Now, I’m not actually going to complete this assignment today, but I’ll explain how I’ve already done so before and how it worked out.
When I first began traveling out West for work, my blog was still in its infancy. One day I decided to write a post – mostly for my friends and family – describing a common day for me out at Kearl Lake, where I was working. That post, to this day, is my most visited post for a variety of reasons. Now here’s where the follow-up part comes in. That first post recieved a lot of traffic from wives and girlfriends of Kearl Lake workers, nervous about the possibility of their significant others cheating on them while working away from home and living on a work camp. I began to get a lot of comments from these women, asking me loads of questions, and eventually I was prompted to write another post, both as a follow-up to the Kearl Lake post, and as a stand-alone post on the importance of trust in a relationship. That post is currently my second most viewed post ever.
The moral is that success begets success, so don’t be afraid to return to something that has already proven itself to be a popular, traffic-grabbing topic.
The assignment for day six is all about writing to attract the kinds of readers you want to visit your blog. Michelle W. asks us to “publish a post for your dream reader, and include a new-to-you element in it”. By “new-to-you element”, she means to include an aspect into your post that you haven’t used before, whether that be adding a photo, embedding a video, incorporating a quote, or any number of possible little tricks that you can use to enhance your post. In her original day six post, Michelle gives links to information on how to do all these little extras, so check it out if you’re interested.
Myself, I think that the important part of this assignment is the “publish a post for your dream reader” part. It seems obvious, but is actually something that lots of bloggers mess up. Kristen Lamb often talks about how writers have a tendency to blog about writing – their writing process, what they’re currently working on, the issues they come across as a writer, and so on and so on. In small amounts, this isn’t a particularly bad thing, but when that’s all a writer blogs about it becomes a problem because the only people who are really interested in the writing process are other writers…and for the most part writers aren’t looking for other writers to visit their blog. Writers want readers to visit their blog, to become part of their audience and (hopefully) their fan base.
There are plenty of bloggers out there who blog primarily for their own pleasure, for cathartic reasons, or for other personal uses, but the overwhelming majority of us blog because we have things to say and we really, really want other people to hear those things. And the best way to attract the kind of readers you want is to write your posts specifically for those people. For instance, I’m a huge nerd, and it makes me happy when other huge nerds drop by the blog to chat, so often I’ll talk about nerdy things that I’m into, or use pictures or memes of nerdy stuff to illustrate an unrelated point – just to nerd it up a bit. I also love talking to fellow parents, so I’ll often write posts about my daughter, or parenting in general, usually with a cute or funny story involved, because I want the fun-loving parents, not the cranky buggers (j/k…cranky buggers welcome here as well ^_~).
It took me a while to catch on to this (retrospectively) obvious concept. For the first few months of my blog’s life all I wrote about was writing, and it wasn’t long before I started to burn out. I wondered how I could possibly keep up a blog if this was all I was ever going to talk about. I also wondered why it seemed like no one was reading my blog. In my first six months I think I totaled about ten regular followers, and two of those were my parents. But finally, after discovering Kristen Lamb’s blog and hearing her talk about this exact issue with “writers who blog”, I began to talk more about myself and less about my writing. I began talking about every day things that I thought people might find funny or relatable. I began to give advice to the kinds of people I thought might stumble across my blog. I wrote my thoughts and opinions on lots of different topics, and worded my posts carefully in hopes of attracting a certain caliber of people. When the “A to Z Challenge” came about I decided to write my posts about fictional characters because I thought it would be great to attract some more movie/TV/video-game/comic book-loving people to the blog. All in all, it has been a successful venture.
Instead of writing a new post for this assignment (since I’ve been doing exactly this for well over a year now), I thought that I’d link back to a couple of my most popular posts of all time. All of these were written with a certain group of people in mind, and since they were fairly successful posts, I think that really drives home the point of writing “for your dream reader”. Write for certain types of people, and they will come.
A Day at Kearl Lake is a post I wrote quite a while back, when I first began working out West. It is currently at the top of my “most viewed” pages because tons of people who are just starting a job out West stumble across it in search of information. I wrote the post just to let people back home know what a regular day out on a work camp is like, and I wound up attracting a lot of other random people who were curious about the same.
Aside from my “About Me” page, the next page on my list that has had the most views is Goodbye, Poppy…Love You Forever. I wrote this particular post for the dual purposes of expressing my feelings about my grandfather’s death, and helping to comfort all the family members and friends who were also affected by his passing. It certainly served it’s purpose. Writing the post was extremely cathartic, and so many of my friends and family members dropped by to read it that it has remained in the top five “most viewed” pages for over a year.
I’m Not a Therapist…but I Play One On the Internet was a follow-up to the Kearl Lake post. Several of the people who stumbled across the original Kearl Lake post were women who contacted me because they were concerned about the possibility of their husband/boyfriend cheating on them while on the work camp. After trying to be both honest and comforting to several different women, I decided to write this particular post, whose main point is “you have to have trust to have a happy, healthy relationship”. While I only ever got two people who contacted me as a result of this particular post, it is very near the top of my “most viewed” list, so people are still taking a look at it to this day, and I genuinely hope that it’s helped a few people.
And because I wanted to include something a little more fun in this list, I skipped a couple of posts in the “most viewed” list and picked on that, none-the-less has been pretty well viewed: Tickle Trunk for a New Generation is a step-by-step post about how I “built” a dress-up trunk for my daughter, based on the design of Mr Dress-Up’s Tickle Trunk. Hello, crafty people who stopped by because of this post! Yes, you’re welcome here too!
So, again, the moral is to write for the kind of people you want to visit your blog. And if you’re like me, and you want everyone to visit your blog, just write a little bit about every possible thing. ^_~
On this Monday, since I’m going to spending most of the day flying across the country toward my next two weeks of work, I thought I’d take the opportunity to clear up a few things. You see, I’m often asked about my job, my schedule, and the implications of being away from my daughter for two weeks at a time, amongst other things. So here’s a little Q & A on some of the most common inquiries.
What is it like out there in Northern Alberta, really?
Honestly, not as bad as you’re imagining. Yes, it’s incredibly cold in the winter and pretty hot in the summer. The air is also really dry, so people like me who have sinus problems on a good day tend to be stuffed up a lot and get regular nosebleeds. But it’s not an awful place to work. Now, mind you, a lot depends on the site you’re working at and where you’re living while working there. The site I’m on right now – Kearl Lake – has a lot of good points, including an excellent view of safety. The camp that most people at Kearl stay at is a perfectly fine one. It has its problems, like thin walls and a couple of odd rules, but it also has nice gyms in each building and pretty good food. There are definitely places you want to stay away from out in that area of the country, but I’ve been lucky so far.
Isn’t it weird being out there with all those men?
First of all, yes, I’m a woman in the trades, which is a male-dominated field. But that doesn’t mean that I’m, like, the only woman out there. There have been several other women on my crew, and there are lots of women out there in construction, not to mention all the ladies who are out there doing things like booking flights and running the camps. Yeah, I work overwhelmingly with men, but it’s not like I’m the only woman out there. Plus a lot of the camps have rules designed to make the women feel more comfortable. At the PTI camps (like Wapasu, which is where I used to be) they have rules stating that men and women do not share bathrooms. They mess up sometimes, but as long as you point out the mistake they’ll fix it.
All of that aside, even if I was the only woman on the crew and I did have to share a bathroom with a guy, it actually wouldn’t seem weird to me. I’ve always gotten along easier with guys than girls, so…*shrug*
Don’t you just want to die after so many straight days of work?
When I first went out West I really thought I’d lose my mind working for 14 days straight, all 12-hour shifts. But to be perfectly honest, it goes by much faster than you’d imagine. This likely depends on how much you like/hate your particular job, but for me it’s not too bad at all. I don’t love my job by any means, but the days go by pretty fast, and usually the second week of work just kinda slips by. Mind you, by day 14 I am SO READY TO GO HOME, and I can’t imagine having to do a longer shift than that, but the two weeks really isn’t as awful as it sounds.
Isn’t that kind of work hard? (*Imagine this question asked in a super-whiny female voice, or a super-condescending male voice.*)
I’m a woman. I’m not useless. Both sexes really need to stop assuming that because I’m physically small and genetically female, somehow I can’t do physical labor or anything dirty or requiring tools. Grow up, people. Geez.
Isn’t it just awful being away from your daughter for so long?
This is the one I get the most, particularly from my mother-friends who often follow up the question with phrases such as, “I could never do that,” and, “You’re so tough.” I do appreciate the sentiment, believe me, and when I first began to travel out West for work I really though it was going to result in an emotional breakdown. Surely being away from my daughter for two weeks out of every four would be just the worst thing ever, right? Well, yes…and no. I can’t honestly say that I don’t miss her a ton when I’m away, but the truth is that my schedule actually affords me more time with my daughter than a traditional work shift would. Some simple math explains how. If I were working a normal 9 to 5, the baby would barely be awake by the time I was leaving for work, and by the time I got home and we had supper and she had a bath, we’d have a grand total of between one and two hours together before it was time for bed. So during a normal four weeks we’d have approximately 136 hours of awake time together (10 hours a week throughout the week and approximately 24 hours each weekend), and during a lot of those hours I would be tired and stressed-out from work, so it wouldn’t all be fun, happy time. Alternatively, with the schedule I’m on now I get two straight weeks (minus approximately one day during which I’m flying), or 156 hours of awake time together, and that time is fatigue- and stress-free because when you leave your job on the other side of the country there is absolutely no reason to think about it while you’re home.
It’s not an ideal situation by any stretch of the imagination, and of course it sucks having 14 days in a row during which I don’t get to hug or kiss my baby girl, but it isn’t nearly as horrible as other people imagine it to be. Trust me, if I can do it, anyone can. I’m a huge wuss.
All in all, when people find out that I work out West they make a lot of assumptions. They imagine that I must only be there out of desperation because they assume that every aspect of working out West is awful. And they imagine that I must have a heart of stone to be able to stand being in the middle of nowhere, far away from my family for so much time. Unfortunately this is the kind of attitude that keeps people from trying the whole “out West” deal. Like I said, it’s not ideal, and I can certainly understand why people choose not to do it, but it’s not nearly as terrible as the imagination makes it out to be. Not to mention, if it weren’t for my taking the plunge and trying it out, we would be significantly further behind in life than we are right now.
And the morals of the story are: don’t judge something before you’ve given it a shot, and never underestimate your ability to do big, scary things. A lot of the time it turns out to be not such a big deal after all, and can even change your life for the better.
Most of you who happen to be reading this blog know that I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl. What only a few of you will know is what my day job is. I am an industrial instrumentation technician by trade, and many times since I began this career I have been asked how I happened to come into such an occupation. It’s a valid question. Even in this day and age the industrial and construction trades are a vastly male-dominated field, and even without going into the gender issue I simply do not appear to be the kind of woman who would do this kind of work. I’m small, I don’t appear to be very strong, and I enjoy activities that lean to the artistic side of the spectrum, and yet I do a job that requires a lot of grunt work, numbers and technological understanding, and often lands me in positions that are dirty, loud, and either extemely hot or extremely cold.
So how did an artisticly-inclined girl with aspirations of becoming a novelist wind up in such a physical, technology-based, male-dominated profession? Well the first thing that you have to understand is that, while I’ve always loved the arts and greatly enjoyed such activities as writing, drawing, and singing, I was actually an extremely well-rounded child. To say that I was a nerd would not be stretching the truth in the slightest. I loved school for most of my younger years. I was always great at things like writing essays and book reports, but I was also very good at math and very interested in science. Often on this blog I will focus on the parts of my childhood that lead me to wanting to be a writer, but there were many other important aspects of my childhood that lead me on different paths. I’ve always loved understanding the way something works. When I was two years old my father caught me shoving a peanut butter and jelly sandwich into our VCR. In that moment he explained to me what the VCR was for and showed me how to use it, and I think that instilled in me a desire to know how everything worked. When something broke in our house I would take it apart and try to fix it. I rarely succeeded because the problem was usually electrical, but it was fun to try. And it didn’t have to be an appliance or gadget…if anything at all broke I would try to find a way to fix it. I remember once when one of my grandmother’s frames broke, I was determined to repair it for her. The piece that makes it stand up had snapped clean off, leaving two little holes where it had once been. I took a piece of scrap wire – a nice, stiff piece – and carefully bent it into a sturdy rectangle, the ends of which I poked through the holes in the frame. I was extremely proud to have “engineered” a solution. I felt an extreme sense of pride every time I managed to correct a problem.
Sometime in high school I decided that I was going to aim for the technologies, but I wasn’t sure which field to aim for. During my senior year, right around when we were supposed be starting to apply to colleges, one of my teachers told me about this program that was supposed to have an excellent reputation for graduates getting jobs right away. I never was 100% clear on the course or the jobs that would result from it, but it had something to do with GPS sytems. Since I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do exactly, and I had to start applying to colleges asap, I decided to go for it. As it was, that particular program was not in the cards for me. Oh, I applied, and I got in…that was no problem. But in early August of that year I got a letter from the school, letting me know that the program had been cancelled and that if I planned to attend that September I had to choose a new field of study immediately.
I can remember being panicked. I hadn’t been thinking about what I wanted to take because I had already been enrolled. I scoured the course schedules, looking for something technology-based that wasn’t too mechanical (I had absolutely no interest in cars) or design-centric (I also had no interest in sitting in a room drawing up plans for the rest of my life). What I landed on was something that I didn’t even really understand, but it sounded interesting and I was in a hurry. That program was a dual-graduate program. In three years I could graduate with a diploma in Electrical Engineering, and with one further year I could graduate with a Bachelor of Technology in Controls and Instrumentation. As it turned out I did both, though not with ease. There were some courses that nearly broke my spirit (having a professor with an extraordinarily thick Chinese accent and extremely poor anger management issues did not help), and there was one point during my third year when I nearly had a nervous breakdown, wondering what the hell I was doing and how on Earth I had come to find myself in these strange courses (programming languages were a huge surprise to me, and I don’t believe for a second that there is anyone on this planet who truly understands VHDL language).
But I got through, somehow or another, and I was lucky enough within six months of graduation to get a call from a paper mill located only an hour and a half from home. I moved to town for the job and promptly found out that four years of schooling had taught me positively jack. Don’t get me wrong, quite a bit of the stuff I learned in school was totally necessary, but let me make this perfectly clear: until you have actually worked in the trades, you know nothing.
The rest is history, I suppose. I spent five years at the paper mill, doing industrial maintenence. I was the first and only woman to ever be on the instrumentation crew at that mill, an honor that I’m fairly certain I still hold. I learned a lot, whether it was doing complex calculations and redesigning parts of the overall control program, or hanging underneath a grim-drenched pulp refiner with grease in my hair and dirty water dripping off my wrench and into my mouth while I fought with a jammed valve. And then, when the mill shut down, I took the (for me) ultimate leap and travelled out West to try my hand at commissioning work, which involves significantly less grease and grim, but significantly more unfortunate weather issues.
But when it comes right down to it, when people ask me how I wound up in this job, I always have to think about it for a moment or two before I answer, because honestly, half the time I don’t even know. What I do know is that winding up in this career, however unlikely it may seem when you look at me, has worked out for me. It’s not always glamorous work, but I enjoy it, and it allows me to take care of my family.
And until I become a rich, famous novelist, it’ll just have to do. 😉
I understand that I’m not the type of hotshot blogger who, when they go missing for a day or two, causes a mad panic amongst the internet crowd. Regardless, I’d like to apologize for my sudden disappearance over the past five days. I’m sure you’ll understand why I had a bit of an unscheduled hiatus when my father-in-law suddenly had a heart attack on Thursday (don’t worry, he’s alright now!), followed by a rush to get myself packed and ready to head back out West for the first shift of my new job. I spent the entire day today on a plane and have only just now arrived in the camp at which I’ll be residing for the next two weeks, so certainly you can see why I missed a few post days. But fear not! This camp has what (so far) appears to be rather excellent wi-fi internet, and my bluetooth keyboard is working just as nicely as it ever has, so I’m all set to continue blogging throughout the following shift.
I’m sure that you are all terribly relieved. 🙂
Stay tuned, because regular posts resume tomorrow!
Goal #1: Lose at least ten pounds and become healthier overall.
Week 2 has not been much more eventful than week 1 in terms of exercise and actual effort put forth into losing weight. I’ve been a little busy preparing for my upcoming return to Kearl Lake as of this coming Monday. I do have a few small things to report, however.
For one thing, I’ve been very diligent of late when it comes to getting lots of fiber into my system. Thus far it seems to be doing me good. It’s not a glorious kind of thing to share with the world, but I have a naturally nervous stomach that causes me a lot of problems, and I feel confident that getting a good amount of extra fiber into my diet is one of the keys to the issue.
Another thing is that I’ve spent the past week testing out my new Fitbit Flex. I plan to write a review on the device for tomorrow, but for now I thought it worth mentioning that it seems to be an excellent tool for assisting in a weight-loss program.
On the downside of things, I should own up to the fact that I’ve been drinking way too much 7-Up lately. I want to hit myself every time I have a glass. It’s a weakness. A calorically-charged weakness.
Goal #2: Be more active on social media and work hard on my “author platform”.
Again, this is a little difficult to report, but I’ll try my best. I’ve been pretty absent on Twitter this week…with my scatterbrained mind it’s difficult sometimes to remember to log in every so often. But on the upside of things I’ve been more present on WordPress. It’s been a while since I managed to find the time or energy, but this week I managed to sit down and actually enjoy some other peoples’ blogs for a change. It’s important to be a part of the community, right? Right.
Goal #3: COMPLETE my zombie apocalypse novel, Nowhere to Hide.
I’ve been working on it! I’ve been working on it! Glory be to the manuscript gods, I’ve been working on it! I’m about a third of the way through chapter 14 (of 15). I actually felt that I was doing quite well until I realized that somehow I made chapter 14 almost three times as long as every other chapter. I really have no idea how that happened, but I’m thinking that I’m going to have to split it into two chapters. And to be honest, that annoys the hell out of me. Call me crazy, call me a little OCD, but 15 chapters just seems so much nicer a number to me than 16 chapters. *eye twitch*
But insane impulses aside, I’m getting there. I have my doubts that I’ll get there completely by the time I head out West for my first two-week shift, but I’m doing what I can. Worst case scenario I’ll have the first round of edits finished up sometime in February and ready for my beta-reader.
Goal #4: Write 500,000 words.
Due to the outrageous amount of editing I’ve been cramming down my own throat, week 2 was a lot better than week 1. Between the editing stints and the blog posts I managed to write 10,558 words this week, more than twice what I wrote last week. If I can keep that pace up I’ll be doing great, though I’m a bit concerned because of the aforementioned return to working out West. Hopefully I’ll still be able to find the time required to keep my word count up.
In conclusion: things are happening, little by little, and little things pile up to create big things, right? 🙂
Well, ladies and gentlemen, it’s the new year again. We’ve crossed that barrier over into 2014 and are busy rubbing our eyes and staring ahead to all the possibilities that a new year holds. Personally, I find myself curled up on the couch under my new TARDIS blanket, plucking away this post while my husband and daughter are still asleep, hoping fervently that how I feel this morning is not a sign of what the year to come will be like. Begone, mysterious aches and pains! Go afflict someone who is actually old enough to feel this sore!
Anyway, this post isn’t about the fact that I seem to be suffering from an exceptionally painful cold (without any of the other symptoms). This post is about the fact that it is January 1st, a day rife with possibilities. What will the new year hold?
Well first of all, some of you may have guessed from this post that I wrote on Monday, that I’m going to be returning to the oil sands soon. Yes, after six straight months of glorious freedom unemployment, I’m set to begin work on the other side of the country again, starting the 21st of this month, with the same company and the same schedule that I had last time. This comes with mixed feelings, of course. It won’t be fun to leave my husband and daughter for half of every month again, and since I’ll be returning to the field instead of the control room I will find myself in a very difficult-to-get-any-writing-done position, but I do love the company, and it will be great to have some income again. What really worries me is that I’m going to be heading out to Northern Alberta in what is usually the coldest month, after having been snuggled all warm and cozy in the control room for the last half of last winter. My body may go through a bit of a shock. Luckily we always work in teams of two out there, so there will be someone to drag my frozen solid ass back to the trailers every day. Wish me luck, people. Wish me luck.
Secondly, since it’s a near year it’s time for new goals. At the beginning of 2013 I wrote out three “Wildly Improbable Goals”. Technically, I failed on all three of them, but having them down as goals definitely helped me get some things done, make some changes in my life and my way of thinking, and overall I had a rather productive year, as compared to previous years.
This year I’ve decided that I’m going to be a little less “Wildly Improbable” and a bit more, “you damn-well know that you can do this, so DO IT” with my goals. I want my goals to be things that I know I can complete, if I’d just get off my ass and work on them. So let’s start, shall we?
Goal #1: Lose at least ten pounds and become healthier overall.
I know, I know…don’t look at me like that. This is not one of those, “oh, it’s the new year so I’m going to buy a bunch of exercise equipment that I’ll only use for two weeks before it becomes a coat rack” kind of goals.
You see, I’ve been getting older, and the genes that my parents passed down to me don’t like that. I’ll be turning 30 in 2014, and while that is still pretty damn young to most people, to my physical being it’s like hitting the countdown to complete bodily failure. Things are starting to catch up with me, and I don’t like them.
For one thing, I seem to have inherited a wonderful trait from my father, wherein every second thing that I eat makes me feel like little needle-clawed demons are trying to rip their way out of my digestive tract. My father dealt with this for years before a doctor basically told him to eat a lot more fiber, and oh, throw some yogurt in there too. It sounds like a throwaway answer, but my dad has been doing great, so part of my health goal for this year is to make sure that there is always lots of fiber in my diet. Hopefully the result will be a calmer, less-demon-infested stomach.
The “at least 10 pounds” part of the goal is in there because, to be honest, I’m falling apart at the seams and I blame a good part of that on the extra 20-40 lbs that is hanging on to my body. I’m perfectly fine with the way I look right now, but I’m not fine with the way I feel. Even before the mysterious New Year’s aches-and-pains from hell, I’ve been feeling pretty crappy most of the time. I’m always sore in one spot or another, I’m extremely lethargic most of the time, and I’m so cranky and slow on a regular basis that it makes it very difficult to play with my daughter. I really believe that most of this could be fixed by losing a bit of weight (and, obviously, being more active in general), so I’m making it a goal. I’m not worried about getting down to what I perceive as the “proper” weight…I’m just going to worry about the first 10 pounds and then move on from there. Are we all cool with that? Okay, good.
Goal #2: Be more active on social media and work hard on my “author platform”.
2013 saw a lot of ups and downs for me as far as the whole social media = great author platform thing. I always managed to keep pressing forward with my blog, but other forms of social media often fell by the wayside. Twitter is one of the greatest things out there for connecting with other writers, agents, publishers, readers, and so on, and it only takes a few seconds to type up a Tweet, and yet I regularly go for weeks without Tweeting a single thing aside from the auto-Tweets that WordPress shoots out when I write a blog post.
This year I want to be more active and more diligent with my author platform. I want to show people that, yes, I’m really here, and hey, how are you doing today? More and more this is becoming an extremely important part of being a successful writer, and I don’t want to be left behind in the dust.
Goal #3: COMPLETE my zombie apocalypse novel, Nowhere to Hide.
This one feels more “wildly improbable” than the others, but it’s not…it’s NOT, dammit!
I spent the last year trying to finish editing on my manuscript, and that task is almost complete. I already have a beta-reader lined up to swap manuscripts with. This year is going to be the year of really, truly, finishing a novel. I know that my manuscript has problems even before my beta-reader touches it, but I plan to sit back and wait to hear what she has to say, and then work my ass off once she hands it back. If at all possible I want to publish by the end of this year. I want my zombie novel to be out there before zombies stop being something that people want to read about (which is why I definitely will not be going with traditional publishing…man, you guys are SLOW). This is a big thing for me. By the end of 2014 I want to be a published author.
And to all my religious friends, your prays are totally welcome on this one. 😛
Goal #4: Write 500,000 words.
Last year I made the Wildly Improbable Goal to write one million words over the course of a year. Though that goal turned out to be completely out of my league (it didn’t occur to me until halfway through the first month that this would be over 83,000 words a month), I did end up writing significantly more words in 2013 than in any year previous…possibly in all the years previous.
I came with in striking distance of 500,000 words last year, so this year I want to exceed that goal and beat my own personal record. Half a mil over the course of a year is just over 41,000 words a month. Judging from last year it will be difficult, but I have faith that I’ll be able to pull it off.
And there you have it. Four goals for the New Year, all of them significantly more probable than not. I’m going to continue on with my accountability posts (though they’ll be moving to Wednesdays now) because personally I find nothing helps with a goal so much as admitting to the general public that you haven’t been working on it. 😛
How about it, friends and fellow bloggers? What are your goals for the New Year?
I’ve been debating with myself over whether or not to write this post for a while, because it’s bound to cause a debate or two and I’m not the debating type. In the end, however, I decided to go ahead and do it because my hope is that I’ll shine a light of realization on someone’s head and set them on a better path. So here we go.
A while back, when my blog was still new and I had just started my current job, I wrote a post called A Day at Kearl Lake. To this day my blog gets plenty of hits from people Googling information on the Kearl Lake oil sands project, and occasionally I’ll get a comment or a personal message from someone asking questions about the site, the camp, or what-have-you. I happily oblige to answer these questions because I’m just that nice a person. *cue winning smile*
Of all these people who have contacted me as a result of this particular post, there have been three separate women who have contacted me with questions about the Wapasu Creek Lodge work camp. All three of these conversations went something like this:
Them: “Do men and women stay in the same camp?” Me: “Yup.” Them: “Can men and women get into each others’ rooms?” Me: “Uh, well it’s not really allowed, but theoretically, yes…” Them: “See, because my boyfriend/husband works out there now and he’s staying at that camp and I don’t really trust him not to cheat on me.”
The first time I had this conversation it was fairly interesting. The second time it was surprising. The third time I immediately thought of the idea for this post. The fact that three separate women called on me with this same problem amazes me to no end.
First, I want to share what I’ve told these women, in case anyone else out there is wondering. Wapasu Lodge is a co-ed camp. There are two specific wings that are for women only, but as there are more women at Kearl Lake than can fit in those two wings, there are lots of women in the other wings. These women are always put in pairs because at Wapasu you share a bathroom with your neighbor and it’s against the rules for a man and a woman to share a bathroom. Mistakes are occasionally made when someone has a unisex name (I myself have had this happen several times), but the staff always fixes it immediately as long as it is brought to their attention.
No, men can not get into the women’s wing (it is strictly prohibited). Yes, theoretically, a woman in a co-ed wing could let a man into her room or vice versa. No, this is not allowed (room sharing is against the rules), and could result in expulsion from the camp, which usually also results in the loss of your job since you have to be able to stay on camp to work there. Additionally, the walls in Wapasu are thin at best, meaning that if you’re having sex in there chances are that everyone on your floor knows about it. So yes, it is possible for your significant other to cheat on you while staying at Wapasu. It’s not going to be easy, and it could plausibly lose you your job, but it is possible.
Now that we’ve got that bit out of the way, let’s get to the real point of this post.
(Everything that is about to be said can obviously also apply to men who fear their woman will cheat, but to avoid a bunch of him/her/he/she nonsense, we’ll just focus on women concerned about their men.)
When I was contacted by the first woman I tried my best to reassure her while still telling her the truth about the situation at Wapasu. When the second and third women contacted me I tried to extend the same courtesy, but personally I was getting concerned, and this is why… If you “don’t trust” your significant other to not cheat on you, it’s going to be because of one of three reasons:
1. You know him to be a cheater because he’s cheated on you before.
2. You’re scared he might be a cheater because you were cheated on before by another man and as a result you find it hard to trust another.
3. You’ve never been cheated on before by this man or any other, but you assume that a man given free range of women while miles away from you for weeks at a time will inevitably cheat.
I’ve thought about it long and hard, and these are the only three explainations I can come up with, so now that we’ve established those, let’s discuss them as kindly and rationally as possible.
If you fall into category 2, bless your heart, I’m sure you’re going through a lot. I’ve never personally experienced being cheated on, but I’m sure it must be beyond awful. I couldn’t fathom the pain something like that would cause – especially if you’d been together a long time and/or if kids are involved – and I imagine it’s a very difficult thing to get over. You don’t want to open yourself up to get that hurt again, and I absolutely get that. But I also know that you have to make an effort to move on. You can’t judge one man by the actions of another, and you can’t establish a new, healthy relationship in that manner. If you need help to learn how to trust again, please seek it out, because a relationship means nothing without trust and if your man is perfectly innocent he deserves to have your trust as much as you deserve to feel it.
If you fall into category 3, I feel very, very sorry for you because that is no way to live. You have serious trust issues, and no base to support them with. Yes, there are cheaters out there, but every man is not automatically guilty just because he happens to have a certain set of chromosomes. As with category 2, trust is everything in a relationship. If you can’t trust a man simply because he is a man, or because you happen to know that cheaters exist in this world, you need to work out some things on your own before attempting a serious, manogamous relationship. Again, if you need help working things out, please seek it. This is extremely important. You will never be happy if you are constantly worried about being cheated on, and you’ll never have a healthy relationship if you can’t learn how to trust others.
For all those who fall into category 1, I have a serious question: why are you still with him? I’m not judging, I’m just asking. If the reason that you don’t trust him not to cheat on you is that he’s done it before, why are you still with him? Is it for the children? Terrible reason; studies show that living with two parents who harbour animosity toward each other is worse for kids than dealing with their parents being separated. Is it because you still love him? Well sure, love is hard to just get over, and it’s rough, but having feelings for someone is no reason to let them get away with anything they want at your expense. Is it because you’re scared that if you leave him you’ll never find anyone else? Worst reason of all…we are all capable fo finding new love and being happy, and you should never sell yourself short like that.
Look, I’m not telling all women who were cheated on that they absolutely have to dump their man’s ass right this moment. I’m definitely not saying that guys who cheat don’t deserve a second chance because sometimes they actually do. Sometimes mistakes are made and the guy feels horrible and spends the rest of his life trying to make up for his wrong. All I’m saying is that if this is the situation you’ve found yourself in, you should take a good, long, hard look at exactly why you’ve chose to stay with the man who cheated on you. Take a hard look and establish whether your reasons are actually good, genuinely rational reasons…or if they’re excuses. Because here’s the thing…if you feel the need to contact a complete stranger to help you confirm or deny your suspicions, there’s obviously something wrong, and I seriously cannot express this enough: you need to be able to trust your significant other in order to have a happy, healthy relationship.
For the record, ladies (and gents), I am always happy to lend an ear when one is needed, even to complete strangers. I’m just that kind of person, and it makes me feel good if I can help someone out. That’s the real reason I wrote this post: because I really hope it helps someone. And if that someone, or some other someone, wants to contact me to talk about a bad situation, that’s just fine. I just hope that what I’ve written here today impacts someone because with the amount of traffic that finds its way to A Day on Kearl Lake on a regular basis, I expect these sorts of issues to keep cropping up.
Last week I wrote about how kids see things from a different perspective and that we have to remember that when dealing with them. For writers, perspective can be a powerful tool because a story is never truly whole until you’ve seen it from all angles. To illustrate this concept, I’m going to use the example that made me come up with the idea for this post in the first place: coworkers.
My day job is as a commissioning technician in the Alberta oil sands. For those who don’t speak “tradesperson”, that means that a bunch of people built a plant to extract the oil from the sand, and my company makes sure that everything is set up properly before it runs. To this purpose we have two major groups; field technicians and control room technicians. Field technicians deal with the physical equipment in the main area of the plant, while control room technicians are the ones watching the computer screens that the plant will be controlled from, and they deal with the internal programming.
Both field techs and control techs are required to commission any given piece of equipment (okay it to run). They have to work together constantly. But here’s the thing: control room techs are (gasp!) located in the control room, while field techs are out in the “field” (the main area of the plant). Neither can see what the other is seeing or doing, which results in many instances of failure to communicate and/or jumping to conclusions. I started this job as a field tech and was later moved to the control room, so I am in the prime position to give a few examples of the different perspectives and the animosity they can cause.
Say, for example, that you’re a field tech working on a transmitter that measures the flow of liquid through a pipe. Your transmitter has been set up to read a range of 0 to 100 meters per second. So you call up your control tech and ask to test the transmitter, but the control tech asks you to hold on for a moment because there’s a problem…his computer shows a range of 0 to 200 meters per second. So you wait…and you wait…and wait…and wait… You wait so long that you begin to think that your control tech forgot about you, so you try calling him on the radio again. He doesn’t answer. You try again. He still doesn’t answer.
Now you’re starting to get mad. Where the hell did he go? Finding out the proper range for the transmitter can’t possibly take this long. Is he just ignoring you? He must be fooling around up there in the control room with his other control tech buddies. He doesn’t give a rat’s ass that you’re standing out here in the cold, ready, willing, and able to get this job done. Damn him and his cushy, stress-free desk job… What an asshole!
I can’t honestly say that this exact thought process never went through my head. More than once my field tech buddies and I put in complaints to our bosses that were along the lines of, “We can’t get a damn thing done because we spend all day standing around waiting for the control techs to get back to us!” Then I moved up to the control room myself, and I got to see the story from the other perspective.
Say, now, that you’re a control room tech and you’ve just had a call from a field tech. He tells you that he wants to work on a transmitter and that his range is 0 to 100, but oops! The range on your screen is 0-200. So you ask him to hold on and you go out to find out whose numbers are correct. This involves flipping through a several-hundred-page document that, maddeningly, is organized in no logical way known to mankind. It takes you a good 5-10 minutes to finally locate the information on this transmitter and lo and behold, the field tech’s numbers are correct. Okay, so the numbers in the program have to be changed, but you don’t have the authority to make the change yourself, so you grab the necessary paperwork that must be filled out to request that an engineer do it. On your way back to your desk the control room coordinator snags you and shoves some more paperwork at you from another group of field techs. He also gives you a second radio because the second group is on a different channel than the first group. So you get back to your desk with your two piles of paperwork and your two radios, and you’re just about to call your tech to explain what is happening when your boss appears at your desk and asks you to look something up for him. You do so, because he’s your boss, and he immediately launches into a veritable Spanish Inquisition’s worth of questions about something you worked on over a month ago. You can’t recall the exact details so you sweep aside your pile of paperwork and your two radios and you dig through the mess of your desk to find your log book. While flipping through weeks worth of notes with your boss hanging over your shoulder you hear your name being called on the radio a few times, so you grab it quickly and respond that you’ll be right with them. In the stress of the momenet you don’t realize that you’ve accidentally grabbed the second radio and are actually broadcasting to no one.
In short, you’re trying your damnedest to organize a dozen things at once, and yet there’s a field tech out there in the field, fuming about what an asshole you are for making them wait. You see how perspective can dramatically change the story?
This can work in both directions as well, of course. I’ve been in the control room waiting for a field tech to disconnect a wire for the purpose of a test and found myself wondering what was taking so long. I’ve even considered how incompetent a person would have to be to have so much trouble with a single wire. Then, inevitably, I would find out afterward that the wire in question was fifteen feet in the air and the tech couldn’t find a ladder, or that the wrong type of screw had been used on the wire and the tech had to go hunt down a different screwdriver.
The whole world revolves around the different perspectives from which we each see things, and this is important to remember when writing, because it is a constant source of conflict. For instance, there’s the antagonist who truly believes they’re the good guy because they see their cause as idealistic. Or there’s the protagonist who loses all their friends by doing something stupid that they felt at the time was the right thing to do. There’s the age-old story of how men and women can’t understand each other, or how children see the world in a completely different way from adults. The world is swarming with conflict because different people of different genders, ages, races, religions, creeds, classes, backgrounds, educations, and so on all see things from vastly different points of view, and that is fiction gold. Think about it and use it. Some of the best books I’ve read make excellent use of showing how the “good guys” and the “bad guys” really just have a very different perspective on things. After all, rarely does anyone believe that they themselves are the problem.
Perspective. How do you use it in your writing? Where do you see it in daily life? What books have you read that make good use of this idea? Please share!
When I was in the eighth grade, one day our English teacher began talking about the difference between jobs and careers. I don’t recall much of the conversation except for this: he told us that on average each of us would have ten different “jobs” throughout our lifetime (and hopefully eventually end up with one “career”).
At the time I remember thinking how silly a statement that was. Ten different jobs? Preposterous! I was going to have one or two summer jobs, tops, then graduate from college and swoop right into my career. There I would stay for the rest of my working life, and retire a financially stable woman.
Kids are dumb.
Contrary to my childish beliefs, within two months of my 28th birthday (hardly my “lifetime”) I had already had the following jobs:
– A paper route (shut up, if you have to get up before sunrise it’s a real job)
– Cashier/server at the cafeteria in the Marine Atlantic terminal building
– Cashier/floor walker at Zellers
– IT assistant at the Coast Guard College
– IT assistant at Cape Breton University
– Cashier/floor walker at Walmart
– Cashier/floor walker at a different Zellers
– Cashier/stock person at a liquor store
– Customer service at a call center
– Instrumentation mechanic at a paper mill
– Instrumentation commissioning tech at Kearl Lake
– DCS commissioning tech at Kearl Lake
Twelve. Twelve jobs, and no careers. The job at the mill could have become a career if it weren’t for failing markets and the fact that even if I’d stayed there, there’s no way the mill itself will be around long enough for me to retire. Twelve jobs, and there will be more to come because even the one I’m at now is not permanent. I could be laid off any time now, and it’ll be on to the next one.
Thinking about this makes me wonder how many people ever actually make it to the “career” phase of life, and/or how long they are able to hold on to it in such an uncertain economy. Instrumentation, technically, is my career, but at any time I could be laid off and there’s never any real guarantee that I’ll find another position. Ideally writing would be my choice for a permanent career, but that requires sacrifices I’m not currently able to make, so that may never happen either. My husband was an electrician for four years, and is currently a stay-at-home-dad. My father drove trucks for pretty much as long as I can remember, but that’s between a couple of different companies and soon he’ll be heading out West as well. I know tons of people who went to college to train for careers they never ended up achieving, and just as many people who had careers and lost them for any number of reasons. Nothing is certain, and any of us, at any time, could end up in a completely different situation than the one we’ve been in, or the one we imagined for ourselves.
Look at your own situation. How many jobs have you had throughout your life so far? How many careers? Do you feel secure? Is there something you’d rather be doing instead? I’m interested. Please share. 🙂