a technical writer on staff forever. No matter how much the job is supposed to be “permanent,” after the documentation is complete … it’s time to move on.

Blogging has been great for me, the best gig ever. It has outlasted all but one of my jobs and has been more fun (and more satisfying) than any of them. It has given me new friends, made me a better writer and photographer … and given me epic amounts of pure satisfaction.

Nothing lasts forever, but I’m giving it my best shot.

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?

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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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