Some idea that I’ve forgotten

Oh, the wondrous passages you would all be reading, dear readers, if only my memory could store an idea for more than a few seconds.

There’s a phrase, I’m sure you’ve heard it, “in one ear and out the other.” Well, “in one ear and out the other” could aptly describe the traverse of ideas for new posts I’ve had since last Wednesday.

(Incidentally, the very same phrase could have been employed to describe the journey of many spoonfuls of mashed pumpkin when my youngest brother was a baby and strapped into his highchair eating dinner.)

There is a distinct pattern emerging in my week since I’ve started trying to make a concerted effort to publish a post weekly. Writing is a creative activity, and creative activity staves off an existential crises, or so I find. Publishing is an outcome of that creative activity, so therefore, getting a post published at least once a week provides a huge, if temporary, reprieve from that endlessly niggling question, am I just totally wasting this minute/hour/day/life away? which, if not checked, is followed by the more insidious, what is my purpose in life?

(Publishing one post a week is a fairly unambitious goal for an entire life, sure, but it’s good to aim low and give yourself a reasonable chance of achieving your goal, or so I’ve always thought.)

So the pattern is that, once the post is published – lately this has been on a Wednesday – I sit back and relax. I can rest easy for at least 24 – 48 hours, only peering occasionally at my WordPress stats to see if anyone has actually read my latest post. (Where are you Mum??)*

Thus fortified with purpose, Thursday can come and go, bringing not the slightest niggle about wasting time. Next comes Friday, and I’m still pretty smug about having recently published a post. So much so that last week, I took a wild step and set some new writing-related goals for the day.

Never fear, I wasn’t overly ambitious. I only set more than one goal, because as each goal failed, I thought of a new and less challenging one.

Last Friday I first determined that, as I enjoy writing so much, I would find some freelance/contract work as a writer to supplement my part-time job. I scoured websites advertising writing work. Some were clearly scams looking for a sucker to exploit. Many were for temporary full-time contracts, which are no good for me, or for writing tenders, business contracts or real estate copy – things I’m not interested in.

What exactly was I hoping for, you may well be thinking at this point. To be honest, I think I was hoping that someone would be advertising for a creative writer with almost no publishing history apart from a personal blog, to write whatever they liked, in flexible hours to suit themselves, and offering a handsome sum for the work. The nearest thing to this was a job writing “content” for a bollard company. They need someone to work a few hours a week, writing the company newsletters, e-news, website content, flyers and any other digital and written materials.

As a side note, I must say that it came as a total surprise to me to find that the humble bollard generates so much interest that there are people subscribing to bollard company e-news in order to stay abreast of the latest advances in bollard technology. Sadly, however, the bollard company were looking for someone with formal qualifications in Marketing and PR, so my dreams of writing bollard-related content for a living have as much forward momentum as a car that has just been stopped short by a row of these bad boys:

Some particularly shiny bollards. Pic: Stephen McKay, sourced from Wikimedia Commons

A babble of (particularly shiny) bollards.

Pic: Stephen McKay, sourced from Wikimedia Commons

But back to my attempt to use my time productively: Friday afternoon was passing by and I hadn’t landed a highly paid job writing my own column for the New Yorker, (in fact they were not even advertising on writingjobs.com!) so fear of wasting time, and subsequently my life, was starting to play at the edges of my mind.

By about 2pm, I decided to throw in that search and take a different track. My new writing-related goal was to find a magazine or other outlet calling for submissions. It didn’t even need to be paid, just an opportunity to publish something. I started out hopefully, and spent probably an hour or so on this search. In the end, I earmarked one literary journal, although only half-heartedly. I don’t hold very high hopes for my chances with literary journals as I’m sure my writing – and no doubt my terrible sentence structure – not to mention my severe over-use of the dash – is not literary enough. (Also they’ve helpfully confirmed this by rejecting pieces previously).

I guess I was looking for something more along the lines of the bollard company newsletters, if only they had specified “looking for a creative writer who will write weekly columns of about 1000 words on any topic they like and include reference to a bollard.”

(Surely some forward-thinking bollard company should do just that? I may consider starting an entirely separate blog dedicated solely to bollards.)

Anyway, I digress. At about 4pm, desperation was setting in – another day totally wasted! – so abandoned the submission idea, and developed a third writing-related goal. This goal was unambitious, administrative, and there was no question that I was capable of achieving it, only whether I could be bothered to achieve it. That was, to sort out the writing I’ve saved on my computer.

As of 4pm on Friday, my “Writing” folder contained about 100 unsorted Word files, all pieces of writing, (obviously) ranging from entire essays/articles, through to documents containing one paragraph, or even just one line that I had apparently deemed worth saving for posterity. It seemed I hadn’t bothered to file any writing for that last 4 years.

So my ambitions boiled down to an hour on Friday afternoon spent on “writing administration”, ie, creating folders and moving all that debris around so that at least now, on the surface, it looks as though there is some kind of system behind my, um, thinking processes.

And among the 100-odd unsorted documents was one called some idea that I’ve forgotten. It was an attempt to capture an idea I’d had a few weeks before, but forgotten the specifics of within hours. The notes were like those of someone trying to recall a dream “…something about Millennials v Generation X but NOT making fun of Millennials….the benefit of being slower…maybe to do with cooking?….” I had hoped that the process of writing would trigger the entire memory. Alas, it did not, and I still haven’t remembered what that idea was.

This has been happening more frequently lately, so the title of that document seemed to symbolise my life at the moment. An idea starts to formulate in my mind, I think I’ve got hold of it enough to remember it – and then rapidly forget it. I don’t know if it’s happening more often because I’m trying to develop ideas for posts more frequently, or because I’m getting older, and my memory is disintegrating.  I should learn to write ideas down, I know, but they don’t always occur in circumstances conducive to doing so – especially now that I can’t write anything without putting on my reading glasses.

To illustrate: after Friday comes Saturday. By Saturday, I usually start, in the back of my mind at least, to try and formulate an idea for my next post. Since publishing a post on the Wednesday, at least 3 or four ideas will probably have occurred, and sometimes they may have been very quickly followed by a catchy opening sentence. When I’m on a roll, I’ll think through an entire first paragraph. But the results of these moments of lucidity rarely make it to the blog. (as I’m sure you can tell.)

I wrote virtually a whole opening paragraph to a potential new post in my head on Saturday evening, as I was rushing to get dressed to go out. As I pulled on and then discarded various tops, trying to find something to team with a pair of wide-legged pants that wouldn’t make me look like a pavlova, I was distractedly thinking of an idea, and sentence after sentence came to me. I even chuckled, no doubt impressed at my own wit.

Alas, I had no time to stop and write anything down, because when I’m going out, I usually allow about 15 minutes to get ready, and fail to allocate time for capturing ethereal concepts that will melt away into the air if not grasped and made concrete as soon as they are thought of.

So whatever Saturday’s chuckle-inducing idea was, it went down the gurgler and you ended up, instead, with this. Sorry about that.

*

*Mum doesn’t have a computer, let alone know what a blog is.

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Gonna change my name to Hannibal, or maybe just Rex

Dear reader, just to keep you wondering, I have rebranded.

If you are a regular reader, you may have subscribed some time ago to a blog called It Keeps Me Wondering, and been happy enough with that, only to suddenly today received in your inbox, or discover in the feed on your Reader, a post from a site called Blathering About Nothing.

The funny thing is, I don’t even have a Marketing Manager, nor have I hired an online consultancy firm who has advised me to rebrand. I just have myself and my usual uncertainty, and my tendency to be unsure about the choice I made 4.5 years ago for what would be a public “image.”

Unfortunately for me, through lack of planning a strategic marketing campaign at the time of my birth, as well as the non-existence of a public profile that I could capitalise on by changing my name to one word and incorporating a dollar sign or hashtag into it, I hadn’t realised that I was a brand when I set up my blog. Now, 4 1/2 years later, my poor blog has a split personality.

When I decided to start blogging, I agonised for weeks over what to call my blog, umming and aahing over possible names for weeks, until my main impetus was to just bloody well pick a name and get writing. I had a list of names in a notebook, so I picked one out: Is That Coffee? Thus the url: isthatcoffee.wordpress.com

(How did I come up with that? Well this all happened during a period when I had given up drinking coffee – I’ve since fallen off that particular wagon – and probably had a lot of spare time on my hands from all those cups of coffee I wasn’t making or drinking.) I guess I thought that was kind of amusing, because it implied that I was slightly hysterical about coffee – and left it pretty open as to what I would write about.

Only days after creating the blog, I came up with a name I liked a lot more – It Keeps Me Wondering. I liked it because it implied that I’d be writing about what I was thinking about, rather than what I was doing. My ideas, rather than my life, if you like.

So I changed the name to It Keeps Me Wondering, but didn’t change the url. Once my blog started to get a few regular followers, I wished I’d changed the url to match, but I’ve continually been too scared to take that step because it sounds like there is a risk of breaking links and losing followers. So I had a blog called It Keeps Me Wondering, and a url address that didn’t match, and meanwhile I wrote my first few posts.

Soon I wrote two posts inspired by some plays by Samuel Beckett, a literary hero of mine:

Blathering About Nothing in Particular, and Blathering About Nothing in Particular, Part 2.

These were named after a line from Waiting for Godot:

…yes, now I remember, yesterday evening we spent blathering about nothing in particular. That’s been going on now for half a century.*

Beckett’s minimalistic plays from the 1950s-60s have almost no action in the traditional sense, and often cross-examine the meaning, or absence of meaning, in language, and by extension, in life, through seemingly absurd dialogues, or monologues. His characters often make reference to the fact that their conversation is both repetitive and ultimately meaningless.

The irony in that concept seemed to fit perfectly with the idea of me, sitting alone writing a blog which would no doubt often be repetitive and ultimately meaningless.

Inspired by this idea, I then changed my user name to Blathering, and the default category for posts, when I’m just writing rubbish, to Blathering About Nothing. I’ve often thought about changing the name of the blog to Blathering About Nothing, in a little homage to Beckett, and also a humorous nod to essentially the same thing – that the blog is about ideas, anything and everything, and essentially, nothing. I like the self-deprecating inference and it also feels very Irish, which is my heritage. The only reason I haven’t is, as I said, uncertainty, and fear of causing confusion for followers.

But it seems that I’ve committed one of the worst sins possible in the world of creating an online presence, which was to have a blog title, a url, and an online “identity” that were all mismatched.

A while back I wrote a post about a book I read, that references contemporary television shows, to illustrate the philosophies behind Pre-Modern, and Modern thought, and the self-imposed problems Modern thought creates. The fundamental difference was around the concept of identity – in Pre-Modern thought, what we did constituted our identity, in Modern thought, what we do only reflects our identity.

So today I spent time pondering the ultimate Modern dilemma of identity:  how many different online profiles do I have now, and should I be trying to consolidate some of them? And, if my online profiles are identity-reflecting, what does it say about me that my blog alone has about 3 different identities?  These matters are, as you can see, of grave importance in the great chain of being.

In the world of social media, having a “consistent brand” is the golden chalice to aim for. It seems to be becoming our primary obligation. Certain human beings are now often referred to as a “brand”, particularly if they go by only one name, or even better, if the media have managed to merge their name with their partner’s name to form one catchy name, as if they are the same being, ie, Brangelina. (If you are not sure who that is, congratulations! You win an all-expenses-paid trip to the Brangelina mansion.)

As if  I have not created enough random chaos by having a blog with an identity crisis, I’ve also delved into Facebook, where I am myself, and into Twitter, where I have a profile that is “me” where I tweet about the arts, or social justice issues that I think are important, as well as a Twitter profile as Blathering, the author of this blog. (@_Blathering)

So in summary, after reading a book about the dilemmas of Modern thought, I had one of my own and as a result, finally made a decision.  Now, at least, the name of the blog, my gravatar, the theme of “blathering” that runs through the blog, and my (second) Twitter account, all match up. Phew!

The long list of things that keep me wondering should hopefully now be shorter by one item.

*

Stay tuned for the next episode where we discuss whether I should make the following changes:

a. Change my name to Hannibal, or maybe just Rex?

b. Change my shorts

c. Change my life

d. Change into a 9 year old Hindu boy, get rid of my wife?

*

 

*the line from Waiting for Godot is said by Estragon, to Vladimir, p.66 in my very old copy.

*the changes above are not really under serious consideration at this point in time. They are lyrics stolen from the great Modern philosopher, Tom Waits, from his albums Goin’ Out West, and Step Right Up.

*Hidden somewhere in this post is the Twitter handle of my personal account – but in keeping with my truly non-strategic approach to social media, it doesn’t have anything to do with any of the other “identities” mentioned here.

Four and Three and Two and One

Here is one way to write a post.

Make a small observation to yourself. I don’t mean a momentous observation, a significant observation, or a worthy observation of any sort. I’m talking about an observation so insignificant that you consider it unworthy even of recording in your personal diary, where you note all kinds of trivial minutae. Oh, also – and this is critical – make this observation back in 1992. (at which time, your journal was a hardbound notebook that you wrote in with an actual pen. I get writer’s cramp just thinking about it).

My friends, the kind of observation I’m talking about is the sort of trivial observation that skits through your brain in a millisecond and is gone, and usually never troubles you again. But in this case, this ridiculously inconsequential observation continues to pop up occasionally, when you observe that your original idea is reinforced. Despite it being reinforced, it is still without doubt, an idea so utterly trivial that is not worthy of noting anywhere, for any reason. Declaring your observation to the world will make no impact, lasting or otherwise, on the history of humankind. No-one will, upon reading of your pronouncement, sit down and reconsider the choices they’ve made in their lives, and vow to make a change. No breakthroughs in medicine will be made, no children will be saved, in fact I’d go so far as to say that not even a single reality TV show will be created around your theory.

In the time since you originally made this trivial observation, the world continues to turn with regularity, the seasons come and go, the universe continues to slowly expand, you get older, perhaps you finish a visual arts degree and get a job answering the phone at a bank.

Soon, people who are not computer boffins are talking about the world wide web. More time passes, and you create an email account and start writing electronic communications to people, increasingly in place of phoning or speaking to them in person. You eventually lash out and buy a second hand laptop with a dial-up internet connection. At times, when the connection does not drop out, you perceive with some excitement that the internet appears to open up new avenues for writing. You learn about about web logs. You start to read other people’s web logs – or, blogs – and toy with the idea of writing one yourself.  But what can you write about?

You procrastinate. Instead of starting a blog, you read other people’s blogs, and notice that people are writing engaging blogs about food, about parenting, about books, or about building their own house out of egg cartons, but you are not a food expert, don’t wish to write about parenting, don’t have the confidence to write book reviews, and don’t have a lot of egg cartons lying around.

You read more blogs, and try to hone in on some that you really like. Based on these blogs you decide that your blog is not going to be “about” anything. It will be a blog of observations, reflections, ramblings about anything. (Later on, you will wish you had thought more carefully about the name and url because if you had, it would be, in an homage to Waiting for Godot, located at blatheringaboutnothing.wordpress.com, but changing the address once the blog is established sounds too fraught with difficulty to contemplate.)

So, you start to write a blog. Writing the first few posts is fun but then you realise that you have to come up with observations, reflections, ideas and ramblings worth writing about with some kind of regularity. Oh dear. What a predicament you have put yourself in!

Lacking the time to work on ideas for blog topics other than when you sit down to write, you find it difficult to post frequently and consistently about highbrow ideas such as the nature of human existence, whether there is life after death, or whether painting really is dead. Your blog rapidly begins to be filled with writing about eyeballs, moustaches, rhinos, and the weather. In your credit, you do manage a few posts about Nietzsche, but unfortunately you are no scholar of existentialism and your explorations of the philosopher’s ideas remain sadly inept and superficial, and focussed mostly on his repugnant facial hair. Time goes by, and you reach a point where one day, that trivial observation from 20 years ago pokes its head up and says, just like the Labour Party did in 1972, It’s time.

You decide to accept the challenge and write a post about your frivolous observation, made 20 years earlier. Thinking about how to turn such a trivial idea into an entire post, you decide the best approach will be to write an amusing piece, covering the lengthy research undertaken to come up with your theory, and then present the evidence for and against. It seems possible that you might be able to cobble together something amusing. You sit down to write it.

Cue the present, and a first person narrative.

Here is my observation, made some 2 decades ago: I notice that on many of my albums, my favourite track is track number 6.

Trivial? Certainly. Banal? Exquisitely. Not worthy of being recorded in writing? Undoubtedly.

In the real world, the one that exists outside the world wide web, would I attempt to craft an interesting piece of writing based on such a completely trivial thought? Probably not. But this is the blogosphere, so let’s press on, sticking to the challenge at hand.

The Hypothesis: that on a random selection of albums, Track 6 will most often be a “favourite” track.

Definitions: For the purposes of this experiment, I have defined “favourite” as the outstanding favourite. If there are many tracks on an album considered to be equal favourites, then the answer to whether the song is a favourite is “no”. For the purposes of scientific rigour, I am being very tough on myself! (Eeek!)

Method: my research, conducted over the past 20 years on this topic, has consisted of listening to a lot of albums. Data has been inconsistent, and record keeping has been poor, to say the least. Analysis of anecdotal data indicates that on some albums, track 6 was my favourite track and on others, it was not.

Today, in the interests of proving or refuting the original hypothesis once and for all, I have selected a sample of albums to check. This sample consists of two sub categories: albums I was listening to in 1992, at the time that I developed this theory, as well as a random selection of more recent albums, for comparison, in case for some reason 1992 had a strong bias towards putting the best track at number 6.

Data:

Albums I was listening to in 1992:

Massive Attack, Blue Lines. Track 6: Unfinished Sympathy. Favourite track? Yes.

Not Drowning Waving, The Cold and The Crackle. Track 6: Little King. Favourite Track? No.

The Velvet Underground, V.U. Track 6: Foggy Notion. Favourite track? Yes.

Primal Scream, Screamadelica. Track 6: Come Together. Favourite track? No

Tom Waits, Bone Machine. Track 6: The Ocean Doesn’t Want Me Today. Favourite Track? No

The Clouds, Penny Century. Track 6: Too Cool. Favourite Track? No

R.E.M.  Automatic For The People. Track 6: Sweetness Follows. Favourite track? Yes

Leonard Cohen, So Long Marianne. Track 6: Bird On A Wire. Favourite track? No

 

Random* selection of other albums :

 

Sonic Youth, Goo. Track 6: My Friend Goo. Favourite track? No

Kim Salmon and The Surrealists, Sin Factory. Track 6: Come On Baby. Favourite Track? No

Beastie Boys, Ill Communication. Track 6: Sabotage. Favourite Track? No

Radiohead, Kid A. Track 6: Optimistic. Favourite Track? No

The Rapture, Echoes. Track 6: House of Jealous Lovers. Favourite Track? Yes

LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver. Track 6: Us V Them. Favourite Track? No

Grinderman, Grinderman 2. Track 6: Evil. Favourite Track? Yes.

The National, High Violet. Track 6: Bloodbuzz Ohio. Favourite Track? Yes

 

Analysis:

Out of 16 albums, track number 6 is my favourite track on 6. Track 6 does not rate significantly higher on albums from 1992, so I can’t even try to claim that there was a conspiracy in 1992 to always put the best track at number 6.

Conclusion:

Analysis proves that track 6 is not always my favourite track. However, what this analysis does not prove, is, whether track 6 is my favourite track more often than any other number? Track 6 has come up strongly, but in a sample of only 16 albums, I can only conclude that the sample is too small and therefore the data is inconclusive. Damn.

*

So finally, dear reader,  you reach the end of your post. You have learned how to let an idea, first thought of as completely insignificant 20 years earlier, stew away in the back of your mind for 2 decades. You’ve learned how to take that totally frivolous thought, and milk it for all it’s worth when you need a topic to write about on your blog 20 years later. Here we can see the end product of this creative process: a post that is an odd mixture of a “how-to” style guide to writing a post, combined with a research experiment into whether or not track 6 is always the best track on an album. This is what the internet has done to us.

 *

*As this is a personal blog, and not a scientific journal, I will admit that there was some licence taken with the “randomness” of albums selected in the second section. The prompt for this post was in fact when I put on Ill Communication today, and noted that Sabotage, the biggest hit from that album, but not my clear favourite on the album, was track number 6. I decided to get my “track 6” theory sorted out for once and for all, however in that endeavour I have dismally failed. Research continues.

 

Blabberblog

Do you wake at night in a cold sweat, wondering what on earth your next post will be about?

Do you suffer from the anxiety that donks all creative content producers on the head at some time or other – the worry that you can’t come up with new material?

Do you ever suspect that you have reached that dreaded stage in your creativity that pop band Regurgitator wrote a song about, ie, where your old stuff was so much better than your new stuff?

Are there strands of your hair everywhere around the house?

Well, new Blabberblog will solve all your problems. (except maybe the hair.) Just purchase one bottle of our easy-to-swallow capsules. Take 2 capsules before bed, swallow with water and rub the rest of them all over the soles of your feet. Off you go to dreamland, and when you wake in the morning, why, not only will your tongue taste like blueberries, and your feet look slightly furry* but your blog will have written itself!

Blabberblog - available in a range of sizes and colors so that you can match it to your lounge room decor.

Blabberblog – available in a range of sizes and colors so that you can match it to your lounge room decor.

 

Pic: Wikimedia Commons

When you start using Blabberblog, there will be no need for you to do any of the hard work required to keep your blog filled with interesting, entertaining content ever again!

Think??? No need. Form an idea into a coherent paragraph?? Meh – that stuff is for suckers. Who needs to – um….strawberries?…..sorry, I lost my train of thought.

Simply use Blabberblog at night, and in the morning your blog will be populated with a new post, apparently written by you. Posts are 100% guaranteed to be witty, erudite** and even at times downright delicious. If not satisfied, call the customer service number on the pack and we will refund you money in full.

Clinical trials using Blabberblog, delivered results that surpassed our expectations. The trial group, using Blabberblog, had new posts on their blogs every morning. 100% of these posts were well informed, articulate and entertaining, covering exciting topics ranging from the mating habits of deadly tropical fish to the latest developments in relationship counselling for cannibals.

The group taking a placebo averaged a new post only every week or so, and their posts were lacklustre and definitely of an inferior quality. Comments from our reviewers included the following: Humour felt forced, topics were poorly researched, and there was a severe lack of editing: sentences sometimes trailed off and grammar and punctuation were at times almost (non,?

Topics were generally mundane, ranging from a post about boiled eggs, to instructions on how to use a yoga mat. I mean, really!

In short, you can count on Blabberblog to:

Increase the amount of exciting content on your blog

Reduce dull, lifeless posts

Promote hair regrowth

Suitable for all operating systems***

All natural formulation****

Available in convenient capsule form

Comes in a range of colors and sizes to coordinate with all interior decoration options

Designed in Australia and manufactured somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere*****

Blabberblog – available now at all good newsagencies, or where you see this sign.

399px-SIGN

Pic: Wikimedia Commons

*Side effects can also include headaches, nausea, and gangrenous feet that may require amputation.

**I had to look up the meaning of erudite.

***Except operating systems with a malfunctioning heart, liver or white blood cell count.

****Natural ingredients were the inspiration for the synthetic chemicals that make up the final product.

*****Somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere known as “offshore”. At “Offshore”, the wages and conditions are equal to or less than slave labour and therefore they have a burgeoning manufacturing industry, unlike Australia, where least 3 major manufacturing industries have announced their closure in the past month, because our strong dollar, decent wages & conditions and current government’s ideology mean that the poor widdle shareholders of those companies may not make a billion dollars profit unless those businesses are moved “offshore”. 

Under Pressure

Dear Readers, (real and imagined),

Here I sit, contemplating what to write for my next post, in the unusual circumstance of having had a recent post Freshly Pressed. And as with most things in life, (especially if your star sign is Libra), I find myself noting that there are both good and bad things about that experience.

To summarise:

Good things about being Freshly Pressed:

  • It gets out all the wrinkles and makes for a smoother, silkier blog. If wrinkles are stubborn, use the Cotton setting and a liberal sprinkle of water.
  • It introduces new people, who are, for the most part, also real people, to my blog
  • Some of those people “like”, some comment, and some even follow my blog.
  • Replying to comments keeps me busy for at least a week,  thus helping Febfast to fly by with plenty of distraction.
  • Some comments are very funny. You guys kill me!
  • What with comments to reply to, and blog stats to feverishly and repeatedly check every few hours, at the height of all the excitement, I feel downright popular!

Of course, after about 7 days, the stats gradually die down again and become just a quiet shuffle of views, no doubt mostly accidental, from readers who were actually looking for instructions on how to use their yoga mats, information on why Air Supply cried, or breaking news about Nigella Lawson’s ears. You heard it here first. (No pun intended.)

A pic of my blog, right near a pic of Joachim Phoenix.

Here’s a pic of my blog, right near a pic of Joachim Phoenix.

Bad things about being Freshly Pressed:

Um…well there are not many bad things about being Freshly Pressed really, in fact there is probably only really one. That is:

  • the crippling anxiety that it induces in the Freshly Pressed blogger, as she contemplates writing her next post after being Freshly Pressed.

It’s like second novel syndrome (or so I imagine, never having written or published a first novel). The stress is so immense that keeps me awake at night. Alright, not exactly awake, but I’m tipping it’s responsible for the annoying dream I had last night where I was back at high school and my purse had been stolen.

In many ways it’s quite different to writing a second novel of course. Firstly, and significantly, there is the word count. A novel may be anything from about 30,000 words and upwards (opinions seem to vary), whereas the average blog post is probably about 800 words. My own posts tend to land somewhere between those two figures, but usually closer to the 800 mark than the 30 000. (When commenting on other’s blogs, I definitely try to keep my comments to under 1000 words.)

Secondly, there is the coffee intake required to write a novel. I once tried to give up coffee, and lasted 3 years, but now I drink it on a sort-of-one-cup-every-second-day or thereabouts schedule, which clearly means I could not write a novel without making some serious lifestyle adjustments.

I only have a cup every second day because it's such a hassle having it brought in to work on a trailer

I only have a cup every second day because it’s such a hassle having it brought in to work on a trailer.

Pic: Sign Effectz, Inc

Thirdly,  a novelist contemplating her second novel has the huge pressure of worrying about what the editor will think, whether the publishers will go for it, and how it will live up to the first novel once it’s published and the eagerly awaiting public make comparisons. In contrast, my calculations on the odds of having two posts in a row published on the Freshly Pressed website came up with the answer 0.000, (or 0 for those using the imperial system) so I can rest totally assured that the post I am writing now will, with 100% guarantee, NOT be Freshly Pressed. It would be like the novelist knowing for certain that her second novel would be self-published, and posted straight to those fans that had already purchased the first one.

However of course there is the pressure of living up to the expectations of the small group of lovely new readers who, for whatever reason, (perhaps too much wine, or not enough sleep), decided to follow my blog after reading that recent post. An even smaller group still, a sub-group of those people, might actually read this next post. If they do, they may make comparisons to the previous one.

“Huh!” I imagine them thinking to themselves. “That post about cats was funnier/better written/more culturally relevant/more informative/included a lot more mentions of cats”.

I try to put this thought out of my head. After all, it’s the second time that a post I’ve written has been Freshly Pressed, so this blog does already have a little band of followers, who no doubt have already experienced the searing disappointment of reading many posts that are not as funny/informative/culturally relevant/well written/filled with socks, as the first post they read and enjoyed. Still they hang on, or don’t. There’s no way to really know whether people read your posts, just because they subscribe to your blog.

That’s where I find imaginary readers very encouraging. I like my imaginary readers because they were reading this blog before anyone else was, and although they are not as forthcoming with the “likes” and comments, they are very loyal, and always kind when I post less-than-brilliant writing, which is nearly every time I publish!

For those wondering what to expect from post-Pressed posts (pun intended), the only thing I’m certain about on this blog is that it is personal in style, so in general, when thinking of an idea for a post, I try to avoid being guided by whether a topic is popular in itself or not. You won’t find posts here about the 2014 Sochi games or Miley Cyrus. Clearly, I couldn’t have written posts for about 6 months straight back in 2011-2012, on how I was feeling after the death of my brother, if I’d allowed myself to be guided by the desire to write posts that gained lots of readers. Those posts are some of the most infrequently viewed on this blog, while people are constantly landing on my posts about yoga mats and the ears of a certain celebrity chef.

So I tossed around a few ideas for the dreaded next post – but at this point, I’ve reached the ideal length for a post, and it might be better to wind up here. In typical fashion, which shows why I am a fan of Samuel Beckett’s writing, it seems that my next post after being Freshly Pressed is a post about the factors holding me back from writing a post.

So for those readers who are new to following this blog, um…..how about those Winter Olympics, hey???*

*

*So far I have watched 1.5 minutes of the Winter Olympics, or for those of you on imperial measurements, bugger all.

Press Studded

*Press studded: (verb) (pronunciation: “press studded” ) Past tense of being “Freshly Pressed”, but only applicable if the Freshly Pressed post was about clothing. This quirky law of grammar applies even if the item of clothing in question was socks, which, so far in the history of socks, have never contained press studs.

Press Studs - so far, they've never been needed on any socks so far recorded.

Press Studs –  they’ve never been needed on any socks so far recorded.

Sorry to harp on about it,  but being Freshly Pressed a few weeks ago made me feel the need to confess some things to those generous people who “liked”,  commented and/or subscribed to my blog as a result.

Up until 3 weeks ago, I had assumed that my blog would never make the honor of being Freshly Pressed, because – well, it only seemed fair, really. Why? Well, because I don’t follow a lot of the WordPress tips for being Freshly Pressed – such as writing about a specific area of interest. I’ve written posts about unrelated topics ranging from The Beastie Boys to moustaches, to the mysteries of the universe. I didn’t make a habit of frequently commenting on other blogs in order to promote my own blog. My posts are usually way too long – just look at this one! As if all of that wasn’t bad enough, the tone of my blog went from humorous and light-hearted to sombre and heart-broken in late 2011 when I couldn’t write about anything other than the death of my little brother.

So by that time I’d pretty much accepted that the only ongoing readers I could expect to follow my blog regularly were my imaginary readers. As loyal as they were, they were unable to help to promote my blog. Thus, I fully expected NOT to be Freshly Pressed any time soon.

But having been Freshly Pressed, the cards are on the table and I’ll have to confess my worst blogging sin of all.  I’m unworthy of having lots of new (real) subscribers, because so far, I haven’t even subscribed to other blogs!

Ok, so if you didn’t close this page in disgust after reading the above line, please let me try to explain. I do read other blogs, of course. It’s other people’s blogs that inspired me to start blogging, and I’m still inspired, and often blown away, by how honest, entertaining, or insightful, some blogs are.

It’s just the whole notifications-in-your-inbox thing!  I just can’t bring myself to sign up to receive more emails on a large scale!

My personal and work email (for 2 different jobs!) inboxes are full of new emails every time I check them. I already delete a lot of the other “subscription” style emails I receive regularly, without even opening them. I can’t bear the thought of multiple notifications of multiple new posts I won’t have time to read on the spot, arriving on a daily basis.

If I could sign up to a blog, just to signal to the author that I like and read their blog, without having to receive notifications each time they post, then I would take up that option.

Perhaps I’m missing some crucial point about how to manage notifications, because I’m sure I’m no busier than most people. Some people told me they just use an email account that they never check….but that means setting up more freakin’ email accounts, and more passwords that I’ll have to write somewhere, just to ignore everything that comes into them.

I’m reaching oversaturation with online accounts – the thought of more creates anxiety!

My computer is pretty old - it's a hassle opening all these emails!

Too many emails. (Admittedly, my computer is pretty old.)

Image: http://www.toprankblog.com/

For this reason, my preferred course of action is to BOOKMARK (remember that old chestnut?) blogs I like . That way, when I have time, I can sit back with a cup of tea, or a glass of wine, and luxuriously read a few posts at a time on a given blog – a nice way to do it.

Unfortunately, though, this means that the writers of those blogs can’t count me in their subscribers, even though I do enjoy and follow their blog, even if it’s in intermittent bursts.

So I have to say how generous it seemed to me, way back in the days of  imaginary readers, when, after I did finally post a comment on a blog that I’d been following (without subscribing) for a while, the writer of that blog commented and followed my blog!

Now, I’m not generalising here, I’m referring specifically to the one total stranger who commented and followed, back then! I was thrilled, because unbeknown to her, her blog was one of the inspirations that got me started. There is a link to her blog across to the right – Fish Of Gold. Hers is a great example of a blog that is personal, has no particular theme, and is not always upbeat, nor always funny, but it contains such strong, engaging writing that readers want to come back and hear more. When starting out, that was all I knew about my own intentions – that I didn’t want to be committed to a theme or even to a particular style (eg, humorous), and it wasn’t until I found her blog I felt hopeful that it was possible for that approach to garner interest from a complete stranger.

For more than a year, my I could count my (real) subscribers on one hand, and all of those were known to me personally except for Fish Of Gold, so a big thanks to her!

Receiving so many likes, comments and subscribers after being Freshly Pressed has been humbling and eye-opening to me, as it seems generous of all of you who “liked”,  commented and followed. It has made me feel like I’m part of a blogging community. So I’m trying to be a bit less “reserved” about making comments and liking posts. I’ve been slowly trying to check out the blogs of those who commented, followed or liked a post. It’s a slow process, I’m afraid. You can see from the rate that I post (less than once a fortnight usually) that I don’t have heaps of time to spend blogging. I wish I had more! But I hope that over the holidays (15 days left to go!) I’ll post more frequently, AND catch up on reading lots of other good blogs.

But, so far, I still haven’t been brave enough to hit any subscribe buttons! So any advice as to how others manage the “email notification” problem would be gratefully accepted.

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