When is an appropriate time to call yourself a writer?

Hi, my name is Darci and I’m a ___

When someone asks what you do, what do you say? Your profession, I assume. But, what if your chosen profession doesn’t entirely encompass ALL that you do?

I love my dayjob. At this point, I am quite content in saying that it is my career. Can I be two things? Can I be a Client Service Associate for a wonderful company in the Wealth Management industry and a writer? If that is in fact, what I am; A writer. Of course! But when is it prudent to declare it?

Where does the title of writer, or blogger, or whatever you love doing come into play? Is that reserved for only when someone asks you about your hobbies?

Do you get to lay claim to the title of your choosing when you make money from it? I suspect that most people would say that seems like an appropriate time. But, if that’s the case then does the $.37 I’ve made from advertisements on this blog count? Probably not….

So where does that leave me. Little, old, self-centered me. I’m not selling anything. My following, while they are some of the most lovely people I’ve never met, is moderate, at best. I have no discernible talent or skill I can offer to anyone as a training tool. I am nothing short of me. Someone who enjoys writing, sharing stories, and of course, blogging. This is what I do, for now. And for some weird, inexplicable reason; I want people to know I do it. It gives me a sense of pride and accomplishment. And more than anything, I love it.

I know that nobody has the answers for the questions above. It is a personal decision. It’s whatever I feel comfortable with. And maybe what this all boils down to – Being uncomfortable. And I’m uncomfortable because I doubt myself. I doubt that what I do justifies me proclaiming myself to be a blogger. Or a writer, or whatever it is that I am. I have doubts in my ability. Doubt in my tenacity to do or be something better. Doubt will eat you alive if you let it. It will keep you from being who you are, or who you’re meant to become. But most importantly, it will keep you from achieving your goals. And I for one, resolve to not let that happen. So.

Hi, my name is Darci and I write a blog.

The Ebb and Flow of Blogging

I can not possibly write one more post about not knowing what to write. I can’t. I mustn’t. But the words keep coming. And this post keeps taking it’s inevitable shape.

Then comes the wishful thinking: Will this be the start of a blogging spree? Will this post send me into a frenzy of creative inspiration, the likes of which my little page has yet to see? With these questions; a glimmer of hope.

Writing to write, they say, is one of the best ways to combat the blank head space that can happen in the world of creative writing. Start with a sentence. Just one. And it will take off. That’s what they say anyway…

Creatively speaking, I’ve been riding the coattails of my last post. It was a personal one about the loss of a loved one. I posted it to my Facebook page and was shared by many who knew my step-father. It was heartfelt and honest. And well-received. That was published 29 days ago…. 29 days without post.

Normally, I’d wait for inspiration to strike. That’s my favorite way to write. Feverishly. But today, I HAD to write something. Anything will do. Do you ever have that feeling? In your writing – do you ever feel like you MUST put something down, for your own….I don’t know.. mental health? I don’t know if thats it really. I don’t know what to call it. Do you?

But I feel like something different is afoot. For the first time, maybe ever, it’s not so much about views or likes. This post is purely for the sake of doing something creative. So, I am just going to send it out into the WordPress universe. And I hope that my dear friend, the spark, finds her way home to me. Wish me luck.

By Jove, I’ve done it.

I have surpassed the 200 follower mark.

While it may not have been a particularly lofty goal, it has been one that has long eluded me. The process was slow but boys oh boys, doesn’t it feel good.

I have never been a person who sets personal goals. I have never strived for anything in particular. Any sort of feat or accomplishment. And it is truly one of my only regrets in life. I wish I had tried harder to be good at something. I wish I had made more of an effort in school, or hobbies, or sports. I wish so badly that I hadn’t given up on so so many things that didn’t come natural to me. But, c’est la vie.

So, this is it. This is what I want to be good at. Writing. Story Telling, Blogging. Creating relevant material that people enjoy. I don’t know where it will lead or what it will become. And that’s ok.

Time to move the goalposts.

Beginners Bloggers Block

Originally posted on July 17th, 2017. And as I approach the two year mark of this post, I wanted to share it again. It was, and has continued to be, my most popular. I find myself referring back to it often when I need a little motivation. And I hope it provides the same for you.

I started out strong. Just over eight months ago.  I was blogging often, having a fairly clear, concise point with each post.  The feedback I got was amazing.  People told me that what I was writing was relatable and how they looked forward to my posts. But, as the weeks went on, I found myself blogging less and less and less.  At one point going more than a month without posting a single thing.

I would still go to WordPress almost every day.  Just under the “Reader” tab.  I would scroll through my saved categories, spending a majority of my time under “Blogging”.   A common post I’d see would fall along the lines of “So, I haven’t posted in a while.” or “Things have been really hectic lately and I haven’t logged in”.  Listen, I get it. I do.  Life gets busy and things come up.  But I couldn’t help but wonder…  Were they really too busy for days, weeks, on end or maybe it’s because they didn’t have something to say? Something they were proud of, or inspired by, or excited about. And by no fault of their own necessarily.

It’s so very easy to rely on an excuse, rather than admit that you’ve maybe lost motivation.  Or perhaps, you’ve been looking for inspiration and have come up empty handed.  I find that so many of my posts have come to fruition because I was inspired by something.  Something happened or I read something.  Whatever it was, was so amazing that it just compelled me to write. To tell the WordPress world all about it.

A few weeks ago, I got the blogging itch.  The one where you need to write something down, purely for the sake of writing.  But, I didn’t know what to write about.  I needed inspiration in real bad way.  So I went over to  Dream Big, Dream Often, to see what the author had been up to. He has a fantastic blog.  Every day he publishes posts that are not only thought-provoking, but also entice engagement from a seemingly very diverse audience.  I’m pretty new to this, but even I know that is no small feat.  And as I scrolled and read, there it was. A simple blog post, about nothing really. It was maybe 3 or 4 sentances long.  In the post, he had asked a question about social media usage. I answered, and in my response, I typed the title of this post.  That’s all I needed, I had my inspiration.

When inspiration hits, there’s no other way to describe it other than a spark.  When I have an idea for a post that I’m excited about, there is nothing that will stop me from writing, editing, revising and hitting that beautiful blue “publish” button.  My eyes light up, you can see the wheels turning and from there, my fingers glide over the alphabet keys with the utmost of ease.  You never know where the spark will come from or when it will strike.  But thankfully, inevitably, it does.  Whether it’s slight or fierce, sooner or later, you’ll have a creative urge that will bring you back from that merciless thing called writers block.

What’s your inspiration? Do you have a place you go or something you read? How do you create your spark?

The End Result

What is your goal? If you allowed yourself to dream wildly, what would be the ultimate end result of your blog? When would the feeling of success creep in? With a certain number of followers? Maybe revenue from advertisment? Or even a small amount of name notarity?

I told my husband that my blog post from yesterday had done particularly well. So well in fact, that it suprassed a super duper top-secret goal I had set for myself. YOU were the reason I achieved it. So, thank you. My husband jokingly said this morning “well, now you just need to become famous and make money from it”. And it’s got me to thinkin’…..

What is my aspiration? My desired outcome?

My answer is almost too embarrassing to admit . And there are many facets to it. My husband has an entrepenureal spirit, he sees opportunity everwhere. I admire that. However, when it comes to something this personal – something that demands such vunerability; constant caution and extreme modesty seem to be the norm. Do you allow yourself to reveal your goals? To honestly state your ambitions? Yikes. Thats a risk. A gamble I dont know if I can stomach.

I worry. I’m a worrier by nature. But when it comes to this blog, as I’ve talked about many times, I worry what people think. That’s why it’s so hard to type what my wildest dream would be. What if people read it and think to themselves “That would never happen. She isn’t good enough.” Granted, I’d never know if that were to be the case. Most people are too kind to say those sorts of things. But, thats where my head goes. More than anything else, that is the biggest obsticle in my path. And I’ve done it to myself.

Goals are a moving target. Sometimes you miss your mark. But if you’re lucky, you achieve it and set another. You just need to get out of her own way to see how it plays out.

WordPress Analytics: A driving force or a moot point?

I have a hard time tearing myself away from the “stats” button. Even if I haven’t posted anything in days, I check it constantly. I’ve never thought of myself as an analytical person but all signs are pointing to the contrary.

Do you do the same? As a person with a modest following, to say the least, I can go days without a view. But I check the stats page countless times a day. I like to try and breakdown the views vs. the “likes”. If this post had 32 views and got 12 likes, then for every 2.67 people who viewed it, someone “liked” it. But then, I’ll take a step further, day by day comparing page views to number of posts in a month, and so on and so on. I think it’s close to bordering on addiction at this point.

But at the end of the day, those stats are what spurs me on. It’s what drives me to type something, edit and publish a post. We all have our own motivators, and I guess this is mine. When I started this blog I knew right away that I had fallen in love. I had never really written before. And as the days, months and years have gone on, I find myself striving for more. To have more views, likes, and followers then the day or post before. To be better, to be seen, and even liked.

I know that’s not everyone’s journey in the realm of blogging. Some use it as an outlet; not caring if a single soul reads it. Not needing it for validation or to fill up their confidence cup. I do. I do use it for that. That little push. That little ‘atta girl. And perhaps I use it too much. As a form of validation.

What is your relationship with the “stats” tab? I’m genuinely interested in how much stock you put in the analytics behind WordPress.

The Spark: A requirement to create?

When searching for advice on writing, you’ll likely come across blog post after blog post suggesting writing just to…..write. And eventually, something will come from it. Will it be good? Cohesive? Something you’re proud of? Who knows. But the act of writing is therapeutic. You feel productive. Creatively.

A little shout-out to the movie “P.S. I love you” and I guess William Blake too.

But when I want to write something. Like, really write something. It’s because of the Spark . It will, inevitably, ignite a passion and urgency that can’t compare to the ho-hum mental state of typing aimlessly. Your mind and fingers are in perfect unison. You have a purpose. A purpose to create. And what a sweet sensation that is. You can literally feel your body decompressing with every word typed.

I got the Spark today. And it was like a greeting an old friend. Warm and comfortable. Coincidentally, it also came to me because of an old friend. A friend I value greatly. As someone who likes to write, I can tell you one of the most priceless tricks, tips or tools you can have is a friend who believes in you. Someone to share ideas with and be inspired by. Inspiration is contagious. It’s a motivator and an agitator. Never to be ignored. Always acknowledged and used to its full potential. It’s the Spark.

Stephen King and I

Do you believe in signs?  That things happen for a reason?  And do you believe that every once in a while, the stars can align in such a way that the thought of it all just being a mere coincidence is more preposterous than believing that it was fate?  I do.

I’ve been writing posts for this blog for over two years.  How time flies.  I started this blog soon after a terrible accident my brother was in. One that could’ve had a much different outcome if those stars hadn’t aligned in just such a way.

On October 6th, 2016 my brother, an arborist, was working in a large field with a couple of other crew members.  His foreman had left to empty the dump truck and the other guy was operating the skidder just slightly out of eyesight due to a small hill. My brother, returning from a different task saw the chipper was loaded with brush and started it.  What he didn’t know was that the winch line hadn’t been wound back up before the brush had been set on top of it.  And when he started the machine, the line became untangled from the brush and wrapped around his legs pulling him into the mouth of the chipper.

  • First Star  – My brother was holding onto the emergency reverse lever when he started the machine.
  • Second Star – The sheer force of the line wrapping around him and pulling him was enough to break both femurs, causing extensive damage to his tissue, arteries, and nerves in both legs, just above the knee.   Somehow, not only did he not go unconscious but he managed to untangle the line, climb down from the chipper, and army crawl up the hill to flag down his co-worker on the skidder.
  • Third Star – He had spent some time in the fire service and had medical training. Even with everything going on, he remained calm. He knew that he needed to get his legs elevated so as to slow blood loss. He gave his co-worker clear direction as to what to do.  How and where to put pressure.  And he had his co-worker ask the 911 dispatcher for life-flight.
  • Fourth Star – They were working in a field in the middle of nowhere.  When the call came into the the EMS dispatch, the town paramedics were just around the corner.  They were returning from an earlier call instead of at the station 15 minutes away.
  • Fifth Star – The closest hospital was a small one in the town of Bridgeton. The ambulance had planned to meet Life Flight there.  But when they arrived, the helicopter was still about 10 minutes out. My brother needed blood badly, so they brought him inside. They knew that his injuries were more extensive than the hospital was equipped for, but something was better than nothing.  They wheeled him into a trauma bay and hauled out a special machine.  A while back they had received a grant to get it.  It was for rapid blood transfusions. My brother was the first person to use it. He received 107 units of blood that day.  And just for some perspective, the human body holds between 8-12 units or pints, of blood.  We were told that it could very well be a record.  Most blood given and survived.

As soon as he was fully conscious, people either came to check on him, or he went to meet the people who saved his life. My brother remembered bits and pieces of what happened but as we met the paramedics, firefighters, the life-flight team, the nurses, and doctors from both hospitals – each one added different pieces to puzzle.  A different star, if you will. All of the things that JJ couldn’t remember.  And everyone he met looked at him in astonishment.  Every single one made it clear that they weren’t sure how it was going to end when they left him.  And, inevitably, they all said something along the lines of: “If we hadn’t been around the corner” or “If we hadn’t have gotten that blood machine” and of course, “if you didn’t have your hand on that reverse bar”

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Just before the first anniversary of my brother’s accident I had determined that I wanted to shift the focus of my blog.  But I was worried.  I didn’t really know what I should write about, or if I should continue to write at all.  I really enjoyed it. The act of it and how I felt after each post, but I just didn’t know if what I was doing was good enough. I struggle with a lot of self-doubt.  But, I had written a post in the very beginning about how I didn’t want this blog to be something I quit. A hobby or project I give up on, like so so many that I had in the past.

I wanted to get better at writing before I threw in the towel.  And so, I googled “Best books on learning how to write”, and at the top of every list was “On Writing” by Stephen King.  I was hesitant.  I had never read one of his books.  I don’t care for the horror genre, but I downloaded the audio version and was immediately immersed.  It was witty and thoughtful.  I found myself sitting in the car for 15 minutes or more after I arrived wherever I was heading just to listen.

The book was coming to end and I had learned a lot.  But still was unsure of my blogging future.  I hadn’t posted anything in ages.  With 28 minutes left of the book, I pulled into my driveway.  And as I went to turn off the car I heard something that got my attention.  He was talking about an accident he was in. He was walking in Fryeburg, Maine and was hit by a car.  He was taken to Bridgeton hospital.  The same little hospital the ambulance had taken JJ to meet life-flight. I said “Huh”. Not too weird I guess. But he went on to say he was life-flighted to Central Maine Medical Center. I stared at the radio of my car skeptically. “So had JJ”, I thought.  And as he continued my eyes got wider and wider. When he arrived, his doctor was a man by the name of Dr. Brown.  That was my brother’s doctor. The first of many to perform surgery on JJ.  He’s had 26 in all.  And finally, Stephen King described his injuries, the accompanying surgeries and treatments during his recovery. Between the extensive fasciotomies and the external fixator used to put him back together, the same exact procedures done to my brother. It all left me shock.

Was this a sign? Stars aligning perhaps? I started to blog because of this incredible situation that happened. I needed an outlet; this was my therapy. And when I started doubting my ability and worrying what I was going to write about. When I had come to a possible impasse. I get this book as a last ditch effort to help me find a purpose for this blog and writing in general. And in the final moments of it, Stephen King himself, reiterates the very details surrounding why I started writing in the first place. It felt as if it had come full circle.

Now, I am a fatalist, for better or worse. But I do try to check in with the realist side of myself. To second guess the relevancy of the situation. But in the end, serendipity reigns. And whether this was in fact, stars aligning or if perhaps this turns out to be just a theory of convenience, we’ll never know. And I’m ok with that. So, for now, I’ll keep writing.

Taking Writing Risks

I did something a little wacky.  I submitted an article for publication in Brevity Magazine.  Now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t know what is crazier: Submitting the article or telling you about all it.  The thought of both is making me a little queasy right now.

I submitted a short, non-fiction story.  And as I think back to when I first started this blog; I would have never had the courage to do something like this.  I barely have it now.  When it comes to writing, I am still in a constant state of anxious indecisiveness with every blog post. My “revision” counter for this one has capped out at 25.  Should I hit the publish button? Could I make it better? How do I make it better? Is it good enough? Am I good enough? 

Those questions combined leads to a bigger one.  Is the potential literary reward worth the risk of putting yourself out there?  That is a big gamble.  The idea of having something published is a huge, massive thing.  I don’t care if 5 or 50000 people read the magazine. That is the reward.  But, the risk of rejection?  This soon into my writing venture?  The thought of taking a chance and ending up with a bruised ego, and one that is already a bit blemished I might add, has me reeling. And worried I may have made a mistake.

While the graphic reads “How to”, it may be better read “How to???.”  I guess first things first, I should probably start by managing my expectations.  State my goal and get myself mentally prepared for the probable repudiation.  Now you see, here I feel like I should type something like “Oh, I’m not expecting much.  Maybe just some feedback”.  In fact I did type something similar to that.  I had to delete it. It wasn’t the truth. Obviously, I’m expecting something.  I would have never wasted my time or the $3.00 it cost to submit it if I wasn’t. But then again, perhaps “expecting” is the wrong word.  I think “hopeful” is more apt in this situation.  It’s better to be hopeful than expectant in most things.  I am expecting a response.  I am hopeful that it is one of acceptance and not of rejection. That’s my goal. Yes, that’s much better.

However this pans out, I really wanted to write about it.  This blog has made me think about things in ways I haven’t before. Never in my life have I set personal goals for myself or stepped so far out of my comfort zone.  I’ve never put myself in a position for open critique. Not like this anyway. And even if no one reads these posts. I like to think that it keeps me honest.  It keeps me aspiring to do something or be something more. Take risks. I really love what this has turned into. And if that’s all this ever is, just something I enjoying doing, then that’s ok. But I really hope that I never lose the desire to try for something bigger.

Goals:

Have my non-fiction short story published on in Brevity Magazine

WordPress Goals:

367 views for month of Sept – Current Sept Views: 225

200 WordPress followers by Dec, 31st – Current WordPress followers: 127

Finding a Place and Purpose For Your Blog. And How To Succeed Once You’ve Found It.

 

One question I’ve asked myself from the very beginning is “What is this blog going to be and what am I looking to get out of it?”  There’s only so many posts you can do about not knowing what to post, am I right?  It certainly seems to be a common theme amongst new bloggers.

There must be hundreds of thousands of posts, e-books, courses and probably other super cool types of media that I’ve never even heard of out there offering tips on blogging.  “How to grow your blog”. “How to get more followers on your blog”. “How to convert views to reader engagement on your blog.” But has anyone ever noticed that these “tips” are very much geared towards people who are selling something?  An e-course, e-book, or service?  I have nothing to sell.  That’s not what I’m here for, and neither, I suspect, are a majority of bloggers.  While some of these tips can easily transcend different niches, most of those are common knowledge.  Things like “post consistently” or “use proper tags and categories.”   I have read post after post that promised to help me and my blog grow, and unfortunately, I have yet to find my golden nugget of knowledge that will transform this blog into something more.

Here’s one of my issues:  When deciding on topics to blog about.  Do you rely solely on your passions or do you find yourself leaning towards a genre you know is heavily populated with followers?  For example: Two of the most preeminent niches for blogging is fashion/beauty and travel.  Those niches are filled with amazing blogs that have some of the best content and subscriber stats in the industry.  Sadly, for my, I am neither a trend setter or a jet setter.  I’m more of a couch setter.  As in, I’m gonna set on this couch and binge watch “This is us” all weekend so as to get mentally prepared for the upcoming second season.

As I have said many times at this point, I started this blog because I needed a creative outlet.  Parts of my life were in complete chaos, and I longed for a way to free up some valuable head space that was essential in me functioning as adult human.  As the days went by, and the posts published, lo and behold, this blog achieved just that.  And as I went along, my blog took its shape.  I was finding my niche.  In time, my posts became less and less about a traumatic event that occurred to a family member and they became about different aspects of family relationships, recipes, blogging, and life.  And while I have nothing to sell, I like to think that people may enjoy reading what I write regardless.

So, here’s my plan.  You’re welcome to follow along with me if you’d like.  I make no guarantees that this will help you and your blogging endeavors but it’s good to have a plan nonetheless.

Now that you know your niche, and even if you’re not quite there yet: Figure out what do you want to get out of this blog? What is your desired outcome?

This may very well be the most important thing of all.  But, you need to be honest with yourself.  If you say something like “nothing really, I just want it to be like a diary.” Then you have your answer. However, If that were the case, than presumably you would have your posts set to private, not public…  But that’s none of my business. Moral of the story is, if you’re not honest with yourself about your goals, you’ll never reach them.  Let’s say, you’re writing just to write.  Doesn’t matter to you if anyone reads it, likes or comments on it.  That’s fine, then base your goals with that in mind. But, I’d be willing to bet that once you see those stats moving, your blogging ambitions will change.  And it’s ok if they do.  Don’t be ashamed, or afraid of saying what you really want.  Do you want to write amazing content and become the next Jenny Lawson or Arriana Huffington? Who doesn’t!?!?  While those are some super lofty goals, whose to say you can’t achieve them?

Speaking of goals… Set some!

I’ve actually been putting this into play the last couple of months.  Go to your Stats and click on insights.  Those stats are what I base my goals on.

  • For the month of August, I had 2 short term goals
    • Reach 100 WordPress followers by the end of the month . I kid you not, I achieved that at about 11pm 2 nights ago.  I have 122 followers in total.
    •  Get more than 241 views this month in order to beat last months.  I surpased that goal by 46.
  • Long Term Goals –
    • Do at least 1 blog post every week for the rest of the year.
    • So, something I really love delving into is conversion rates.  This isn’t laid out for you in stats.  It’s an equation you can do on your own if you like analytics.  If you go under your blog post tab, it will show you all of your published posts, their number of views, likes and comments.  I measure how well a post did by dividing the number of views, by the number of likes.  For example, If my latest post has been viewed by 11 people so far and it received 5 WordPress likes, I consider that to be a pretty good conversion rate.  I could go on and on about these sorts of facts and figures, but I digress.  By the end of the year, I would like my view to like conversion rate to be 50% or better.
    • Try to get a total of 200 followers between WordPress, Email subscribers, and twitter.

As of right now, that’s my plan.  What’s yours? Any tips or insight to you’d to share?