Where do I go from here?
When I decided to write about blogging, I did what I often do, I went online to find out what I could.
That’s not entirely honest. I googled it and check two links.
I found an article in New York magazine on line called The Early Years by Clive Thompson which was basically a timeline of the history of blogging. Did you know that the first blog, ever, was created by a college student in 1994? Almost twenty years ago.
Quite a few years ago my oldest son told me I should start writing a blog. I didn’t listen to him at the time, much to my chagrin. If I had maybe I could have proftted from being one of the early people in.
Did you know that people actually made money off of blogs? You probably did. I’m always the last to know.
But like so many other things, it helps to be popular if you are already famous. We like to follow people who have been proven to be well-liked by other people. The same goes for authors. We like to read authors who are the best sellers. They don’t have a problem getting an agent or a book contract. Same goes for famous people. Just check out the tables in your local B&N. But you already know that.
Clive Thompson talks all about it in Blogs to Riches: The Haves and Have-Nots of the Blogging Boom also published in New York magazine.
I never intended or expected to make money with my blog.
That’s probably a good thing, too.
I started the blog to encourage myself to write regularly, even every day, and to start creating an online presence. Just a little over two years ago on January 21, 2011, I started my blog with a short post, A New Start with Clean House, that mentioned both my mom and Arthur. Arthur is still with me. Mom is not. I still write about both.
My second post, Missed Opportunities, was about the red fox that I saw run through our yard, but failed to capture on camera. I still have missed opportunities, but now I keep my camera on a shelf in the kitchen where I am sometimes able to catch the wood ducks, the pileated woodpecker and the owl, the groundhogs, my most recent good catch – the scarlet tanager, and even a red fox.
I saw this female wood duck this morning. I think she was looking for her mate. They’re usually together.
My third post, Fiddles radio broadcasts, signing off and iPads, was one of my all-time favorites. Very few people read it.
I tried to find the stats. I went to “all posts,” and then filtered for the date. I clicked on the miniature bar graph in the column that says “stats.” I had one “syndicated” view. I have no idea what that means, but it can’t be good. Truthfully, after rooting around a bit on my stats page, I don’t have any idea how many hits that page actually got. I’m not going to obsess about it.
I continue to tell myself I shouldn’t be concerned with my stats anyway. I continue to not listen.
But a blogging acquaintance, compatriot, friend (what are we to each other anyway?) named Sue Dreamwalker commented on that post and continues to comment occasionally to this day. She has a nice post up today about May Day. So while some followers come and some go, she has stayed with me. I’d like to say thank you to Sue and all the rest of you who joined me early and have stuck around. Another shout out to Nancy at Spirit Lights the Way for lighting my way early on. And while I’m at it, I have to mention the amusing William at Speak of the Devil who continues to hold the esteemed position of being my number 1 commenter.
But I digress.
They say to have followers you have to be a follower. Which sounds a lot like friendship to me. And over the months, now years, that I’ve blogged, I continue to contemplate how this approach can possibly work unless you are satisfied with a static, relatively small, but loyal group of bloggers. A little blogging community. I’m not criticizing that, I’m just saying that if it becomes nothing more than a quid pro quo, your reach with your blog is limited to the amount of time you have to read and comment on others’ blogs. Which also depends on how long-winded your blogging friends are. You can see I will not fair very well in this system, because it becomes fairly obvious fairly early, that you can visit many photographers’ blogs in the time it takes you to read one lengthy, well-written or not, story on a writer’s blog.
This is a dilemma for me.
I started my blog when I was researching how to publish my memoir Dancing in Heaven.
After reading articles online, I realized that to publish a book, either by agent and traditional publisher or by myself, I needed an online presence. After I wrote Dancing in Heaven, I fully intended to seek an agent and publish it through traditional means. My mind changed. But the journey gave me a lot of fodder for my blog.
The advice I heeded was that I needed to build a platform, which at the time I read it was a completely foreign concept to me.
I started a blog.
I’ve read other advice more recently, that if you are a writer, you will serve your goals better by not spending time blogging, but writing instead. I think there is probably some truth in that position.
But I’ve also read that if you are a published author, you need to have a blog where your readers can learn more about you and communicate with you.
But then, I’ve read that if you want to have a successful blog, you need to pick a topic, carve out your niche, and stick to it.
If you’ve ever held a digital camera in your hands, running around a sunlit garden or walking through a park filled with birdsong, you already know that snapping photographs is a lot more fun than sitting at a desk doing the hard work of translating your thoughts from your brain through your fingers and the keyboard to a computer screen. Just saying. So maybe I get a little distracted at times.
I organize and generate pages, primarily for my own use, and simply because it feeds my OCD nature, but the occasional visitor finds them useful at times. Particularly the bilateral knee surgery documentation we did. People have thanked me for that one.
What I really think is that there is way too much advice out there on the web, well-meaning though it may be. My head is spinning. Yours may be too after reading this disjointed post.
My solution is to do what I usually do in these cases. I trust myself. I trust my judgment. And I trust my heart. And thankfully I am married to an outstanding provider, so I am not obligated to make money from my writing in order to be able to feed myself. Which I should be doing a lot less of anyway if I want to listen to the advice about weight, health and nutrition.
I started blogging to force myself to write everyday. I’d grade myself at maybe a C on that one. Because, like I said, the photography has been enticing. And I don’t really consider my photography blogs “writing.”
The commaraderie and support that I received from followers, friends, and commenters I found invaluable as my family entered crisis control in the beginning of December with the diagnosis of my mom’s cancer and through the next intense weeks before both of my parents’ deaths in January.
I struggle with keeping up. I question what it’s all about. I wonder about the best use of my time.
My world was turned upside down when my parents died. I had devoted a lot of time and concern to their care. My foundation was badly shaken. And even though Mom and Dad were well past the days of doing anything of consequence to aid or assist me, they were two people in my life who always loved me no matter what, who always believed in me. And they were gone. That is a tremendous loss.
As I try to make meaning out of my life, I’m asking the question. Where do I go from here?
It’s March. Halleluia.
I’ve been through some dark days in December when we found out Mom had cancer throughout her abdomen. Then we found out it was advanced, incurable pancreatic cancer that had metastacized. Then her oncologist told us she had maybe 4 to 12 months to live if we provided nothing but comfort care. In retrospect, that amount of time would have been a joyous gift.
The second day after we found Mom’s cancer was a very dark day when Dad started having breathing problems and we called the ambulance to take him to the hospital. As I watched his monitored blood pressure drop and listened to doctors talk about a massive infection and sepsis, I prayed Dad could hold on a little longer. Mom needed him now.
When I pushed my dad in his wheelchair into the dining hall at his new home in the nursing care facility a week later and he started to cry when he looked around and saw the company he was in, it was a very dark day indeed.
But there were darker, pitch-black days to come. I am still not able to write about it and the vivid memories that continue to plague me at unannounced times during the days.
In fact, I have difficulty writing about anything at all right now and getting my brain and my fingers on the keyboard to cooperate. Yesterday’s “After Mardi Gras” post took me much longer than it should have to write. But I feel more comfortable talking about non-emotional things right now, and that’s where I think I should focus my efforts.
Someday maybe I’ll share the days I’ve spent at Mom and Dad’s house, emptying drawers of memorabilia, sorting, judging, saving or throwing away their life’s small scraps of treasures. But not today.
Today it is March, even though it is still dark outside at this early hour, and even though there are snow flurries in the foreast and a high temperature prediction of only 37 degrees. I know there will be days of spring this month.
Last year my post on this date, Welcome March, oh month who brings sweet spring, received the honor of being freshly pressed. This year I am barely slogging through. This month I have a birthday to get through without the annual arrival of flowers from my mother. So many things to get through that lie ahead.
But today is March. And March gives me hope.
I started this blog with the intention to post about whatever was on my mind when I woke up each morning. Our heater isn’t functioning well, and I woke up this morning not wanting to move from my warm cocoon of blankets into the cold morning air in our room. Then I thought of all those people on the east coast without electricity, perhaps without a home or bed with warm covers.
Life can change in a moment. You think you’ve made it through a storm, and then a dam breaks and you’re on your rooftop.
Now that I’m awake, wrapped in a warm robe, and sitting at my desk, I have a lot of thoughts running through my head, mostly about our children and our parents. It seems like we go along on status quo for some time, and then everybody shifts position. We have a child adjusting to a second baby, another contemplating a change of job entailing a move, a third needing involved dental work, and another looking for a co-op job in a saturated market. Mark’s mom needs a shoulder replacement, and you know how it goes with my parents.
The point I’m trying to make here is that I have a lot on my mind today, none of which I consider blog-worthy. Which brings me back around to one last thing I’ve been thinking about lately, Is it worth the time to continue blogging?
Last week I came across Lynn Spreen’s post on blog Any Shiny Thing where she answered that very question, Should you quit blogging?
It’s a good read, and I think you might appreciate it.
Do you ever question that yourself? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
I can’t recall exactly how Teepee12 arrived on my blogging sphere radar, but she did. And I’m glad. A few weeks ago she honored me with the Lovely Blogger Award. I know most of you have heard of that, but if you haven’t, you can follow the link to her site where she explains it.
After careful thought and consideration, over my vast blogging experience of a little more than a year and a half, I have instituted a personal award policy where I thank the grantor of the award, but decline the obligations. Kind of a having my cake and eating it too policy. But here’s where the story gets good.
Before I even had the chance to thank Teepee12, she posted about another award she had just received—a new one for me—the “Don’t do a damn thing award. I just like your blog.” I mean, does it get any better than this?
Being somewhat uncouth and ill-mannered, I asked Teepee12 if I could trade my Lovely Blogger Award for this new, and in my humble opinion, best blog award ever. She graciously agreed.
To Teepee12, I say a very sincere Thank You.
To my other readers, loyal fans, and drive-by glancers, I hope you will stop over and see Teepee12′s blog, Serendipity – pictures, stories, opinions and more where she discusses things near and dear to my heart with posts about nature, travel, animals, photography, writing, life, and much more.
Or in Teepee12′s own words regarding her blog:
“This is about everything. And nothing. It’s life: whatever is on my mind, what’s happening to me and those around me. It’s about the valley where I live, the people in my world, and of course, the dogs.
“I offer you some memories, many thoughts, stories, and pictures. My pictures, mostly, but sometimes other’s pictures (always credited!) because I admire them. I also reblog postings that I think you will find interesting … or that I find interesting or funny or in some other way special.
“Welcome, whoever you are, wherever you are.“
Her post in remembrance of 9-1-1, One Morning Eleven Years Ago, is worth your time to read. I hope you’ll stop by.
I just wanted to let all my blogging friends and those who have followed my self-publishing journey know that Dancing in Heaven is being featured in a “Sneak Peek” today by Indies Unlimited.
Indies Unlimited is dedicated to the independent authors, publishers, reviewers and readers. “A major challenge for any indie author is the lack of established infrastructure in place to market indie books. It can be challenging and time-consuming to get the word out about your book, to find reviewers, and to drive traffic to your website or Facebook page. As a new author, I was delighted to discover a very high level of mutual support and camaraderie in the indie author community. This platform is born from that spirit of mutual aid and support.” (About Indies Unlimited)
Dancing in Heaven will also be featured in the Indies Unlimited Store.
The Sneak Preview is a short excerpt from Dancing in Heaven that hasn’t yet been published on my blog. (You can read/hear me read additional excerpts at Dancing in Heaven.)
I’d like to thank Indies Unlimited, and all of my readers in advance for reading and sharing with your social network this opportunity to get the word out about Dancing in Heaven.
I hope you’re having a great day.
The weekend is coming.
Just a short note today. I’d like to invite you to read my guest post, How Memoir Writing Helped Me to Grieve My Loss, at Kathleen Pooler’s blog — Memoir Writer’s Journey. Kathleen is a writer and a retired family nurse practitioner. She is working on her own memoir about “the power of hope through my faith in God. Hope Matters” and believes “we are all enriched when we share our stories.” In the 2-1/2 years she’s been blogging, Kathleen posts writing and publishing tips that have helped her along the way.
I initially found Kathleen on Twitter and when I realized she was a nurse practitioner, I asked her if she’d like to read Dancing in Heaven. Nurses have been among my best supporters. She subsequently read and reviewed Dancing in Heaven on Amazon and Goodreads.
I’d like to thank Kathleen, for the lovely reviews of Dancing in Heaven and for inviting me to be her guest today.
I hope you are able to take a minute to read my thoughts about writing through the grief.
I’ve been working on my blog’s organization. First it was the drawers in the kitchen, then my clothes closet, and now my blog. I’m in one of those, as my daughter used to say when she was young, “organize it up” moods.
I’ve been working on my menu pages (tabs across the top), in particular on my “Places” page. The drop-down menu was getting too long and bulky so I categorized things into USA cities, International, and added a National Parks page.
My Yellowstone post was the first in what I hope eventually becomes my series of posts about the National Parks we have visited, and will visit in the future.
Do you have any you can recommend?
I’ve been using tables to keep things organized. So I thought I’d share with you how to do that.
First you have to find and use the “text” tab on the edit post screen at the top of the menu bar. I explain this in n a post last year, Fun with fonts.
For a table, this is all you need ( I keep it in a word document where I can copy it from and then paste it here. It’s just a lazy woman’s short cut.):
Think of it as a symmetrical sandwich. Or paired parentheses. In html when you have a command or instruction, it is typically enclosed in <>. I talked about how to do this with fonts in Fun with fonts.
Each command needs a closing command. So they come in pairs: an “<em>” will italicize the words that follow it, ad infinitum until you add the closing command “</em>”, which is simply the basic command preceded by a “/”. I explain this idea more thoroughly in Fun with fonts.
If you look at the html for a table, you see the “<table>” command at the top and it’s mate at the bottom “</table>”. (You also see a specification for the table border at the top). Then you have the table body “<tbody>”, the row “<tr>”, and the cell “<td>”. They all have closing commands that are nested together, like parentheses.
Right now I have only one row <tr> in the table. It has two cells <td>. And once I type (or paste) it in the “text” window, it will look like this (without the words):
|First cell in one row||Second cell in one row|
If I want more cells across the page, I just add “<td> </td>” inbetween the <tr> and </tr> in the code above.
|cell one||cell two||cell three||cell four|
I typed the words that appear in each cell in between the <td> and </td> while I was working in the “text” editing window. But once you have the table set up, you can see the lines for it in your “visual” view. Then you can place your cursor inside a cell and type or place pictures as you please. My only caution about pictures in tables is that if they are too large, they will blow out the table borders and not work. I often use “thumbnail” or resize the photo to be 150, 200, or 250 pixels wide if I want to use one in a table. Read my post about putting pictures on WordPress.
If you want more rows, you add them with the number of cells you are using in between. So for the above table, if I wanted to add a row, I would need to add
for each row I wanted. This all has to be before the closing </tbody> and </table> commands.
I hope you’ll give it a try and let me know how it works. Feel free to send me your questions if you want to do this and get stumped.
From Yellowstone post. Click on picture to see larger image.
Those of you who regularly follow my blog will know that I recently sent a copy of Annie’s story dancing across the ocean to the small country of the Netherlands where my blogging friend Marion waited with open arms.
This morning I sat at my computer intent on posting a blog I had written yesterday about motherhood, but first I checked my email. That’s where I found out that Marion has finished Dancing in Heaven and written an absolutely heart-breaking review of the book. It continues to both surprise and validate me when readers are able to put into words what I had hoped to write. Marion has done this.
I hope you have a minute to stop over and read the conclusion to our ongoing series about Dancing in Heaven‘s trip to the Netherlands.
“As I turned the last page, tears were streaming down my face. Happy that sweet little Annie was finally able to dance in heaven, no longer hampered by the prison that her body had been for her sparkling and merry mind. Sad that her radiant smile was now only a memory.” Continue
This was a fun and rewarding adventure for me and Annie’s story. If you missed any of the posts you can find them below.
- Dancing in Heaven dances across the ocean
- A Book, Dancing Across The Ocean
- Marion waits for Dancing in Heaven in the Netherlands
- Dancing in Heaven is Dancing in Holland
- Dancing in Heaven arrives!
Thank you Marion. You’re a terrific writer and friend.
I’d like to thank Arlee Bird at Wrote by Rote for the invitation to write a guest post on his blog about memoir writing. Why we write our stories, is a post I wrote about writing stories in general and Dancing in Heaven in particular. I hope you’ll stop by and read it there today or sometime through next week.
In addition to Wrote by Rote, Arlee is the author of Tossing it Out (his main blog), A Few Words (a Sunday contemplation), and A Faraway View (about dreams). Arlee also initiated April’s A to Z challenge.
Thank you, Arlee, for your interest in Dancing in Heaven, and your invitation to guest blog.
A bouquet of wildflowers to you.
In some ways I might be a little ADHD. When I was younger, stronger, and had a house with more possibilities for it, I used to rearrange my furniture on a more frequent basis than my husband, at least, was comfortable with. That’s putting it gently. He’d come home after a hard day at work and find the piano stuck in the foyer, or the bookcase halfway across the room. Can’t fault him, I guess, for being a little tiffy about it at times.
I’m too old for that hoopla anymore. I just have to live with the same ol’ same ol’ because I’m simply too old and have a few physical limitations that discourage me from being impulsive in that way.
I have to find a new route for my impulsivity. (I might have just made up a new word, or misspelled an old one.)
I feel a change coming.
For quite a while now I’m been looking at how I’m spending the hours in my days. The older I get, the more valuable those are to me.
I’m thinking about backing off of blogging to two or three times a week from the five posts I do now. I know some of you who are getting barraged with daily messages from me in your inboxes may be heaving a sigh of relief. The biggest concern I have is that I used my daily blogging commitment to get myself seated at my computer and put words on paper every single day—something all the pros say is a must. But what I’m doing with my blog isn’t what I would call quality writing, usually. Not that I mind that much. I took a series of photography courses in college, really enjoy doing it, and wish I had more time for it. But the blogs with many photos actually take much longer to do, as I’m sure other photography bloggers can verify, than simple writing does. For me, at least.
The long and short is, I want to try to translate some of this disciplined at-the-computer time into working on my writing.
One sticking point is that I’m trying to build content on my blog, so I don’t know if I will be able to resist blogging every day. That’s an odd twist. I may try making better use of my Facebook author page (Christine M Grote) and Twitter.
I’m not going to make any more predictions or promises about blog frequency. I’m not a big rule-follower, which has been to my detriment at times. But it comes to me naturally and what can we do about genetics?
It’s a beautiful, blue-sky day here this morning. The windows are open and I can hear the birds singing, and babies in the birdhouse out front chirping. A soft breeze ruffles the leaves on the very end of the arched limbs that hang withing view from my desk. A robbin is skipping around the landscaping looking for a worm, no doubt.
My garden waits.