Céad Mile Fáilte — Yes, welcome!

Although I’m a second (third?) generation Canadian, on St. Patrick’s Day I always enjoy taking advantage of my vaguely Irish roots. I haven’t been spending much time here on the blog, so no “new” post today, but if you’d like to catch up on some of my earlier Irish-hued entries, you could click back into the archives:

2009 and again in 2014 – A Green Moment in Time

2010 – Spreading the Green Around

2011 – The Luck o’ the Irish and Other Blessings

2012 – An Irish Recipe and a Blessing

2013 – Going Green?

I apparently missed posting anything last year, but there’s enough now to keep you reading for a while, if you’re so inclined. And if you needed a little Irish song (with men in kilts, no less) to set the mood, you might like this…

Go n-éiri an bóthar leat

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Spring Things – 1

 

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“This is the forest primeval.
The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,

Bearded with moss, and in garments green,
indistinct in the twilight,

Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,
Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.
Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean
Speaks, and in accents disconsolate
answers the wail of the forest.” 
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From the poem ‘Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie’ (1847),
as collected in The Poetical Works of H.W. Longfellow (1855)
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Spring Things and Other Excuses

I haven’t gone AWOL, but I admit to ignoring my blog recently. It’s one of those priority things I mentioned a couple weeks ago — I had to decide if writing posts was a bigger priority right now than family, work commitments, the mess that passes for our slowly-unwintering garden, and my ongoing novel writing. It wasn’t, so blog posts lost out.

Lilac Buds

The annual ‘March Madness’ challenge with my #wipmadness gang began on March 1st. ‘Speedbo’, a similar effort involving the Seekerville peeps, also started then. AND my garden began showing signs of spring. Next weekend Daylight Saving Time will begin, and we’ll lose an hour that I won’t be able to find again until November.

Everyday life still has its share of obstacles this month, too, so if I don’t plop new posts into this space quite as often as usual, please don’t hold it against me. In fact, you might even consider joining me in the writing frenzy. We can keep each other accountable since excuses don’t wash under scrutiny.

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Writing Time vs Online Time (It’s all about balance)

I did say this post would be coming last ‘Friday’, didn’t I? Mmm, yes. This isn’t Friday, is it? Some bloggers might be inclined to say, “Oh, well, suck it up and let’s get on with it.” Personally, I wouldn’t think that was a polite way to respond. I’m more the apologetic type. “So sorry,” I’ll say. “Unavoidable interruptions. Sincere apologies.” Now suck it up and let’s carry on.

We writers sometimes need a jolt to unsettle our complacency. In my previous post I mentioned a comment from a book I’m currently reading by Jeff Goins. I went to his website for the URL to share with you, started reading his post and that’s where I got today’s jolt.

“…what do writers do? They write. There’s nothing mystical or magical about it — you just have to show up and commit to doing the work. Place butt in chair, fingers on keys, and start typing. And this, of course, is where most writers fail. They never actually write a word. They talk about writing, think about writing, even read about writing. But they do not write.”

I think that makes last week’s post even more appropriate. Not only is our “crazy social media platform maintenance” frenzy a form of stalling, the talking, thinking and reading about writing are all equally effective deterrents to any success.

It’s decision time. Time to make strategic choices that will provide the resources we need while allowing us to spend the majority of our time pursuing our creativity. So, what will those choices look like? Take a moment to…um, I’d say smell the roses, but it’s too early for them…so maybe just admire the snowdrops (they’re everywhere in my garden right now), then grab your notebook and start planning.

Winter Snowdrops

(Winter Snowdrops – Galanthus)

  • Restrict social media networks to the few that are the most useful

We agree: we can’t do it all. Ideally, the best networks will be the ones where we encounter people of similar interests, the sites where we will find the information that is most suited to our purpose or that will reach the most people who are likely to be interested in our product or subject matter. It isn’t necessary to constantly explore cyberspace. Once we’ve found them, settle on a select few sites.

I have a group of writing friends on Facebook in addition to my family, church and purebred dog connections, so next to my blog, that’s my network of preference. I check in on Twitter occasionally, but don’t spend much time there, I recently quit Google+, and I’ve avoided Pinterest entirely because I know it’s addictive.

My list of regularly visited blogs and websites have been whittled down considerably this year to include those of a handful of friends, fellow authors, and writing mentors, the Seekerville writing community, and a couple inspirational sites. That’s not to say I don’t occasionally visit some that are on my earlier lists, or go to places like Amazon and home-decorating sites, but they are no longer places to dally on a daily basis or let eat into my writing time.

  • Allot specific amounts of time to spend online

How long do we realistically need to check and respond to e-mail, to peruse a limited number of favourite blogs or websites, to do the research for a particular writing project? Determine that ahead of time and set a timer. Knowing it’s counting down should keep us more focused on our task and less inclined to dawdle. Once our ‘social’ time is over and we move on to the day’s work, I try to resist checking in online every few minutes. If it’s a writing day I might work for an hour and then allow myself a ten minute break to check for messages, get a Coke or a coffee, and carry on. Your daily tasks will be different from mine, depending on your day job, family responsibilities, and other commitments. How much time we allot to social media is up to us but we need to be disciplined, honest and realistic about how we ration it.

  • Include opportunities to ‘give back’ to the writing community

It’s easy for writers to become immersed in our fictional worlds and believe the online hype we try to create is all about us. It’s not. We relish the support and encouragement of those we look up to, those whose efforts have brought them success, and in turn we should be ready to offer what help we can to others. Whether it’s leaving comments of encouragement, interviewing newcomers on our blogs or offering book reviews on places like Amazon and Goodreads, we can show appreciation by giving back, regardless of our level of expertise or inexperience.

  • Schedule time into the day for creative refuelling

Whatever our workday consists of, it’s important to make sure we carve out a niche for personal refreshment. (And that doesn’t mean to go blog-hopping!) Some of my favourite writing books aren’t actually on the craft itself, but on nurturing the writer within. Julia Cameron recommends artist’s dates — going for a walk, visiting an art gallery or museum, spending quiet time in an environment that is personally rejuvenating. It can be a whole afternoon, or just fifteen minutes. It doesn’t matter, as long as it’s “me time”.

That’s about it. I’m not all that proficient when it comes to how I spend my online time, but I’m trying to be intentional about it. When I succeed, I’m surprised at how much more I get done in a day.

As for those links I promised, here’s a list in random order of some of the more helpful writing sites I particularly like (no, I don’t visit them everyday, and you’d better not, either!):

Writer UnboxedWriter’s Digest, Anne R. AllenK.M. Weiland, Jessica Morrell, Chip MacGregor, Rachelle GardnerJane Friedman, The Write Life, Seekerville, The Writer’s Alley, Write to Done, Story Fix: Larry Brooks, The Kill Zone (Hey, don’t raise your eyebrows; I write cozy mysteries!), Jeff Goins, Pub Rants, Molly Greene, Kirsten Lamb, Live-Write-Thrive: CS Lakin, Jody Hedlund, Agent Query, Writer Beware, Preditors & Editors, The Passive Voice: The Lawyer Guy, American Christian Fiction Writers, The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, Writers Helping Writers, Absolute Write WaterCooler Forum, Bookends Literary Agency blogWriting World: Moira Allen (blog has concluded, but has sixteen years of archived articles). 

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The Writer and An Addiction to Social Media

GoldenEarsWriters

A comment left on my previous post reminded me why I began my venture into social media, AND why I have ever-so-slowly backed away again. Wendy Love said,

I love reading ideas that concur with my own as this one does. As a writer/blogger I keep reading that I have to spread myself all over the internet. But as someone who is challenged by bipolar disorder, I only have so much energy to go around. At one point I cut myself off of everything but now that I am back to writing online I realize I should probably be reaching out more. Can anyone suggest a select few that they would recommend?

Part of my reply: “I began blogging chiefly because I heard the same thing: that to be a successful author you need to establish a tribe…a crowd of online followers. There’s a certain benefit to being part of the social media community, but if we become obsessed with developing numbers to the detriment of our personal growth and writing time, we counteract the value.”

Also detrimental is the subtle addiction to social media. It’s too easy to get hung up on being a courteous communicator — checking online conversations and making sure we reply promptly. One week I discovered I had spent more time trying to react to comments and other people’s articles, and to provide thoughtful responses, than I did working on my own writing project.

Most of my early writing years were spent in cognito as far as any online presence was concerned. I stalked popular agents’ and editors’ blogs while reading ‘how to’ books on the craft of writing. I was in learning mode, and I stayed there until one day the urge to respond to something prodded me into visibility. (I think my first comment was on Rachelle Gardner‘s blog, and I was almost in a cold sweat as I fearfully pressed the SEND key that first time.)

At one point I had well over a hundred blogs and websites bookmarked — all interesting and useful, but, of course, I couldn’t visit each of them every day. A pattern developed, and I found a way to code my favourite, more favourite and most favourite sites. Later I joined Facebook, then also Twitter and Google+, but managed to withstand the temptation of everything else. As I mentioned last week, in conjunction with my blogging, even those few have become too time consuming.

I’ve come to believe that establishing a specific online community is desirable for gathering personal support and industry information, but trying to be present everywhere and “do it all” will eventually drain my energy and shift the focus of my writing towards maintenance rather than creativity. And before having published books to promote, the creative writing aspect is what I need to pursue.

The question of which social media sites are most useful has no single correct answer. I qualify that by adding it depends on what genre you write, how experienced you are, and what your goals are. It also depends on what ignites your passions. I’ll share some of mine in the next edition of my Musings.

I’ve been reading Jeff Goins’ YOU ARE A WRITER (SO START ACTING LIKE ONE). One of his observations struck home:

You know what most of this crazy, social media platform maintenance is? Stalling. Procrastinating the real work you need to do, which is writing. I don’t play that game anymore. I pick a few networks that work for me and I say ‘good riddance’ to the rest. If you’re going to be a real writer, you’ll have to make similar sacrifices.

I hadn’t read that when I decided to jump ship from Google+, but I think he would approve. I’ll be back here on Friday to share what social media I haven’t abandoned and which blogs and websites get the majority of my attention.

In the meantime, in Jeff’s words, “do a little purging and get to work.”

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Sleepers Begone!

 

Dogs

I bit the bullet today and deleted my Google+ account. It was a sleeper anyway — a place I rarely visited. My blog posts from here were set to automatically show up there as well as on Facebook, but when I chose where to spend my social media time, apart from here, Facebook usually won out, despite some of its features that annoy me.

Every time I checked my Gmail messages I would find some ‘interesting’ yet unknown-to-me man had added me to his Google+ circle. Today it was another military guy supposedly from Iraq. I’m supportive of our military, but don’t appreciate stalkers of any ilk.

Sleeping accounts are risky. Without monitoring, I don’t remember to change passwords, and that’s a security hazard. I don’t see inappropriate comments and spam. It truly is a situation where, excuse the cliche, one shouldn’t ‘let sleeping dogs lie’. Right! So, after considering its lack of usefulness to me, and without a twinge of guilt, I deleted the account.

I spend most of my online time here. Second on the list is Facebook, because that’s where most of my online friends hang out. A distant third is Twitter. I don’t find Twitter conversations particularly satisfying, but I do check my account regularly, albeit not often, because I believe visibility there is a useful tool for writers. But I no longer have to worry about who’s tiptoeing around me on Google+.

No more sleeping dogs! C’mon, guys! On your feet! It’s time for some activity. Let’s go for a walk.

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Where do you spend the majority of your online time? Do you ‘post and run’, or do you stick around for meaningful conversations? How useful is social media to you?

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Birds of a feather…

Chickadees! Zillions of them flit back and forth, snatching seeds and passing each other on their fly past between the feeder and nearby woods. Well, maybe not zillions, but certainly millions. Oh, okay, at least a couple dozen at a time.😉

Chickadees

It’s hard to catch good shots of chickadees because they don’t sit still for long. This one was taken on a snowy morning at our daughter’s home. I sat at the family room window with camera poised and took several shots, few of which were in focus. Not until I uploaded them to my computer did I discover that (not counting the Common Redpoll’s little butt), I’d caught two different species of them in one shot — the Black-capped (right) and the Mountain (left) Chickadee.

The Black-capped are common where I live on BC’s south coast, as are Chestnut-backed Chickadees that often travel with them, but the Mountain Chickadees are new to me. Maybe I should say I haven’t noticed any on previous visits. A white eyebrow distinguishes them from the other species, but as they dart back and forth, that minor difference isn’t easy to spot.

One thing I find interesting about the birds who visit our feeders is the variety that often arrive together, especially in the winter. Here at home the Chickadees usual travel with Juncoes, and the occasional Varied Thrush or perhaps two or three Steller’s Jays join them. At my daughter’s, the chickadees arrive with Common Redpolls and Pine Grosbeaks. First a bird or two arrives then the rest swoop in for an early morning feed, and leave for destinations unknown until it’s time to return for the next meal. They always make one last visit at dusk, stocking up extra calories for the night.

I don’t know the origin of the “birds of a feather flock together” phrase, but in the avian world it’s certainly true. Doesn’t matter their colour or size, they have feathers in common and many are happy to hang out together to share the benefits, (assuming we’re not talking about predatory kinds such as hawks).

People are a lot like that, too. We like to hang out with those who think like us, or have a love of similar activities. Even writers, who spend much of the time in solitary creating mode, like to interact occasionally with other writers. We know they understand our quirks and won’t question our eccentricities. They’re generous about sharing experiences and helpful information. And best of all, they commiserate without judgement over our query rejections and writing failures.

It should be like that for Christians, too. According to comments and articles I find on Facebook, however, not everyone has a positive experience in church. I read of discrimination, criticism and exclusion, and that boggles my mind! I haven’t observed that in the churches I’ve attended, but obviously it happens.

When it comes to sharing God’s love, we could learn a lesson from the birds! “Evangelism is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.” [D. T. Niles]

“Evangelism is not salesmanship It is not urging people, pressing them, coercing them, overwhelming them, or subduing them. Evangelism is telling a message. Evangelism is reporting good news.”  [Richard C. Halverson]

Next time I see joyous wee Chickadees flocking to the feeder, I know I’m going to remember this.

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As Sandra Heska King’s “Still Saturday” winds down and merges with Lisha Epperson’s “Give Me Grace”, I link up for today’s transitional posts…

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