Body of work

It sometimes happens that I get busy and lose track of the days, or I’m traveling, or for some other reason (and yes, there are many) temporarily set aside my blog.

I used to feel guilty when that happened, and come back to it thinking I should post an apology…like I had abandoned my readers, small audience though it is.

I don’t worry about that any more. Not that I want to come across as disrespectful to readers…believe me, I appreciate everyone who reads, who follows the blog, who comments. I appreciate you, regardless of how or where you choose to engage, through Facebook or Twitter or via email.

I’ve realized, six years into this journey (six years!) that this is a marathon, not a sprint. I’ve had the conversation with myself…will I be blogging five years down the road? Or ten? Will there be some new and exciting way to communicate that we haven’t even imagined yet?

Regardless, I hope to be around for a long time. So while I’d like to sign a pledge saying I won’t miss another day, or another week of posting, that’s probably not going to hold up. I go in cycles…very consistent with writing, then not so much. And try as I might, I haven’t found a cure for life happening, getting in the way of all my best intentions of regular posting.

But instead of apologizing for my irregular creative rhythm, now I’m taking the long view.

First, while I’d like to flatter myself that readers are eagerly watching for my next post, I know that most everyone out there is like me: busy, often over-committed, and full of good intentions. I’m not worried that readers will take it personally if I don’t post as faithfully as I would like. Readers have lives too, and while I don’t take for granted that a blog follower will always be there, I hope many will be like me…when I see a blogger I follow has a gap in posting, I don’t take it personally. I’m just glad to see them writing again.

Second, I’m coming around to thinking of what I post as a body of work, one that I hope will become a legacy, of sorts.

Not everything I post is save-worthy, by any means. Some of it is personal musing about family or travel, a recipe or some other tidbit of life I share.

But now and then, I write from a different place…a place of the heart no less sincere than when I write about family. But these posts are the ones that could have a life beyond the day of posting. These are the ones that come from hard-won wisdom, trial and error, personal epiphanies, or one of my designated roles in life, my alter-ego as a cautionary tale of one sort or another.

My writing in this vein is not from “let me enlighten you” it’s out of “let me share what I learned the hard way so you don’t have to go that route.” These posts aren’t about what a wise woman I am, they’re about wisdom that’s fallen on me through mistakes and personal growth.

It’s this work I’d like to think is part of a legacy I’m growing.

I can’t say it clearly enough…this isn’t meant to sound prideful. It’s acknowledging I want to share the things I’ve learned, mostly painfully, with anyone who can hear my voice. That’s all.

So, a body of work is what I’m about here, in between the frivolous and light-hearted moments. Because we all have those too; and anyway, who wants to be serious all the time? Some days I just want to share a birthday wish, or rave over my latest find.

What about you? What body of work are you producing? Are you consciously shaping a legacy? I’m curious…what does legacy mean to you?

~ Sheila

 

 

 

 

A friend asked me how to start a blog…

A friend recently mentioned she’s thinking about starting a blog, wondered if I had any suggestions.

Well of course I have suggestions!

Actually, though it would have been better planning on my part to have this post come first, it makes a nice pairing with this.

laptop and phone

But to begin at the beginning…a blog is a combination of the words web and log = blog. Blogging began in the late 90s, and at first blogs were really just online diaries or journals.

What a long way we’ve come! Some stats I found said there were 152 million blogs online in 2013. One snapshot of blogging activity put the number of daily blog posts at 1.13 million in March, 2015.

There are many blogging platforms to choose from. WordPress, which I use, Tumblr, Blogger, Medium, Squarespace, Pen.io, Svbtle, LiveJournal, and Weebly are popular options, and offer a variety of features. They’re pretty much all designed for the non-technical user. You can choose basic free options (usually) or go with more customized options and pay a range of fees depending on your needs and budget.

There’s a lot to learn, but fortunately it’s easy to step in and learn on the go. You can usually go with a domain name that uses an extension of the blogging platform (often the domain name is free if you do this). If you want a custom domain, you can check out sites like GoDaddy and Namecheap to see if the name you want is available, and then register your chosen domain for a small fee. There are lots of domain extensions, and you can read about the best options, depending on the purpose of your site and a host of other factors.

One of the basic questions to sort out is your purpose for writing. Are you targeting a specific interest, niche market, type of reader / follower, or blogging style? Do you want a blog focused on food, fashion, photography, travel, current events, family issues, etc., etc., etc. ?  Do you plan to use a lot of photos and graphics? Do you want a poetry blog? When you choose your focus, that will likely define a lot for you…give you a sense of overall goals, style, voice, etc., which will all factor into how you present yourself to the world.

An important decision to make early in the process is if you want to create income from your blog, or if you want to sell products. If you want to generate income, you’ll need to choose a platform that accommodates ecommerce, something that isn’t always an option with free platforms.

Trust me, giving these questions thought up front can save you a lot of time and headache down the road. At the same time, if you start small and / or on a free platform, and then find your goals for your blog changing, you can always transition to a paid platform or add features that will take your blog to a professional level when you’re ready.

Once you’ve made these first decisions, you can set yourself up and get ready to write.

There are no rules in this blogging world, so if you want to write every day, three times a week, or once a month, you can choose whatever works for you. I would suggest the more consistent you can be, the more likely you’ll grow a consistent following.

And that’s the next big thing. Growing an audience is one of the challenges, but also a lot of the fun of blogging. Share your posts on social media, with your email list, invite friends to check out your blog and share on their social media platforms. Before you know it you’ll have some readers (followers) and you should also be reading other bloggers posts and following any that appeal to you.

Blogging is a community activity, and you’ll find a lot of camaraderie as you find other writers who share your style and interests. Or maybe you’ll find writers who are very different to you, but are intriguing and great to read. I’m often inspired by other bloggers, and while you should never copy or plagiarize, reading other blogs will help you learn, gather good ideas, and generally improve your writing.

Here’s a tip, as you wade into this world, if you see a term referenced you don’t understand, just Google and learn. Google and YouTube are your best friends if you need help with the technical aspects of all this. Often I find tutorials on YouTube are better than the official how-tos…I think it’s because people posting to YouTube are doing reviews and tutorials mostly for do-it-yourself types, so I find instructions are usually provided on a layman level, which I love.

Also, many, many books have been written on the subject of blogging, if you want a guide at hand as you get set up. I suggest reading reviews to see what sounds best for your needs. There are books that focus on the different types of blogs, so if you know the specific niche you want to create, look for a book that corresponds.

Last, if you think you’d like to try blogging, just jump in and begin. You’ll learn a lot, maybe surprise yourself, and you can always move at whatever pace is good for you. No pressure to do more than you choose.

Good luck, and if you’re reading this and decide to start a blog, let me know! I love to check out new writers!

~ Sheila

 

 

Growing up, growing an audience

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Most of my blogging has been for fun, as a creative outlet, a way to learn and experience technology, and a way to pry open my shell a bit.

For all I’m a talker (once I open up), most of the time, I can sit quietly and keep to myself with no difficulty. I’m more introvert than extrovert.

But I also enjoy engaging with kindred spirits, and that’s one of the joys of blogging, and writing in general.

So I’m beginning to look around and find ways to grow the blog, and my new site Story Revisioned.

Though I’m not good at self-promotion…that’s never going to be a comfortable seat for me…I do like the idea of sharing, and having a way to hear from readers who are willing to engage, or fellow bloggers who are also writing, sharing their stories, and looking for connection.

So that’s what I’m doing here, and will be doing in some other venues…just looking to reach out a bit more, see who’s out there in the big world, plant my flag.

See you on the playground!

~ Sheila

 

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!

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.

June promise

June 2nd and another month presents itself. Already half through this year, and I’ve hardly scratched the surface of the tasks I listed for 2014.

I really wanted to improve my blog this year, and I’ve done that in fits and starts. Like all my rhythms, writing often takes a back seat to travel and routine, or lack of one. But I’ll admit that’s often just the excuse. The root of what I’m missing is not a better grasp of technology, it’s the discipline to sit down, even when I’m time-zone challenged, and power on my lap-top, put words on the screen instead of reading them off.

I signed up for Writing 101 to put some structure around my goals, and this is my beginning. I’m sitting surrounded by the stacks of packing, getting ready to go back to Ketchikan tomorrow, back to work, away from days of sun and camping. But I stopped my sorting, sat down to gather my thoughts. Packing is just another distraction, and it will wait.

Today we ran errands out in the hot California sun, the little red pick-up we keep for getting around down here feeling oven-like until the blast of the air-conditioner cooled us down. I’m going back to Ketchikan with specialty cheeses and my favorite pasta sauce and Panzanella crackers. I stocked up on some farm stand corn, the first of the season down here. Got a burger at In-N-Out, satisfied the fast food craving with crispy fries and animal style.

I drive around and wonder if I could ever live here, back in the hustle-bustle after years of small town life. I don’t know. I toy with the idea. Some days I think I could, then the traffic gets to me, or the big box stores seem too big, and I’m happy to find myself out on the rural roads that lead back to the campground. The slow speed of a winding road suits me better than interstates and freeways.

Driving here is a lot like the life I’m living: it’s either the fast lane and overwhelming, or it slows down to a pace I enjoy, and I find myself daydreaming, mesmerized by the scenery.

It’s easy to get lost in your own life, so caught up in the details of living that you forget — you forget you had a plan, and goals, and a timeline. I call it the “where am I?” — you know, that dazed look that says you’re trying to catch up… what state am I in?  what space I’m in (house, trailer, apartment?) and the commitments I’ve got the next day…which clinic am I in? What food do I have in the fridge, and is the bed made, and what season of clothes do I need for tomorrow?

I’m making it sound worse than it is, but at that I’m often disjointed enough. I don’t know how people who travel every week manage. And while I love it, I’m also weary of it. Ready to stand still for a while, find my feet on solid ground. Ready to put the details of life on auto-pilot and give my attention to the things that matter. Still, or again, finding my focus. The funny thing is, I read over these words and it sounds like I’m self-absorbed. But I think the opposite is true. I’m not paying enough attention to the life I’m living. I’m largely floating on the current of events that carry me along. And that’s not what I want. I don’t want to be driftwood in the current of life.

What’s the secret formula? I already know. I just have to reclaim it for myself. The secret is service, and giving, and living with such purpose, such intention, that my busyness finds meaning again, and my work is a labor of love, not just a labor.

And so I promise anew. I promise to make life matter, not just mark the days off the calendar. I promise to notice the details that are worthy, and let the insignificant be just that: insignificant. I promise to love, to cherish, to fill each day with some task that is meaningful and powerful.

Thank you Writing 101! Thanks for the reset, thanks for the reminder. Maybe that’s the power of a blog…the self-reminder that each life matters, and if so, then my life, my contribution, matters too. I just have to find the way, and at the same time, promise not to take it all too seriously. Wouldn’t want to do that.🙂

The dream is free. The hustle is sold separately.

IMG_0028_2

California burger

 

 

Summer corn

Summer corn

California rambling

Seaside

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Pacific blues

The travel trailer

The travel trailer

 

Write makes might!

Aahh…Blogging 201 is finished, and I learned a lot. It wasn’t evident from my postings, because I haven’t been posting. But the daily tasks have been been thought provoking, made me think about why I blog, tools I use, how I connect.

Out of all the advice and how-tos, the most challenging assignment is to define my brand. (In today’s world, anything and everything is a “brand.”) When I launched Grace and Space, my goal was to share hope, encouragement, and positive thoughts. Sometimes I veer into journal mode, share a recipe, or post family photos. I’ve occasionally tried to add some humor (and though I can be funny enough in person, writing humor is hard to do; kudos to those who do it well!) I’ve shared music, and links to posts that inspire. I post quotes that speak to me, and the occasional personal tribute.

So…out of the mix, what do I offer that is consistent, gives readers a reason to return, and rises above the private ramblings that could be read in a personal diary?

Hmmm….

The truth is, with an ocean of bloggers out there, there are a lot of  similar voices. And while some blogs have a narrowly defined niche…think DIY sites or frugal living blogs, parenting advice authors, religious writers or photography blogs…there are a lot of writers who focus on the topic of the day, whatever that may mean to them.

I’m still thinking about this…do I want to narrow my focus, or have a broader goal of sharing the good stuff, however I define it at the moment?

I’ve been playing with titles and tag lines, domain names and business names as I think about using content from my blog on a professional writing site. Some posts wouldn’t be appropriate…I don’t want to post family photos on a business site, and that wouldn’t be the place for sharing recipes either. The phrase “write makes might” floated through and lodged.

Without taking on delusions of grandeur, or seeing myself or Grace and Space as wielding influence, I’ll just leave my brand aspirations at this: I want anything that appears on my blog to point the way. Often I’m writing out of my own need for hope and joy, and that’s where I want to lead anyone who’s reading. I want my brand to be hope, and my deliverable to be joy. And if that’s a little vague…well, you know it when you see it.

Some days joy is quiet, and others it is exuberant. But always, there’s a deep current of direction and intention, and that’s what I want to convey to readers.

So come along with me if you’d like. I’m searching for a little grace, a little joy, and a community that is grounded in hope, amidst all the nitty-gritty of life. I’m not denying the hard and the sad. But I’m determined to rise above.

The far horizon

The far horizon…

 

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

 

 

 

 

Blogging challenge anyone?

Here we go.

I decided to try something new. Anyone want to join me? Last day to throw your hat in the ring. Go to the link above if you’re interested. I’ve never done one of these group things before, but it looks good. I’m signed up to do Blogging 201. Hope I can keep up!

See you on the playground!

~ Sheila