Blogging 101, Day’s Twenty-Two and Twenty-Three: Blog Events and Social Calls

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I’m combining days twenty-two and twenty-three of the challenge because they are closely related and because – due to timing and other projects taking precedence – I’m not actually going to do them. But you should! It’s important! Don’t follow my poor example!

Day twenty-two’s assignment is to pick a blogging event from the Blog Event Listings to try for some instant community.

Day twenty-three’s assignment is to visit five other participants in the blogging event you chose yesterday. Leave at least two comments.

It can’t be said often enough: community is key. And blogging events (such as blog hops, or even this challenge) are an excellent way of taking part in that community. Not only do events give you ideas for things to post about, but they help you to link up with like-minded people, direct traffic toward your blog, and hopefully have a lot of fun in the process. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and get involved!

Blogging 101, Day Seventeen: Increasing Your Commenting Confidence

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What do bloggers crave? Recognition. Bloggers want to know that someone is reading what they’re writing.

What is the best way to show bloggers that you’re reading what they’re writing? Engage. Comment.

If you’re a public blogger, chances are that one of the best parts of blogging for you is when that little notification pops up to let you know that someone has commented on one of your posts. What can be better than knowing that someone has read your post and decided that they just had to say something about it? Consequently, what better way to show your appreciation for your fellow bloggers (and help lead potential readers back to your own blog in the process)?

For beginner bloggers commenting on other peoples’ blogs can feel a little intimidating, and that’s why day seventeen’s assignment is to read six posts written in response to yesterday’s prompt, and leave comments on at least two of them.

I’ve previously mentioned that The Daily Post does daily prompts to keep us writing. The idea behind this assignment is to participate in one of those daily prompts, and then comment on the posts written by other bloggers for that particular prompt. The reason Michelle W. suggests commenting practice in this manner is because it is much easier to comment on a shared experience, and it helps exercise your brain to see how differently other people react to the same topic.

Another excellent way to “increase your commenting confidence” is to participate in blog hops. I’ve never commented so much (or received so many comments) as when I participated in the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Again we see a shared experience bringing people together, starting conversations and eliciting friendships.

So what I’m saying is to get out there, meet people who have similar interests, and start some conversations. Chances are, other bloggers and readers will turn around and do the same thing for you, and boom…community. 🙂

Blogging 101, Day Fourteen: Deeper Into the Bloggosphere

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It may seem as though this has been brought up about a hundred times already, but community is an enormous part of blogging, as is interacting with other blogs/bloggers. We’ve previously explored this via following other blogs, commenting on posts that interest us, and exploring topics. Today we’re going to drive this concept even further home by completing the day fourteen assignment: spend some time reading through the topics you follow, and follow five more blogs and/or topics that intrigue you as you read.

The point, of course, is to build your community and (hopefully) your readership by putting yourself out there and interacting with the “bloggosphere”.

For example, when I discovered and became interested in Nerd Block, I searched for it as a topic on WordPress. I read a bunch of reviews, watched a bunch of unboxing videos, and subsequently ended up following some new blogs as a result. Consequently, some of those nerdy bloggers checked out my blog, saw that I’m a nerd too, and decided to follow me as well.

Look, there’s only so much time that a person can devote to reading blogs and interacting with complete strangers, especially if blogging is not your job (which it likely isn’t). That said, a little bit of effort can go a long way, and in this case interacting with fellow bloggers is like networking with prospective employers – it makes you stand out amongst the sea of possible candidates.

So get out there! Socialize! And don’t come back until you do!

(I’m kidding. Please come back immediately!)

Blogging 101, Day Twelve: Be Inspired By the Community

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Day eleven of Blogging 101 was about being a good neighbor, visiting other blogs, and commenting on the stuff you find interesting. Day twelve takes that concept a bit further by challenging us to build upon one of those comments. Day twelve’s assignment is to write a post that builds on one of the comments you left yesterday. Also, Don’t forget to link to the other blog!

The reasons for this assignment are triplicate. For one thing, if the post that you commented on was worth commenting on then it’s probably worth talking about in more detail on your own blog. Additionally, building upon a post written by someone else allows you to expand your own ideas. Finally, responding to other blogger’s posts, interacting with each other and sharing information conversationally, is a big part of the blogging community and helps you to be tracked down by new readers.

Now, please keep in mind that I’m writing this post a couple of weeks in advance, so the post that I commented on – and am now replying to via this post – is a couple of weeks old. Regardless, I encourage you to take a look at writermummy‘s post, and then check out what she’s written recently, because she’s one of my favorite down-to-earth, real-feeling bloggers. 🙂

The comment that I’m building up was written on a post entitled, Stepping Back From the Brink. In the post writermummy talks about how she has a hard time dealing in extremes when it comes to her mood…either “the world is coming to an end or it’s fantastic”. I commented on the post to let her know that I often feel the same, and so I’m going to elaborate on that today.

Basically, like writermummy, I often feel that my mood goes to complete extremes and that there is very rarely any middle ground. I’m not necessarily talking about mood swings happening within moments of one another, but when I’m up I’m really up, and when I’m down I’m really down. There are days when I’ll be super-motivated, energetic, and just happy in general; I’m ready to face the world and get everything done. Then other days there’s just no making me happy; I’m tired and lethargic, depressed and moody, quick to anger and a complete dip. This trend really shows itself in my writing. One day I think I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread, and the next I want to delete or burn every word I’ve ever written and just pretend like this writing thing never happened. These extreme feelings also tend to show themselves while I’m working out West. Usually on the first few days of work I’m feeling pretty good, energetic, like I’m a model employee and everything is good and happy. The very end of my shift is generally pretty similar because I’m happy and excited to be going home soon. But the middle of my shift almost always sees me as a miserable mess. I hate my job, I hate the camp, I hate how tired and lazy I’m feeling, and I just want to curl up in bed and pretend like I came down with something horrible so that everyone will leave me alone.

The thing is, as writermummy explains, that when I come out of the “down” funks, it’s almost always with the feeling that I’ve been a complete and utter twit. When I’m down I feel like the world is a horrible place, and when I get back up again I look back at my “down” self and think, “Dammit, what the hell is wrong with you, you dumb-ass? Just lighten up!”

It’s not a great feeling either way, but it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who gets this way, and it’s important for people with these kinds of problems to support each other. Thus, the blogging community. You see? It’s all coming together. 🙂

Blogging 101, Day Eleven: Be a Good Neighbor

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I’ve mentioned it several times before, but networking is a huge, huge part of successful blogging. It took me a while to figure that one out – as I’m sure it does for many newbie bloggers – because when we first start blogging we don’t think that there is anything more to it than writing. We imagine that we’ll write these amazing, thought-provoking posts, and people will just appear out of the woodwork to read and comment and praise how wonderful we are. But it doesn’t happen like that because, honestly, how do we expect people to find us? Michelle W. knows this as well, and that’s why day eleven’s assignment is to leave comments on at least four blogs that you’ve never commented on before.

Don’t quote me on this, but I’d be willing to bet that the majority of people who read blogs are people who have their own blogs. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Think about it: Facebook users are much more likely to come across your Facebook Fan Page than people who don’t use Facebook. Similarly, people who are already hanging out on WordPress/Blogger/etc because that’s where their blog is are more likely to read your blog. That’s why you want to engage. Make friends with bloggers who have similar interests as you have. Participate in blog hops, contests, challenges, and prompts. Become a part of the community. And be sure to comment on blog posts that you enjoy, because how can you expect people to do the same for you if you’re not willing to put in at least that much effort?

When I first started this blog I was the typical newbie. I was just writing posts and wondering why no one was reading them. The better part of the first year of my blog’s life was pretty much a waste, as far as building a readership because I was doing nothing to entice people to my blog. It wasn’t until I started interacting with the blogging community that things began to take off for me. Bloggers whose posts I commented on dropped by to see if they were interested in what I had to say. I took part in challenges and prompts and people found me through those. A few bloggers who liked me a lot shared my stuff on their websites and/or linked to me so that their readers might find their way to my blog. My blog is not an enormous success by any stretch of the imagination, but my readership has quadrupled since this time last year, and I’ve got a hell of a lot more followers than I once had. And it’s all because of networking, or in other words, “being a good neighbor”.

I’m writing this post and scheduling it in advance, but rest assured that I have commented on many new blogs this day and will comment on many more in the future. After all, we want to keep the neighborhood friendly, am I right?

A Thief By Any Other Name…is Still a JERK!

For a number of reasons the internet is a wonderful tool for the use of artists of every kind. It allows us to network with our peers and our fans, to take the reins on our own marketing and distribution, to do various kinds of research, and a world of other useful things. It makes our lives and platforms easier to handle and, if we so choose, allows us to share ourselves and our work with the world on a scale of our own choosing.

But there are also pitfalls. One such pitfall that never ceases to destroy my trust in people is plagiarism.

Plagiarism is something I never honestly thought that I would have to worry about. When I was still in school the only kind of plagiarism you ever heard about was kids copying each others’ work or copying entire sections of their essays out of library books. Even as I moved on to the college world the most you really came across was when truly stupid students would copy sections of Wikipedia pages without realizing that Wikipedia is created by volunteer input and is therefore not necessarily correct in any way, shape, or form.

These days, however, I can give you a list of pieces that I have seen plagiarized on the internet. I have several artist friends who have found their drawings/paintings/etc posted on other peoples’ websites with no credit given to the original creator. I know a number of writers who only found out through the help of their readers that other people were snatching their work from sites like FanFiction.net and FictionPress.com and posting it on their own websites with their own names attached. I even know a few people who write for professional websites who have found their articles copy-and-pasted onto other people’s sites with the impression that it belonged to the thief. And just recently my father, who loves photography and regularly posts his photos on Facebook, was informed by a friend that other photographers were ganking his pictures and claiming them as their own. In most of these cases the original creators had no intention of making money from their work, which is why they were sharing it freely, but that does not give other people the right to steal that work and turn around and use it for their own purpose.

Maybe we should just all start attaching these to everything we do.
Maybe we should just all start attaching these to everything we do.

Some people may say that if the thief isn’t making any money off the stolen work, then what should it matter? And I’m here to tell you that it matters a lot. For one thing, if two people are claiming ownership of the same work, how do the fans know who to trust? If, for instance, someone stole one of my stories and posted it on their own site, how many readers might read it on that site first, and therefore assume that I am the thief? Now my name has been besmirched even though I am the victim. For another thing, you have to think about things like exposure and building a portfolio. Take my father for this example. He currently has no intentions of making any money from his hobby, but someday he might, and all the photos that he’s been taking and sharing with the world will be part of his portfolio. But if other people have been taking his photos and claiming them as their own, they will have been spending all this time building up their own portfolios with those stolen photos. They’ve been gaining all the ill-gotten exposure while my father has been simply enjoying his hobby, and if his intentions do change, he’ll be basically starting over from scratch because he’ll have no way to prove that those photos were truly his all along.

There are certain things that an artist can do to protect their work, such as watermarking photos and emailing manuscripts to yourself (so that the email server has a time stamp of how long that particular file has been in your possession), but action rarely stops plagiarizers. The internet is an enormous virtual Universe that is unfortunately filled with quite a large number of jerks, and in the many examples of plagiarism that I’ve seen, the only reason the victims even found out about their work being stolen was because fans found out and informed them of the outrage.

So with that said, I offer a suggestion to the masses: keep an eye out for one another. To my knowledge no work of mine has ever been plagiarized, but for all I know there could be a dozen other blogs out there posting my Final Fantasy novelization and claiming it as their own, and I would definitely want to be informed if someone happened to wander across such a thievery. I’m sure any one of you would want the same. So keep your eyes open, friends and fellow artists. We are a community and we have to have each others’ backs on this one. Don’t let the thieves win!

Distractions are…um…hold that thought for just one second…

This past weekend my husband and I celebrated the dual joys of our 4th wedding anniversary, and the marriage of two friends of ours. We enjoyed a beautiful ceremony in the lovely community of Cheticamp, whilst also spending time with another married couple who we hadn’t seen in a long time, and marked the whole thing off by staying at a sweet little chalet along the coast. It was all quite lovely.

Because it was our anniversary, we were inevitably asked what we got each other, and my husband got to tell our companions that he bought me a Playstation Vita.

For our wedding anniversary.

Because I asked for it.

Hey, if you’ve been reading this blog for a while and haven’t yet figured out that I’m a total and utter dork…now you know.

Hubby bought me a Wi-Fi version Vita with a 32 GB memory card, connected it to his Playstation Network account, and downloaded a bunch of free games for me (Sony, don’t ever change your Playstation Plus system…you’re definitely doing it right), plus he picked up Rayman Origins at Walmart. Since last week I’ve been glued to this little handheld joy-box. The Vita definitely has it’s flaws, as any gaming system tends to, but I’m absolutely loving it.

And that’s a bad thing.

Okay, it’s a good thing because it was a present and I wanted it, so obviously one would hope that I enjoy playing with it. But it’s a bad thing because it is a positive time vampire. This morning I got up at about 8:30 am and started playing it. Other than to put it aside long enough to get breakfast for the baby, a coffee for the hubby, and to dance with the baby when she suddenly decided I had to dance with her, I didn’t put the Vita down until 1:00 pm. I got a dozen or so Rayman trophies, and that is all I accomplished all morning.

This is the face of my procrastination.

I didn’t write, I didn’t edit. I definitely didn’t exercise. I didn’t do any laundry or dishes, and I didn’t start tidying up the guest room (which I have to do because we have two days worth of guests coming next weekend). I didn’t even really get dressed. I put on a pair of jeans long enough to run out to the car for something, but I couldn’t be bothered to throw a bra on under my shirt, and I still haven’t as I’m typing this. The baby is still wearing her pajamas. I only just took something out of the deep freeze for supper, and I haven’t established what I’m going to do with it yet. The kitty litter is full and the cats’ streaming water dish has been broken for several days. There are a ton of leftovers in the fridge that have gone bad and I haven’t thrown them out. There are about ten boxes of old baby clothes in the hallway that I’ve been meaning to go through so I can send some stuff to consignment.

But instead of dealing with any of these things that need dealing with, I played my new Playstation Vita for four and a half hours straight. And if I’m totally honest? The only reason I actually stopped playing is because I realized that battery was dying. Yes, the only thing that dragged me away from my gaming is the fact that battery scientists (that’s a thing, right?) haven’t figured out how to make mobile batteries last longer yet.

Distractions are a terrible thing when you’re in a position that requires you to be self-motivated. Currently I am not employed; I’m working on my writing, but I’m not in a position where I am getting paid or compensated in any way. That means that every morning when I get up I have to look at myself in the mirror and tell myself, “Okay. You are going to get some damn work done today!” And then I have to try to follow through with it. I have to pick my own self up, with no hope of any kind of payment of any form, and I have to force myself to sit down and write. That in and of itself wouldn’t be too bad, except for the fact that while I’m trying to force myself to write I also have to deal with a child who thinks I should wear little pink play glasses all day, and a household worth of chores and errands that never seem to slack off in any sense of the word.

Distractions are terrible and they must be eliminated. They must be stricken from the lifestyle. It is the only way. Only when distractions have been completely removed will one be able to go on with one’s day productively and efficiently.

Unfortunately, I’m way too distracted by my shiny new Vita to get on with eliminating my distractions right now, so if you don’t mind…

This is the face of my procrastination.
WHY DO YOU MOCK ME SO?!

WANA!

This past weekend we had our niece come up to our house for a sleepover. Between having two rugrats under 4 years old in the house for about 36 hours, plus the fact that I haven’t had a lot of time this week to plan blog posts ahead of time, I have nothing mind-blowing for you today.

But since I hate missing a day, I decided to do a quick post about WANA.

What is WANA? WANA came about because of Kristen Lamb, who wrote a book for writers called “We Are Not Alone“. (WANA, get it?) The book is about the community aspect of being a writer, building an author platform, using social media to your advantage, and so on.

From Kristen’s book came an online community, WANA International. Amongst other things the website hosts a place where writers can gather and have serious (or not so serious) discussions with each other, look for help, and just build a circle of friends and confidants. Plus, there are constantly online courses and webcasts going on by experienced authors who want to help out those of us who still don’t know what we’re doing.

If you’re a writer who needs the soft, snugly, warm feeling that comes only from having like-minded people around you, it would be worth your while to check out the book and the site. Go! Go now!

Camping while there’s still snow on the ground…yikes!

This special weekend edition post of No Page Left Blank is brought to you by Camp NaNoWriMo, in which I will be participating for the first time this year.

I’ve mentioned National Novel Writing Month before; for those who have never heard, it’s a challenge to all writers across the globe to write a 50,000 word novel entirely within the month of November. The challenge is run by a group of wonderful peoplel at the Office of Light and Letters, and participating (which is free!) grants you access to a community full of writers of all ages, enthnicities, religious groups, skill levels, and whatever other group designations you can think of. It’s a wonderful challenge that has really helped thousands upon thousands of people to finally get that novel out of their head and down on paper (or computer screen). The community aspect is so supportive and helpful, and there are lots of fun little distractions on the website as well. There are even in-real-life meetings organized by Municiple Liasons (or whoever takes up the task) where writers can meet each other and have write-in events. All in all, it’s just a great and fun event that I’ve participated in several years in a row now.

Camp NaNoWriMo is a similar event that is also hosted by the Office of Letters and Light twice a year. It’s like NaNoWriMo, but a little less structured, a little more freebase, and a little more casual. This year they’ve pleased many people by making the word count goal variable. If you want to participate but don’t think you have a chance of hitting a goal of 50,000, you can tailor your goal to suit yourself. If you think you’re a superstar and you can double, triple, or quadruple that goal, then that’s what you can do!

I’ve chosen to participate in Camp NaNoWriMo this year because of the motivational advantage. NaNoWriMo always revs me up to write as much as I possibly can because I love the challenge of it, and that’s something I sorely need these days. While I have been writing quite a lot since my Wildly Improbable Goals post, my enthusiasm has been waning. I’ve been unmotivated to the max, and have been finding myself struggling to get through each sentence. I hope to banish these lethargic feelings by taking up the challenge that starts tomorrow on April 1st.

I don’t think I have it in me to get through 50,000 words, considering my work schedule and how active my daughter is getting, but I don’t think it will be pushing it to give myself a word count goal of 30,000 for April. That’s slightly less than 1000 words a day, which I did with some amount of success back when I first started this blog. Can I do it again for one month? I think so. I hope so. We’ll see!

If anyone is brave enough to take up the challenge with me, visit the website ASAP! The challenge starts tomorrow, people! Seize the day!!