A week has lapsed since I last blogged. The best intentions, right? The reason is I’ve been working full tilt on a segment of my Sooper Seekrit Projekt. This project requires a lot of learning on the fly – A LOT, – watching instructional videos, and simply doing by trial and error. And it has led me back to my ongoing battle with time.
Since it’s only February, I imagine Father Time (why not Mother Time?) is still a tot stumbling around crying for attention and structure. I want to make him behave but I’m not good with children, especially the toddler variety. Time isn’t exactly my nemesis but I struggle to keep him to a schedule. Because of this project, I’ve gone from long naps in the afternoon to staying up until the wee hours primarily because there is so much preparation to finish before I can even start. I wake feeling harried and tired. Before I can put my feet on the floor, Little Time is up and off to the races again.
I’ve been instructed by well meaning types (who are just naturally organized) to create a set schedule and stick to it. But Time cries so to watch that extra video, spruce up this blog post one more time, or figure out just what a “headline analyzer” and a “AISEO” are blinking on my WordPress dashboard. (It just turned green! Is that…good?) Before I know it, my carefully crafted schedule goes from late to ruined. And there’s the matter of my creative processes. Ideas and sentences must percolate before I write them. Even Toddler Time beating on a pan with his spoon can’t rush it. So whether it’s by allotting bigger time blocks in my schedule, or buying more hours in a day, I’ve got to get a better grip on time management.
So Dear Reader, what do you do to manage your time?
After not blogging for 3 1/2 years and not having the blog online for 2 1/2 years, I’m back again. The blog disappeared in August 2018 when I changed web hosts. Migrating a WordPress blog from one web host to another is NOT as easy as hosts say and I consider myself tech savvy. Just back up the WP site and database, download to a local computer, upload them to the new web host, install, and presto, they said. Simple, right? WRONG.
I perused the literature, looked at my 3 gigabyte WP directory and opted for the techs to handle it. Several times the old techs failed in giving me uncorrected files or even all of the files for the new techs to install. Several fruitless attempts and much aggravation later, I became discouraged and gave up, thinking that I’d probably lost seven years worth of blogging. Winston, that damn dog also got in the way. Then I embarked on a Sooper Seekrit Projekt (which I’ll talk about in a later post). Suddenly I needed my blog online and working. Oh dear me. I started again. However this time some cosmic deity and the planets and sun must have been aligned because techs on both ends finally got the blog online intact. Things are a mess behind the scenes; the layout is old and dated but the blog is back. Over time you will see changes to make it better – and different. How so? Stay tuned.
Since this blog started as a Richard Armitage appreciation site, I’ll leave this picture of him here looking older, wiser and doing his best to weather this pandemic lock down.
Back in the Jurassic Age, I was a lawyer. Courtrooms could be cavernous, swallowing up sound, so I plunked down money for state of the art hearing aids. That meant that they were molded in one piece and fit in the ear. I could control the volume on the piece and didn’t need a little black box that hung around the neck or fit in a pocket. I loved them until I realized they magnified all the noises I could already hear and nothing else. They drove me crazy. Into a drawer they went and years later, out with the trash.
So 27 years after my first failed experience, I decided to try again. Although I’ve been hearing impaired since birth (mostly deaf in the right, partially in the left), what remains has been gradually disappearing. Friends told me that I heard less. I found myself growing quieter and quieter in noisy social situations. I’d become so accustomed to the sound of silence that I didn’t realize how bad things were until the audiology test. To my dismay, the spikes and lines dipped much lower and the good ear had lost a great deal of word comprehension in noisy environments. Literature lying around warned that increasing deafness carried a higher risk of dementia. So I bought more state of the art digital hearing aids, fully programmable, and geared to amplifying the sounds I need. My geeky soul was thrilled. The audiologist stated he wouldn’t program the devices to full capacity so that the wall of noise wouldn’t knock me over. Instead he would increase the volume over a 45 day trial period which would allow my brain to adjust. Even so, the variety and loudness of sounds have been startling. Literally. I’ve jumped at every odd noise since beginning this post. Is the strangely loud washing really breaking down? I have clue.
The new high tech. Starkey Halo 2 hearing aid
Naturally my high tech gear has not come without glitches. The devices should be programmable with my iPhone allowing me to take calls and listen to music – that is if the damn phone will see them. One hour with the audiologist and two and half hours with Apple troubleshooting have yielded no fully functioning hearing aids. There’s another audiological appointment on Friday. Apple swears they are working on their end, and I’m about to bring Starkey, the manufacturer, into this. Needless to say, these iPhone friendly devices will be returned if they aren’t iPhone friendly soon.
All of this reminds me of another type of deafness which leaves people isolated in their personal bubble of silence. Simon and Garfunkel sang about it in Sound of Silence.
I glanced at my WordPress dashboard and saw that this blog made it over the 500 posts mark at last – not a big deal when considering that it took six years. Analytics tell me that I posted in concentrated spurts the first few years, ramping up to the wild and crazy time from 2012-2014. But there were long periods when I didn’t post at all.
During those silent times, my fangirling evolved. Let me explain. Having spent over 25 years in various fandoms, I’ve experienced them as a process of phases. The first phase we all have experienced – the giddiness of discovering a new crush with the accompanying squeeing and desire to find like-minded souls. Then the girlishness progresses to an avid following. The infatuation stays strong but a bit of the breathlessness tapers off. Finally, there’s the third stage when the ardor wanes and heads down one of two roads. The first path leads out of fandom and fangirling – full stop – with the crush kicked to the curb. The second way continues to hold interest in the crush’s work, but the initial passion is gone.
After six years, I’ve hit the third phase. Mind you, I’ve not been the typical Richard Armitage fan. In fact, the ongoing joke has been me as an anti-fangurl who is the first to scream the emperor has no clothes. (And I’ve been a pretty fab anti-fangurl I might add). But alas, I’ve come to that fork in the road where the thrill is gone and I have to decide what happens next. Don’t get me wrong. I still like RA and enjoy his work. And he’s still easy on the eyes. But the lack of keen interest has made it difficult to blog about him as in the past. So should I close shop and move on? Should I direct my focus away from him? Can I write about him occasionally? If I stop, will I have any readership left? Can the blog survive a transition?
Most importantly, what becomes of The Man? I’m not being funny here. I enjoyed writing the series; it exercised my writing muscle and entertained the fan readership at the same time. However, the inspiration behind the series *cough* may have been a certain actor *cough*. Can I find the MIA muse and bring it back? Will the readership stick around for fiction having nothing to do with their crush? At this point, I have no answer to any of these questions. There’s just a persistent feeling that something has to give.
I welcome feedback here. Please let me know what you think or if there’s a happy compromise.
Remember when you’re in a particular mood, everything you see and hear reinforces that mood? I’m in an extended version of that. I take five medications to keep myself even keel. For two years as the number of pills rose and fell, I groused that I had to take even one. Eventually, as the number crept up, I became resigned to the idea of ingesting medication cocktails, something which horrified me since my job dealt with mainly failed therapeutic and pharmaceutical attempts to gain “normalcy.” I referred sarcastically to them as my “Happy Pills” because they weren’t actually making me happy. The idea of being upbeat and happy was as alien and weird as my perky friend chirped when my backpack was stolen in London: “well, we’ve never been to a British police station before!” (No, I didn’t smack her). However as the depression receded, I realized that the little compressed rolls of chemicals really were my happy pills. Now I’m horrified not at the number but at the niggling fear that I might have forgotten to take them. (That’s usually just a momentary fear of relapse).
This has been the lock screen on my iPhone. I found the smiley faces in an app program and edited the words. The old me would have found the picture corny and nauseating overkill; adding the words would have been inconceivable. Now both the picture and words have meaning. Each pill says that I need and must not forget them; if they fail, then there will be other pills to take their place. They aren’t a cure or a panacea; only a means by which I can live life fully. The words remind me to live that life and appreciate it, no matter how small the activity. So each morning when I wake feeling contented and exhilarated, I revel that feeling. If my new sheets feels especially soft, I roll around in them. When I opened the blinds finally and washed the bedroom windows after three years, I felt pride in the accomplishment instead of fixating on the dirt and the cobweb. (Yikes!) When completing a task, I congratulate myself. When speaking to a neighbor, I smile. When petting Patty, cheer that she’s happy, healthy and groomed. I concentrate on the positive side of things. So I understand my friend a little better now. While I might not bounce to the police station, I do stay “GOOD morning” to people and mean it. ***
*** Don’t worry. I’ve got a gallon of Snarky Pills on the side too. I’ll take one tomorrow. SHHHH!
With a change in medication regimen, my mood has been stabilized on the positive side of neutral for almost three weeks. This has been the longest stretch since the London trip in June 2011. Dr. G. tried this regimen previously, but wondered if it would work sans work stress. Voila! I feel good. I know there’s no cure for depression, but I hope this regimen has a long viability.
So why haven’t I been blogging? Interesting question. I mulled over this for some time with Dr. G. Why haven’t I been motivated to blog since I feel so good? The answer: because I feel so good. Good feelings are a positive motivation, but my entire life has been controlled by reflex reactions to dire external consequences. Negative motivation is an entrenched behavior, and such a thing is very, very difficult to change. Musing that I want to do X, so it gets done is an unusual and unfamiliar concept. Distraction and desperation motivated the previous long stretch of blogging. Now, what’s stressful about happy feelings? Dr. G., who has been pushing blogging big time, suggested working up to writing my novel (did I mention that?) as a motivation. But realization of a real book won’t happen for years; it doesn’t have the punch of immediacy. No pressure? Oh dear. No matter my real or imagined excuses, I’ve decided to allot time every morning after rising to blog, write – type something. Let’s see how this goes.
So what have I been doing for almost three weeks? Making busy work and plans. Firstly, there will be no more snap decisions – retirement was enough. I need to move forward with careful consideration. The condo sale is on hold because 1) I love the place and am not ready for any emotional fallout from suddenly wrenching myself away, and 2) I don’t know where to land and certainly don’t want to move someplace I don’t want to be, and 3) I can feasibly stay for another year while I sort things (repairs, painting, clean-out, etc.). I’ll have more than enough time to research living in other parts of the city or the suburbs while becoming mentally and physically fit.
Also, I’ve been PC video gaming, namely playing RIFT. Now don’t laugh; this has been therapeutic. I played game therapy for psych rehab in the wilds of Ohio with my friend a few weeks ago. The first half of the week, she beat me easily, every single game. Ridiculously simple-minded and silly mistakes characterized my play. I used to be a damn good player and this secretly chapped my ass. However, because of focus and concentration issues, my ability to persist in either has eroded badly. It’s been like an atrophying muscle. So I hunkered down and exercised it over the week. By the end of the trip, I finally won several games. So when RIFT went “free to play,” I decided to check it out again. Gaming requires extended periods of concentration. The characters embark on missions called quests, work on trade skills, duel, etc. etc. etc. It’s a massive time sink. After an initial stretch of play, my interest quickly waned but then I discovered a game aspect called Dimensions. A dimension is the player’s own world crafted with special items. If it’s not sold in-game, it has to be made or recreated (morphed). For example, there is no item called a turkey dinner platter, so it must be recreated. I must break the image down into parts and conceptualize what obtainable items can be rotated, flipped, sized, pushed, and pulled to look like a real turkey dinner platter (3 burlap bags, 6 decorative sweetberries, and a patterned urn). The morphing requires a lot of focus and thought. So, I’ve been crafting in my own dimension (my inner decorator is happy) while gaming, and exercising focus and concentration. Bizarre, eh? But it’s working. Eventually, this interest will wane (after I finish six more tiers), but that focus muscle will be a little stronger.
The Great Room. Most of the furniture is crafted.
Everything crafted but the walls and floor.
My character and her dog in a top hat of course, Kirby.
I built EVERYTHING – including the house.
Luxurious bathroom. I made that.
So, I suppose the odd gaming has created a POSITIVE motivation in psych rehab. Who knew?
Yes, I’m terribly late to the party as usual, but Happy New Year to all. Welcome, new subscribers and viewers to this blog. I’m always amazed by the traffic here even when there’s nothing new to read. Thanks for coming and do feel free to look through the archive. Also, thank you Dear Readers for your encouragement and steadfastness. Your patience will be rewarded with more posts soon. In fact, it’s on doctor’s orders. Seriously. But more on that later.
Since the end of November, ArmitageWorld has gone from famine to feast, a glut actually. It’s provided a cornucopia of subjects to discuss. There’s still the review of The Hobbit, and a second (and third) look at Thorin. Then, there’s the epic Richard Armitage report card. Truth be told, settling on criteria for assessment has been giving me fits, but it’s beeen sorted. I’m binding and gagging Inner Fangurl, and aiming for the most fair and impartial perspective view possible. Well, as impartial as an anti-fangurl can be. (Yes, I’m still searching for how to really describe myself). I’ve also altered the focus from his performance at the NZ premiere to the entire Hobbit tour. The emergence of RA on the world stage has been too fascinating not to cover in entirety. Later on, I’ll discuss who I think he is, or isn’t.
Speaking of fascinating, I’ve also been observing fandom’s reaction to the film and tour. As this blog’s title states, I enjoy watching people. Even though I’ve been in fandom’s for 20 years, I’ve never had a chance to observe firsthand, a fandom’s response to a crush’s rapid ascension to potential stardom. It’s been quite interesting. I might get run out of fandom on a rail, but you’re get my unvarnished opinions on my perception of ArmitageWorld after 2+ years, the changes occuring within it, and where I see it heading.
This all reminds me: my 2nd blogiversary passed on December 28, 2012. A lot has happened in these past two years personally. I’ll explore what it has meant for me, where I am currently, and hope to be in the next year. You’ll see more short stories with my inner trio, Jada, Jodi, and Quiet One (let’s not forget Patty the pom and Dr.G.); the conflicted muses (Sir Guy vs. Thorin?); excerpts from a possible mystery; The Man; and anything else escaping from my fevered imaginings.
Does that sound like enough to kick off 2013? Stay tuned.
Oh, and have pic.
Richard Armitage in 2004 photo shoot, courtesy RichardArmitageNet.com
[This entry is a creative experiment in writing about memories, as an extension of last week’s post.]
I’m holding a squeaky giraffe. It’s small to my mother and brother watching, but big to me. Two round ears and a little round pink nose sticks out of a round smiling face. The face sits atop a long slender tan neck. That’s most of the toy, the neck. My little fingers first grasp the long part then slid down to its flat end where the squeak comes out. I squeeze. *SQUEAK SQUEAK*
I’m sure I have other noisy toys but this one is my favorite. It makes the right sort of squeak so that Mom doesn’t get annoyed and make me stop. Right now, Mom and Cappy encourage me to pose for the camera. He stands over me, dressed in his ROTC uniform with the shiny buttons and yellow braid. He’s holding a big camera; the round part points at me. I’m distracted, still squeaking Giraffe. *SQUEAK SQUEAK*
It’s daytime but dark enough in the living room for Mom to turn on a lamp. It still seems dark, though. She reclines at the end of the long, green, curved sofa, and waves the camera away when it points at her. She doesn’t want Cappy to take her picture. I bounce around a bit and find myself off the carpet and in a corner by the television; it’s taller than me and its edge sticks out above me. My little red shoes make noise on the wooden floor. *tap tap* *SQUEAK SQUEAK*
“Look up Judi, look at the camera,” Cappy says. I adore my big brother and smile up at him. I try to focus on the round part but it’s fuzzy. Mom smiles which makes me smile harder. She’s happy. They all are happy suddenly, looking at me, murmuring encouragement to me. My arm swings Giraffe and some how its flat end now rests on top of my head. I’m delighted it still makes noise if I use my head. *bop bop* *SQUEAK SQUEAK*
The camera whirls and clicks. Mom and Cappy talk. I can’t hear everything, but I understand that the camera is new and he’s playing with it. We are going outside to play some more. I’m dressed in a light blue coat over my pants and top and taken into the backyard. Cappy tells me to stand over there. I run deeper into the yard. He’s saying other things I can’t hear now. He’s very fuzzy but I know he has the camera. I try to pose but the sun is in my eyes and I’m not sure what to do. I don’t have Giraffe. Cappy says a few more things and then it’s over. He turns away; he’s done. I stand there, not knowing what to do next.
On December 28th, I quietly passed my first blog anniversary. It slipped by quietly because I really don’t have a definitive date when I decided to start a blog and did so. This venture began by accident. I thought to register as a commenter on WordPress and BAM it turned out I created a blog. So a moment of clicking idiocy opened a door on a whole new world.
I still don’t know why I didn’t delete it since I had absolutely nothing to say at the time. But an inner voice said no, this was one of those rare opportunities I shouldn’t let pass. (I suspect the voice may have been my id, Jodi, trying to get me into trouble.) Then Servetus commented, beginning a dialogue that continued for much of January, thus christening the blog. Web caches had already saved it for all posterity. It was a done thing. I had a blog on LiveJournal which basically was a long Twitter with little thought behind it. So I wanted this one to be more of an introspective experiment – an exploration on rediscovering dormant creativity.
This experiment has been daunting and a bit scary. In order for you to understand what was happening (why isn’t she posting?) or why some events were so important (London trip), I had to reveal more about myself. I’d never intended to talk about Winston and depression or delve into my psyche or share any of my work. Even though I called this blog an introspective experiment, I still thought of it in a shallow way. But I realized quickly that introspection means digging deep and if I wanted to learn anything from this experiment, I needed to be honest with myself. Such honesty out loud, on a public forum isn’t easy. But this is all me; it’s who I am. I’m learning to embrace all parts of myself, including the darker side, and not care who knows it.
So the blog has an added bonus of self discovery which has allowed me to push through obstacles in the way of drawing, vidding, and writing. Looking back, I wondered what was so hard. Of course, everything is hard when riddled with insecurity and this blog has helped put things into perspective. I can still draw and write. I’m not as crazy, hermetic, anti-social, inhibited [adjective here] as I think I am.
And I’ve managed to do it with your help and encouragement for which I’m grateful. I’ve no clue what the next year will bring, but you all will be along for the ride.
Of course, you’ve all read, made, or discussed New Year’s resolution lists for the coming year.
Have no fear, this is not one of them. I’ve given up that nonsense.
Year after year, I lemming-like would draw up a list of resolutions. Usually they involved becoming more thin, smart, compassionate, sociable and thrifty, and less selfish, judgmental, isolated, cynical and snarky. Each year I would fail miserable, having promptly forgotten most of them by the next day, only to remember finally when time to draw up new resolutions for the following year.
So, instead of concerted efforts of self-improvement, I simply seize the opportunities as they arise. My depression pudge will diminish with Winston properly coraled; I’ll be able to get out more, meet more people and expand my horizons. If a book seems interesting, I’ll download it. If a situation arises, I’ll look at both sides of the conflict. If I feel moved by a charitable effort, I’ll give. The point is not to tie myself to lists or tests to pass or fail, but improve life as it happens. I’ve found that I actually do get things done if I view them as an opportunities, rather than obligations.
Looking back on this past year I worked on getting Winston under control, journeyed to London alone, met new people, gave more to charity, started this blog, and explored my creativity all because the opportunities presented themselves. They might be small, but they still feel like accomplishments. This year, I won’t resolve to do more of the same.
Ah, Thanksgiving, the day when we pause to commemorate the story of the Pilgrims and the Indians breaking fish and maize together, and give thanks for all we have -on some other blog. On my blog, I believe in getting down to what really matters – the FOOD.
For most of my childhood and adolescence, food was a big deal in my family. My mother prepared the meal with me acting as second chef. This continued until I was old enough to take over the whole meal. Preparation started at the stroke of 3:00PM with cleaning of the giant 20+ pound turkey. (Yes, we cooked enough for an army). It had to have a high breast and plump legs or it couldn’t darken the door of my mother’s kitchen. We extracted the giblets and neck, putting them on cook with chicken thighs, while thoroughly cleaning, drying and salting the bird, and storing it in the fridge. My mother mixed the cornbread batter while I chopped and cried over a bag of onions, green peppers, and stalks of celery, first by hand and then with a food processor when they came into vogue. ( Then I cried for joy over the Cuisinart.) The cornbread mixture was poured into cast iron skillets to bake. Two hours later, we had enough cornbread dressing to fill the bird and a small pan besides. We stored this away.
Next came mustard potato salad made with 10 pounds of red potatoes, celery, onions, and green peppers. Did you know that the right amount of mustard, sugar and vinegar produce the taste of eggs? It’s true. The potatoes had to be peeled and cut while still hot. Over the years, we acquired hands like asbestos although we always had ice cold water to dip our fingers on hand. The Making of Potato Salad was a family secret with my mother and I huddled over the pan, sampling for The Right Taste, adding a bit of this, a tad of that until BINGO! it was finished.
Then I would put on the sweet potatoes to boil. These would be cooked until tender and left in the giant pot until the next day for the candied sweets. Then we would take a break, mop our brows and plan dessert. When I was small, my mother made sweet potato pies from scratch. Sadly I never learned the secret of the tender, flakey crust. She had to bake at least six pies because everybody wanted one to take home, they were that good. She also made a three layer pineapple cake from scratch which I eventually took over. My cakes were always moist and light, I must say. Eventually dessert became just the cake. After 6-7 hours of straight cooking we called it a night.
The next morning, we rose at 7AM to dress the monster turkey and stuff it. The thing would be so heavy my dad would muscle it into the oven. Then I made the macaroni and cheese from scratch while my mother prepared the candied sweets. Then we fixed the vegetables, usually, broccoli and cheese, asparagus, and green beans to balance out all those starches. The giblet gravy was the last dish prepared. We never did casseroles or mashed potatoes since most of the dishes were southern. In my grandmother’s time, there was also a Virginia honey baked ham and probably a capon. Like I said, enough food for an army.
At precisely 2PM dinner was served, and the horde would descend, usually eating in shifts around the large table. They made short shrift of all that food, leaving a quarter of the monster turkey, a small pan of stuffing, another pan of candied sweets I’d have hidden away, and a spoonful of all the vegetables. Mom and I never ate much because we tasted it already while cooking. It was exhausting work, but we always had a sense of satisfaction having cooked a great meal.
Today, my parents are gone and the family is dispersed around the country, so I usually visit a friend’s house for Thanksgiving. I haven’t cooked a Thanksgiving dinner in at least 14 years. But sometimes when I’m walking down the hall of my building, I smell the aroma of onions and celery sauteeing and it all comes back, the Thanksgivings of days gone by.
For me, the countdown to Thanksgiving (the last Thursday in November in the US) means officially heralding in the Christmas season. This has always been the way things have been done in my family. But for the last 15 years or so, the holiday season seems to creep earlier and earlier in sales land. Pre-lit Christmas trees compete for space with jack o lanterns now. This past year, I actually saw garland being strung right after Labor Day (the first Monday in September). I know stores feeling the pinch of the recession want the longest shopping season possible, but I don’t *really* want to shop for tree lights while preparing for a July 4th barbecue. Do you?
All that being said, I’ve also been guilty of the Christmas Creep, only not with shopping but with music. I started listening to my all Christmas radio station on November 11th. In an interesting creep of its own, the radio station asked its listeners to vote when the holiday music should start. Each year, the audience voted earlier and earlier until the station determined it should start no sooner than Veteran’s Day. It’s a bit strange listening to “Have A Holly Jolly Christmas” interspersed with commercials for Veteran’s charities, but there it is.
You might think I would be tired of holiday music even before the season starts, and you would be wrong. The holidays ordinarily infuse me with a sense of contentment and well bearing, like the smell of jet fuel does for travel. (What, you didn’t read my London travelogue?) I say ordinarily because at times the stress of the holidays, with shopping, deadlines, and the need to be jolly even when I may not feel that way, gets in the way of actually enjoying the season. So I try to celebrate with things, like Christmas tunes, before the holidays get underway. I changed my computer and iPhone wallpaper over to holiday themes. My ringtone is “Grandma Got Run Over by A Reindeer.”
I even thought about putting up my tree, but something stopped me – have to wait for Thanksgiving first.
For the past few days, I’ve discussed my experience with blogging, so have RAFrenzy and Servetus. So the question remains Dear Reader – should you blog? Some would say no; there genre is already too crowded with inane chatter and poor writing.
To that I say, so what? Every blogging experience is both deeply personal and unique. It’s a form of expression like any other media. It can be good, as well as bad. I think if you have a need to find your voice, to express your opinions and interests, to tap into your creativity in a relatively safe setting, then blogging is one of the ways to do it. Of course some unwanted commenters may find their way to you but the joy of it is you have total control over your blog; you can moderate, including and excluding as you see fit. You have license to speak and do whatever you want within legal reason; it’s your space.
That’s not to say that blogging doesn’t have its downside. As I said at the beginning of this series, blogging is much harder than it looks. It takes determination to start up and keep going. Even if you blog long enough to acquire readers and hits, sometimes you just don’t feel like writing. It’s important to set a schedule of posting daily or every other day or weekly so that readers will return expecting to see a post. Set your mind to it and stick with it.
Also be sure to have a specific purpose in mind. Is it about a crush, an interest, a hobby, a goal? It’s best to keep a focus so that you don’t chatter inanely and eventually peter out, resulting in the blog going defunct. It’s also the best way to keep the interest of your readers and become a good blogger. Do you have to be a talented writer? I would say you need to be grammatically competent in the language of your intended audience and to think logically, but you certainly don’t have to be a Stephen King.
After you decide your purpose, you need to find your own voice and style. Look at other bloggers. While it’s okay to borrow ideas when you’re first starting out, continuing to copy others is a bad idea. Readers want to discover something about *you,* not something rehashed from another blog. Hence it’s important to evolve your own voice. How do you do that? Experiment, mix it up. Does it work? Don’t be afraid to try and discard different ideas. If it feels right and clicks with you, it will do the same with your audience. You will also be able to maintain your voice if you plan your posts ahead, at least a day or two. If the post reads rushed, tired and unoriginal, it is.
Remember you’re writing for yourself. Even if the subject isn’t personal, the insights, experiences and opinions are yours. Is it something you want to explore and share? Then, that is what you need to discuss. You may ask “what about the audience? They have to read it.” Well, does the topic interest you? Is it something you would want to read? Then more likely than not, it will interest your audience. It’s natural to worry, but don’t place too much concern on how many viewers you’re getting when starting out. Once you’ve found your voice and focus, interested readers will come. Really.
Also, take pride in your blog. It’s a representation of you. Make sure it’s aesthetically pleasing with an appealing format. Use pictures and video to break up long text. Keep posts relatively short unless the subject warrants otherwise. Proofread, proofread, proofread even after you’ve published. (I’ve caught more mistakes after going live.) Nothing ruins a good post more than bad grammar, poor spelling and typos. Would you be proud to be given a bound copy of your blog? Then you’re doing a good job.
Of the thousands and thousands of bloggers on the internet, can you be a good blogger, even a great one? It’s hard to say unless you try. Don’t be in awe of your favorite bloggers too much; they had to start somewhere, usually with an goal and the will to write. You may succeed, you might not. But as the saying goes, if you don’t try, you’re guaranteed to fail.
We continue with my series On Blogging. Here are parts 1 and 2. My guest today is Servetus. You know her from her popular analytical blog Me + Richard Armitage. This is how she describes herself:
Servetus: child of G-d, daughter, sibling, aunt, friend. Thinker, believer, reader, writer. After a decade of waiting to exhale, now exhaling. Searching (still!) for a livable life and trying to be less scared about the future. Needs desperately to feel that she is making the world better or at least not any worse. Likes: Richard Armitage, grapefruit, espresso, The Great Gatsby, complicated liturgies, Alsace-Lorraine, looking at the sea from a convenient sea-side terrace, complexity, long naps. Much less enthusiastic about: Michael Fassbender, fried beef liver, Guinness, The Deerslayer, car alarms, Tucson, actually putting her body in the sea, oversimplifications, staying up for more than 36 hours in a row. Over-educated. Under-prepared. Working hard at compassion for others and herself.
J: Hello Servetus. Thanks for joining me.
S: Glad to be here.
J: I think we know why you started blogging: to analyze your fascination with Richard Armitage. Do you think you’re any closer to your stated goal?
Sometimes I do. Sometimes not.
On the “do” side: I’m closer to understanding the specific things in his work that triggered my attention (even if I can’t always bring myself to publish what I’ve realized). I understand better now how my need to analyze things works — what triggers it and why it’s there and where it comes from — as well as the dangers it harbors for me. I think this recognition has developed because just before Armitagemania hit, I experienced a long period of creative death. So I’ve learned a lot through this fascination about how my creative processes work because I’ve been able to observe them revive after a long period of dormancy. I hope this knowledge will help me to help myself, should that ever occur again.
On the “not” side: I’m not any closer to understanding why Richard Armitage (as opposed to another actor) triggered this. I have a hard time accepting that it might have been coincidence. Also, although the writing has been therapeutic and enabling, I am no closer to knowing why the particular nerves he’s touched in me are issues in my life. And the main thing I really still don’t understand is where this unbelievable (and for me atypical) tidal wave of emotion that centers on Richard Armitage comes from. Intense preoccupation with something is part of my personality pattern, and it’s been cultivated by academic research, but intense positive emotion about a preoccupation is not like me and unique in my experience of myself. I have come to accept it, since it’s persisted, unabated, for over a year-and-a-half, but I still think it’s strange and often disturbing. But I’m not done blogging yet, and I’m changing, so that understanding may come eventually as well.
J: How long have you been blogging?
I started in March 2008. I had been reading blogs since 2005, when I became interested in conservative Christian women’s blogging, and I had discovered the world of academic blogs in 2006, but hadn’t contemplated writing anything myself. I didn’t have much time, and I didn’t think I had anything different to say. But in summer 2006, I was granted a two-year research leave, and the break from teaching meant I had more time for myself. Late in 2007 I began having a very specific, troubling problem in my workplace (one of the chain of troubles I refer to periodically in my current blog) and it eventually became unbearable. I had found an academic blog that inspired me a great deal with its unwillingness to look past injustice, and I started to wonder whether thinking about my problem in that way would help me confront it. So I started an academic blog to find people to talk to and to advise me. It was slow going, not least because my writing was so different from and so much less system-conforming than other academic blogs, but it was an anonymous outlet, and I had attracted a small readership of the like-minded and found an outlet for my anger, so it served its purpose.
Unfortunately, in the summer of 2009, a post on that blog was linked to a national higher education publication, and reader numbers went off the charts — going from c. 70 readers per day to more than a thousand overnight. I had been sure up till then that no one on my campus had been reading, but that exposure made it impossible to guarantee continued anonymity. Back then I maintained a much stronger commitment to continuing in academia than I do now, and I’d been writing about a scandal. Not many people knew about it, but if it came out, the shit was clearly going to hit me as well. I made the decision to take the blog private two days later. (Now I think that might have been a mistake. One of the spheres I was trying to protect exploded anyway because someone else revealed the same information I had, two years later.) Anyway, I tried to restart a public blog again a few weeks after going private, but the joy had gone out of it, and my postings dwindled in number and length. I wrote the last post on that successor blog in May 2010 — about three months after I had started “me + richard armitage” — and made it private in September 2010. I haven’t deleted those texts as they record my life, but I doubt they’ll ever see the light of day again.
J: Why do you choose to write about anything on any particular day?
S: My goal for the blog is to post at least once a day. I try to present a variety of stuff during a week so it’s not the same sort of thing over and over again. Other than that, the choice is usually entirely random. Sometimes there’s news to report or comment on, sometimes something in my own life is pressing that I need to talk about; sometimes a post turns out the way it does because I have a lot of time — or no time; sometimes, if I sit down to write and nothing occurs immediately to say, I look through my long list of things I’ve wanted to write about from time to time and pick one; and so on. Sometimes I want to write about something but don’t have time to cut the necessary video. I frequently write things that never see the light of day — what makes it into view is probably about a third of the wordage that gets drafted. I decided when I started this blog that a basic rule was going to be that I would never write here out of obligation, as that issue had dogged other writing experiences I’ve had to their detriment. (That doesn’t mean I feel no obligation about the blog, but that’s a different matter.) As a consequence I allow myself to do what I want.
J: Why do I link to some stuff and not to other stuff?
S: It’s also almost entirely random. If I don’t see something, obviously I don’t link to it. I link to stuff I read and like, but not to everything I read and like. I probably read more stuff that gets pushed to me in email than stuff I have to seek out — which means I’m slightly more likely to link to a wordpress blog than a blogger blog, for example. I don’t link to many fanvids because I don’t watch all that many, so if I do link to a vid it’s probably because I’ve watched it at least ten or fifteen times. Then again, if I don’t link to a vid, it doesn’t mean I didn’t like it, either. If I link to a fic it’s because there’s something I liked about it, but if I don’t link to a fic it doesn’t mean that I disliked it, either. Sometimes I really like something but I can’t figure out how to write about it. So I guess what I’m saying is that no one should make any assumptions based on what I link or don’t link, or feel badly if I don’t link to them, and above all, no one should assume that I’ve seen or viewed everything and that what appears here in links involves my judgment about the best of Armitageworld. Another rule that I made when starting this blog was that I wasn’t going to attempt to be comprehensive or comment on or link to everything. (That’s another thing that I had to do for work, and since I do that there, I wasn’t going to force myself to do it here).
J: What priority does this blog get in your life?
S: That’s easier to answer. Right now, my intellectual priorities are: (a) anything I have to do for my students; (b) morning pages; (c) Armitage writing of any kind — either this blog, or the therapeutic fic I am writing, or both; (d) academic writing. It’s a little complicated because every now and then (d) has to take priority, but (d) is never possible unless (b) has happened. Sometimes I can do (c) without (b), if (c) involves a direct confrontation with stuff that would normally be put down in (b). Anyway, the consequence of this priority means, for example, that right now I’m unlikely to say much on a Tuesday or Thursday unless it’s done well ahead of time, because on those days I am almost completely occupied with (a). And for anyone worried about the relatively low position of (d) — I’m not on a contract right now that requires academic publications as a condition of either current or continuing employment. So for this year, academic writing is just as inconsequential or consequential to me as any other kind of writing. Ultimately it will be important only if I continue on as a professor, whereas (b) and (c) are important for me to maintain my equilibrium as a human.
NEXT TUESDAY: THE CONCLUSION OF A CUPPA WITH SERVETUS.
Continuing in the series on blogging, joining me today is RAFrenzy. She is well known to you from her snarky, fun, irreverent blog at RAFrenzy.com. When asked to provide a blurb she said, “Phew, what more can you say that I haven’t already?” So, without more ado, here is RAFrenzy.
J: Hello RAFrenzy. Thanks for joining me. This is a casual informal interview. Imagine us at Starbucks having a cuppa. 🙂 R: Just one? 😀
J: Why did you start blogging? R: Obviously, I had something I wanted to say, and I chose this medium so I could say it where I was not emotionally involved with the readers; however, I’m finding that is not the case as I go on. The potentially interactive nature of blogging makes it impossible for someone like me to remain detached from the readers. I love that aspect of blogging, but I also have to stand back from it at times as I know it might affect what I want to say.
J: What is your stated goal in blogging?
R: This blog is an attempt to do two things: understand the madness and revel in it!
J: Do you think you’re any closer to your stated blog goal? R: My stated goal? Yes, I’m much closer and have actually surpassed it in some respects, but my unstated goal is not met.
J: How long have you been blogging?
R: I started a blog in 2008, but I didn’t do much with it. RAFrenzy began in early April, 2010.
J: Why do you choose to write about anything on any particular day? R: It’s a miracle for me to write at all, so I’m trying to become as comfortable with writing my thoughts as I am with speaking them. For so many years I thought I couldn’t write anything that wasn’t strictly technical, but now, most days I write to prove to myself that I can.
J: Why do you link to some stuff and not other stuff? Again if that’s personal or irrelevant, please skip.
R: I usually refrain because of legalities and/or privacy. Legalities are very easy to observe. With respect to privacy, I try to live by the Golden Rule. Although nothing on the scale of Richard Armitage’s life, I have lived in the public eye for years and understand the need to keep something back as it were. Hopefully, when I speculate about him, readers know it’s just that — speculation. I do not know the guy nor will ever know him, but I do share thoughts I’ve had about him, and I doubt I’m going to stop doing that. There have been times when people think I’ve crossed a line with that, but I have not stood in his front yard to get a peek at him nor published pictures which I felt were out of bounds.
J: What priority does this blog have in your life? R: Taken over the course of the last year and a half, I would say it’s had a fairly high priority even if other priorities in my life have eclipsed it at times.
J: For whom are you writing this blog? R: Mostly for myself. I do this with my piano playing as well. I play for my ears first and that seems to produce something pleasing to others. With writing I spent so many years writing for others that it inhibited me in a way that beat any life out of what I was trying to say. Since I’ve been writing more for myself, I think I might actually say something interesting every now and then.
J: If you had to do it all over again, would you blog? R: I keep asking myself why I didn’t do it sooner.
J: Could you have a blog not about any crush? R: I have another blog which was started before RAFrenzy and is decidedly not about a crush — although I do mention him a couple of times. 😀 I’ve also got another blog I hope to start with no plans to mention Richard Armitage at all.
J: What pointers would you give to new bloggers scared to start out? R: Start off anonymously. If you don’t like what you’re doing, you can scrap it and start over without baggage. My first blog wasn’t anonymous, and I wish I had started it with another tone. I’ve had to let it lie fallow for a while so I could in essence start over.
J: Thanks Frenzy for participating. As you can see, these are wildly easy questions. 😀
R: Thanks for asking. 😀
These retrospective are usually done on the one year anniversary date but I don’t have an actual date. Sure, WordPress.com says I created a blog on December 28, 2010 but that was accidental. I made a few half-hearted posts in January and talked mostly about the blizzard in February. I didn’t start formalizing a plan and sharing my thoughts until March.
What was my plan? My goal was to kick-start creativity which has been lying dormant for so long. I didn’t aim to write about Richard Armitage. Being part of a blog ring, I injected him in for fandom flavor as a way of talking about something else; the goal was to stop talking and start blogging about something – anything – to get used to the process of writing again. The Fanstravaganza 2 experience in March was interesting. It was difficult to write about one topic for eight straight days, but at least I had a topic from which to draw. After the event concluded, the process became downright grueling even without breaks caused by Winston.
For months I privately agonized over the slow going in conceiving, composing and polishing a post. It was a constant state of blogger’s block except the hurdle wasn’t that high; I just needed to get my leg up and over it. This continued through the spring and summer, and then a funny thing happened. While blogging the London travelogue, words came faster and poured more smoothly. In an effort to be entertaining, I found that the longer the post, the more creative room I had. That’s not to say the events aren’t true, they are; it’s that I was able to incorporate inventive ideas into the story such as Winston and the competing psyche elements, Jodi, Jada, and Quiet One in order to help the reader understand how important the trip was on different levels. The story elicited positive feedback which fed the process.
Oh, the positive feedback caused a problem of its own. Did you know you can develop a compulsion to research blog statistics on what search terms find your site (bad idea!) and the number of views you get a day? Checking for comments to fulfill the proper netiquette of timely replies led to constantly checking for comments and mulling over the reasons for too few or too many. (I eventually restricted myself to checking three time daily and gave up predicting what topic would prove popular. Who knew people would have much to say about fish and chips, beer and mushy peas?)
But wait, there’s more! It didn’t stop there. Out of the blue, I made my first fan video. That same week I bought art supplies in preparation of drawing again. I can’t begin to describe to you Dear Reader how miraculous that it is. It’s like waking and finding myself 20 pounds thinner- well, almost. I’ve never made a fan video and haven’t touched a sketchbook in 20 years. It’s as if the creative sap is rising. Some of it has surfaced in drips and drops. If I could attach a spigot and let it flow freely I would, but things haven’t reached that point yet.
So the blogging experiment has been a success so far. I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe the enforced act of writing, even when I didn’t want to do so got the wheels turning and the brain chugging. Writing comes easier because I’m used to the process now. I haven’t returned to writing fiction (well, complete stories) again but that will come. Things still squeak and sputter but I’ve come far from last December. I owe it to you Dear Reader who has kept up the encouragement through both breaks and feverish posting. I couldn’t have done this without you.
In the next two days I will interview two bloggers well known to almost all of you: RAFrenzy and Servetus. They will discuss their experiences and views on blogging. Stay tuned.
As pointed out in my London saga when Winston loves his Happy Pills, my psyche flourishes. This is a very welcome development. I started blogging in an attempt to jump-start my creativity which has lain dormant since law school. Law school by its nature teaches to think inside the box and by the law; creative legal thinking could very well get your client 20 years to life. Over time, my right-brain hemisphere, the seat of creativity, has been very slowly awakening to the idea of returning to things I loved: writing and drawing. I even darkened the door of an art supply store for the first time ever inspired by Zelda’s wonderful artist blog. Schools supplied my earlier tools, so this was a novel experience for me just to buy pencils, charcoal, knead-able erasers and sketch books. I felt a sense of accomplishment walking out with my supplies.
So armed with writing and drawing tools I’m getting right to it, right? Wrong!
Instead I entered the addictive world of video making! For those of you who miss the daily chat room discussions (usually 8:00PM onwards CDT), the topic of video making arose. Video maven BccMee explained the programs she used to make her great videos. She pointed out Windows Live Movie Maker 2011 bundled with Windows 7. (It also is downloadable for Vista). Now, I’ve never paid any attention to this program for some strange reason, I felt compelled to try it. I had gigabytes of video taking up space in my iPhone that needed to seen by somebody’s eyes. So I downloaded it all and proceeded to make movies – for hours. Now I understand the addictive quality of making fanvids. This program is so elegant and simple, it’s almost – I repeat almost- idiot proof. It’s fascinating watching the movie coming together piece by piece to create the finished product. Finally I produced my first actually watchable videos. Who woulda thunk it? So for my 100th post, I’ll share them.
My first attempt is July 4th fireworks filmed live with an iPhone 4 in HD. YouTube blocked it so I had to audio swap (which you can watch) but the original is now on Vimeo. There’s also a short slideshow tribute to my dog Lance if you wish to view.
I filmed the next videos at one of the most interesting places I’ve ever seen, the Bicycle Museum of America in New Bremen, Ohio. I visited this summer with Trinalin who does the honor of correcting my lousy vision. These videos are entertaining and informative especially if you remember the old days and love bikes. Try to watch close to HD if you can.
So, I know you’re thinking: does this mean you’re making fanvids? I don’t know, the idea is tempting. However considering the quality of some of the fabulous ones I’ve seen, I will certainly take my time with the music and compilation. The bar is so high in this area.
So what do you think about fan vidding? Any tips, stories, recommendations? Feel free to share!
WordPress just announced I hit 1,000 comments on my blog. But it seems an anniversary has come and gone because total hits now number 11,173! The On Meeting Another Other Fan post about meeting Servetus and my musings on racism took the honors with the most hits, followed by the completely silly but popular Infamous Beard post. The Fanstravaganza 2 posts in March about Guy of Gisborne continue to get views.
Thank you for taking the time to come back and reading my ramblings. Although I’m not as regular as hoped, you seem to be there when I get back, and for that I’m grateful. I’m proud to be part of this fandom; you all are an amazing and interesting bunch and have given much food for thought. Although I originally wanted to discuss writing and fandom, I’ve approached these subjects in a completely different way than intended. I also hadn’t intended to talk so much about that British actor, whatshisname – Armitahge – or something. I’ve got a short list for more discussions (if I can remember where I put it), but if there’s a topic you’d like me tackle, let me know.
Again, thanks so much for reading. Here’s a treat!
Is he posing or not? Works for me either way. Courtesy richardarmitagenet.com
After a prolonged battle with WordPress.org first over open comments and then email notification, I can again interact with you properly, dear reader. Yes, you can now enjoy the instant gratification of agreeing with my extraordinarily erudite and insightful posts as soon as they are published. No more wondering what I’ve gone and done today, the answer will be in your mailbox. Isn’t that marvelous?
So feel free to register/subscribe in the side bar to the right today if you haven’t already. I need to see if that is still working too. There will be a flurry of new posts coming. For once, I have the problem of too much to talk about instead of not enough. My muse is baaaack.
Next up: THORIN! Oh yes. (As if I’m not in enough trouble already.)
Several things are going on here or not. Mr. Muse and I got into a big roll; well, I fussed and he ignored me. Things have been a bit stressed lately and he’s refusing to be helpful. He’s a git, I tell you. But a good-looking git. Sigh. Then I’m gearing up for company to arrive by plane and car (sadly no train) for my birthday this week. Okay, it’s April 1st, so get the jokes out of your system. It will be no joke when my IT pal arrives to migrate this blog to my server which I haven’t touched since the turn of the last century. I expect madcap hilarity to ensue. So don’t be surprised if this site goes down; it will be temporary. Hopefully.
In the interim, two topics landed in my lap courtesy of Twitter that I will work on while my IT does her magic. One concerns a writer meltdown that’s gone viral today. Mr. RA himself unwittingly presented the second topic. Oh, that one should be fun. So watch this space and keep your fingers crossed during the migration.
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