Monday, November 19, 2007
In my view blogs stagnate for three reasons:
1) The blogger becomes bored with it.
2) The blogger says what she came to say.
3) The blogger can't figure out how to say what needs to be said.
While number is probably the commonest reason, number three has been my reason. For a long time the next thing to talk about has been suicide. There are lots of reasons that I don't want to get into that. None of them are that it's too upsetting. I think about suicide so much and with such regularity that it's become as much of a companion to me as my depression. Both are so deeply rooted in me that I'm quite sure that I would be a radically different person if they were gone. I wouldn't know how to function.
Writing about suicide is hard because it is so incredibly self indulgent and as I've said many times I desperately want to avoid having that happen with this blog. In a recent post at Trick-cycling For Beginners the blogger really captured my feelings about this way: "Often, what comes across is a person who has allowed themselves to become defined by their illness; obsessed with it, enveloped in the sick role." This isn't how I live my life and it isn't how I want to write this blog. It would be difficult to explore suicide without seeming to wear the sick role too proudly.
Another issue with discussing suicide is that it is so desperately cliche'. I suppose that this complaint is quite similar to the one of the previous paragraph but it originates from a different muscle. Suicide is almost laughably boring as a symptom of depression. Actually all the symptoms are which is one of the reasons that the big D is so frustrating - being trapped in a set of incredibly predictable emotions and reactions and being completely unable to break loose from them. But suicide is so after-school-special.
But one of the biggest reasons that I haven't explored it yet is that there is so little to say about it. As distracting as my continuous contemplation of it is, there's really not much to explore there. I think about ways that I could do it then I think about how scared I am of it and how courageous successful committers are. And that's about it.
Perhaps this broke the log-jam. Probably not. But I'm back to focusing this blog on depression. If you're interested in my one-hour-a-day project then first I have to wonder what the hell is wrong with you and second I will direct you to Caution: Writer At Play.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
I'm writing to inform you that you've won the Best of the Web - Blog award from Psych Central, the oldest and largest mental health resource online that's been reviewing online resources since 1992.
The top ten list in depression was compiled with input from our readers, one of my associate editors, and myself. It reflects the excellence in regular writing of entries related to this mental health concern that we feel is consistent and worthy of people's time.
That's very flattering, isn't it? Of course the skeptic in me told me that it was all BS. But they published their list today and they seem to be an organization with at least a little cash behind them. This list of worthy, at least in their estimation, depression blogs was published today and I've seen a huge uptick in traffic. Besides their site, http://psychcentral.com/, I've received hits from http://foxnews.com/ and http://www.reuters.com/. It appears that they released a press release announcing their list. Presumably it is with a PR company and it probably cost them a little. So, thanks to them and especially to http://www.findingoptimism.com/ for first taking notice of me.
But this creates a dilemma for me. Do I continue my blog about depression or do I stick with the new journey that I announced yesterday? Or do I combine the two and push forward with my daily one hour rants but keep one eye on my depression during them? That last option seems very tiresome to me.
Here's the option that I'm most likely to settle on, at least at this point. I'm probably going to set up a new blog for my daily one-hour project and return this one to its original depression based content. I'm big about letting other people obligate me!
But I'm going to sleep on it. I try to do that. Even though this is a relatively minor decision in the greater scheme of things it is one that might have an much greater impact in the future so I want to give it time. I've been doing this for a long time - sleeping on it, that is. I'm very slow to make decisions anyway - tip: never go clothing shopping with me - and I find that trying to avoid making a decision on the same day that it was presented creates a lot less buyer's remorse situation in life.
Nevertheless, for now I'm plowing ahead with the one-hour project on this blog for today. So, if you care to take the journey with me I started this at 2:38p; it's now 2:56 so I have a ways to go.
Yesterday became a bit strained after around 40 minutes. I had a few things on my mind that
Wait. Before I forget, I also received this email:
I’ve been looking through your blog and thought that this might be of some interest to you. This week Beliefnet, the largest online community for spirituality and inspiration, is announcing the launch of their new social network, “Beliefnet Community.” The network is geared toward spiritual seekers and faith-based groups, and will offer resources for study, inspiration and entertainment. You might find Beyond Blue blogger, Therese Borchard’s material especially interesting.
Designed to meet the needs of both individuals and groups—including intimate, small groups as well as multi-dimensional, large organizations—Beliefnet Community will offer award-winning content and online tools allowing members to work together virtually or in real-world small groups. Assemblies of all types and sizes—from book clubs and support groups to Bible study and fan clubs—can create and customize their own websites, calendars, discussion forums and content feeds.
Everyone is very excited -- we hope you'll check out www.beliefnet.com/community
I tend to want to help out whomever wants to take the time to email me. Even on my bigger blogs I entertain whomever wishes to contact me even if it is a blatant plug like the email above appears to be. The reason is that the Internet is a wide and wild place and anyone that wants to make a go of it here has my support. I think that it's a great think that a huge, multi-national corporation has pretty much the same ability to contact and get links from blogs like the ones I run as does a small time entrepreneur.
For instance, there was a controversy in an industry I write for a couple of months ago about a big firm that introduced a new, slick website, full of flash animation and super-sexy graphics. Their publicity guy emailed a bunch of bloggers that write about the industry with an invitation to preview the new site. It gave them a special link and told them when the new site would be made available to the public. Of course the idea was to create some buzz but so what? Some purists complained that this was blatant corporatism and should not be tolerated.
But here's the great thing. A couple of months later a fellow emailed me. His email was clunky and, quite frankly, a little difficult to follow in places. He had created a device designed to help consumers deal with a particular aspect of the industry. He built a website to sell this product. He contacted me because I'm an influential writer in that industry and he a) wanted advice about his site and b) he wanted to send me his product for review on my site. I'm working on that right now.
You get my point, I'm sure. As far as Internet promotions this guy with an idea and the multinational corporation are on more or less equal ground. I know the corporation all of the advantages that come from money and lots of personnel and there's not a lot that I can do about that but within the realms that I control they are equal and I'll treat them as such.
So even though this email - the one I posted above - reads like it could or could not be a form letter it does show some attention to detail and it is somewhat relevant to my blog. Additionally, I don't think that there is a way that the send could have found my email address other than doing a human search for it. Given these things I've relatively comfortable that it's not spam in the traditional sense so I pasted it here and gave the sender the link back to her site which is the most likely intent of the message. And if I decide on returning this blog to its depressing roots then I will likely review the site here.
What was I talking about before I interrupted myself?
Oh, right, how yesterday went. Like I was saying, I had a few things on my mind at the outset of the hour that I wanted to talk about but I ran out of topics at around 40 minutes. Then it really became difficult to press on. I decided that a list would be the best thing to do. I keep a notepad nest to my keyboard - a habit I picked up in the corporate world - where I constantly jot things down. I started a list of things that occurred to me throughout the day. But I don't spend all of my day in my office and my best random ideas seem to occur to me outside of it. As they did I made a mental note which fluttered away well before I got back to my desk.
Here's my list:
What does this have to do with depression
The first item is of course about the screen and TV writer's strike that is going on right now. I don't have a lot to contribute to it but when I heard it mentioned on the news I thought that I might be able to come up with something pithy here.
The second item is a mystery to me. I remember writing it and I remember that I had something interesting to say but now I have no idea. I suppose "this" refers to the blog but I just can't remember what I wanted to say.
This is about the time that I crashed yesterday. Maybe this should be the 45 minute project instead of the hour.
The thing that's largest on my mind just now is the decision about whether I should return this blog to depression or not. I strongly inclined to do so. Like I said before I feel obligated by the actions of others - something that's been with me my whole life and may make an interesting topic here sometime - but also there might actually be some value in what I was doing.
I was very surprised at how my blog resonated with readers. I never received more than a handful of hits per day but the response rate was really high when considered as a percentage. By response I mean people that left comments or sent me private emails. When compared to my other blogs which receive a lot more traffic, the response rate was much higher.
That plus this recognition makes me think that perhaps I was contributing something to the world and I should continue.
The funny thing about this is that I will likely move my new project to a brand new blog and thus have two blogs - enough that if they were people they could conspire - cultivating "Ray," my anonymous persona. This is funny because I've been working on my real person in much the same way - carefully cultivating my image as an authority in my field.
I may have to start a split-personality blog next.
Times up and none too soon! Things were getting silly.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
So I'm changing direction. This new course will naturally touch on depression occasionally because it's incredibly narcissistic and depression is a big part of who I am. I'm going to write for one hour everyday. I'm going to write about whatever is on my mind and, in the cases where the well has begun to run dry a little, whatever I can wring out of my mind. I will write directly into the blogger window instead of writing and editing in Word. I will also not edit although I'll pay attention to blogger's. I will write for one hour then hit post and go on. Those are the rules. Simple, straight forward and hopefully I can stick to them.
I was inspired to a degree by NaNoWriMo. It's an interesting idea. I've never taken part; I'm not much of a joiner. But I admire anyone that does. That's some dedication.
Something that I don't think that I've shared heretofore as I've carefully cultivated my anonymity. I'm a writer. I'm not a great writer although I've had my successes. Life bustled me back and forth between corporations for a some years after college until I'd had enough of soulless middle managers lording over me under life-draining fluorescent lights. I quit my job two years ago and decided to give the writing thing a serious shot. I'd written a novel in my spare time over the previous years and wanted to either get it published or start work on a new one.
I wound up with a great gig that allows me to write at home and whenever I want. Between it and some freelance work I manage to pay the bills. But recently I realized that I'd completely lost sight of my original goals. All of the writing that I do now is very utilitarian. There is no art in it whatsoever. And no soul.
So I'm hoping that this daily exercise will reawaken the writer that I once was or at least what I wanted to be.
Let me say it this way. As you can see above I like to set rules for myself. One rule that I set at the beginning of this new career was that I would not write for free. I was keeping a personal blog at the time and I completely stopped posting to it. My three readers were horribly disappointed but I had made the decision that someone somewhere would eventually pay me for every word that I wrote. You see I was a professional writer now. My focus on squeezing dollars from every word and paragraph left me without an option to exercise the writing muscle. And it's beginning to weaken.
The sentiment was right and it's advice that I'd offer anyone trying to cultivate a writing career - never write for free. But this rule should be clarified - never accept writing assignments that don't pay. I doubt that most people would take it to the extreme that I did but since that possibility that there are other freaks out there like me I now add it.
I've been very lucky. The writing gig that I landed simply isn't offered to amateur writers. I've come to understand this more over the last couple of years than I did at the time. I was very happy when I got the job but now after watching better writers than I get turned down by the same organization I realize how the fates were smiling upon me when I applied. I was in the right place at the right time.
It's also a great position from which I can launch an even fuller career. I haven't done so yet partially because of this self-imposed and completely absurd handicap - never write without getting paid for it - but I'm hoping that someday I'll get over that.
I'm still going to remain anonymous. This might seem silly but I want to feel completely free to write whatever I want here. Everything that I write as me is written for on particular reader - my wife. Before I get into that let me say that my wife is a wonderful person. Every stereotype of the "Take my wife...please" image is exploded by her. She doesn't nag. She is totally supportive of me. For the particular construct of my personality there couldn't be a better compliment.
However expecting that everything I write will be read by her is occasionally oppressive to the message of the piece in front of me. It's completely an internal thing. She has never come to me and said, "What the hell is this supposed to mean!?!" then accusing me of attacking me. One reason for this is that she rarely reads what I write. She's not particularly interested in the subject that consumes my professional career and the creative writing that I did before now didn't hold much interest for her, either. I've never really understood that but that's something to explore later. Here I'm just pointing out the irony that I constantly self-edit for her and she rarely reads my stuff.
Anyway by writing anonymously here I know that she won't read it and I don't have that weight in my keyboard. But in writing in a public way I still have some responsibility to write in a comprehensible way. And I think that's what I want.
I've been writing now for 40 minutes. This is going to be hard. I should start jotting down those little thoughts that occur to me throughout the day so I have somewhere to start. I should also probably start new posts for each thought. Endless, run-on blog posts like this one will definitely turn people off. Not that the reader is the goal here. Normally she is but in this case it's all about the writer - told you it was going to be narcissistic - but in case there is someone out there interested in my nonsense I could at least create new posts to compartmentalize the whole mess for her.
Getting back to the NaNoWriMo - I'd love to give that a shot someday. It's all about getting my money in order ahead of time. We don't have a lot of money so I'm constantly chasing bills and therefore thinking about them. I'm an easily distracted writer so I know that money and bills are the mostly likely reason that I'd fail. NaNoWriMo would take some serious discipline and concentration. But the time constraints would also be so very freeing in a way. I often spend/waste a lot, and I mean a lot, of time on the editing process. Not that it's not important. If you've read this far first you deserve a medal or a cookie or something and second you can see want a mess my raw material is. There are probably tense shifts, all kinds of dangling things and, the bane of my writing, comma errors all over the place.
Commas - oh my god! I am terrible with them. I don't know why but I just can't get the rules straight in my head about commas. I have developed some defenses, though. When I'm editing and I come across a comma question I find that I can often flip the sentence or turn it into the two sentences and the problem evaporates. This is a great solution because I tend to write long sentences but short sentences 1) are easier to read and 2) are easier to sell. Go ahead, check it out. Books on the bestsellers rack have short punchy sentences. The books that aren't have longer sentences with lots of unnecessary floral arrangements.
Only five more minutes to go. I've learned a little with this first post. One, as I said above, I should break these monsters up into a bunch of smaller, subject oriented posts - see my sentence thoughts in the previous paragraph. Two, I should make sure that I've used the bathroom before launching into this. (Did I mention that one of my rules is that I won't get up for any reason before the hour's up?) Three, I need to make sure that my wife is occupied before I start. About ten minutes into it she came down and started talking to me. Nothing derails my train like that!