Voices on the page

I read a post today on the subject of the individual writer’s voice, specifically the use of punctuation, breaking rules of grammar, using the same style of writing repeatedly…run-on sentences, dashes, parentheses, foot notes, etc…

The post included quotes from several writers talking about their personal writing style quirks, why they use them, how their writing style is part of their message, and it was validating, encouraging, reassuring.

Sometimes I’m intimidated. I know the blogging world is nothing if not a platform for the individual writer’s voice, and that includes everything from the way some writers have humor pouring our of their keyboards to the way others use profanity, to the use (and mis-use) of punctuation, spelling, and grammar in general.

Still, sometimes I worry. If I write the way I talk, inevitably, I break rules. And I’m not funny enough, or a strong enough writer to get away with it. Am I?

Don’t answer that! I’m not looking for reassurance, just typing out loud here.

The answer is, no, I’m not that good a writer.

But maybe, in this forum, that’s not important.

What’s important is that I’m sharing my reality, and I’m always happy when someone comments as if to say, “Hey, that’s a reality I know too!”

I’m happy when someone comments out of empathy, or sympathy, or to share a different perspective. Because that’s the truly rich world of blogging.

Did you ever think that writers of past eras didn’t get the kind of feedback and interaction we receive through this medium? Good or bad, you’re putting yourself out to the world, and the world (or your 10 readers, or whomever!) has a chance to interact.

That’s exciting to me. It’s fun to me to have the exchange that comments offer…to know this isn’t a one way street. Whether I’m commenting on someone else’s post, or reading and replying to comments on my blog, the process reminds me I’m part of a larger group, a circle of writers, just like me, who use this platform to say just what they want, just as they want.

And the more I write, the more I read, the richer I become, and the better I become. No false modesty here…like anything else, practice actually does help this process.

So going forward, I’m going to write a little more freely…I’m not built to disregard the rules of grammar completely, and poor spelling is a particular pet peeve of mine. But I’m going to think less about style and let my voice speak for itself. I’m not likely to win any awards, but that isn’t what this is about anyway.

Here’s a link to the post. Maybe you’ll see something of yourself in the comments! Enjoy!

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When life knocks you flat…

It’s been a week. Short weeks always work out to be long in the end. I don’t know why or how, I only know it’s true. And this one has been no exception.

I knew it was a long shot. Usually I’m built to be positive. But this house offer…just didn’t feel right from the beginning. On Wednesday the buyers decided to walk away. It was disappointing. And it was a relief, oddly enough. I didn’t feel good about the offer, and the whole thing felt too rushed. Well, I may have time to regret that one if I sit with a house on Water Street for a long time to come. But when it’s right, it will be right…no forcing it. That’s never a good feeling.

So, in the spirit of cheering myself up and putting myself back on track I thought about the steps forward. What do I need to do to right myself? That’s the image I always see in my mind…my body upside down, somehow needing to find the way back up, back to hope, back to future.

It would be a lot easier if I wasn’t sitting surrounded by empty shelves and dreading unpacking a house I just rushed to pack.

When has my efficiency ever backfired so spectacularly?!

But there are silver linings. I got a free inspection and a free appraisal out of the process, thanks to the would-be buyers. And though the appraisal cost me the sale in the end, at least it helps to price more in line with the current market value. I tell myself things work out in the end. Isn’t that what you tell yourself when you’re disappointed?

I am disappointed, but there’s nowhere to go with that. The best cure for disappointment is action. And since I love the word “grace,” for all it’s meanings to my life, I created a little acronym to help me get going:

Grace

Happy weekend! I’ll be unpacking a bit, staging the house for future showings, and finding grace. And if you’re feeling in need of that gift, I hope you’ll find it too.

~ Sheila

 

 

 

 

Here I go!

I’ve been in a bit of an upheaval in the past few weeks. My house is once again on the market, which feels good. I’m hopeful, fearful, wondering about next. But this also gives me a lot of motivation and incentive to tackle some chores that I’ve been avoiding for a while now…the dreaded sort, pulling out and evaluating everything with a view to: KEEP / DON’T KEEP and SELL / DONATE. Or worst of all: WHAT DO I DO WITH THIS????

There are a lot of questions to answer, and work that I’m still doing..will be doing until I’m literally heading out of town. And that’s good too. Busy keeps me going, productive, and positive. And who knows how long it will take to sell? I don’t want to jinx myself, but you never know about these things.

I’m trying my hand at a few new things. I decided to use my Alaska experience as a bridge to a new adventure, so I’ve written a short e-book, So, You Want to Move to Alaska? Hot off my keyboard today. I self-published on Amazon’s Kindle site, and whether it sells two copies or two thousand, it was a good experience for me to work through. It takes a day or so to show up on the Kindle site, and I’m excited to see how it looks in final form. I see they offer an option for updating, even after the initial publication, so that reassures me in case I find a typo right away. Even after proofing, it seems like there’s always something missed.

I understand that non-fiction books are a good source of ongoing income…the more you work at putting titles out, the more chance you’ll make sales. The price is low…$2.99, but the idea is to make up in volume what you lose in the per-book sales amount. I’ve got a second title already in the works.

Anyway, the process is free. I wouldn’t say it was painless, but I think I’ll be able to do a second book much more easily now that I’ve been through it once.

My little Kindle book!

I’m also launching a YouTube video channel. Or at least I’m working on doing that. I’ve got a camera in hand, and I’m sorting out the process, and content.

I’m also changing the focus of ReVision Me. I had initially thought I would use that site as a business platform for writing and editing, focusing on healthcare documents…policies, strategic plans, etc. But I find my heart isn’t really in that. I’m still working in that world for my day-to-day income needs. But now I think I’ll focus the concept of ReVision on women my age…maybe men too, eventually, but it seems safe to begin with the gender I know.

In taking stock of where I am in life, I realize, for what it’s worth, that I could be a poster child for AARP. I’m 53, female, vibrant, energetic, looking to renew and extend my working life. I have a multitude of interests outside of work, I have extended family and a wide range of life experiences. I love the digital world, and I think I have something to offer.

I know there are already a lot of sites that cater to women, and even women of my profile. But I have a voice too, and I want to use it. So, I’ll be updating some of the work I had done on ReVision Me to bring it to a new focus. I set it up on the WordPress.org platform and will likely have affiliate advertising to help sponsor the site….another new adventure.

And last, I’m thinking about Etsy. Not sure how I can be part of that marketplace, but I’m intrigued, and I have been for a while now.

My challenge is to focus, and to look toward a new launch. Waiting is always the hardest part, isn’t it? Maybe if I’m busy enough it won’t be too too scary.

A little blog grooming

Ah, nothing like some sprucing up to feel refreshed! Today’s assignment helped me take a look at some widgets I’ve been neglecting, ignoring, or had lost in the transition from one theme to another.

The great thing about WordPress is that there are so many customizable features, many available for no extra charge. The longer I’ve worked with the dashboard options, the more comfortable I am with experimenting, moving things around, using my choice of words or position for the features I want to add. Thanks, guys, for making it simple and giving me a more polished look!

The main focus of today’s assignment is on branding…what is my brand, and how do I stay consistent in everything I publish? Well, that’s going to take a little more thought to define. But asking the questions is a great beginning. And for now, I’m content to let thoughts of brand percolate a bit while I work on some of the more concrete elements.

For anyone reading who hasn’t checked out blogging, dive in! I promise you’ll find your horizon expanding and your knowledge growing. (You’ll learn what a widget is. :) )

And you can’t beat the price!

~ Sheila

A Vision for my Blog

 On my way!

Today’s assignment: consider what you want to accomplish with your blog. Write down three concrete goals you want to achieve. 

I started blogging because I was intrigued with the ability to have a place (even a place among millions) in the digital world. It was an outlet for creativity, for connecting, for self-expression. I was surprised at the community that grew out of blogging. Almost overnight I found kindred spirits I had never known, and re-established connection with friends and family who found their way to my site. Blogging has challenged me and grown an interest in technology and writing that I didn’t have before. It’s turned on the light for me in so many ways I didn’t expect.

So now, a little over three years in, where do I go from here? What’s the point?

My site has and will be free. It’s meant to be a little ray of light and optimism (most days I hope that’s what it is!) Some of my posts are personal, some more philosophical; sometimes I share good things I’ve stumbled across, or recipes I’ve tried. I’ve considered trying to narrow the focus, and maybe that needs to happen. But for today’s assignment, I’ll stick to answering the question. What am I trying to accomplish?

  1. I want to grow my readership. It’s fun to enlarge my circle, and as my readership grows, in turn, that introduces me to other bloggers. So it’s a mutual thing in many ways. I’d like to increase my followers by 50% by the end of the year. I think if I post more regularly that will help. I’ve also tried to keep up with visiting the blogs I follow, because turn about is fair play. So consistent give and take is important as well.
  2. I want to improve my photography skills. I love beautiful photos…well, who doesn’t? And whether the photo is a portrait of one of my grandchildren, or a delicious dish I just pulled out of the oven, or a landscape shot from a floatplane, photos are enticing, they tell their own story, and they make the written word more interesting. I bought a Canon DSLR a few months ago, and I’ve played with it a bit. But I need to own it, claim it, capture the amazing shots it can give me.
  3. I want to improve my titles to make them more interesting. Sometimes I see blog titles that are quirky, or obscure, or draw me in because they sound so curious. I need to find a way to title my posts with more imagination.
  4. And just for a little extra, I’ll go one more. I don’t understand SEO. I understand the concept, but I’m not sure how to translate what I think I know into functional changes for my blog. So that’s on the list too!

I’m sure this isn’t all I need to do, or want to do. But it’s a beginning, and that feels good!

~ Sheila

 

 

 

 

Next

Can’t get it out of my head.

I never do post prompts. But this one caught my eye.

Like a song I go to over and over on my play list, here I am, still, or again: learning, exploring, wondering, and waiting…all these things I can’t get out of my head. I feel like there’s work I’m waiting to discover, waiting to begin. I see potential. But the gap between where I am and where I think I belong is some invisible thing that I struggle to bridge. I don’t even know how to define the pieces I’m missing. What exactly will it take to move me from where I am to where I would like to be?

I work, and then I research. I read about content marketing, about apps, about business platforms, I listen to podcasts, I watch videos. I bookmark. I’ve narrowed my focus a lot; but often, I know I’m still in the mode of “ready, fire, aim.” Still wandering around in the wilderness doing discovery by accident.

I’ve blogged about this before, and I continue to look: under every rock; sites I come across that seem to have answers; books that fill my Kindle, begun, but rarely finished. I think I’ll know the answer when I see it, or when I feel it. Or when the universe opens up and rains it down on my head. Or will I? Maybe the rain has fallen already and I was protected from the answers with my umbrella of questions. Is it right? Is this the beginning? Do I have what it takes? How will I know?

My search for entrepreneurship, solopreneurship, authorpreneurship, has been on for a while now. And I struggle with one of the most daunting barriers: I have work, and income, and commitments. How do I jump from what I know and what is stable to something shaky and risky? I’m no 20-something ready to embrace my first failure on the road to success.

No, I’ve done it backwards. I’ve had all the traditional trappings of the good life: family, home, work, stability. So why am I looking for more, in my 50s? Wasn’t I satisfied? Wasn’t I fulfilled? And since I’m making a living doing what I’m doing, if this is just about money, what difference will it make to exchange one way of earning an income for another?

Yes, I was satisfied. And yes, I have had many good things in life. I’m not trying to fill a hole, I’m trying to express an ambition. And the ambition is not for money, although I can’t leave that out of the equation. The ambition is to create something of my own, something that has my stamp on it and my sweat behind it.

Now I dream of building a consulting business to offer writing services. I love the validation of seeing my blog name on the screen, and seeing my logo on my business card. I love the feeling of empowerment that establishing a digital home has given me. I’m not vain about it, but I am proud of it. It feels like the emotions I experienced with my children. I knew that they were not solely of my making, but I had a hand in the process, and a mother’s fierce protectiveness toward them and their journey.

Turns out, it was a lot easier, in the short run, to birth a child than to birth a business, at least for me. Or maybe this is still just the incubation phase, the pregnancy phase, and I’m waiting to see the results of three years of thinking, and exploring, and obsessing. And I don’t feel hopeless: just obsessed and curious. Like someone looking on from the outside, I wonder, when will it happen? And what will the story be, when all the pieces come together?

In defense of Pinterest

It seems there’s a lot of strong opinion out there about Pinterest and its impact on everything from use of time (aka waste of time) to fueling competitive birthday parties to adding new musts to the already jam-packed to-do list of the average American woman. (Notice I’m confining my opinions and observations to the narrow borders of my own country…I haven’t been authorized to speak for all women of the world just yet.)

I was going to be productive today...

I was going to be productive today…

No doubt many of the criticisms are justified. I’ll admit it’s addicting and time-consuming to scroll through my favorite Pinterest theme pages. However, I am still in control of the clocks at my house, and that super power extends to my keyboard as well. So it is within my ability to set an alarm and limit the time I spend on Pinterest.  A little Pinterest surfing is often my reward for finishing a project or task. It doesn’t have to gobble up whole evenings or weekends.

One of my favorite things about the site is the at-a-glance appeal…I only check out a recipe or project if the image is appealing. I think this is an enormous time-saver. After all, if the finished product doesn’t look enticing, why would I waste time trying to duplicate the taste or the look? And I love the links that give great step-by-step instructions with photos…no guessing about how to do the tricky parts!

Often when I’m looking for a recipe or product I begin with Pinterest. I’m rarely disappointed…much quicker than checking out links through Google.

As to feeling that I have to decorate amazing cookies or have elaborate theme parties…well, I get to make these decisions too at my house. I understand peer pressure, and I’ve had my share of mom-guilt motivation. But I’m also able to appreciate good ideas and copy what will work for my needs without feeling that I must do everything to the nth degree. I like to think of Pinterest as an engine to fuel my creativity. Actually, a site like Pinterest is perfect for me because I have almost NO inherent creativity. But I know what I like when I see it, and I can copy like a pro! Knowing when to stop is up to me.

I read a post today about the increasing tendency to turn events into spectacle: gender reveal parties, theme parties, holiday celebrations, and biggest and most intimidating of all, engagements and weddings. No one can use every great idea, and few parties are perfect. No one needs the pressure of one-upping or living beyond means to achieve. That’s no fun at all. When the details of the party become the focus more than the birthday child, or decisions about wedding arrangements create stress and tears, something is certainly wrong.

I’m all in favor of reflection, introspection, and honest confrontation here. I’ll admit, as a mom, as a wife, as a woman, I’ve sometimes been guilty of acting out of pride and perfectionism. But the scenario I picture in the planning stage doesn’t always hold up in the light of reality.

Hopefully I’m wiser as well as older now, and I’ve pretty much given up pursuit of perfection if it includes humans of any sort. And now when a dinner flops in a spectacular way, or my holiday dazzle doesn’t quite achieve the double spread gloss of a Southern Living magazine feature, I’m still content. I’ve learned to value the heart beyond the image, and to know that trying and intention count at least as much as any result I could pin on a Pinterest board.

Naughty, naughty!

Naughty, naughty!

So, to my fellow Pinners…let me encourage you to be mindful about this amazing tool. It can be a wonderful source of inspiration and delight. But remember, if you are fortunate enough to live with other humans…short ones, tall ones, young or old…they’ll likely derail your carefully laid plans, and your photos may not be perfect either. You’ll likely not finish all the crafts you plan for the holidays; your amazing new dish may look nothing like the exotic photo you tried to copy.

Never mind: all is well! It’s all about learning from others, enlarging our creative borders to try things we hadn’t thought of for ourselves. And it’s about coming to terms with messy reality: looking around at the kids you love; the person who sometimes is your soulmate and sometimes is just a fellow warrior in the battlefield; the home that isn’t perfect, but is yours, warts and all, and knowing that you love it anyway.

Not sure how to capture that image for a Pinterest pin, but that’s the one I would be most proud to share with the world.

Why I blog

Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” ~Gene Fowler

It’s been a quiet Saturday in Metlakatla. That is to say, Rob is on call, and I’m online. I’m contemplating creating another site for business use, and I’m feeling drawn to the WordPress.org side of the universe for the new venture. As much as I love the ease of WordPress.com, (this blog will stay on the .com side) there’s no doubt that the .org option provides more flexibility. You can use plugins that aren’t available for the .com. I’m learning about a whole new world that exists, if I’m willing to do a little more of the set up myself.

Sometimes when I find I’ve spent pretty much my whole Saturday poking around online, following this link and that link, I begin to wonder…is it worth it? Am I neglecting real life for a fake digital version? The answer could be yes, if you look at a specific day or period of time. I tend to dive in and stay in the depths for long stretches, until I have to come up for air, food, bathroom or bed. Other days I don’t live there at all…my digital forays are confined to sites I’m viewing for work, or for life needs…travel or orders or the like.

The reality is that blogging started as a distraction for me. It was a good way for me to learn some new skills and take my mind off things that I couldn’t face at the moment. Some of that has changed in the past couple of years. It’s no longer an escape. It has become a joy, and a pleasure, and it keeps me on a learning curve with no end in sight. I didn’t foresee the connections I would find, or the sense of kindred spirit that I feel when I read someone else’s blog and feel an instant bond. Because I’m out there too, in the digital world, sharing my voice, my thoughts, my days. Not life-changing, not prize-winning…but connected, in the fragile way that on-line connections are formed.

Sometimes I’m intimidated. There are a lot of smart people out there with amazing sites; blogs with humor that seems to pour out of every syllable; writers with insight, calling, passion…you name it. I recognize, with honesty, humility, and just a touch of envy, I’ll never measure up to a lot of what I see. And yet, part of the fun is in the variety, the challenge to improve, learn, grow. Sometimes I feel like I have a tiger by the tail. Keeping up with technology…no, I’m not keeping up, I’m just barely on the cusp of using what’s available…sometimes I think the biggest hurdle is I don’t even know what I don’t know. Sometimes the challenge is making time for a self-imposed chore that isn’t even generating income. But I don’t really see blogging like that. It isn’t a chore…more like my own little baby that is nurtured with my time and attention. As to income…well, not all payments are in the form of money. Maybe I have three tigers in hand. Or maybe it’s just one tiger with three tails…I don’t know. But I do know that though there’s nothing demanding that I blog, I’ll keep doing it. It stretches me…lures me into technology I would never learn about without this impetus; makes me think about new possibilities…surely not a bad thing for my early 50s?

Sometimes I think all this is leading me somewhere. Some day I’ll look back and connect the dots. Or not. Maybe this is nothing more than self-expression, and a little engine for vanity and fulfillment. Except that doesn’t feel quite right either. While I don’t kid myself that I’m speaking to anyone else in particular, I don’t think I’m just writing to see my own words. Well, at least I have the angst that goes with writing…and the questions. Is anybody out there? And if so, is my writing worth reading? Or just empty words?

One thing I’ve learned from reading other blogs…a lot of the things that I wonder, others wonder. My questions and feelings are rarely unique. I suppose there’s value in recognizing that a) I’m not alone and b) I’m not often original and c) there’s a wonderful feeling of camaraderie that comes over me when I read something that I could have written. Or maybe just wrote…the funny thing is, sometimes that happens, no plagiarism involved or intended. I think there are so many writers putting out content online…it seems inevitable that some of us are  thinking and writing similar things.

There’s a quote  (of course, a quote!) I like that resonates with me. From the movie, You’ve Got Mail, the character, Kathleen Kelly says:

 Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life – well, valuable, but small – and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around? I don’t really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void.

See you out there!

My One Word

I’m trying a new approach to resolutions this year. Following the ideas outlined at MyOneWord.org I’m choosing a word to focus my energies and goals for the year.

My one word for 2013 is “momentum.” Last year, I used the term “re-vision.” My intent was to revise myself…to embrace change in how I work, and the rhythm of life, and I believe I’ve been successful in doing that…I’ve created a beginning, and now I need to fuel it. I’ve done a mini-launch…now I need to find my power and really get going.

In 2012, I worked just like my husband does…full-time in blocks of two-to-three month increments, then I take block time off. I didn’t gain ground financially, but I didn’t lose either. I proved to myself, for the first time ever, that I can generate work that works for me…at least in terms of pace and timing. I’m still working on generating work that is creative and self-directed. But that’s a longer process, and a larger goal, so I’m content to take my time to get it right.

That’s what this year will be about. I’ve demonstrated to myself that I can survive in a non-traditional work life. Now I need to take the things I’ve learned…am still learning…and find a way to translate a non-traditional work life to a more entrepreneurial role. That’s the next level for me. I want to create my own work, to be my own employer.

I’ve got lots of ideas, but so far most of them would require a physical presence. I’ve thought of everything from a bakery to a personalized “to-do” service to digital editing, writing and project management. But the reality is that I need to create a flexible and portable vehicle…not something that will tie me to a brick-and-mortar business, or a clientele that is specific geography-based.

I’ve explored writing and digital publishing, and while that continues to hold the most interest for me, it is also intimidating. I need reliable income. I don’t mind it being a little erratic. But the writing business can be very slow indeed if you don’t measure up…and you can invest a lot of time and energy before you have that reality check. So while I’m not losing sight of this one, I’m not putting all my eggs in this basket.

Regardless of direction, the important thing is movement. That sounds counter-productive. Don’t I need to know the exact goal I’m working toward rather than seeing movement itself as a marker of success? But I believe I’ll define my direction as I progress. I don’t know if I can explain it clearly in words. But in my head, it makes perfect sense.

Opportunity dances with those who are already on the dance floor.  ~ H. Jackson Brown Jr.

So…a year of momentum. Got my dancing shoes on!

Passion for reading

I’m a reader. I’m one of those strange people who prefers to read over watching tv or almost any type of recreational activity. I also love pithy quotes. Some people have the gift of choosing just the right words with the perfect blend of wit and wisdom, or truth-telling with clarity as piercing as an arrow.

When we visited Montreal earlier this month, we toured the city’s botanical gardens. One of the exhibits on display was a series of carvings that the artist had designed around the theme of reading and books. Each piece of art featured a quote that the artist had chosen to pair with that particular work. These are a few of my new favorites:

“Ideas are slippery things. Best to keep a pad of paper and a [bunch of pencils] at your bedside, so you can stab them during the night before they get away.” ~ Adapted from Earl Nightingale

“The oldest books are still only just out to those who have not read them.” ~ Samuel Butler

“My arms are killing me. I didn’t know words could be so heavy.” ~ Markus Zusak

“I suggest that the only books that influence us are those for which we are ready, and which have gone a little farther down our particular path than we have yet got ourselves.” ~ E.M. Forster

” ‘Tell me what you read and I’ll tell you who you are’ is true enough, but I’d know you better if you told me what you reread.” ~ Francois Mauriac

“To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.” ~ Victor Hugo

“Reading makes immigrants of us all. It takes us away from home, but more important, it finds homes for us everywhere.” ~ Jean Rhys

“To read a writer is for me not merely to get an idea of what he says, but to go off with him and travel in his company.” ~ Andre Gide

“Always live your life with your biography in mind.” ~ Gareth van Meer

“I wold sooner read a timetable or a catalog than nothing at all.” ~ W. Somerset Maugham

“There is no mistaking a real book when one meets it. It is like falling in love.” ~ Christopher Morley

Happy reading! Hopefully you won’t find yourself reduced to reading a timetable or catalog, like poor Somerset Maugham, but hey, if that’s what’s available, better that than nothing, right?! Or, if you’re Canadian, eh?