Where Have I Been?

Maybe you follow me. Maybe you don’t. If you do, you might have noticed my recent absence. What is the reason for this absence, you may or may not ask?

Long story short: life is nuts. I was going to “stick to the plan” this year. It would seem that plans are obviously for the weak. God laughs at our plans. He has better ideas for us.

We haven’t stuck to the plan. We have made a decision to stay in Florida and pursue whatever we can. This has led to mounting debt and some very tight weeks, since the “whatever we can” has been slow to materialize. Sure, I’m driving a bus full time and doing delivery on top of that, but the money sucks.

I know that this is intended to make us more trusting and reliant on the Lord. But pain and struggle is never fun to go through. Getting used to a routine of 4:30 AM wake ups and virtually no time to myself has been a big adjustment from last summer’s mountain top freedom. So has getting used to the lack of funds.

And seeing others in more difficult situations makes me feel ashamed for feeling overwhelmed. I feel like I should be able to suck it up. I guess different people handle different levels of stress. I thought my tolerance level was higher, but it seems I am wrong. However, stuff that was huge to me before is practically nothing now. It amazes me to think I got so worked up over so little not that long ago.

I can only hope that means that what I am anxious about today is going to feel very small to me in the near future. I do realize that that could be the case in two ways: either my future problems will be that much bigger (like now versus three years ago) or the problems will be resolved and I will realize how trifling they were in the scheme of things. Let’s pray it’s the latter.

One reason I have been away from here is that I started journaling. Something about handwriting out all of your feelings, fears, and doubts is cathartic. It may not be as quick as typing but you can’t beat the tactile feel of a pencil scraping across paper. I love to make marks with my hands, no matter the medium. And I love to make words. What better way to combine those loves than with a journal?

You should be glad I am writing in that book. Along with the busyness increase there has been a flare up of the old anxiety. Not the particular anxieties of money and weariness, no, the general anxiety that speaks some pretty awful things into my brain. I get those out on that paper. There was a time when I thought “hey, I’ll be real on my blog”, but those days are gone, or at least put away for a bit until I can get a lid on this nonsense.

There is a plan now, and contingencies. It’s not all bad. There is dim light at the end of the tunnel.

I just don’t know how long that tunnel will be….

Fail to Smile

Writer’s block and too busy this week. It was a strain just to get Wednesday out. You probably noticed…

So here is an ancient poem. I am not sure what I was thinking at the end. Guess I thought it was cool?

Fail To Smile

2/16/00

She has straight teeth that fail to smile,
For life is too short,
Running straight and in file.
She has eyes that fail to blink,
For what she might miss.
Her ship comes in only to sink,
And she cries little more than once a week,
At all the things she’s done.
Going back for more each night,
She cries herself to sleep.
To wake she will fight,
Her eyes hidden away from light,
Struggling for them to keep
Shut.

No words could utter as mad as her eyes,
No thoughts her pain could realize.
She lives out at sea,
Blue as the sea,
Calm as the breakers against the skies.

LoveherdearsweeteyescompleteherlifeIpray.
Ifonlyshewascontentandnotjustsatisfied.
ButwhoamItosay?
Isithearingherlipsfortheyhavesighed.
HowamItopray?

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Out of Ideas?

I was complimented the other day on my dedication and consistency in posting my blogs. Honestly it’s not easy. Especially when you write every day. You dry up and start digging for ideas.

Sure, I could write responses to every crazy person on the internet. But that gets old for both readers and me alike. We only have so many words in our life and they can’t all be spent arguing with idiots.

So what does one write about if he isn’t going to address every hot topic of the day?

Thankfully I didn’t lock myself into a niche blog when I started this whole thing. I have left everything open for discussion. I can write about politics, religion, sex, marriage, travel, life, all the hot button issues, all the boring things, and all the stuff that matters to me.

There are many people who can produce original ideas day in and day out. But even those people go through writer’s block. Perhaps that is where a niche topic comes in handy. When you have a crowd of like minded followers you can harp on the same subject day in and day out and they lap it up.

That’s easy! Those of us who write about all kinds of things have a problem of choices. When you have such a large selection of subjects it can be overwhelming. Even if you manage to select one you probably don’t have enough to make a full post of it.

Maybe this block is a perfect time to learn focus. I can hone in on one thing and exhaust it. But what one thing? What dead horse can I beat?

Maybe this is just showing me that I can’t lock myself away from the outside world for four days at a time. I am not one of those people who needs to hide up in a cabin for months to “find themself”. My mind atrophies without interaction, and not simply the interaction of a text message either. A physical human being’s presence is what really gives it life.

Now is a good time to start. I’m going to hone in and hang out this weekend.

We’ll see what turns up Monday.

Niche Markets Are Such a Bore

Because I can…

I read a post the other week which purported to tell the reader how to be a super successful blogger. I may or may not be a super successful blogger, I am not entirely positive how to judge such a thing. This person’s advice was to pick a niche and stick with it. Not a narrow niche mind you. But a niche just the same.

To me however, a niche is narrow by definition. A niche boxes you into a corner and tells you that when you just aren’t in the mood to write about the same topic “too bad, your audience wants consistency.”

Consistency is the key to success when it comes to blogging, so they say. Write every post about cooking or travel and you will get 10,000 followers. Write frou frou sentimental platitudes and people will read you every day. I agree with these assertions. I have seen them in action. The most successful bloggers are the ones who day in and day out write about the same crap ad nauseum.

Personally though, I couldn’t care less about a niche. To me, variety is the spice of life. If I bore you one day with history I may interest you the next with money making tips. One day you might snooze at my art opinions but after a few posts you might just fall in love with my frou frou sentimentality.

Why limit yourself to one topic, fellow bloggers? Why put yourself into a box of predictability? Does your niche really gain you a lot of satisfaction? Or are you writing just for the paycheck? Is writing for a paycheck allowing you to do what you love or have you given up what you love just for the paycheck?

The author made a point about goals. He said you can’t attain goals without consistency. Do you make it a goal to stay passionate about your niche? What happens when you lose that passion? Is your goal to have a million fans or is it to do what you’re passionate about? I realize those are not mutually exclusive, but I feel for some people, passion about a subject doesn’t necessarily draw a crowd. Maybe they have a waning passion, maybe the subject at hand is frankly boring.

Someone has to write the boring stuff. Someone has to write about the not-so-popular subjects. Someone has to write about history, or make suggestions about music, or long treatises about government, interspersed with sappy love stuff and poetry. We can’t all write about amazing foods we have tried in far off exotic places. Some of us just like to write randomly about whatever we want.

And some of us consider that ability to be a success.

Why Do I Write?

I wish I had a full sized Matisse… And a desk… And a quill pen….

Why write?

Why write when you are pretty sure no one is reading?

Why write when it gets stressful to keep pumping out posts?

I ask myself those questions sometimes. It can get crazy trying to manage real life and keep up with a blog (or two or three). Sometimes it’s a strain to come up with ideas about what to write. Sometimes I write a complete dud. I had a friend once who wanted to do a podcast with me, like I have time or energy for that! No, blogging is enough.

But why do I do it?

Once upon a time I wrote poetry. Loads of it. I had enough teenage angst to fuel all kinds of creative output. I was published a few times in some random youth anthologies and school lit mags. It was fun, but with age came a dwindling of talent.

In those days I even wrote songs. A few were recorded by my wife’s (then girlfriend) guitar instructor. He hated me. At least the recordings were okay.

Growing up, I was fairly political. I had tons of opinions. I made bumper stickers for my car, some of which I am now greatly ashamed of. My university had a well-read paper and I put my political thoughts and writing skills into innumerable letters to the editor. Some were published, most were not.

After college I went into a bit of a writing hibernation. I had written so many papers and reports that I was spent. It took several years before I started to write randomly again. It was mostly political, but after some prodding I started my first blog about my exploits as a homesteading parent. It was a short lived blog.

Giving up on the blog, I holed up in writing commentaries on social and political subjects. All of them were saved as Word documents, pointlessly hidden on my hard drive.

Knowing how much I enjoy writing, my wife encouraged me to start a new blog. Thus was born Drip Torch Press. It has not always been an easy thing, but I have tried to stay fairly consistent in posting at least once a week. It’s certainly helpful to have the ability to schedule posts out weeks ahead of time. If you ever notice that the posts have stopped, just know that I died weeks ago.

So why do I do it? The big reason: catharsis. As someone who struggles with anxiety it is imperative that I have an outlet for my jumbled brain. The benefit of having a place to dump my thoughts and collect them into little piles is immeasurable.

Having this project is also a perfect way to increase focus. With anxiety comes a frequently scattered brain. It is healthy to have a place that distracts the mind and focuses it on one thing at a time. Learning how to focus here translates into learning focus elsewhere.

Writing to an audience, big or small, is also an ego boost. If I didn’t have a blog my narcissistic tendencies would probably channel themselves into destructive and annoying habits. At least here the recognition is deserved, not just expected.

And last but not least (until I think of another reason) I write for money. I try to impress people into buying my photos and paintings (it hasn’t worked). I post all of these posts on Steemit, which over the course of a year and a half has allowed me to buy into the cryptocurrency markets. It’s a slow trickle, but a trickle nonetheless.

One day I will be able to buy a cup of coffee and say “I earned this from doing something I love!”

That is the goal…

Stop Fearing Your Own Voice

Kids aren’t afraid of their own voice.

I got an email the other day about writing in your own voice. We grow up being told in school how to write, and writing in your own voice is a big no no. You must write through a filter, just like good speakers talk through a filter. I can’t tell you how many “great” speakers truly grate on me with their speech patterns (Hillary Clinton and Obama both have a cadence that runs me up a wall).

It’s much the same with writers, there are some bloggers who I read once and think “never again.” Sometimes it is because they are too long winded. Sometimes it is because they are too stiff and formal, sometimes they are just trying to sound too fluffy for my tastes.

That article really got me thinking though. I filter a lot. (My 12th grade English teacher would kill me for using “a lot.”) I hold back so much out of fear. Mostly fear of the audience and what they might think, but also just fear of really being myself. (And “really”… she really hated that one.)

Whether it is writing or painting or picking a picture to post (don’t get me started on my guitar playing) I hold back. I don’t put my all into anything, I am afraid of it. I am afraid you will see me for what I am. You will see my flaws, my lack of talent, my lack of ability, or my ignorance. I fear that you will chuckle at me or walk away confused by me. I fear you will think I am a fool or a dork or any number of other pejoratives.

Perhaps I am all too aware of my flaws. Knowing them makes it all the more difficult to show my best. I am not the aloof kindergartner who actually believes his recorder playing sounds good (it never sounds good), I am a grown man who knows what he is trying for and exactly how far off the mark he is.

But just because I am not quite on the mark does not mean that I can’t show off my progress. I am getting ever closer to the mark, when I put in the effort. Whether it be in painting, in writing, in taking pictures, in playing music (that one’s in a holding pattern) or any of the dozen or so things I attempt to do in life, I am progressing.

Not sure if better…
Or just a change in style.

I need not fear my own voice or my own hand, for both are bound to improve with exercise.

And neither should you.

Quantity and Quality

Have you ever met one of those people who just seem to always churn out perfection? There are people out there who produce not just a quantity of good, but a quality good, every. single. time…

I’m not going to come on here and say that I despise those people. I honestly don’t. Different people are gifted in different ways and it does no good to begrudge them.

If I had to describe my productivity model it would probably be best described as a crap shoot. Sometimes there is quantity. Sometimes there is quality. Occasionally there are both.

When life is slow I might shoot off a few random thought posts about nothing in particular. When life is busy I might post nothing at all. Quantity lacks when there is no time to devote to quality.

I participate in a daily photo contest on my Steemit blog. Each day I have to post from two categories of subject. This is one way to keep yourself on your toes. I have to constantly search my archives for not just quantity (two a day is a lot) but quality as well.

I know people who do writing contests which are similar. I doubt that I could ever keep up! People who can are a truly special lot. More power to them.

As for me, I will just keep playing my craps. Maybe I will post a bunch. Maybe I won’t. Maybe it will be hard hitting and high quality. Maybe it won’t. You’ll just have to keep tuned in to find out.