blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, writing process

What can you blog about every day?

You’ll need a plan

May18 blog challenge notes
my scrappy plan for blogging in May

In May 2018 I published every day on Medium (and my personal blog 2squarewriting.) I blogged about the results here.

Then Courtney Corboy reached out to ask, how did I choose what to write about? That sparked this post.

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.
D. Eisenhower

You must have a plan

As the picture shows, the plan did not survive intact, but I won the battle. That’s the only thing that matters. What to write depends on what kind of writer you are, and what you hope to achieve. When I did the same challenge last year, I had less time and energy. Simply finishing was the aim. This year I wanted to test out different content, and see how publishing in publications changed the results. I was confident I could finish, because I’d done it before.

Bullet journals and spreadsheets are great, but they don’t work for me. And that’s okay. Messy can work too.

You may have a theme that informs your posts, for example self development or parenting or living with an illness. You can find a niche within these umbrellas; single parenting, self development for retirees, or life with anxiety. Even so, you might run out of steam. The trick here is to write what interests you, seen through the lens of your theme. How does a single parent navigate dating? What does the latest political event mean for a person with anxiety?

Seen through your eyes

Everything has been said, over and over. There is no such thing as originality. But it hasn’t been said by you, with your unique experience and perspective.Especially when first blogging, there’s a lot to be said for using other writing as your springboard.

You can only find your voice by using it, and imitation is a great start. Even Picasso began by copying the great masters such as Rafael. The more you write, the better your skills. Let your personality come through. By sharing we create connection. What we are comfortable to share will vary by subject and individual. Readers want and appreciate honesty.

Catch your ideas before they escape

Whenever you have a question or an idea, capture it. You won’t remember it in five minutes or a day’s time. Notebooks are great, and lots of writers love their physical notebook and pen. The notes function on your phone is practical, and more importantly, usually at hand. Even if it’s just a title, grab it. One day when you’re out of ideas, you can look at notes and a few words can spark a whole piece.

But — what do you actually write about?

Ah yes, the original question. Anything at all. I please myself. I don’t have a huge following to service, and I want to gather people who like what I write. I write fiction and poetry, and I write about writing, and about life in general, sometimes as it pertains to writing.

But what I write is not just about me once I hit publish. So it must fill a need for someone else; inform, entertain, or problem solve. (Fiction can do all three, but that’s a post for another time.)

See what’s trending on Medium or Quora, and write your own take on it.

Look at the blogs of writers you admire, and see how they address their niche. Notice how their personalities come through, how much personal stuff they share. Think about where you’d like to be on the open — closed spectrum.

Keep your eyes open when you’re away from the screen. Turn the irritation of sitting in traffic into your thoughts on public transport, or electric cars, or how hard it is to meditate in real life.

Challenge yourself to come up with ideas every day. It gets easier with practice, like every skill.

It does not have to be big. Haikus are just seventeen syllables long, and usually fewer words. In this case the image I choose is very important, and must convey more than the words while complementing them.

My non fiction pieces are often short, from three hundred to a thousand words. I edit ruthlessly. That’s another skill I’ve improved upon.

You can re-use old content. Rewrite if needed, update facts, and you’re good to go. And edit!

picjumbo_com via pixabay

The nitty-gritty

  • Gather your ideas together, at least 5–10 to prime the pump.
  • Decide if you will have themes for days or weeks. I found this helpful, in my case poetry on weekends and short stories etc. on weekdays.
  • Write out the days and dates in a list or chart, digital or analogue, whatever suits. If a month is too much, try two weeks.
  • Pencil in the pieces you already have, scattered through the time period.
  • Consider what you need to write to fill the gaps.
  • Write something every day. Start drafts even if you can’t immediately finish. As little as 150 words daily adds up, and that has worked for me.
  • Spend a few minutes thinking up new ideas. Write everything down without censoring.
  • Try to be at least a couple of days ahead. This might mean writing more when you have more time. A buffer is a wondrous thing.
  • But if you miss a day, don’t sweat it. It’s not life or death. Begin again the next day, catch up if you can.
  • Write it, edit, let it go. Done is better than perfect.
  • Concentrate on your goal and don’t worry (too much) about claps. You can only control what you do, not how it is received.
  • When someone takes the time to comment, respond. This is what we all want; for our words to reach someone. Start a conversation and reciprocateGive what you hope to get.
  • Creativity is a remix. Ideas come from living, reading, and often from connecting with others, just like this piece. You just have to notice them.
  • Write as though no-one will read it. In the beginning, that’s true for all of us. By the time they’re listening, you’ll have honed your craft and your voice. You’ll have something to say.

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.
Maya Angelou

blog, writing process

31 day writing challenge – the results

close up photo of may graphing paper
Photo by Bich Tran on Pexels.com

In May 2018 I took part in the Ninja Writers challenge to post every day. I wrote about what I hoped to achieve from the daily challenge here. My stated aims were

Consistency
Community
Confidence

So how did it work out?

Consistency

I posted every day, using a mixture of some old posts remastered, new posts, and serialised fiction. The remastered posts were interesting to revisit. They showed that my blogging has improved: tighter writing, using pull quotes and bold text so readers can skim quickly. I can edit faster than two years ago.

I saw that some content is evergreen. Even two years later it is still relevant, as long as it is updated where needed.

Community

The Ninja Writers daily post group on Facebook had a new lease of life, with new members and more prepared to post links. This had dwindled to nothing. Occasionally I would be the only person to post in the thread, which was not encouraging. I read more, being sure to check out writers new to me in the thread, clapping and commenting. We all love acknowledgment; I made it a point to give more. And my own FB group were wonderful cheerleaders.

Confidence

This is how my stats looked for April 2018. I posted four times (one each Friday) and had 263 followers. Views varied between 2 and 122 per day.

Screen Shot 2018-06-01 at 23.08.13

And this is how they looked for May 2018. I posted 31 times and had 310 followers, a net gain of 47 (gained 51 and lost 4.) Views varied between 23 and 110 per day.

Screen Shot 2018-06-01 at 23.07.55

Views                         +150%
Reads                         +145%
Fans                            +150%
Followers                   +18%
Number of posts       +775%

I increased visibility, partly from having more content published by publications such as The Creative Cafe, PS I love you, and The Writing Cooperative. All have large readerships.

I increased interaction by replying to or clapping on all my comments. This has led to conversations with like minded writers, and we check out each other’s work. It builds a fanbase.

I increased followers by 51, 165% of my target. And lost four along the way. But I didn’t win big with anything.

Conclusion

I met my goals, but

  • It was arduous, even with a plan and reusing old content.
  • The almost eight-fold work increase was not matched by the other metrics.
  • Short fiction was hardly read even when serialised, which was discouraging as I think this is my best work.
  • Having posted 10 new and 1 old poem, I can also call myself a poet, maybe.
  • I can’t keep up my quality and post daily.
  • I managed to let a piece go that I didn’t think was great, which was new and terrifying. On the other hand I’ve posted good pieces with less engagement.
  • I’m much better at seeing ideas for blog posts in everyday life.

The sweet spot probably lies around 2-4 posts weekly for me. I’ll try that from June onwards and hope to build on the momentum I’ve picked up. I’m still gaining followers, a few at a time.

When people post about this experiment, the numbers are always fabulously large. I guess for most of us the reality is more modest. We keep slogging away, and maybe the next post is the one that goes viral.

audio, blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, poetry

Tell me a story

book_butterflies
Alexas_Fotos via pixabay

listen: 

Tell me a story. Give me tales of a thousand nights, warm scented breeze on my skin, sand in my shoes. Take me to the farthest pole, blue-green fire dancing in the sky, breath clouding in crisp night air.

Tell me a story. Let me taste salt sea tang while sun beats down on wooden decks. Show me dolphins, flying fish, whales breaching white-topped waves. Let me glimpse bright eyed merpeople watching deep under the surface, waiting.

Tell me a story. Carry me on red and silver rockets to vast silent space stations where the stars never go out. Show me galaxies born from cosmic dust. Bring whispers from strange aliens and stranger, once-human creatures.

Tell me a story. Lead me up the mountain, rocks skittering away under exhausted feet, lungs screaming for oxygen. Describe that joyful promised land seen only from the summit, take me there on wings of faith.

Expand my horizons. Play my emotions. Cloak mindless chatter, soothe unthinking wounds, only with words. Let me shed this skin, be someone else, somewhere else, sometime else. Give me distance, just for a while. Let me lose and maybe find myself.

Tell me a story.

 

audio, blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, poetry

Consumed

book on fire_StockSnap
StockSnap via pixabay

He tasted her mind and realised he was starving – unknown

listen: 

Dancing girls twirl bright and golden, limbs lustred to slip through the hands in a whisper of scented oils. A brilliant array, spread out to tempt a prince mired in jaded expectation. Perfect sweetmeats, empty glossy promises on the lips.

Bright. Gold. Red. Gone.

She is silent, an insubstantial shadow in the light of her better favoured sisters. Eyes lowered, plain garbed, unremarkable, she vanishes behind another dream confected in jewelled feathers.

He rises, leaves the orgy of consumption behind him, seeks her in the forgotten labyrinth of the palace. His hand stays her flight. Understood.

And so to a perfumed chamber. Purple and maroon, silk and velvet, secrets and lies.

Apparently submissive, her hand slips into a pocket. But when she raises her head, fire blazes defiance from her eyes. He steps back, hand on sword.

I do not refuse my esteemed prince, asking only that I might read to him first.

She opens the small volume, gold letters glowing on its spine.

And the universe cracks open and explodes before him. Questions, answers, songs for eternal ages, ancient wisdom and otherworldly beauty. His desert heart blooms, cool rivers quench parched lips. Her voice swathes him in clouds and galaxies and everything that has not yet come to be. Time sits at her feet and listens.

The prince savours thoughts, feasts on ideas, nourishes his soul, gobbling all. The moon sets; she does not stop reading. He is drunk on limerence, enthralled by wonder.

 

He wakes alone, faint afterglow of her words in his ear. How could this lyrical banquet leave him so hollow with longing? He did not know true hunger till he tasted her mind.

He had not understood.

A lifetime might not be enough. He searches still, for his hidden spirit with the phoenix burning in her eyes and dragon flames dancing on her tongue.

blog, writing process

Everyday writers, extraordinary ideas – and me

gold nugget
PIX1861 via pixabay

Kelvin Teo curated a list of his favourite quotes from Medium in April 2018. I was honoured (and surprised) to be included, with a quote from my piece Timeworn.

It’s a great feeling to get recognition for something I wrote. I already had positive comments on Timeworn, and inclusion in this list makes me happy. Also there are new writers on his list to discover. Recommendations mean a lot in the crowded online world.

So what does this mean?

I achieved my aim, of connection through words. The highlighted phrase is not my personal favourite from that piece, but it is someone else’s. Once it’s out there, we can’t control how our words are received.

I guess the takeaway lessons are

  • write it and let it go
  • submit to publications to increase potential readership
  • celebrate successes, big and small*
  • keep writing

*I think tea and cake is called for…

blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, short story

Accidental soldier

helmet-armour_Baldr80
Baldr80 via pixabay

“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”

— GK Chesterton

 

It starts with little things. Small things that one hardly notices, a slight curl of the lip, a condescending word, interruptions borne less patiently. The fond smile becomes an irritated grimace, and before you know it a full-blown sneer. It might seem passive but it’s really not, all that hidden aggression smoothed over by an insincere smile. It usually bounces off, but it stings sometimes.

Still, it’s you and me against the world, united front, shared territory.

Next comes a subtle thickening of my skin to ward off those tiny arrows, ticks sinking little sharp mouthparts into my flesh and drinking. Absent kisses, back turned, cold disdain becomes the norm.

One sip of blood at a time adds up. I don’t feel it as much, through my sturdy hide. But I don’t feel the caresses either. Meantime the criticisms latch on, so hard to remove even with help. I don’t have the knack. I did not think to defend against an enemy within the walls.

No time to learn because bombs start to fall. Accusations and lies, silences and screams. I shout at you across a growing divide. We need to talk but here comes another missile, armed with shrapnel made of the insecurities I shared with you. I’m hit, bleeding, a serious wound but not lethal. I stretch out my hand but you’re already gone, back behind your gun emplacement. You fraternise in plain sight, covert texts and open falsehoods a carpet bomb of betrayal.

I retreat into a foxhole, lick my wounds, gasp in pain. When did it begin, this unrelenting conflict? No man’s land stretches between entrenched positions. No white flags here, just an nasty duel to the death. I want to fight for us, not against you. But you keep launching bombs.

I craft my armour and bide my time.

If I am grotesque, maddened by bloated bloodsuckers and ugly in hastily patched tin plates and makeshift helmet, know that you made this monster from a soft-bodied creature, vulnerable and foolish. That creature deserved pain for her weakness.

This soldier will not make that mistake. Our hot and fiery love burns down to cold, hard ashes. When pain forces me to dig deeper, into the molten core of my fury, I find a lava lake of rage to power my assault.

I know where you live, and all your weak spots. What we had is far behind us, forgotten ruins. What lies ahead cannot be seen through the smoke and flames of this battlefield. I care nothing for the future. There is only one mission. I will destroy you because this is war.

I will burn down the world if I must.

*******

A response to Creative Challenge 51.5; first published in The Creative Cafe on Medium, 29 November 2017

blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, poetry

sky/light/deep/dark/blue

Creative Cafe Creative Challenge #48.5

man-blue-destruction_intographics
intographics via pixabay

“Depression is being color blind and constantly told how colorful the world is.”
— Atticus, Love Her Wild

 

This is a good day.

Hardly a cloud to mar a sweep of sky blue, warm winds sigh against my skin and tug at my sails. Hardly a shadow, with the sun near its zenith. Up here in the wide above, birds call and all is bright. The sea glitters blue and silver, reflecting sunbeams. Anything is possible. Viewed through the positivity telescope, the horizon beckons.

 

Another day.

Plenty of steel blue sky, but more grey clouds now, not yet weeping fat raindrops. Time to batten the hatches and haul in my sails against gusting winds and imminent storms. Water shivers in the air, cool against skin goosebumped despite my thin coat of hope. The sun hides. It is still there, I think.

 

Days go by.

I crouch in my frail boat, tossed on angry swell, shipping cold uncaring wet. The sky touches the sea and all is grey, colour washed away. Torn clouds shed raindrops to mingle with tears on my chilly face. And when the giant wave finally snatches me into pitiless ocean, I am not surprised. It was always coming.

 

Time passes.

I drift endlessly. No map or compass, no lifebelt. Helpless to fight the long slow slide, sinking deeper into the blue, I lose the last vestiges of light. Down, and down. Eyes blinded, nothing to see. Marble skin, numb to feeling. I could shout at the void, but there will be no reply. The blue darkens still more. It is the black shadow that has chased me every day of my journey.

 

Swallowed in nothingness, I lie resigned on unyielding ocean floor, a certainty of sorts.

Help isn’t coming.


first published in The Creative Cafe on Medium, 8 November 2017