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.

I Get It…Kind Of

I’ve long been a proponent of text heavy, lengthy blog posts. There’s something important to me about the ability to be able to tell a story through words. It’s not just a capability to write — almost anyone can write a blog post — it’s the capability to create a scene and an experience that transports the reader to somewhere else. That somewhere else could be a literal somewhere else as is the case with true story telling. However, that somewhere else could also be a different frame of mind, a different person’s life, or a different life experience.

I’ve participated in some blog projects before. I did NaNoWriMo in both 2011 and 2015, I completed Post A Day in 2010, 2011, and 2012, and I’ve written a handful of guest posts for people over the years. One thing I’ve always made an effort to do in my posts is to limit the amount of additional media in my posts. Whether it was pictures, audio, or video, my goal was to let my words do the talking. My identity both as a write and a blogger was, to a pretty significant extent, defined by my ability to enthrall my reader with nothing more than text on a page. I would have (and still do) argue that I have some skill as a writer. If I couldn’t keep the interest of my readers without needing to resort to gimmicks like audio/visual materials, I was failing as a blogger.

Some famous person[1] was likely once misattributed as saying ‘adapt or die’. While such a sentiment most commonly deals with scientific ideas like evolution, it’s true of the blogging world too. If you can’t find a way to catch the interest of an ever-changing, ever-evolving audience, your content is going to become obsolete[2]. While I will, on occasion, write a post that does well without text or video, the majority of what I write goes unnoticed.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been doing a lot of watching videos by Hank and John Green. Most of what I’ve been viewing has been part of their Crash Course series[3], though I’ve occasionally moved over to watching their VlogBrothers channel. It’s worth remembering that what is now this.

Started out as this.

In watching one of the many videos I’ve watched recently[4], it dawned on me that video might well be the way to get out of my blogging rut. I’ve written a total of 3 non-NaNoWriMo posts since late September. Not only is this a depressing fact, it makes me feel lazy. What I’d like to do is a series of short, conversational-like videos, a la VlogBrothers, if only because I think the format is sustainable from a staying motivated to do them standpoint. That said, I know full well that if I try the project by myself, it likely won’t last.

As a result, I’m reaching out to you, people who read this blog. Would anyone be interested in doing such a project with me? We can communicate to work out the details, but the basics of what I’m thinking are as follows.

  • Each person does one video a week
  • Said videos must be less than 4 minutes long — unless their education
  • No set topics per say, though we could certainly use each other’s videos to spur ideas/have some commentary
  • If you also blog, we can share said videos on both this blog and yours. If not, I’ll share my videos here and we can put yours here if you want.

That’s really about all I can think of now. If anyone is interested, please let me know.

On Hold

Tuesday, October 20th will mark the one year anniversary of TTW. January of 2016 marks the 11((!)) year anniversary of me blogging. I should really be excited.

I’m not.

I’ve debated shutting down this blog — not to mention completely quitting blogging — for a couple of months now. It’s for a confluence of reasons really.

Readership of my blog has plummeted, both when considering this blog in comparison to my old one and just when considering this blog by itself. Since March of this year, my blog has averaged decreasing in visitors by 5% each month with a similar drop in traffic. This is in spite of a slight (3%) growth traffic from random Google search hits over that same time. People just aren’t caring what I have to say anymore.

To be fair, I’m not sure that I have anything to say anymore. I enjoy my job((At times.)), but it is the most emotionally and psychologically draining company I’ve been at since I was in grad school. The current position I’m in amplifies those feelings even more, especially when considering that I’ve gone 18 months as the only person in my department. I haven’t cared to write consistently since the end of February of this year, or cared at all since mid-July.

I write best in silence…sort of. I can be around other people when I write((I always wrote my grad school papers while at Panera at 7 in the morning.)), but they can’t be people I know. Human interaction is a severe distraction for me when writing, regardless of who it’s from. Throw in the fact that I’ve had a grand total of one weekend since the wedding where I’ve had absolutely nothing to do((My wife has had zero such weekends.)) — a fact that is driving me insane — and I just don’t care to write anymore.

I’ve tried using prompt posts to help me think of ideas. They help sometimes. It’s never for long. I’ve tried reaching out to those who were my best writerly muses in the past, but they’ve all become distant, inconsistent at communication, or both. I’ll ask people on Twitter for ideas, but that rarely nets inspiration. I’m constantly stressed and my head feels cloudy. It’s a saddening reality.

You’d think the prospect of my book coming out would keep me motivated, but I haven’t had a meaningful update from my publisher in months. You’d think reading bloggers I love would help, but many of them have either stopped blogging, changed to topics I don’t care to read about, or become so radical on their opinions that it’s hard to take them seriously. You’d think I could find inspiration in the news, but that’s just as depressing, if not more so, than my very cloudy and tired head.

I’ll keep this blog up for a while. After all, I paid for the year of hosting and I’d still like some platform to market my book on when it does release. That said, I may go quiet for a while. It’s all I can really think of to do at this point.

The Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Blogging

I’ve been blogging for far too long. While That Tiny Website has only been active for just shy of a year((The first anniversary is technically October 20th)), I’ve been blogging regularly since January 2009 and blogging intermittently since 2005. By my count, I’ve written over 1,200 posts with way too many words viewed by hundreds (if not thousands) of people. Some of those posts might even have been interesting.

There’s a lot I’ve learned in that time — some of those items useful, some not. For today’s post, I’ve decided to take a look at some of the more lasting lessons I’ve taken from blogging and talk about them a bit. While blogging may well be a dying art((Or at the very least one that’s slowly becoming dominated by businesses trying to push a product and salespeople trying to mislead you into buying something you don’t actually need through the use of deceptive information.)), I know fully well that there are young people out there who are just starting blogging and are looking for advice. Hopefully this is able to help that reader.

Blogging Consistently Is Better For Your Traffic Than Binge Blogging

I realize these concepts may have some level of overlap in the concept of volume blogging. There are plenty of bloggers who participate in programs like Post A Day, Blogtember((Or Blogtober, Blogvember, or any other month jammed against the word blog you can think of.)), or BEDM((Blog Every Day in May.)) for sake of hoping to draw in lots of readers over the course of a one or two month blitz of blogging. As someone who participated in Post A Day in both 2010 and 2011, I can tell you confidently that while you will see in your traffic short-term during the event in question, it’s rare that many readers from that event will stick around long-term. Sure, you may have a couple of readers stay after the event in questions, and if that’s all you’re looking for, awesome. But don’t expect people to stay around if you post 30 posts in 30 days, then nothing for months.

A key component to gaining consistent readership is to have a posting schedule and stick to it. I’ve personally found that my blogs get the most traffic if I’m posting three times a week((Usually I went with a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule, however your mileage may vary with such a schedule.)). While I can’t currently post with that frequency due to the demands of work, even following my current schedule((Twice a week on Mondays and Fridays for those who aren’t familiar with this blog.)) has netted me consistent readership. I don’t typically see giant spikes in my traffic month to month — but at the same time, I don’t see giant valleys in stats either.

Replying to Comments Helps Build Repeat Readership

It might be a very simple statement to say this, but I really wish I would have known to reply to comments when I started blogging. My very first blog had relatively decent readership for the amount of marketing and sharing I did for that blog((Read: Zero. This was a pre-Twitter, pre-Facebook age where I blogged on Xanga.)), and I actually got comments from time to time. I also don’t think I replied to a single one of them. While not replying to comments can work out fine if you see the commenter regularly, it’s not a good way to build rapport with someone over the internet. Interacting through comments, both on your blog and on blogs you read, is a great way to build a consistent readership base.

People Will Prefer Pictures To Words

I have a second blog. It’s an invite only blog where I post my short stories/longer stories as I write them so as to get feedback on the piece itself, how it’s progressing, character development, and what not((If you’re a regular reader and would like an invite, let me know.)). I had someone come to me earlier this year and ask me why I don’t use this blog for that same purpose.

Statistically speaking, the story posts I write generate the lowest number of hits and fewest comments of any of the posts I write. That’s not to say they’re the worst quality — usually they’re the posts I spend the most time on writing. That said, my short stories tend to average 1,000-1,500 words, while the chapters of longer stories I write can be anywhere from 1,500-4,000 words at a time. While those items certainly can qualify as long-form blog pieces, there’s a reason that more than a few blog advice sites will tell you to keep your blog posts under 500 words. Many readers prefer a quick article with pretty pictures over something written with substance, research, and detail. That’s not to say that shorter pieces can’t be interesting. But it is to say that if you plan to write longer posts((As I tend to do.)), you should fully expect to have a smaller blog following. That can be good or bad, depending on how you look at things.

Other bloggers: What did you wish you knew when you started blogging? Agree or disagree with my pieces of advice? Sound off in the comments.