Biff Sock Pow

Finding the humor in everyday life.

Archive for the tag “The Writing Life”

An Open Letter To My Fellow Bloggers

Panicking

Hey!  You know what’s a full time job?

Reading other peoples’ blogs.

Man!  I try to keep up.  I really do.  The more people I follow, the more things pop up on my “Followed Sites” stream.  And I try to read them.  I try to be a good follower.  I am liberal (though sincere) with my likes.  I even try to comment once in awhile.  But after an hour or two of that, it dawns on me I haven’t written anything in my own blog.  So I click the “Write” button and start to dash something off.

But then I have to deal with Bloggers Guilt.  That’s the feeling of guilt you get when you’re writing in your own blog and realizing that dozens of posts by fellow bloggers are slowly scrolling down into oblivion in your “Followed Sites” stream.   There’s no keeping up.

So I read and like and comment in a slapdash manner.  That makes me the equivalent of that flaky, unreliable friend that you can’t ever count on to show up on time or be where they’re supposed to be.  And when you are moving and need someone to help you, they’re no where to be found.

I’m sorry.  I don’t want to be that way.

Please accept my sincere apologies!

And if you could all stop writing for about a month so I could catch up, that would be great.

Thank you for your consideration.

Advertisements

How Not To Write a Blog Post

Sleeping in Brain 2

I guess the only way to get back into this writing thing is just to roll up my sleeves and post something.  I keep waiting for inspiration to strike me, but that is kind of like waiting to win the lottery (without buying any tickets) or waiting for Mr. or Mrs. Right to appear (while never leaving one’s room), or even Waiting for Godot (if you’ll pardon an obscure reference).   No, I’m just going to have to write something the hard way … by actually writing it.

When I was a youngster, I heard the expression, “Nothing succeeds like success“. I have pondered that expression off and on my entire life, wondering exactly what it means.  I finally decided it was a rather cynical way of saying, “Of course successful people know how to succeed.  What they did worked for them.  Someone else might do the exact same things and fall flat on their face.

But I also chose to take this positive nugget away from that tired old saw:

In order to succeed at something, you must actually do that thing.

We live in a culture that assures us that we can succeed at things simply by  believing that we can.  How many movies and books and songs are there that tell us we can have something simply by believing something hard enough and sincerely enough?  How many artists do we see on those “best singer” type shows that, when asked why they should win the competition, sob and sniffle and say, “Because I just want this so badly!”

Well, that’s not how life works.  I really wish that it did.  If it did, I would be a wealthy and adored published author, living on my nearly-inaccessible lighthouse off the coast of Maine.

But I’ve never been delusional.  I have known all my life that if I wanted to be a published author that I would have to work at it morning, noon, and night with the obsession of a bee making honey.  But I allowed myself to get distracted by things like earning a living, eating, having a nice home, etc.  Writing not only took a back seat to other things, it had to follow along by hitching a ride on the rear bumper of a dilapidated old Trailways bus that was hundreds of miles behind.

This blog is a metaphor for my writing “career”.  I don’t put much effort into it, but expect success anyway.  I expect each little post to grow and thrive and blossom and to become some amazing, brilliant sunflower, big enough for everyone to see.  But the fact is, I don’t water it or fertilize it or even look at it much.

That’s not exactly a recipe for success.

So, I could rewrite the “nothing succeeds like success” aphorism to say

Nothing fails like not striving for success.

 

 

In a Vacuum, No One Can Hear You Blog

This seems to be getting harder instead of easier.

Writer Cartoon

I was told it would get easier.   All of the successful bloggers I’ve read said that if I just write every day, it would get easier.  Structure would begin to develop.  I’d develop a “voice”.  Likes and followers would begin to accrete.  Some of the successful bloggers went so far as to suggest that literary agents would prostrate themselves in front of me and threaten seppucu on my front lawn if I didn’t give them first shot at publishing my book.

I’m here to tell you; none of that happened.

But I’ll tell you what DID happen.

My wellspring of ideas that I used to think was infinite, turned out to be finite.  Over the course of a hundred-and-some-odd (mostly odd) blog posts, I wrote about just about everything that happens to me in my life.  I began to repeat myself.  I ran out of creative ways to say the same old thing over and over.

So, I even tried making stuff up in the form of short fiction.  It turns out that fiction on WordPress is about as popular as pork rinds at a vegan picnic.

And to make matters worse, now I have a craving for pork rinds!  But I’m already in my pajamas and there’s no way I’m running down to the 7-11 to get me a bag.  It’s not worth getting dressed just for a bag of red hot pork rinds.  Though I guess I could also pick up a Slim Jim and a lottery ticket while I’m there.  And … hell … it’s 7-11, for Pete’s sake!  Like they’d even  notice I was wearing pajamas.  I’d probably be the least crazy looking person in the store.  What kind of world do we live in that a grown man wearing pajamas and holding a Slim Jim, a bag of red hot pork rinds, a lottery ticket, and a Penny Shopper would not even raise an eyebrow at a 7-11?

Wow!  That was a hell of a digression!   Where was I?

Oh yes.  I was wallowing in self-pity.

So here’s my sage advice to you bloggers just starting out.

Write because you love to write.  Don’t write to collect likes as if they’re steps on your FitBit, or Pokemons in your Pokemon Go app.  Write for the sheer enjoyment of writing.  If you don’t get a single like, that’s okay.  You’re writing.  You’re getting better.  You’re honing your skills.

And if you repeat yourself, that’s okay, too.  I can guarantee you that no one goes back and reads your old posts.  Everyone just reads whatever is at the top of whichever tag they’re reading at the moment.  I doubt they’ll notice if you wrote virtually the same blog post six months ago.  And even if they do, so what?  It’s just a new edition of one of your favorites.  Think of it as a “remix” of one of your old songs.  Musical artists do that all the time.

So get out there and write!

 

 

Musings On Writing Plus a Little Shameless Self-Promotion

I’m afraid I’ve gotten out of the habit of writing in my humble little blog.  There are several reasons for that, all of them lame.  I guess the main one is that it is so darn easy to fall out of the habit of writing.  As I mentioned in one of my posts several weeks ago, you can write every day for months, but skip a day or two and you run the risk of never writing again.  One must push themselves to write.  Or, at least that is true for me.

In spite of that, in the very peak (valley) of my non-writing, I received notice that I’d received my 1000th like.

1000th Like Award

How’s that for irony?  I stop writing and get a gold star for writing.  Maybe WordPress has a sense of humor.  Or else it’s trying to encourage me to write less.

Or, I could stop being cynical for just a moment and maybe take this as a sign that I should keep on writing.  And that’s what I’m choosing to do.

So, I want to thank everyone that pushed me over the 1000-like mark.  I do enjoy knowing you are reading my humble little postings and thinking enough of them to like them.  So, I truly do thank you for sticking with me all these months!

 

 

A Field Guide to Dishwater

overcoming_writers_block

I have sat here for over an hour staring at this screen trying to think of something interesting to write about.  I was unsuccessful.

So then I thought I’d try to think of something less interesting to write about.  Again, I came up empty handed.

I suppose I could write about something that is downright uninteresting to write about, guaranteed to be as dull as dishwater and half as entertaining.  But I believe that is called “my journal”, and I still haven’t gotten over my fear of posting anything too personal on this here internet contraption.  I don’t know why I worry, though.  As dull as my life is, I’m pretty darn sure I don’t have to worry about identity thieves or stalkers.  Such miscreants would no doubt take up a collection and give it to me, saying, “Here, Dude.  Go buy yourself a life.”

So what is left to the man who’s life is too dull to write about?  And now you know how and why fiction was created.

Rusting On My Laurels

angif-rest-on-your-laurels

This is my 124th post (yay me!), which is about 120 more than I thought I’d be able to create when I first started this journey at the beginning of the year (2017).  Sticking to projects is not my strong suit.  I get bored easily, which, I suppose is just a euphemism for “I’m lazy” or “I have a very short attention span“.

But honestly, I never thought I’d get this many posts written.  (high fives myself)

So I’ve been wondering when it gets easier.  When will I be able to just sit down and dash off something and post it?  When will I post 2 or 3 times a day just because I have that many interesting things to say?

It’s a struggle to write even once a day.  My days don’t change much from day to day.  I’m firmly ensconced on the work-home-sleep-work treadmill.  Whatever flashes of brilliance or genius I have while in the car on the way to or from work tend to either get forgotten by the time I am sitting in front of the computer, or else when I really start to ponder them and try to flesh them out as a blog post, they take on a sort of ridiculousness or insipidness that makes me just wad them up and throw them in the trashcan (figuratively speaking).

But if there’s one thing I’ve discovered, blogging is definitely a “what have you done for me lately?” medium.  One can post every day for a month and the likes and the follows roll in (relatively speaking), but stop posting for a single day and they drop to zero quicker than you can say Jack Robinson.  It’s definitely not like a musician who has a hit song or an actor who’s on a hit TV show that goes into syndication.  The royalties don’t keep rolling in decades after the song or show was first released.

So, there’s no resting on one’s laurels.  It is, to borrow a phrase from academia, publish or perish.

The problem is, I don’t have enough interesting thoughts or experiences to post every day.  I may have to resort to just making things up.

But I’d hate to be mistaken for a journalist or politician.

 

 

The Battle for Space Has Begun

No Space

I’m getting too old for this.

The other day I read an article on some site or another — I can’t even remember what the article was about or where I read it.  It was that unimportant and insignificant.

However, as is my wont, I tend to read the reader comments after articles because often they are more entertaining than the article itself.  It is like getting to watch a train wreck … in slow motion.  Within 2 or 3 comments, the commentators are attacking each other personally.  In less than ten comments, someone has made a reference to Hitler or Nazis (even if the article was just about how cute bunnies are).  Within fifteen comments, someone has said something along the lines of “I have traced your IP address and I am going to come to your house and kick your derriere!”  There are no rules in comments.  Bad grammar abounds.  It is a punctuation-optional zone.  What little punctuation there is, is often used incorrectly.  Spelling?  Don’t even get me started!

But on this one particular day, someone made a comment about how amateurish the author of the article was.  Someone chimed in and said, “Yes, you can tell he’s an amateur because he uses two spaces after periods between sentences.”

A flame war then erupted on whether two spaces or one was correct after a period between sentences.  I mean … people were HOT.  I don’t think they could have been more upset if someone suggested reanimating Hitler as a zombie to see what would happen.

I, for one, was not even aware that there was a controversy surrounding the use of two spaces after a period between sentences.  I took typing in the eleventh grade many decades ago and that is how we were taught.  It was beat into us.  The implication was “Only chumps, cretins, anarchists, sociopaths, and cannibals forgot to put two spaces after a period.”  I never questioned it.  Why would I?  Everything I’d ever read had two spaces after a period.  Books.  Magazine articles.  Official documents.  Everything.  There was literally NOTHING that did not have two spaces after periods.  It was as universal as anything can possibly be in this world.

So why suddenly is it the fashion to only use a single space after a period between sentences?  Is it to save space?  (Ha ha … but seriously …)  Is it merely aesthetics?  Is it because some bored academic somewhere felt he needed to leave his mark in the world by stirring up a useless controversy?   Does it utilize less memory in the servers that store the world’s documentation?

I do not understand this controversy.  It is quite literally an argument over nothing.

I personally prefer the two spaces because it is a visual signal to the brain that one sentence has ended and another has begun.  When using a single space between sentences, both the period and the single space get lost in the jumble of other letters.  But that is just me.  I can read either method equally well.  I have this wonderful thing inside my head called a brain that allows me to perceive a single space just as well as two spaces, and to ignore them both.

But some people like to argue over nothing.

 

(P.S.  I wrote this article with two spaces after every period between sentences.  Let the flame war begin!)

Poor Biff’s Almanac: The State of the Blog Report

It’s hard to believe that we’re already halfway through April.  It seems like just a day or two ago that I was bemoaning the fact that the Christmas holidays were over and that I had to return to work after being off for two weeks.  It was January 3, 2017 and the new year yawned in front of me like that stretch of desert highway that is used ubiquitously in movies and pictures to signify a long, arduous (and probably interminable) journey ahead.

desert_road_marking_4896_1920x1080.jpg

 

And yet, somehow it is already midway through April.  We are already more than a quarter through the “new” year.

Except that it isn’t that new any more.  It is a slightly used year.  One owner.  Low miles.  Non smoker.  Maintenance records upon request.  Shimmies slightly when accelerating.

If I was a business (and thankfully, I’m not), I would have had to write a quarterly report, explaining our losses to date and presenting plans for recovery in the second quarter.  It might go something like this:

Blog post inventory was high, but low foot traffic led to a year-over-year loss in same-blog readership over the same quarter last year.  A slow January start (seasonally adjusted) was followed by a strong February.  Month-to-date (MTD) data for March looked impressive, but when scaled to account for the 5-week month, performance was slightly below February’s numbers.  April is shaping up to be disappointing, especially among new readers.
An unusually warm 1st quarter led to declining rates of torpidity among readers as they sought more fulfilling activities out of doors.  Long term forecasts indicate seasonably warm temperatures for the 2nd quarter and so torpidity rates are not likely to increase, and thus readership is expected to continue declining.

So there you have it.  That’s how empty the well of ideas is.  I’ll try to come up with something soon.  If I can’t find something interesting in my real life, I may have to resort to writing more fiction.

(No, that was not a threat.)

 

Fun With Music: Crowded House

vector-musical-1.png

Tonight’s Background Music is provided by Crowded House.
Album:  After Glow
Best Song:  Private Universe

I’m adding a new feature to my blog entries.  I’m going to indicate what background music I’m listening to at the moment when I’m writing a journal-type blog post.  Why am I doing this, you ask?   No good reason.  It fills up space.  It adds a bit of color to an otherwise uninteresting blog post.  It’s like when the teacher would ask you to write a 500 word essay on something, you very quickly became adept at padding the essay with a lot of unnecessary words.  This is no different.  Padding R Us.

By the way, when I pick out what music I’m going to listen to when I write, it is largely random.  My iPod has over 6000 songs on it and choosing a song can be a little overwhelming sometimes.  So I just sort of “spin the wheel” and see what comes up.  However, I veto a lot of things that pop up.  For instance, I don’t like to listen to anything too abrasive  or “heavy”  when I’m writing.  This would include artists such as Nazareth, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer (or any ELP spin-offs or derivatives), Def Leppard, GooGoo Dolls, etc.

Also, I generally don’t like to listen to songs with lyrics to them if I’m going to be writing, though there are exceptions.  Crowded House is one of those exceptions.  Their music is just so evocative of a certain mood that I really like.  Their songs are very literate and cerebral, as well as very complex musically.  Pink Floyd is that way, too.

When i write, I usually like to listen to jazz (e.g. Kirk Whalum,  Chuck Mangione, Dave Koz, Larry Carlton, Eric Darken, the Rippingtons, etc.) or “new age” (e.g. David Lanz & Paul Speer, Andreas Vollenweider, Acoustic Alchemy, Jim Brickman, Secret Garden, etc.) or “international” (e.g. Loreena McKinnet, Enya, Basia, etc.).  Those types of music help block out ambient noise without intruding into my thoughts too much.  They shape my thoughts in subtle ways, but they don’t derail my thoughts.  I feel they enhance, rather than distract.

What about you?  What kind of music do you like to listen to while you write?

 

I’m a Centenarian!

100 Posts

This is a momentous day for me.  I reached my 100th blog post!

I have had other blogs in the past, but I don’t think I got anywhere near 100 posts in any of them.  Heck, maybe even if you put them all together I didn’t have 100 posts!

So, I’d like to thank everyone who has encouraged me with your follows, your likes, and your comments.  You have put the fun back in blogging for me and I am very grateful to you all!

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: