Friday morning, after my behavior, attitude and outlook had put my wife in a really bad mood, and before she left for work, something happened.
I said, “You know. It really sucks when you’re so angry and you’re about to step out the door and go directly to work. That’s the absolute worst, isn’t it?”
If looks could kill. That look made my blood run so cold it’s still not back up to room temperature yet.
Then she threw down the gauntlet.
She said, “I’m sick of your bullshit, Tom. Everyone hates their jobs. No one wants to live through that, then go read a blog about someone else hating their job, too. It might be mildly funny for a post or two, but then it just gets sad and really sucks. I have to hear you talk about it when it happens. Then you talk about it when you’re writing about it. Then I have to read about it. Then you quiz me to see if I’ve read it. Then you talk about it for a few more days.”
“This can’t continue,” she added.
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If there is one thing we bloggers seemingly can’t get enough of, it’s this: A good challenge.
It’s not enough to say, “I will blog every day.” Which, by the way, is no small effort.
For some of us, blogging every day isn’t enough. We need more. So we came up with the idea of challenges to push us creatively in directions we might not have otherwise gone.
Challenges are popular in photographic groups. I have to admit, these can open your eyes and help you see the world in new ways that would otherwise have never occurred to you. For example, if I wasn’t part of a photo group I may never have found myself pointing my camera at a roll of toilet paper in a quest to capture the word “white.”
In the blogging world there is a group called NaBloPoMo. That stands for “National Blog Posting Month.” The purpose of this group is to encourage bloggers to to “post something every day.” I accepted that challenge for the first time in November 2009 and I haven’t missed a day since.
To keep things interesting, they’ll issue different challenges on top of posting every day. For example, in December 2009, the NaBloPoMo challenge was to “give” something every day and then “blog it out.” I managed to blog every day that month, but wow, talk about crash and burn on the “giving” thing. That was hard.
That brings me to the A to Z Blogging Challenge. A friend challenged me to this challenge, and I accepted. After, of course, congratulating her on it being a fiendishly clever assassination attempt.
The idea is simple. Starting on April first blog every day (skipping Sundays) using each letter of the alphabet for inspiration.
So hang on for 26 days of alphabetic blogging as I attempt to layer that on top of everything else I’ve got going on. Did I happen to mention this challenge is actually an assassination attempt?
When a writer would sit down to a typewriter (back when those things used to exist) they’d find a blank page staring right back at them. So it is for us bloggers. We click the “New Post” button and there it is: A blank form. The blogging equivalent of a blank sheet of white paper.
That’s intimidating enough. Now, for the rest of this month, there will be a 1/26th challenge layered on top of that per day. Let’s see how I do.
This is my “A” post for the April 2011 “A to Z Blogging Challenge.” Hopefully the blog title made that clear.
WordPress was down in that city by the bay. A hard down. The kind of down that made Army veterans want to cry.
And there I was wanting to work on my blog. But the blogs had been locked down in “read only” mode. It’s true. No doubt I’ll someday be telling my grandchildren about the great Read Only Crisis of 2011.
Sure, I could have loaded up a word processor or text editor and typed my thoughts elsewhere. And then, when WordPress was restored, I could have (shudder) copied-and-pasted my words into the Edit Post window. Gads.
But that path wasn’t for me. That was not the path of “cut off your nose to spite your face.” For me, even the road less traveled is still far too crowed.
So I just sat. And thought.
- We bloggers use words, right? Well, most of us do. So why not adopt a word and make it your own? Go to Save The Words and do your part to help. I adopted the word “modernicide” which means the “killing of modern people.” When you undertake to save a word you take a vow to use the word “in conversation and correspondence, as frequently as possible and to the very best of [your] ability.”
- Twiddle your thumbs. Practice makes perfect and, if you’re good enough, you can go pro.
- Collect old newspapers and magazines from around the house and cut out letters to craft your very own ransom note. Who knows? If you get lucky you may even get to use it someday.
- Plan your own funeral or wake. What if, God forbid, they played Justin Bieber at your funeral? I’m not just going to sit here and let that happen! Go proactive and choose your playlist. For me that means lots of Disturbed (Another Way to Die) and Type O Negative (I Don’t Wanna Be Me). It’s going to be important so don’t leave the shindig to chance.
- This one takes a bit of money but it’s worth it. Go to your local tattoo shop and bribe the “artists” there to deliberately misspell words. Do not underestimate this activity. It’s good clean fun!
- Bonus. Call the Karma Police and hang up.
- Bonus. Count the leaves on a tree.
- Bonus. Take a soapbox downtown, put it on a city sidewalk, stand on top, and try to convince ten passerby they are going to Hell.
- Bonus. Think of your most favorite food in the whole wide world. Now go look it up on the internet until you learn the bitter TRUTH about how it is really made. Ha ha ha! You’ll never eat that again!
This would have been a top ten list but, curses, WordPress came back up. Oh well, maybe more next time.
To blog every single day takes considerable effort. And just a bit of planning.
I find that maintaining a regular routine is helpful. Establishing a rhythm and maintaining it is very helpful to meeting a post-every-day objective.
My normal routine is to always write at least one day in advance. So if I write a post in the morning before work, that post will be scheduled for five minutes after UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) so that the post will have the correct date. For me, that’s 4:05pm or 5:05pm depending on if daylight savings time is in effect or not.
So, by knocking out a post and scheduling it, I’ve effectively taken care of tomorrow’s post. That’s a good feeling. You’ve given yourself a bit of a cushion and you can adapt a bit if something unexpected takes you away from your normal writing time.
If you’re going on vacation and won’t have access to a computer, you need to kick it up a notch and have enough posts queued. So far the WordPress scheduling feature hasn’t let me down.
What sucks is when you get knocked off that routine. I’ve been really sick with phlegmitis for far too long. (Tomorrow will be officially two weeks.) And I was out of town two weeks ago and was one post behind on auto-scheduling for the vacation. So I got behind on my blogging rhythm and I’ve been behind ever since.
Now when I sit down to write a post in the morning, I’m writing for the current day. If I somehow don’t get it done before I leave for work, then I’m screwed because I won’t be home before WordPress rolls over to a new date. And that will mean I missed a day. It’s now or never. That adds a bit of pressure.
When I’m on my routine the days seem to fly by. When I’m off my routine I find myself worrying about how and when I’ll write my next post and everything feels off-kilter.
Hopefully I’ll feel better soon, get an unexpected chunk of free time, and maybe even enough energy to get back on my game. It could happen.
What are your blogging goals and what methods do you use to help you get there? What works for you?
Ever go back and re-read your previously written blog posts? I’m a glutton for pain and humiliation so I often do. For me, reading my own writing can be a lot like seeing a picture of myself or hearing the sound of my own voice. It makes me throw up a little in my mouth.
So I try to re-read my own stuff, mainly to make sure it reads well and I don’t sound like a friggin’ idiot. And you know what? I always do sound like an idiot! Some of the grammatical errors and typos are so glaring that a reasonable person would be forced to ask: Just what the hell was he on when he wrote that?
A good friend taught me long ago about the three hats of writing, and I’ve always tried to wear those hats when composing my blog posts. It’s somewhat sobering that even after that process so many typos and errors still remain. The goal of the three hats exercise is to separate the writing process into distinct and separate steps that force you to consider what you have written from different perspectives.
The first hat is “create.” You concentrate on writing without worrying too much about how it sounds, spelling, grammar and what not. Just turn it on and let it flow. Try not to over-think what you are doing.
The second hat is “edit.” You roll up your sleeves and mercilessly slice it up. You are looking for typos, bad grammar, checking facts, etc. When you do edit a sentence, perhaps moving things around a bit, be sure to go back and re-read, re-read, re-read! If I had a dime for every time I edited a sentence and left it sounding funny …
The third hat is “read.” This is where you clear your mind, let everything else go and try to look at the piece with fresh eyes and consume your work from a reader’s point of view. How does it flow? What is the tone? Are the ideas making sense and coming across the way you intended?
You’d think three hats would be enough, but the next day I go back and re-read the post and, “Gack! I can’t believe I didn’t see that. The whole world thinks I’m stupid!”
I just started my day by fixing five distinct grammatical errors in yesterday’s post about angry songs. Maybe I should have been listening to something more soothing.