Friday, April 14, 2006

I feel the need to write something on this blog, but fear I'm stretching myself a bit thin.

Today, I added to my 365 list, made an entry on First Drafts, and wrote a bit offline. So now I feel wrung out of ideas for anything here. Thus, I'm going to do a Wenda - just start writing and see what comes out. (I rather like the verbing of Wenda. I hope she doesn't mind.) I've used this technique of hers a few times now and it works pretty well.

I'm heading into the busiest two weeks of my year and may not get much chance to blog in the next while, so I may as well sit here and write whatever comes out my fingers.

Reading other blogs is inspirational. From the mundane to the insightful, the serious to the humorous, I spend hours reading other blogs. I came across a professional (i.e. published) writer's blog site today. She mentioned something I'd heard from another writer on a different forum. She wondered if people who came across her blog would get the wrong impression of her writing (her professional writing, that is) because her blog writing is not really her best. It's unedited, has the occasional typo, and grammatical errors. She worried that people wouldn't know the difference between her blog writing and her "real" writing.

I can't be totally sure, but I think most people realize personal blogs are more free-form and stream of consciousness than something one would submit for publication. It's also a way to play around and see what works and doesn't work. The comments feature is great for that.

I know this metaphor is used to death, but sharing your writing IS a bit like putting one of your babies out on display. You hope others will like it; love it even, and you're disappointed if others don't see it in the same light.

What I've found interesting is the difference in my expectations of responses to my posts and the actual responses I get. They're often at complete odds. What I think are interesting or funny posts sometimes get only one or no comments; and the ones I think are just throw-away, off the top of my head posts, get more.

Sometimes I feel I'm just being self-indulgent. But, then I think, the people who don't like it are only a mouse-click away from leaving. At least, that's how I justify my ramblings, scribblings, rants, raves and god knows, silly Dr. Seuss poems.

Which brings me to humour. It's a strange thing. It doesn't always translate well if you're not familiar with the personality behind it. Something meant as a tongue-in-cheek can be misconstrued by people who've only known the perpetrator as a staid and serious character. I suppose it works in reverse, too. People who are always kidding can't get people to take them seriously. It's like, okay, where's the joke, I know the punchline is coming, you're not serious, right? That's why I have such respect for writers who can do humour, so that everyone gets it.

Well, it's late Friday night and I haven't come up with anything earth-shattering, but it was fun and positive just the same.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I would do it . . .

This is inspired by Cate's post at The Bean Counter and the Dr. Seuss-like comment by Andrea.

So you say you like to write
Or maybe paint or knit a kite.

If no one watched or even cared
Would you, could you even dare?

What if no one saw the kite?
What if all was done at night?

What if all was said and done
And no one knew?
Not even one.

Would you still have what it takes
To do that thing
That makes you wake?

I don't know
What you would say,
But I would do it anyway.

I would do it late at night,
Far from friends and out of sight.

I would do it in a car
Looking up at the night stars.

I would do it in a tree.
I would do it
Just for free.

Not only that,
'Cause that's too pat,

But I would do it just to see
If I could find
What makes me, me.

Sorry, Andrea, I just couldn't resist the "park, lark comment". :-D

Sunday, April 09, 2006

A languishing languorous website

Languishing, languorous (love those words so thought I'd use them) are words to describe my poor personal website - not this blog, mind you, but the site I have on Geocities.

For those of you who've joined this show in progress, I'll re-cap:

Over the years, I kept track of books I read in notebooks, spreadsheets, loose-leaf duo-tangs – anything that was handy. One day, I got the brilliant idea that I could start a little website dedicated to my reading. I'd keep track of books I'd read, maybe add comments and reviews.

In May 2000, I started my personal website, unoriginally named, Ell's Book Page - a built-from-scratch site dedicated to books and my reading. Simple enough concept. But, as it turns out, not simple at all.

First, I tried using Geocities' ready-made templates with their 'wizard'. But it kept doing weird things with the formatting. So I thought, "Aha! I need to learn some html" (so I could see what was wrong and fix the formatting). So after I learned the basics of html, I realized their wizard was really a piece of **** and proceeded to make my own template using a background from a design site.

All proceeded nicely. Then I got another brilliant idea.

Instead of just listing books and my reviews, I'd add a proper index and links to different pages. Then I decided to comment on every single book I read. Then I decided to add more commentary about, not only books, but whatever else I had rattling around in my head. Then I listed my reviews by both title and author and cross-linked them. Then, because people started emailing me and discussing books with me, I added a books links page. Then I added links to favourite authors. Then I indexed the whole shebang with tabs. I did all of this without CSS.

It's also undergone a couple of redesigns. The current one is V.3.0 (courtesy of son No. 2).

I last updated it about a year ago. (I added something to my "Ramblings" section in February this year, but only because a relative who doesn't know about my blog wanted to see my piece on bookaholics). I could have (would have) kept it up to date, but it was such an onerous job and other aspects of real life kept getting in the way.

And then, I discovered blogging. It's so much easier to just write, open up Blogger, copy, paste and publish. No worrying about updating all the pages and making sure the links work. No checking the indexes and making sure they're updated. It's been a real pleasure and relief to find a way to publish my blatherings without the technical work.

But now, my original website is gathering even more dust bunnies and I'm feeling a bit guilty for not keeping house better. It would be okay if it weren't for the fact that my stats counter still shows a good number of daily visitors.

So what am I to do? I'm torn. Should I shut it down completely, let it languish (there's that word again) and slowly fade away, or revitalize it with monthly reviews or something. I'm not keen on redesigning the thing again and I rather like the look of it – it does reflect my personality rather well.

Any and all suggestions and comments, welcome.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Father's Hands

Writing prompt from First Drafts

My father used to hold my hand.

Don't believe me? I can prove it. I have a picture. See, here. I'm wearing my red velvet, special holiday dress. I'm smiling, so is he, my right hand in his left. He's quite handsome, don't you think? I used to think I was ugly, but looking at the picture now, I can see why people said I was a cute kid.

I don't remember when it was taken. It looks like at an office Christmas party or something. See the door and window? Looks like Christmas cards on the ledge. We're all dressed up, so it must have been a special occasion. Funny, I remember the dress, but not the occasion.

It's the only one I have of me and him, at least from childhood. We didn't spend much time together back then. But maybe I'm remembering it all wrong. I didn't remember the picture-taking, did I? Maybe we did lots of things together and I just don't remember.

Anyways, I'm glad I have this picture.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Lost files

I need to get more organized, I need to get more organized – so goes my mantra.

But really, I do. Not in the general sense of housekeeping and tidying (though that needs addressing too), but specifically with my document files. Several blogs ago, I alluded to having bits and pieces of writing in various files on my hard drive. At the time, I had no idea the state of disarray, bordering on chaos, these files were in -- until I tried to find something I wanted to resurrect.

I had one of those middle-of-the-night, astoundingly, brilliant ideas to add onto one of my older pieces. I jotted it down on an index card. First thing in the morning, I eagerly went to my computer to add this particularly illuminating insight to, to, to . . . What did I name that file? Do you think I could find it? Nope. I searched in all the usual places, but no luck. Maybe it was just an imaginary file, one I thought up while brushing my teeth, but never got around to actually committing to bits and bytes.

I have a habit of opening up Word, writing a paragraph or paragraphs, page or pages, depending on mood, ideas or lack of ideas, and then saving it with a title I think will be a memory prompt for when I want to get back to it. Sometimes I'm in a hurry when I do this, so the titles are often the first thing that comes to mind. Not a good idea.

Okay, so here's my dilemma. I used to have all my writing – everything from reviews, to opinion pieces, to rants, to creative fiction, to personal journal entries, to notes and quotes in one main folder titled, "writing". Makes sense, particularly when it's just a hobby. Within that folder, I have subfolders titled, Family, 300words, L's story, Shared Writing, Rants, technical notes, and a catch-all called Old Stuff.

But then, I started to branch out a bit with my writing. I created another folder to hold my articles to a now defunct online magazine. In that folder, I also have files of works-in-progress, ideas and notes. I added yet another folder for book reviews I wrote for my personal website (now languishing in obscurity and neglect), and yet another for what I call Notes, Quotes and Lists.

And now, here's where I really got into trouble – I started blogging.

I opened another folder called Blogger, because that's what I'm using to blog. I have sub-folders for Blog-Posts and First Drafts (a group writing blog). Everything else –including ideas and works-in-progress - is just a mess of docs rattling around in the bigger folder. In just a few months, the number of my files has exploded.

Not that I'm such a prolific blogger but because, besides the bits that actually end up as blogs, I keep coming up with ideas that might be bloggable. I end up saving them in separate files that range from just a few sentences to a few paragraphs. As you might gather, these bloggable bits also fall under general writing. So where do they go? Sometimes I leave them in the Blogger folder and sometimes I put them elsewhere, like Family or Rants or . . . well, you get the idea. I'm not very consistent.

Now, it wouldn't be so bad if my memory was a fraction of what it once was. Unfortunately, all those years of effective multi-tasking don't translate to good short-term memory at my current age.

I was reading on someone else's blog – was it Wenda's(?) – where she's organized all her writing in categories. I've heard that real writers do this. Do you think if I get more organized and categorize by subject matter, I can start calling myself a writer with a bit more confidence? At least it'll sound good. Need an article about walking on the seawall? No problem, it's right here under "Outdoor Recreation". It's definitely something I should look into.

So this is where I came in. I still can't find that darn file. Guess I'll just have to open a new Word document and start from scratch.