GSME #11 :: Personal Jesus

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I should apologise for being a couple of days late with the Guide, but as history can show this as being Monday when it is in fact Wednesday, I doubt there’s too much of a fuss to be caused anyway. Health issues have inevitably derailed my progress, but they’re also a powerful means of driving social media. If you didn’t know already, drama generates interest.

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Let’s be honest here: I’d rather not have all this fuss and bother right before one of the most important periods of my life, but the Universe does like to mess with your head at the most inopportune of moments. Therefore, my views last week were exclusively driven by the fact I’ve become my own news story, like it or not. I could choose to read these figures in an number of ways, but at this point I’d just like to think that more people than normal care about my welfare, and that’s where we’ll stop. The better news, if we look at the graph on the right, is that I’m keeping close to exceeding a 2% engagement rate.

How am doing that is part of a structured change to my Tweeting habits.

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This Tweet has a picture, from my phone, of me waiting in the Hospital to see my surgeon on Monday night. If I’d have posted it *without* the picture it would have received less interest, because what the image does is make this less about having a conversation. The image, like it or not, draws you into my story. That’s why SnapChat and Instagram are as immensely useful and compulsive as they undoubtedly are as tools for generating traffic: the brain, in most cases, reacts more favourably to visual stimulus. This means that if I post something with a GIF attached, more people will read it, as is the case with a screenshot or a photograph. Once upon a time mobile download limits might restrict this as useful, but as WiFi becomes de rigeur and mobile devices become portable newspapers and magazines as well as gaming rigs… use more pictures.

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On the flip side, one well worded, concise and honest tweet is worth an entire blog post.

Picture + personal affirmation, in this case, results in a 9.3% engagement rate, if you didn’t believe me when I said that pictures sell. On the flip side however, being overly personal can turn people off. There’s the individual on my feed for instance who’s almost permanently ragging on their ex-partner for being horrible, and although there is a continued measure of sympathy for the situation, that person does go on Mute when it all gets too much. As is the case with life, balance is everything.

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Finally, you don’t need pictures, a personal dilemma or the end of the World to engage an audience. With the right words, a bit of thought and some planning, you can use Twitter to write blog posts, by ‘threading’ a series of tweets together with an appropriate picture at the top. This method of communication is proving increasingly useful for me, and I’ll be making the most of the format going forward. This week, there’s not much else to report really, and with an operation scheduled for the 16th, it will be a little quiet around these parts on Monday anyway.

Time to go practice what we’ve learnt and be ready to start again once all this drama is over.

Calling all the Heroes

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Today was fucking huge, and here’s why:

A Schedule has been Established.

I have scheduled Haiku and Micropoetry until Thursday, which is fantastic because it now grants a couple of days clear air between me and more content. I have everything ready to start introducing the strands of my Project, and the Patreon rewards… well, nobody has said anything bad. I’ll assume that if anybody complains, I’ll hear about it soon enough, but as (right now) I’m preaching to those already converted… they’re going to be happy.

I Feel less Guilty about the Gaming Site.

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Completely by accident, I’ve worked out a way to go back to seven day a week posting and to cover quiet days when there’s no Warcraft news. This also requires scheduling, but I’m already planning to start this on Thursday. It makes me happy because I’m not disappointing what remains a small yet loyal audience. This matters more than I realised, and having a means to keep my small yet dedicated audience interest remains important.

I Can Do This, People.

I don’t care that nobody ‘likes’ my poems. I just need to write them, one after the other, so that I can learn to trust my voice. I need to use different forms, be clever with construction and content, for my own happiness and nobody else’s. I don’t need the validation what I’m doing is popular or accessible. These are my words, in my own way, and if someone notices the multiple layers of subtlety? So be it.

I have taken a strong and confident first step and that is all that matters right now.

I Saw the Light

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I spend a lot of time hanging around artists. It has become something of a cause célèbre for me: however, if there was less time admiring others’ work and more time perfecting my own, shit would get done far faster. Right now, however, inspiration is lacking just about everywhere: art provides that fix, vicariously reminding that passion can be seen and felt in pixels and pen strokes. Encouraging others is, like it or not, a greater source of satisfaction than staring at my own inadequate efforts and finding the means to become better. This is, I now realise, a writing slump. Non fiction fortunately does not seem to be suffering from the same malaise, and when critical thinking is applied to the reason, an answer as to why isn’t far behind.

Fictional worlds currently are not required as ‘escape.’

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Time for some brutal honesty: those imaginary spaces were created in my youth, more often than not, to run from from the less than happy domestic situation I found myself within. Only when my kids were born did circumstances dictate that imagination could be used just as it was: the work I have stretching from 2000 until now does, in nearly all cases, exhibit the same basic qualities. There are great ideas but never the ability to complete on them because the confidence in my work simply did not exist. Last year, I found the means to move forward with the help of Ian Fleming. The temptation would have been at this point to go full on fiction projects but in my heart the words now exist in two places where before only one mattered.

I’ve really started to gain pleasure in objective writing away from fiction.

That’s why this new project was born: it allows me to effectively continue therapy for myself using the written word. Where that leaves fiction however is both nebulous and uncertain. Last night after a family row I began and subsequently made worse, I sat alone in the bedroom and grasped that sometimes, there is a reason why everything needs to happen in a certain way. My desire to write has at no point diminished, in fact it grows greater with every passing day. However, what is written has become as significant as my favourite colour or most essential piece of music for relaxation. All the fictional ideas remain part of what I am, but with the practical skills learnt through non-fiction work there is now the means to re-invent each one as something better.

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The best way I can find to describe this is what I would imagine the process an artist goes through when learning the fundamentals of their craft. Learning to ‘see’ and draw people realistically might seem a waste of time to the Anime nut, but that basic grasp of anatomy and proportion, when learnt, allows you to think outside the constraints of accepted norms. Once you learn how to do something so well it can happen in your sleep, then comes the ability to step outside the restraints set upon a mind that looks simply at one thing alone. This, it is becoming apparent, is where I am now.

There was other stuff last night that surfaced, things as yet there is discomfort thinking about or even writing down. I want to mark yesterday as a watershed, moment when the reality of what sits in my head was finally reconciled with how I act when things happen that are out of my control. Words have give the chance to explain feelings, but until there’s clarity on exactly what those are, all that remains is silence. Some days, a lot of money would be offered to find the means for every feeling and emotion not to happen simultaneously, yet that’s where I am. Once everything can be sorted, then there’ll be the means to explain, but not today.

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I still need writing as therapy, but not in the same way this journey began. As I move forward, the desires have altered, needs sublimating into something more complicated than I’d first grasped. This isn’t just about telling stories any more: I am the story.

There is a lot more here to be considered.

Introduction to Blogging

I am a noob. I’ve been writing now for 42 years, and there are still days I cannot string a coherent sentence together. Despite having an English degree, I am lost without a spell checker. However ‘good’ anyone tells you they are, we’re all noobs when it comes to words and bad days. You never stop learning how to write until you’re not writing any more… and no, I’m not going to get all maudlin on you before we’re out of the first paragraph. In the week, a very good friend of mine asked if I’d be willing to offer some advice on how I cope with three blogs on the go simultaneously, and it seems like a fairly decent shout, to be honest. There is a method to it, and I am more than capable of sharing that. Therefore, once a week on Fridays from now on (and no this doesn’t get me out of anything else, don’t worry) I will present for you How to Blog Gud, or at least what I’ve learnt having done this for nearly a decade.

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You don’t need to be fit to do this, but you will require a level of organisation that has to start with one question: what are you going to name your Blog? This might seem quite tenuous or indeed pointless when all you want to do is write, but trust me when I say to you that the name you pick has a great deal of relevance going forward. First of all, if you want to have a custom domain, a Twitter handle to advertise your efforts, or even a Facebook page with the Blog name writ large, you’re going to need to pick something that nobody else has. Ironically, naming will probably be the single most difficult part of this entire process, because it can become a reflection on what you finally evolve into as a writer. I’ve owned the laughing-geek.com domain since May 2004. I knew that was going to be my online identity well before I got around to making it into a functioning website: I’m not suggesting that level of organisation to begin with, but so you understand where I’m working from, La Geek Qui Rit matters as a ‘brand’ I can be identified with.

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Before next week, therefore, I’d like you to think about not just what you’d like to call yourself, but what you’re going to be writing about. As has previously been established, I run three blogs because, as things stand, there is a need to separate the distinct subject matters I write about. This is my Writing Place, and the Warcraft Blog… well that’s pretty self explanatory. It might therefore seem odd to have La Geek Qui Rit existing at all but as I discovered, it is useful as a place that runs alongside the two, that binds and effectively ties all three together. People like things to be distinct and separate when it comes to blogging, far more so than is accommodated on Social media, which thrives far more on the random and unpredictable. Some of my friends don’t even know the Warcraft blog exists, others have only ever seen my Writing… and the ‘personal’ blog is becoming slowly more popular than both. With these different places, I can grow and evolve as an author.

If blogging will be a serious or long term concern for you, then it will need to reflect the diversity of your interests, or the specific nature of your desires. You will need to decide what you want to do with it, and how long you think it will last. The name really does matter, more than perhaps anything else you’ll decide before we go forward, as will exactly what it is you want to write about. I strongly suggest that you spend an hour in a quiet moment with a favourite beverage of choice and think really hard about what it is you want to achieve, and list at least 10 ‘general’ subject areas you could cover on any given day. If all of those are gaming-related? You’re a gaming blogger. If you’re covering a far wider range of subjects? The you don’t want a name that just sells you playing.

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After that? Well, it’s about an hour’s work and you can be blogging almost immediately. All the hard work is in this first step, and if you’re reading this and are not sure how to proceed, I AM HERE TO HELP 😀 I’ve helped name countless Blogs over the years, and my names have in some cases long outlasted the friendships that encouraged people to write in the first place. If you are stuck for a name, I’ll be happy to brainstorm with you, just come find me @AlternativeChat on Twitter. I love helping people take this important first step, and it cements my commitment to help people start writing and communicating their ideas to a wider audience. Plus, any opportunity to get people writing is okay in my book.

Without further ado: what are you going to call yourself and why?

Moving On Up

Three posts a week still isn’t happening, but the last seven days has been an important step forward. Adapting my brain to this more structured way of working is far tougher than I’d anticipated. I’m also very good at not doing things that need doing. That pile of paper over there, that I’ve been trying to sort and shred for a month now, is just getting larger and it has become a metaphor for shuffling old and new together. Having taken on the decision to remove items from the house every day for a month, I made myself drive to a recycling spot yesterday to prove I can make good on promises. Tomorrow, that pile will be dealt with and vanish. Tonight, I’m not skipping a Gym session but going late.

Promises made are going to be kept, and that means it is time to decide what I can do in writing terms and what will be put aside.

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I want to finish all twelve of these, and I have outlines for several already planned. The initial idea was once a week, and this is still doable. Therefore, starting next Friday (10th) I’ll start with Sellers and then cover everyone else in no particular order. This gives me a regular weekly third post for the next two and a bit months, and hopefully time to sort my fiction projects. These are a bit of a mess at present: not because of lack of time, but a basic inability to organise the ideas needed to move forward. That requires a fairly herculean effort to unscramble, but I have provisioned for that moving forward. What is needed at this point is a better set of objectives than previously existed, and that’s why I can now plan and commit with impunity.

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There’s also at least five short stories in various states of completion in this series as well. As confidence continues to rise, you can expect to see these as well, plus I suspect the story already up will have a tidy up.

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I’m spending quite a bit of time thinking I should write more about how mental issues affect the work I do (or mostly, the stuff I don’t) I am considering another ‘series’ under this umbrella, especially in light of how exercise and organisation are allowing me to be more focused. This one is still in planning, so I’ll be back with you on details.


That’s the major stuff to deal with, and once that’s moving forward, I’ll look at the other stuff on the table. I’ve also factored in a couple of Back End days starting next week, where I finally address the issues behind layouts and content that never made the switch from Blogger. There’s still a bit of it to finish but when it is done I hope to be more completely organised than I ever have been before. If I can accomplish these simple tasks, I have decided, then I truly will be capable of anything.

Okay, less chatting, and down to work.

All You’ve Ever Wanted

Those of you paying attention will have noticed this site is now a wee bit more active than it has been: the plan, long term is to hack the place up to three posts a week. That means the news post that should be here now will only appear when I have stuff worthy of mention: this week all my top news gubbins has gone to the Personal site. I suspect that’s the way this might go for the first few weeks anyway, and assuming that’s the case I’ll try and find a moment on Saturdays to make sure the 3 posts a week regime is maintained. I had planned a launch for the new writing project on Wednesday, but last week summat had to give. Readjusting to this new schedule is proving to be far tougher on my mind than I’d previously considered.

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My grail, I realised a while back, isn’t just getting a novel published, but the systematic improvement of writing skills across the board. That means learning better to write to deadlines, reacting to news, and most importantly of all processing complex data. It is improving: more time to react and think has already provided dividends, a shifting of priorities means that I now have the opportunity to plan ahead for the first time, but that is going to take organisation that does not as yet exist. However, the foundations have been laid, and now there is time to look forward and plan the journey, which means I’m aiming next week to assign days to certain tasks. It will start with simply getting a week’s worth of posting outlined on Monday, and then taking Tuesday to be a day of filling in details. Hopefully that will then reap dividends as the week goes on.

Most significantly of all this should afford more time overall for novel catch-up, editing and further fiction projects going forward.

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The biggest enemy by far in my journey is procrastination: I’m terrible at motivating myself, and a bout of mild depression this week has only made things worse. Sure, I can exercise and run myself out of the blues with treadmill and weight loss as distraction, but this is only going to work if I make the journey attractive to begin with. I think, with the subjects I’ve chosen to cover, I have a lot of potential on offer: what it means tomorrow is a day learning Twitter jargon, researching Warcraft news and getting two planners full of potential subject matter going forward. I’ve gotten into the habit of writing my long-form piece for MMO Games the day before, and if I can do that with one part of my life, the rest of it is eminently doable.

I hope you’ll consider joining me on the next stage of my journey.

The Best Kept Secret

These are the dark days for a Depressive’s soul, the long, grey bleh that extends and contracts around freezing temperatures and half-hearted attempts to snow. In the midst of all this, I had a fight with my son, and in one of those moments of stupidity that often happen when you’re a parent, I said with 100% confidence ‘If you do this, I will never get angry ever again.‘ He laughed at me, and suddenly I realised that this is all I’ve been since June, at least when it comes to the moments I’m down and the world exposes my frailties. For all that encouragement and positivism that I spout elsewhere, I am still unbelievably angry at so many things.

Now in the darkness of Winter days where there’s nothing but the next grey morning to look forward to, that’s beginning to interfere with my ability to adequately function as a human being, and I need to find a way to fix it. The question now becomes how I do this and find a way to write creatively again, because I’ve been trying for weeks and nothing has happened. Yeah, I can produce words on a daily basis as the need arises, but my imagination seems to be broken. There’s not even anything forthcoming on the Treadmill either, instead I’m listening to old playlists and happy to lose myself in narratives past.

I know what I need to do, I just can’t find a way to make it happen.

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The thing is, of course, I say I don’t care but I do now more than I have at any point in the past. I don’t want to disconnect with this new reality either, I have to know what’s going on around me as a matter of some significance, to understand what the World actually means now rather than losing myself inside largely irrelevant ‘alternate’ realities. Plus I get really very cross at people who don’t seem to grasp how the Planet is potentially going to shit because they’re still largely obsessed with their own petty battles or bugbears. Somewhere, I am now grasping, a quantum shift took place in my psyche. I’ve not felt this depressed for quite some time, and amazingly it’s nothing to do with all the pointless, irrelevant issues that previously caused me to become unhappy.

This is the stuff that I can do nothing about and which is out of my hands: global warming, injustice, racial intolerance and general mindless stupidity. Of course, I can in my own way try and fight all these things, and I am making significant inroads into changing the world around me. I’m also becoming incredibly good at stopping other people’s attempts to mislabel me, or try and draw me into arguments I never started. I am developing communication skills that I never had a year ago, and I am very pleased at my ability now to simply shake my head, get up and walk away from a screen and not come back until I know I can be an adult. However, when the environment turns against me as it did yesterday and I have nowhere else to go?

Today made me realise there is an awful lot of work still needing to be done.

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The key, it now appears to me, is prioritising the significance of what I can change and what needs to be ignored in my Brain. It also involves eliminating a number of sources of stress from the equation and, I suspect, prioritisation of what is important on a day to day basis. I’m getting very good at scheduling, and this needs to be expanded with the short form tasks, and maybe I can go so far as starting to write stuff for the next day the night before. Honestly, it doesn’t matter when a lot of my daily output gets written, just that I keep myself at at pace that means the process of writing is having a positive effect. Then I need to schedule time to write fiction and make it happen, even if I am writing crap. That’s the plan starting on Monday, the hope being this will kick start the way forward.

It also occurs to me that I could do some investigation over why everything is making me so cross, and that this in turn might help me identify means by which I can start enjoying myself again. I hear the Internet is an excellent place to do such research. That’s tonight’s bedtime reading, and before then I’m going to attempt to lose myself in online gaming and making little pixels do stuff that I may not totally enjoy right now, but which certainly counts as relaxation. For the first time in many years, it’s not the gaming that causes the stresses, but everything that isn’t. That’s another realisation that just pushes me to go fix the problem before the grey malaise takes over everything and I end up going backwards with food and exercise. There were hints of this today, and I can’t let it happen.

I’ve come too far now to be poleaxed by my own psyche.