Category: Blogging

2018 Blog Goals

I have never been much of a person for making goals for a coming year, especially not for my writing or my blog. Sure, there’s things I’d like to do, but I generally don’t set them out in goal form.

I thought I’d change that this year for a few different reasons. First and foremost, I’ve had this blog for a little over three years now. While I’ve enjoyed writing on this blog, it’s never quite reached the traffic levels of either of the two blogs I had before that. I recognize that part of that is timing related. Early on in this blog’s existence, the active blogging community I was part of closed its doors. I received a decent amount of traffic from that site, we well as various bloggers who frequented that site coming to my blog(s) directly. Losing that was unfortunate.

Additionally, I think blogging as a medium is in a decline. That’s not to say that people don’t read blogs anymore, as I don’t think that’s the case. What I do see, however, is a decrease in the number of bloggers who have stuck with blogging for a long time. I can count on one hand1Maybe two hands. But that’s only if I’m being generous or if I’m forgetting a lot of people. the number of bloggers who I’ve seen stick with blogging over the past three years. There’s new bloggers out there who write good content, but for every one new blogger I’ve seen, I can think of three or four that have stopped.

I do see other bloggers doing great things. I’ve watched Laidig grow her blog significantly over the past year. Tabitha does some of the better written posts you’ll come across. Todd does some quality (and frequent) work on his blog. There’s other great writers out there (even non-bloggers) who are doing great work that leaves me inspired to improve what I do each day.

In light of all of this, I think there’s definitely some value to setting some goals for my blog. Here’s the goals I’m setting for 2018, along with a short explanation of why I’m setting each. I recognize the numbers I’ll be mentioning below aren’t big numbers, but you have to start somewhere.

  • 20 new WordPress followers – This blog doesn’t have a ton of WordPress followers, as I get a decent amount of my traffic via my various social media accounts. That said, I did pick up 16 new WordPress followers last year, bringing the site’s total to 29. I’d like to think that picking up 5 new followers per quarter (on average) isn’t particularly outlandish as a goal.
  • Average 250 visits a month – Last year, That Tiny Website averaged 197 visits a month. On one hand, that was a great thing to see, as it was this site’s best year ever. On the other hand, my previous blog’s worst full year saw an average of 245 visits per month. This will be the site’s third full year in existence and second one where I’m writing fairly regularly. I don’t want to be lagging behind my old work anymore. I recognize that this is around a 27% growth number, but I’d like to think I can hit it.
  • Grow comment count by 20% again – My blog comment totals got thrown all out of whack when I migrated from WordPress.com to a self-hosted blog2Through my own error. I didn’t follow directions well.. As such, the only comment data I have is from 2016 and 2017, where I went from 102 comments to 122. Ideally, I’d like to see a similar percentage increase this year, which would mean 147 comments on this blog this year.

I realize that none of this will be able to be done without the help of you, those who are reading my blog. Some of you have been reading and interacting with me for quite a while. For that, I thank you. Others of you are likely new to this blog. Welcome. I hope you stick around a while.

 

What are some of your goals for the new year? If you’re a blogger, podcaster, YouTuber, or other creator, what are some of your personal growth goals for 2018? Sound off in the comments.

2017 Book Charity Drive – Wrap-Up Post

It’s been a few weeks since the charity drive I was running with my book finished up. You might have noticed I’ve been a little slow to write up a post about how the charity drive went. There’s a reason for that.

Before I get into this year’s drive, I want to provide a little context with how things went last year. During last year’s drive, those who purchased my book raised $24.28 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. While it wasn’t the number I wanted to hit — it fell just short of one-quarter of the goal I was aiming for — it was still something and it still went to a good cause. This year, I decided that instead of doing a 50+ day long charity drive that I’d do a one week long drive. Considering the fact that about one-third of the sales that happened during last year’s drive happened within the first seven days, combined with the fact that I had more people helping me out promoting the charity event this year in comparison to last year, I figured thing would go close to as well as last year1I didn’t set any charity drive goals, but I was honestly expecting a similar result in terms of money raised..

About that.

Let’s begin by taking a look at the Kindle sales. As a reminder, the drive lasted from November 12th through the 19th.

That’d be one copy purchased. Total. At least it was on my birthday? Well, no matter. Most of my sales historically have been from the paperback side, which is (currently) tracked through CreateSpace. How did that go?

Oh2Fuck..

As for final totals, I was able to pull that from the Kindle site.

Needless to say, I’m not making a donation of $2.06 to UNICEF. I’ll be donating more than that3I don’t feel a desire to divulge how much. Sorry.. That’s not the point though.

It took me the better part of two weeks to write this post because I found myself at a loss for words. I didn’t know how to say what I was feeling without sounding like an entitled prick. There’s a pair of thoughts in my mind that I can’t completely reconcile in a way that I can phrase them quite in the way I’m thinking them.

On one hand, I really want to see my work become successful. Whether that success is through acclaim, through the admiration of a small but devoted fan base, or through actual financial success is something I haven’t fully figured out my desire for. But I want to be successful with my work. Specifically, I want to be successful with my writing4Because frankly, my actual work isn’t particularly fulfilling..

On the other hand, I recognize that by raising money for charity with my work, the important person here is not me. It’s the people the money will be going to help. I’ll be fine. But there’s a lot of people who won’t be if they don’t receive the help that charitable organizations give. Hell, I likely wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for the work of charity in my childhood. So to see this event fail when I’m not the recipient of the proceeds is disheartening.

I’m going to be taking a break from writing for a while. I don’t particularly want to stop writing, but I also don’t feel like my writing has a purpose at this point. Maybe I’ll change my mind at some point. There’s a handful of blog posts I’ve pre-written that’ll still go up on this blog each Monday (as per normal). In theory those will last until around the end of the year. I have a few ideas that will likely be content here early next year, though I haven’t gotten around to writing those yet. As for my long-form/story stuff, I think I need to reassess where I’m at there.

Writing Diversely From A Non-Diverse Standpoint

A few weeks back, someone posted a thought on Twitter that can be summarized as such:

Dear white people: Please stop writing minority characters into your books. You’re taking away readership from POC/minority writers.

I remember not being particularly caught off guard by the tweet. After all, it came from a writer who identifies as a minority writer in many ways (race, sexuality, religion…those are the ones I can recall at least). And part of me gets the point. There is definitely a gap between sales of books from white authors and from non-white authors, whether we’re talking about children’s book authors or otherwise. There’s a need for diversity in writing, not just in characters, stories, and points-of-view, but also in authorship. That much is very true.

And yet, I can’t do anything about the fact that I am writing from a white, straight, English-speaking, higher-educated male viewpoint. I want to write in a more diverse manner. It’s a goal I put forward for myself after publishing An Epilogue to Innocence.

I do think there are some things I did well in AETI. I tried to make the book less about good guys and bad guys and more about people — regardless of their gender, background, or religious views. Yes, religion, sexuality, gender, and mental illness were addressed in the book to varying degrees. And yes, there were shortcomings I had with the book. In particular, I wanted to find a way to make my future writing more diverse racially and culturally.

As an example, I recently wrote a story that I think has a lot of potential. The story is intended to introduce a larger world and as such, there are very limited deep details given about the main characters in the story that will be reappearing in later iterations of the story. You know, world building and what not.

One of the characters is supposed to be a woman of Filipina descent. I actively chose not to introduce this facet of her character in the first section[1] of the story because I didn’t want her race to become the focus of her introduction. While her race is part of who she is, in the world in which she exists, what causes judgement and discrimination is not race — it’s something else entirely[2]. Yet, at the same time, I feel as though it’s not only important that I have an understanding of the discrimination that any minority individual goes through in order to write my story effectively, but also in order to grow as a writer, I need to better understand how to write characters who are culturally different from me.

So I look to you, my readers, for advice. Many of you are also fellow writers, hence hoping to pick your brain on this topic. How do you write more diversely when you write fiction? What tips, tricks, and recommendations would you have for me as I look to become a writer that writers not just about those I know, but also those I hope to better understand?

Lists Full of Favorites

It’s 2017. That means the seemingly neverending global shitshow that was 2016 has finally come to an end. Granted, there’s a lot that 2016 did to mess up 2017 (and beyond) for a lot of people, but hopefully we can work together as a society to ensure that people who deserve rights (read: everyone) receives them accordingly.

Whenever I take a day off from work, I leave a paper letter on the door of my office. While I’m not a big fan of printing things out[1], it’s a tradition that started almost three years ago, so I keep it alive. While the letters started out as completely serious, work-related instructions, they’ve since morphed into a hybrid of that and a place where I just ramble because I can.

More often than not, those letters also includes lists of various things. Usually, these lists are totally random, but sometimes they’re lists of my favorite things of some type or another. There likely won’t be a ton of context in these lists. After all, I’m giving you multiple of these lists at once while on my office door there’s one at a time. If there’s enough caring in the comments/via Twitter, I’ll go back and add context later.

Ten Most Underrated Songs of all Time

10. Bayside – The Walking Wounded
9. Flobots – Panacea for the Poison
8. The Lonely Island – Spring Break Anthem
7. Mumford and Sons – Thistle and Weeds
6. Sia – Chandelier
5. Louis Prima – Sing, Sing, Sing
4. Ram Jam – Black Betty
3. Gwen Stefani – Rich Girl
2. Rise Against – Re-Education (Through Labor)
1. Straylight Run – Hands in the Sky (Big Shot)

Ten Favorite Video Games of all Time

10. Tropico (2001)
9. Madden 96 (1995)
8. Mirror’s Edge (2008)
7. Rogue Trip: Vacation 2012 (1998)
6. Catherine (2011)
5. Super Smash Bros 4 (2014)
4. Brave Frontier (2013)
3. Pokemon FireRed & LeafGreen (2004)
2. Civilization V (2010)
1. Fire Emblem: Awakening (2012)

Ten Favorite End-Stage Gen I Pokemon Evolutions

10. Starmie
9. Blastoise
8. Alakazam
7. Victreebel
6. Jolteon
5. Fearow
4. Cloyster
3. Hypno
2. Dewgong
1. Vaporeon

 

Can You Really Be You On the Internet Anymore?

On the internet, you are invisible and yet cannot hide from anyone. On the internet, you are both just a number and a unique entity. On the internet, everyone and no one is looking for you, all at the same time.

But are they really looking for you? And if so, are they finding the real you? Or are they merely finding the image you wish to share of yourself?

In late 2011, I lost my job. It was the first job I had out of grad school. I loved that job. I loved helping the people I got to interact with on a daily basis. I loved (most of) the people I worked with. I loved my short commute which let me drive home and eat lunch[1] if I wanted to. But between the company I worked for nearing shutting down and my relatively low “sales” numbers[2], I was an expendable cog in the machine.

I spent the better part of the next two months looking for a job. Between my own work and the help of a pair of staffing agencies, I had 8-10 interviews per month during the time I was unemployed. At the same time I was looking for a job, NaNoWriMo was going on. I took part in NaNoWriMo that year to provide myself a little bit of relief from the mental exhaustion that the job search caused me. Those two months I was unemployed was a pretty bleak time in my life — and my novel I wrote that November followed an even darker tone.

In early 2009, I was having a rough time adjusting to life out of college. I’d moved back home and started living with my grandparents. I took the first job I could find out of college[3], which meant I was working at a call center for less than a dollar an hour above the minimum wage. My then-girlfriend made it clear to me that I’d fallen much harder for her than she had for me. Couple that with some prejudices that I’d had formed in childhood that I still hadn’t moved on from[4], and that led to us breaking up quickly and extremely heatedly.

All of that combined together led to me seeing a psychologist for a few months. After our fourth or fifth appointment together, I had to tell the psychologist I couldn’t afford to keep coming to see her. Between my low paying job, working overnight hours, and not being able to afford health insurance[5], it just wasn’t realistic to keep getting professional help. The psychologist understood my plight and recommended that I try writing as a therapeutic technique. The goal was to get all of the thoughts and emotions I was struggling to cope with out of my head, if only to save myself the frustration of dealing with said thoughts.

So that’s what I did. And it worked. Writing allowed me to clear my head. It’s worked when I’ve written shitty 50 word posts online. It’s worked when I’ve turned those emotions into a much more creative endeavor. If it wasn’t for that advice — write to help my own psyche — I don’t know where I’d be in life today.

Yet as time as gone on, I’ve found myself more careful about what I write and talk about on the internet. Part of that is a natural fact of growing up and growing more mature in the process. But part of it is also this nagging feeling that somewhere, somehow, should I ever need a new job in the future, someone’s going to stumble on my work, see a post where I’m just venting off steam, and decide I’m a terrible human being. Job opportunity lost.

I know I’m not the only person that thinks this way. I follow more than a handful of people on Twitter who work as social media managers (or an equivalent role) for companies. A couple of them are actually promote themselves as their own brand. On one hand, it’s a brilliant ploy. In an increasingly digitized and interconnected world, who better than you to control the message that the media tells about you. It’s been the basis of American economics and politics for years now. Put yourself out there in the light you want other people to see you in.

On the other hand, only showing the happy, healthy, and hopeful sides of ourselves to the world is a foolish endeavor. We are complex individuals. We laugh and we cry. We do not do one or the other. To try to hide the fact that sometimes we fuck up is a failure in logic. Without mistakes, how can we learn how we need to improve ourselves?

I was asked recently when I was going to write a happy story. My short stories are generally pretty dark in nature, so why not try writing a happy one. Right? Most of me doesn’t want to. That’s not why I write. If a story ends up being happy, great. But I write in general — but especially my fiction — to help me process complex emotions, to release frustration, or just to be creative as I can be in turning an idea into something that I want to read. Generally, those stories end up being very dark.

Yet I find myself wondering if I’d be better received if I wrote happy stories. Would I be a better selling author? Would a book of upbeat stories I wrote be reviewed better than my collection of dark short stories[6]? Would a happy story enhance my brand and bring more eyes to my work?

That last question — that’s the one that frightens me. It’s the question that determines which side of the line I fall on. Am I a person or am I a commodity? That’s the power of the internet. It’s a terrifying power. Most people don’t even realize that power’s being exerted on them when it’s happening. Everyone can see everything and yet you’re all alone.

Kind of a dark idea, is it not? An entity that can completely change who you perceive yourself to be without you realizing it. It’s like you’re not even you anymore when you’re on the internet.