Back to the Beginning: The Juice Days

Back to the Beginning: The Juice Days
“Listen here, Pilgrim, it’s to start writing again.” (Jimbo Berkey)

Having writer’s block is one of the worst experiences that a writer or someone whose career involves writing have to battle.

Being unable to put together thoughts and ideas that you can create into a story, article, or a column, is equally worse.  I haven’t had the (physical) energy and (mental) motivation to sit down hammer out blog entries over the last several months.  I’ve been reading articles over the last few days on how to create content and writing for an audience, as a refresher course to sharpen up my writing skills (and restart my creative thinking, for what it’s worth)..

The reason for the stagnation is my growing unwillingness to add to the “noise” of the “topic-de-jour” of the day. After all, how many “reactions” to a story do you, or I, want to read/hear/watch ad nauseam? No matter how much I, or anyone else, cut through the noise and provide good, smart, and civil content that explains a topic, trolls and ignorant people will go to obscene lengths to sully the conversation with boorishness and juvenile attitudes.

I’ve been writing for a better part of eight years. I started in March 2006, as a community (non-staff) blogger for a weekly publication called Juice. After three years of writing for them, I made the leap into starting my blog. I’m confident that I’ve had more “misses” than “hits” on the litany of topics and thoughts I’ve written about. There have been posts that resonated to many, and some that I thought would resonate, but didn’t.

That’s normal for writers: experiencing highs when you’re producing kick-ass material, and bad periods where nothing seems to come out right.

Today, I was updating my resume and preparing to submit for an open position. I plugged in a USB drive that I hardly used. I remembered that I downloaded all of my old Juice blogs into the drive. When Juice changed platforms around 2008 or 2009,  I didn’t want the content to be lost and disappear forever, so I saved as many blog post my drive allowed me to.

Eight years of writing would equal at least one 500 page ream of paper. Thank goodness for laptops and USB drives.

That’s 357 pages and over 161,300 words, over a two-year period. That doesn’t include the 430+ entries I have done here on this blog site.

I started to re-read several old posts I’ve done. I have no idea how I lasted this long, or have written so much. Writing was something I seriously did not have talent for. It was trial and error, finding what works, and having an opinion that isn’t always pro and con, black or white, yes or no. 

I discovered several things while skimming through these posts:

  • I didn’t grasp the importance of brevity (I still don’t to this day).
  • Many of the topics I wrote about are relevant today as it was over 5 years ago (young professionals, civility, progress of Des Moines, etc.)
  • I had a disdain for frivolous and overblown topics (reality shows, celebrities, general stupidity)
  • We all have a “dark” side of our lives (opening up personally about depression, divorce, life’s issues).
  • There is more than two sides to a topic (different perspectives that doesn’t fit into the pro/con, Democrat/Republican frame of arguments).

There are a few more, but brevity is of the utmost importance here.

Therefore, I have decided that while I work on refining my writing and creative skills, I’m going to reintroduce my old Juice blogs on this site. There will be readers and followers who may not have read some of my earlier stuff. The purpose of doing this, albeit self-serving, is to display how I have evolved as a person, in terms of observations and writing.

There are some topics I wrote about that could regenerate an idea or story that I wanted to espouse on, but never acted on it. 

What I have learned while typing this is that maybe I do have a knack for writing.

After all, I prefer to listen than talk and to write it down, so it would make sense.

There is always a story to be told.  

What Has Become of the Pencil?

Missing: one wooden stick, with lead built in. It's known across the world as a writing tool.
Insightful things come to mind when you think little of it.  Like a loud “shake you out of your bed” crackle of thunder in the middle of the night, you stop in your virtual footprint and wonder “Huh.  I haven’t thought of that.”
That moment came this morning as I was working on a project.
I picked up a pencil to jot down a couple of notes.

A pencil.

Our evolving world continues to change and adapt to so many new things, that little we know it or not, the trusty #2 pencil, the one we were taught to write our names with, take tests, jot notes, chew on like beavers, and stick behind our ears and forget, is becoming an afterthought.

When did it go downhill for the thin small wooden stick with the lead inside of it?  Was it the creation of the mechanical pencils that became the calling card of nerds with pocket protectors in the 80’s?  The crummy erasable pens in junior high?  God bless Bic, they tried to make a perfect pen that was to copycat what the pencil did.

The pocket protector didn't have room for the old standby, the pencil.

As I fumbled the pencil in my left hand, those memories cascade like lugnuts being knocked out of little Ralphie Parker’s hands in “A Christmas Story.”  Our world is flowing towards ways to be efficient, green, and ever technologically savvy.

But like the newspaper and the Saturday Evening Post, the pencil has become comfort tools that we run our hands on, for sentimental reasons, more than for it’s usage.

Should it be hung on the wall on a plaque, next to the grizzly bear and Bambi’s uncle?  Should ever active children be allowed to strengthen it’s teeth and chomping on it like human typewriters?

This ode to the pencil is silly at best, but it’s one to think about when you pick up the nearest writing tool your hands can grab.  Never blue, black, red, or green.  The fading gray of lead and the solitary sound it makes on the paper as your write out your thoughts in cursive, or chicken scratch.

A Year in Review

Blow out your candle, you little blog!!

As December has arrived, I’ve forgot to mark the 1st blog-(ann)-iversary of this site. I try not to wax poetic on it, but when I decided to “go all in” on writing this full time, I was unsure if I could do this on a consistent basis.

Coming up with topics, managing the site, using tags to bump my site up the search engine food chain, and to establish a consistent readership (though I would like to have a larger participation in comment-ship, but that’s me) is no small feat or easy.

It’s like working another part-time or full-time job, depending how much you invest into making your blog successful and give your loyal readers.

"We meet again. Remember me? British TV fans still talk about how my show ended."

I signed up for a WordPress blog in September of 2009.  My intent was to understand how to use it, how it would be beneficial for me and to build it in the way that was fit my personality and style.  The real purpose was to step out of the comforts of blogging for Juice.  I love that I still blog for Juice as a community blogger, but I noticed that there is a community of readers who don’t normally read Juice or the Register that I wanted to reach out to.  Why not start another one?

I wrote one blog when I started it, and then two more in November, before finally getting my feet wet.  So, in actual time, November 26th I began writing this.  For those who start blogging, there are some advice and rules that you need to apply once you join this world of blogs, social media, and the internet.

"They Call Me Mr. Tony! Mr. Tibbs have nothin' on me!"

Goal in mind: have a goal in mind on what you what to write about it or what your blog will be about.  It doesn’t have to be centered on one topic, but have a mini “mission statement” on your purpose.

Patience: unlike certain sports fans, lower your expectations on how many hits and readers you get starting out.  It takes awhile before people find your blog and start to read it.  Hint:  if you want to build a following, ask a friend to read your blog, critique it, and if said friend thinks it’s worth others to read it, they’ll start telling everyone else.  Consider that free publicity for you.

"I can't believe I lost to a guy who was modeling underwear in the 80's. Click my picture to read more about me."

Tag it: how do you get people to read?  Throw them a carrot.  I’m kidding.  Use tags, or keywords, to help you out.  If someone is Googling “SEO” or “LeBron James“, they will find websites or blogs that will have SEO or LeBron’s name in it.

Just write baby: Easiest advice to give.  Start writing.  Don’t worry, no one will see what you write, until you hit the “enter” or “publish” key.  Type it up and edit.  Shape your words in the way you want to convey them.  If something looks out of place or could be misinterpreted by someone, re-read it, edit, and then send it.

You are your own writer, reporter, editor, and publisher.  Without running a newspaper and hitting deadlines.

I have been blogging for nearly 5 years and this past year has been, in my opinion, my best blog year.  It forced me to dig deep and use that cranium of mine to write the way I have always wanted to write.

Not too bad for a late bloomer.

The lost art of handwriting

Tonight, I pulled out an old notebook that I use from time to time, to add some thoughts and ideas so I won’t forget them.

I noticed something deeply disturbing…

…my handwriting is sloppy.

As someone who prides on having good handwriting and penmanship, I felt horrified by how my writing has deteriorated over the past decade. People who uses shorthand thinks that I’m giving them a bad name.

How could I ignore this for so long? A Jimmy John’s sub sandwich can help you, ahem, “see the light.” Seriously, our handwriting is looking more like chicken scratch than the elegance of John Hancock’s signature. It’s everywhere. From signing receipts, checks, and note-taking.

We have to write down so much information in such a short time, when we go back to dissect what we wrote, we can’t barely understand it.

As I’m munching my sub, I have a pen in my left hand and the old notebook out. My thoughts and ideas are on hold.  I need to re-learn how to write my A’s, B’s, and C’s with clarity.

Handwriting has become a lost art. The computer and smartphones are not to blame.

Blogger or a Writer? What am I?

Rebecca Thorman is the well-renowned writer for the popular blog Modite, that delves into career and life conversations. I have recently started to read her blog and have added her to my RSS feed last week for my “must-read” list.

Two months ago, Rebecca wrote a blog that has made me stop and think about what am I and where I am going, with respects to my blog.

You can read she wrote here.

I feel she has a point and it resonates to me.  Ever since I started blogging on Juice, I have considered myself as a writer.  I feel that I do a good job of writing.  The problem was that my blog was unable to get traction or a following.  I have heard from many individuals who have told me to shorten my blog to 500 words or less, put more pictures in, and make it “entertaining”.

When I created this blog, my goal was to be able to write more in-depth about topics that interested me or has the interest of you.  I experimented with my blog to see if I could cut it down to 500 words or less, more pictures, and be entertaining.

I don’t know if it’s working because I still can’t garner the following and the comments to stimulate intelligent and thought-provoking conversations.  Do I have to be more “entertaining” and sacrifice my thoughts, philosophies, and ideas in order to build a community and a following?  Or is it better to be a writer and stick to what I know so well, which is the written word?

The blogger or writer issue is a fair one to ask and talk about as we progress forward in the world of the blogosphere and social media online.

Are you a blogger or a writer?  Where do you stand?  Is Rebecca right or is there a fault in her argument?