Reaching the Goodreads Challenge

Like almost everyone I know that likes reading, I’ve been using Goodreads for a while now. Mostly I use it to keep track of books I want to read at some point in the future. However quickly my “read” (i.e. in the past tense) shelf grows, my “to read” shelf grows faster. I’m fine with that, as there are so many great books in the world and I would like to read as many as I can, while also making time to re-read those that really spoke to and/or entertained me.

For the past two years, I have also publicly set a reading goal for myself on the Goodreads site. The only way I know to access it is to go to the main page and scroll down. It’ll be somewhere in the right sidebar. If you’re also an avid reader, you likely know what I’m talking about. Initially, I started doing this yearly reading challenge to get back into reading more. I’d been spending too much time with Netflix and not enough with the written word. Goodreads helped me fix that.

I’ve just met my 2014 reading challenge by finishing 24 books. I have actually read more than this, technically. To some people that does not sound like a lot, but between work, social time, sleep, and my habit of often reading somewhat long or challenging books, it is a higher total than I’ve reached in a given year since graduating from college.

Next year, I’m not going to set a reading goal. Why? Because I’ve decided that I’m going to be focusing on writing. And this time, I’m not just going to say that I’m going to do more writing. I’m getting too old to let ideas percolate until I feel like I “have time” to sit down and write them. Life has resisted being anything resembling convenient or helpful, and I need to make time to write, starting as soon as possible, or give up on the idea of ever being published. Even if I end up self-publishing, it will never happen if I don’t actually do the writing.

I’ll still read, of course, but my focus will be on creating stories, honing some of them, taking active steps toward being a writer. I used to write and read all the time, when I was young. Growing up, adulthood, responsibility, self-doubt, and a bunch of other factors slowly drained that away from me, but I took back reading, and now I am going to take back writing. I want to learn how to love it again, the way I did when I was a kid and wanted to write all the time. Life was so much more fun then.

Has Blogging Lost Its Lustre?

I’ve been blogging for years now. I don’t even know how many. Five, seven… something like that. And sometimes I feel like it’s become more of a burden than a useful outlet.

Back when I was first blogging, I was not aware of any opportunities for making money through the platform. I don’t think it was very common then. In order to make money writing online, you had to write for a content mill or online magazine/newspaper with a large following. I considered content mills, but never made the move, and I’ve never been that interested in journalism (maybe opinion pieces, but not news coverage). Blogging was still more of a personal/creative outlet than a money-making scheme. I liked it that way–being able to share my thoughts and writing with an audience, having a venue to put a little bit of myself out there. Originally I’m certain only my friends and family were reading, but they were my target audience anyway.

Suddenly, that all changed. Articles and job listings and all kinds of sources were telling me that I needed to optimize SEO to get more views on my posts. It was not good enough to express myself well and share something with the world, because doing so I wasn’t coming remotely close to the thousands of views per day that so many other sites claimed to accumulate. This was a few years ago, and even though I was not trying to make money from blogging, I felt utterly inadequate. These days, all the “how to blog” articles tell you have to use good quality pictures, fall within a certain word count, and talk about relevant topics that people want to read, like Kim Kardashian’s nude photos (this is a somewhat ironic example, as the topic is of no particular interest to me). If I’m only getting a handful of views on each post, then it must be because my posts aren’t good enough.

That, of course, is a trap it’s easy to fall into, and I’m starting to think it was created by ad companies, who are the ones benefiting most from the high number of clicks on a page. Someone out there wants us to believe that quantity (in views) equals quality (in production or content). We know this isn’t true. Some very talented people simply don’t achieve the visibility they deserve, for many reasons. Now it seems everyone’s striving for that one “viral” post, of whatever format, that will result in a steep increase in followers and, therefore, more views on each post afterward. I absolutely get it, as someone who doesn’t get enough blog views to even qualify to use WordAds (which in my opinion is not a reasonable rule), but at the same time, it’s got to stop!

I have to say that I’m really tired of worrying about my view count, why my overall number of views never seems to increase no matter how many new followers I get, and all other related things. I’m tired of wondering whether it’s better to pour my heart out, like some of the very popular blogs I’ve seen, or write extremely well-researched and crafted pieces that, in my opinion, do not belong on a blog (in most cases). Those belong in real magazines or on real sites, by real publishing companies. Blogging used to have a similar function to a diary, for me, with the small difference of knowledge that other people would be reading it. More recently, I’ve felt more of an urge, whether internal or external, to write “articles” or at least posts with a real topic, instead of just a spontaneous stream of consciousness, account of some event in my life, or whatever else blogs used to be used for.

Lately I miss the stream of consciousness. I think that if I do have specific topics to write about, a blog is as good a place as any to share them, but this idea that blog posts should always “say something” is bringing me down. The flood of blogs that are trying to be professional and presentable has given the impression that if you want to be taken seriously, you can’t just use blogging as a general brain outlet anymore. Not only is this NOT true, but I think I need the brain drain. My mind has been so stuck lately, both in a sense of feeling the need to save the “publish” button for only certain types of posts, and in a sense of being generally inarticulate and unable to think of the right word at very random but ever-more-frequent times. It’s as if so many words built up in my brain without anywhere to release that it’s become clogged, and now nothing can get through.

Does anyone have any word-Drano?

The point here is multi-pronged. 1) Your blog can be for anything you want. 2) Most of all, you should do it for you. If you’re only blogging to get views, that will probably show, and no one is interested in that. 3) You can’t predict what posts people are going to want to read. 4) Expecting to make money from almost any online platform, unless it’s through a specific site that already gets a lot of views, is a bad plan. That’s why #2 applies once again.

This post, I think, falls somewhere between the topical article and the stream of consciousness. That’s how I like to work, honestly, for topics like this. I want it to be somewhat personal and relatable, not ultra-researched and dry to the point where a lot of people click to view the post but most of them just skim over the bullet points. In a sense I could probably do better if I really took the time to formulate an essay-style post. But all that is, to me, is another false path to a “right” method of blogging, which, in case you didn’t catch it, I’ve already stated does not exist.

My Crazy Inventions

In certain areas of life, a helpful contraption, machine, process, method, etc. to take care of some of those pesky problems we have to face would be immensely helpful. I frequently come up with great ideas for inventions, and if there was actually any chance I could make them, those patents would make me a fortune. Here are some recent ideas:

  • Pre-sliced tomatoes that stay fresh.
  • Something that instantly removes cilantro (or other herbs) leaves from stems. Comes with an attachment to chop or mince the leaves if desired.
  • A device that will instantly transport all bugs out of your house. Where does it send them? I don’t care, as long as I never have to look at any of those many-legged brain-snatching alien bugs again.
  •  A real magic 8 ball. You don’t get to see the future, but it will accurately tell you if something will turn out ok in the end.

I actually think the bug thing is the one I’d most want to be real, but of course this is quite ridiculous. But just imagine. No more fruit flies, instant spider removal, no need to deal with creepy centipede-y icky things. You just press a button and they’re gone. I mean, their natural habitat is outside, so really, it would be helping.

If you see any of these inventions out in the world, please sue the creator for me or alert me, as these are all my intellectual property. ;)

I have had many story ideas in my life

Hi, I’m a writer. I thought it was prudent to state the obvious at this time.

Not too long ago, but long enough that I don’t remember when it was, I decided that it would be a good idea to keep a list of all my story ideas in a word document. It’s in google docs so that I can access it from any computer or my smartphone. (I know, I’m a genius). I started doing this because I know that if I don’t write down an idea, whether it’s good, bad, interesting, weird, conventional, or whatever else, I’m quite likely to forget it. We have to many things clamoring for attention. I’ve forgotten enough story ideas to know that this is a real thing that happens. It may not be the most pressing problem, but for a writer it is frustrating.

I currently have:

  • 17 novel concepts
  • 5 short story concepts
  • one note to just write microfiction pieces as I come up with the ideas

Then, there’s a different file, containing:

  • 9 plot summaries for modern fairy tales

… making a total of 31 story ideas. This does not include a whole bunch of partially-written stories and first drafts that still need work before they can be allowed to have contact with readers.

I’m sure I have forgotten countless other ideas and will continue to think up, write down, and forget many more.

This should be my most important to-do list. I suppose it is. But it should also be the most urgent, and it is not, because attempting to be a responsible adult takes that spot.

Another Life #33

Every morning I set off into the just-risen sun, trekking the twenty-five minutes from whatever comforts there are in my home to my workspace. About half the time I wake up and enjoy a cup or two of coffee before I go; the other half, I swoop through a coffee shop on the way, sometimes ordering two coffees to get me through the day.

I rent the basement of a three-story house by the lake. The three main floors are divided into office space for people doing whatever kind of work they do. I never see them. I just head to my subterranean lair through its private door, neatly avoiding any distracting contact with people (ten minutes of small talk can turn into an hour or two of internet surfing afterward…). Once I’ve disappeared, I start to pound and hack away.

When You Can’t Write

Lately one of my many story ideas has been fighting for prominence in my thoughts. I don’t remember exactly when I first had this idea. Sometime in the past six months or so. I liked it a lot then, but for whatever reason I don’t often start new stories unless I can see the entire basic outline of the plot–for novels, anyway. Short stories I don’t mind just diving into. But I like to be able to see a full novel before I begin, fully expecting many of the details to change, of course. So I haven’t written any of this story yet, even though I did a basic outline. Now, it’s like the thing’s knocking on my door. (Brain-door?) “Hi. Remember me? I get that you have a lot going on, but you said we’d hang out. Just give me a little time, please?”

And what can I do? My “responsible” side (that I’m currently hating) keeps telling me that I have to take care of my obligatory work first, so that I can pay bills and afford to eat and stuff like that. I have a tendency to listen to that side because I’ve always been pretty responsible. But now my creative side is getting angry at being neglected. She will not stand for it any more. I have a feeling she’s just going to keep bothering me until I give in.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t want to. There are two reasons. One: I cling to that silly notion that I need to be in a better financial place before I can really give my attention to writing. Maybe this means I’m not a “true artist.” Maybe it means I live in a ridiculous economy and like everyone else I have to pay for things. I even have to buy my own health and dental insurance. Two: Even though I want to write, right now, more than anything, and I can honestly say very few things would make me feel as good as writing this story that’s jumping up and down, waving its arms at me, when I think about actually sitting down to write it there’s a certain resistance. I’m not sure where that comes from, exactly. I’ve been trying to pinpoint what that feeling is. Maybe it’s the knowledge that I still sometimes rely too much on cliches. Maybe it’s being kind of out of practice in fiction writing, and wondering if I still have any talent and imagination or if the real world sucked it all away.

Or it could be the certainty I have, when I look back at the last seven years or so, that I’ve already wasted so much time I could have spent pursuing things I wanted to learn, do, feel, experience. Some of you reading this (people who know how old I am) will I’m sure say that this is ridiculous, but I feel very old these days. It seemed ok to be adrift and uncertain when I was 24. I was young, just starting to live on my own (sort of). Few people actually have anything figured out at 24. Not anymore. As I get older, more and more people my age are actually finding full-time, stable jobs or starting businesses or families. This tells me that it’s my fault I’m still in such an unpleasant, uncertain life situation. They say you shouldn’t compare yourself to others, but I bet “they” do it too…

So anyway, this story is about love. A fair bit of it takes place in dreams, and it will sort of explore and/or blur the line between dreams and waking. I’ve actually had a lot of story ideas that involve that aspect. I also like the idea because I can include a lot of fantastical elements even though the story is not in the fantasy genre. I’m hoping that I can push through all my doubts and obstacles and start writing it. I hate asking this but please, click “like” or comment if you think this story sounds interesting.

The Reader Speaks (and updates a page)

Once in a while I actually remember to update my “What I’m Reading” page, and today was one of those days! I’m in the middle of numerous books right now and I have a huge TBR list right now that’s likely to only get larger. I have a Goodreads link on the sidebar that you can check out if you want to see more of the books I’ve read and want to read.

I can definitely say The Crane Wife is my favorite book that I’ve read in the past few years at least. I really loved it and I plan to read it again several times in the future, after I get my own copy of it. For some reason I can’t seem to find it in any bookstores… I don’t think it would necessarily be everyone’s taste, but it is absolutely perfect for me. I almost wish I’d written it.

If I find another favorite book, then that section of the page will be updated, but The Crane Wife will also stay.