View from the blogger batter’s box

In the past few weeks people have asked me what I do to keep busy. Some of them are also retired but have chosen different channels for their lives (social, travel, too much of nothing). Some of the younger people continue to work at paying jobs. Others don’t seem to have an answer. I usually respond that I write a lot. But here is the best answer, for now.

I usually spend my first few hours of my day on this computer. Today I’m writing this, but I have checked emails and have some WordPress items to check on later, which means blogs to read and comments to follow-up. On most days, I walk for an hour or two. I write every day, but the amount varies. I spend some time with social media or trying to figure things out (tech junk) or I do some form of research. I spend about 45 minutes a day in a swimming pool. Thirty minutes swimming laps and more time with running, stretching, or vigorously kicking. The round-trip pool events take more than an hour. With prep and recovery time, I devote at least four hours a day (most days) to physical activity and listening to music, which I do while walking.

Occasionally, I nap. I watch some television to have a reason to feel guilty about wasting my time. But even then, my writer’s mind is working (plot, character, conflict, acting). Football season is winding down, baseball on TV is boring, and if a new season of The Voice begins, I will watch that. I am active in two local writing groups (3 to 6 hours per week). I recently backed away from a third group for a short list of reasons.

I have three major goals to work toward this year. One is to write a poem each day. That is going well so far, and I still write essays, short fiction, and random things like this post.

Second, I hope to do two blog challenges in April (A to Z and NaPoWriMo) and I am preparing for them as best I can.

My third goal is to self-publish a book of some of my work by mid-summer, or at least be reviewing proofs by that time. I also have a memoir to clean up and finish. Sue recently published a book of her poetry, (click to link to Amazon) so I am motivated to follow.

I will continue my reading of other blogs and commenting. I want to make changes to my blog that require me to do some figuring out. I may change the theme (what it looks like) again soon. While I like the simplicity and ease of my blog page now, I feel the need to work it. I want something I can organize better by genre/type (poetry, essays, fiction, philosophy or whatever). I hope to solve that dilemma by March.

My point is that while I have been posting on Monday and Thursday, I will not keep that up. I’ll continue to read and comment on other blogs every day, and I will post to my blog occasionally. But, I will not be tied to anything that looks like a plan or schedule. I expect to overdose with two posts per day beginning April 1st. In May, I will downshift to a more normal pace after I determine my new normal. Until then, fewer posts and maybe a theme change.

Looking both ways, learn from the past (yours and that of others)
and plan your future.
Either mind gaps with awareness or fill them with purpose.

You decide.

Reflections: My 2018 A to Z Blog Challenge

Hello out there,

I enjoyed the 2018 A to Z Blog Challenge more than 2017. Last year, I just couldn’t break the code. This year, it went well.

I did two challenges during April (as did others like this or this). I wrote poems for the National Poetry Month and mythology for the A to Z Challenge. Unlike last year, I decided not to piggy-back them by using one post for both challenges. Thus, I posted twice on most days and consider my blog stats questionable. Views, likes, and follows were consistent throughout the month.

As with last year, the A to Z reveal in March got a lot of attention. In April I posed to my blog 56 times.

I think my poetry (NaPoWriMo) was favored over the folklore and mythology creatures in A to Z. I got some comments, such as “I did not know that” regarding the myths. I enjoyed most of the research and writing. While I finished both challenges, I was burning out.

On April 1st, I was almost two weeks ahead in writing for A-Z blogs. However, I wrote the NaPoWriMo poems each day based on the midnight prompts 29 out of 30 times. The one day I did not use the prompt, I wrote the poem from a previous idea. As time passed, I lost my advantage on A to Z. By April 29th, I was writing Z for the next day’s final posting. I was ready to stop before the challenges were completed.

While I stopped doing morning pages for April, a good outcome of the April challenges was getting my brain back to daily creative writing and poetry. My writing had slowed to a virtual stop during our move from Washington state to Texas. These challenges helped me to perk-up and I feel more like writing now. I restarted MPs May 2nd.

Since I did two challenges simultaneously and posted twice per day, it makes sense that my 2018 numbers almost doubled what they had been in 2017.

I tried to keep my A-Z posts brief (<600 words) and used at least two graphic images per day. I felt that format might help visitors do a quick reading and move on. When I read other blog posts during April, I did not always finish when they were long reads.

As was the case last year, I was unable to predict the popularity of any post or poem. I am grateful to all who clicked like when they did. And my special thanks to anyone who took the time to comment either in WordPress or on Facebook.

The most interesting thing (it shouldn’t have surprised me) I learned was that people who know me personally prefer when my writing sounds like me (my voice, in their opinion), despite the quality of the writing. It’s as though I’m forgiven when the reader can hear my voice.

I also find that when I can ditch my inner editor for a while, I enjoy writing more. That finding my voice method leads to some “trashy” flapdoodle twaddle, but when I can channel my inner Bukowski, I can feel it (his attitude). I like it. I find pleasure in writing dark, real life, miserable shit, but I avoid it more than I want to. I’m not sure why.

Maybe I am making a mistake allowing my concept of public opinion to dictate my writing style or content. If I was going to publish other than my blog, then that might be wise. But I do this for pleasure.

For now, I need to write from the inner me and stop letting what I think others may think guide me. I’ll work on that. But such letting go isn’t as easy as it sounds. I’m a bit programmed.

Thanks for listening. Look both ways and mind the gaps.

Bill

My Rookie Year

 

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On March 20, 2016, I published my first blog. The person who taught me the basics has a few names, but she blogs here. She encouraged us to take the A-to-Z blog challenge which kicked off about 12 days later. For 26 of the 30 days of April, I wrote and posted blogs six of every seven days. Every day I was trying to learn to use WordPress, pick a theme, and so much more. It was a ‘drinking from the fire hose’ experience, but I learned quickly.

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I was also supposed to be dealing with beta reads of my 2015 novel, Crew Dogs. That book has been stored on a cool dry bookshelf since I got my last beta feedback from Tara in August.

Many thanks for the advice and encouragement, especially from fellow Crew Dog, Maddox, who read the book through the eyes of a participant and witness to the time, place, events, and people – thanks to everyone. During the year, if I get to where I can allow the memoir time to steep, I want to rewrite Crew Dogs as an autobiographical novel in first person. The story’s there, but I want to work with the plot to make it more visible and clean up some parts. I’ve picked up so many great hints from Cathy Yardley and I hope to apply her advice.

end-of-2016-5Thanks to Tara for teaching me to blog. I am also grateful to my classmate, friend, fellow writer, and blogger, Sue, for suggesting topics and improvements. Sue’s uplifting and spiritually positive blog, An Artist’s Path, is here.

Thanks also to the many other wonderful people who gave me feedback, comments, and encouragement regarding my blog. It was nice for this rookie to hear, “You’re good at that.”

My problem right now is that I’m still suffering whiplash from writing my memoir. I’ll need many months to get that project out of the ass-wipe stage of an early draft.

I wanna give special thanks to my editor and wife, Yolonda. For over 50 years she has read my dribble, typed more than few papers, and simultaneously corrected my atrocious spelling and borderline grammar. She sees these posts before anyone else and patiently cleans up my mess. The only errors you see are the ones I add after she proof reads.

My limitation last April was that I wouldn’t blog about politics or religion. But by June, I was beginning to talk about atheism. As it turned out, the best liked four of my 89 blog posts addressed that subject. The fifth was about aging. I published the most popular post on September 6th, “Respect, Tolerance, and Silence” (read it here).

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Ironically, my first post, “Bloom Later,” (read here) was about memoir. After long consideration, I finally started writing one seven months later. Recently, I’ve published several more posts about that work in semi-progress.

My rooky year was enlightening. I’ve discovered what kind of writing I like to do. In 2017, I want to return to posting twice a week. Finding topic ideas is difficult, so if you have suggestions, let me know.

In January, I’ll return to my Creative Writing group/class. That group may help a bit with topics because Doris, our teacher/facilitator, will provide an essay topic each week. What is interesting about that bunch is our ‘maturity.’ As one of the younger participants, I’m amazed by how skillfully these folks can craft a story and write it well, far into their senior years.

end-of-2016-4When I meet with the SnoValley  Writes writer’s group each Friday, I’m alert for ideas. I have a few stashed somewhere. While they’re not exactly in my lane, they’re not off limits either.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but I have a few goals for 2017. I want to keep learning how to be a better writer.

In addition to my writing groups, I’ll keep blogging. I want to return to writing my memoir, working on it most days. In April, I’d like to do the A-to-Z blog challenge again. In July, I am considering attending the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference in Seattle.

I don’t even wanna think about the fact that I volunteered to be president of my homeowners association for the next two years, but there’s that. Arg!

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My wish is for 2017 to bring us each more happiness than we need, gratitude for all the good stuff, and the good health to enjoy life. May we have the strength to deal with the challenges of 2017.

Happy New Year!
Keep your hands on the grips and your eyes on the road, but keep lookin’ both ways and mind the gaps.

 

NaNoWriMo, NaMeWriMo, or NaPoWriMo?

Next Tuesday, 1 November 2016, begins another 30-day challenge to write 50-thousand words toward the authorship of a book. The challenge is called National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, or just Nano).

nanowrimo1Since 1999, Nano has grown in popularity and is now international. Novels are fiction, but participants sometimes write in other genres. I wrote a historical novel my first year. Others have written memoirs (National Memoir Writing, NaMeWriMo?) or other non-fiction, and poetry (National Poetry, NaPoWriMo? It’s in April.).

Nano is difficult. Last year was my first large scale fiction project. I learned how challenging it is. The math works out so that I need to average about 1,700 words a day to “win” the 50k-word challenge on November 30th. There are no days off.

Because Nano gets more difficult as weeks pass, and life has a way of interfering with writing, I want to produce over 2,000 words a day for the first week or two. Getting ahead in the word count is recommended, and I know why. This is no writing sprint; it’s a marathon. After about ten days, I’ll be looking in the mirror asking, “WTF were you thinking?” But I did it in 2015, and I will in 2016.

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Online support, other writers, and attending motivating write-ins, make this challenge doable. Following the helpful suggestions in No Plot, No Problem, such as keeping my inner editor at bay, I’ll manage to keep writing.

Last year, I struggled with being new to fiction writing and not having a plan. Creating the story as I wrote was difficult. Writing to develop characters, scenes, and plot was work, but fun under pressure.

This year, I have an outline and I’m a slightly more seasoned writer. My introduction to blogging was during the A-to-Z Blog Challenge in April. Nano is like A-to-Z in that it’s a learning through immersion experience. It will be challenging again this year because I’ll write in a nonfiction genre new to me.

I’ve decided to write a memoir for the 2016 Nano. I’ve never written one. Technically, that qualifies me as a Nano Rebel. I don’t feel rebellious because there is ample precedent for memoir and I still need the same number of words. Since I have been kicking my biographical tin-can down the road for years, I’ve decided it’s time.

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I was raised in a religious environment, but I’ve concluded that atheism is correct. I plan to document that spiritual journey. The memoir will be spiritually thematic and family oriented, but not suitable for young children. I’ll write about specific periods and events in my life when religion or spiritual issues were more prominent, or should have been.

I’ve been researching people, places, and events to reconstruct those times. I’ll be busy with this until December. Only then will I set my inner editor free to deal with the 50K-word first draft, pile of tangled dribble I will have created.nanowrimo4

I’ve been posting on this blog twice per week. During November, I’ll post once per week to provide a brief summary of my Nano experience, and information relevant to my project. Adding news of any other participants that I find interesting would be fun — so do tell.

I’ve been reading about writing memoir. It is different, of course. But since I did this Nano gig one time, I know that I’ll have little time to work on this blog.

nanowrimo3If you have any interest in NanoWriMo, the web page is http://nanowrimo.org. Join us.

If you are jumping into the Nano challenge also, I’d like to know.

Have fun. I hope to be able to hold my head up enough to resume blogging on the twice a week rhythm again in December.

As Natalie Goldberg says in Writing Down the Bones, “In the center of chaos, make one definitive act. Just write. Say yes, stay alive, be awake. Just write. Just write. Just write.”

Look both ways and mind the gap.