March 2021 State of the Blog

March. Another month and with it a tiding of changes. So without further ado, let’s jump in.

The Coming Months

Last year I spent quite a bit of time working on the format of the blog and where I wanted it to go. This year, we’re in a great spot and I’m excited to use my fully implemented changes.

Series

The biggest change comes to series as I’ve now picked a few topics that will span the course of 4 months, the first being World Poetry Month for April. My Mental Health series was always meant to be a one-off but after scrambling to put it together last year for a second year in a row, I came to realize it’s important enough to make annual. The series take quite a lot of work to put together but this year I’m allowing for a little more planning as I get the articles ready months in advance.

After May I’ll have a series that I’m excited to debut focused around sustainability. It’s a topic I’ve wanted to cover in the past but never had the time or energy to talk about more outside of incorporating Dystopia Climate Change themes into my short stories. With the Oregon Wildfires last summer I realized I’d rather take the time to talk about it now than wait until I’m in some bunker waiting out the twilight of our planet. My research led to me understanding that there is no official world sustainability month and the most we’ve really ever gotten is Earth Day. One day dedicated to the planet, that’s it. As such, I decided I’ll give 4 weeks in July.

And closing out the year is October which I’m making my horror themed short story month as I want to do more experimentation with my writing. Last year saw some success and I’m hoping to expand upon what I built to make the series better and more lasting. Expect a combination of Sci-Fi and horror but we’ll talk about that more as we get closer.

Vacation Month

I’m playing around with a vacation month that I can simply take off every year. My schedule has been designed to work around my life so that I can avoid burnout and keep the blog going, indefinitely. Everything I write I enjoy writing and the blog has fallen into a nice rhythm over the last six years I’ve been writing. As such, having a month that I can simply take off without worrying about a status update would be nice. I wouldn’t mind writing every month but I think it’s important to design time around doing nothing. A month for trips, visits, and whatever comes my way. At the moment, August is looking like that month. It’ll be an experiment this year and if I feel good about it, I’ll make it routine in future years. I’ll be looking at the stats for the year and will let you know come June what the plan is.

Status Updates

So these are new. Over the last year, I’ve been playing around with the format and I think I’ve found what’ll stick. September, November, December, January, February, March, June. 7 months out of the year I will post an update, even if a lot of it might just be reiterating points I’ve made in other entries. It’s a time for me to collect my thoughts and allow me to check if the blog is in a good spot. 7 update articles strikes a nice balance between keeping the reader (you) in the loop without over saturating the year with update after update. Always optional to read, it’s designed to give structure to what would otherwise be a collection of poems, short stories, and articles. As such, I’m quite happy that I decided to start doing these.

This Month

This month is up in the air but I’m planning to write chapter 5 of New Horizon. This will be the body of the story and what will ultimately be the start of the climax before the journey winds down by chapter 10. This is my first short story series and I’ve been thrilled with the response. It’s been a blast creating my own world and seeing it come to life with each chapter. I plan to write more 10 chapter series so the fun will never end.

I have a video game article drafted and am working on making it fun, but less nerdy so that anyone can read it. If that’s not ready by the end of the month (or ever), then the second article will most likely be a poem.


And that’s that! The blog will be ramping up next month with World Poetry Month and Mental Health Awareness Month directly after that. We’ll meet back here in June. Any feedback, type below! And, if you want to donate to the blog, I’ll include the link to where you can do so:

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As always, thanks for reading!

February 2021 State of the blog

Truth be told, I am writing this in the middle of January. We have a lot to cover this year and I’m excited to tackle what will hopefully be the best year of the blog yet.

The Month of January

With January I tried something new; I took my New Year’s resolution post and tried to make it a hybrid of my goals and the status update posts I did throughout 2020. In the future, I will leave the two separate. The formats I’ve come to realize are completely different even if in theory it could “work”. It’s better to take the time to do both as January is the month I have the most to say and really sets the tone for the year. So with that said, what’s in store?

Poetry and Short Stories

Last year, I took time to evaluate stock and see what I valued as a writer. I played with business articles on Linkedin and even considered a second blog on Medium. I also, had an informational for writing roles and ultimately decided not to mess with the formula. Poetry I’ve always loved and short stories are great writing practice. I’m obsessed with dystopian fantasies and realized I could write my own stories to further my own writing abilities and entertain. In fact, October I’ve dedicated to the pursuit. A spooky month to write and this upcoming year will be combining horror with various genres rather than strictly horror.

I’ve found my strength in writing Sci-Fi stories and thus I’ll primarily be sticking to this genre until my writing improves. Poetry will cover any topic that comes to mind as I’ve been doing it the longest and there are few barriers when I sit down to write.

Articles

I’ve been meaning to write more, however, articles take a while and do not always have the intended payoff. In the past, I just wrote whatever was on my mind as I navigated the world. As I’ve become more articulate, there has been less of a need to write about such topics. As such, I’ll be reassessing how I approach articles and see if I can’t find ways to innovate my process. The month of May is dedicated to Mental Health and will essentially be my “article” month but ideally I would like to do more if I can find a nice flow.

April, May, and October

This will be the first year where certain months are focused around a theme. April will be Poetry Month with a new poem every week. May will be Mental Health Awareness Month and will be an article every week covering various Mental Health topics, and October will be Horror Month with a focus on writing Short Stories. No more guessing when I’ll be writing, I spent a year figuring that part out!

Status Updates

Overall, status updates have added a cohesiveness to the blog that has been much needed. It gives me a chance to keep everyone in the loop and helps to organize my monthly thoughts. I’ve played around with a couple ideas and have decided 9 status updates a year works for my needs. I thought about doing a seasonal update (Autumn, Winter, Spring, Summer) but realized 4 a year might be too little and my initial concern of my status updates getting in the way of writing other posts has all but disappeared. I also thought of a bi-annual update in an update mega post but have opted for gradual updates even if I feel I don’t have much to say in a given month. Short or long it matters not as I can shift the focus of what I cover in each update.

Marketing and other Goals

I’ve had limited success with Twitter and Facebook. Without a dedicated marketing team, that leaves success up to the fates. Last year I put a lot of pressure on myself to expand inorganic growth and learned quite a lot about social media along the way. This year, I’m taking a step back. I now have a Facebook page and Twitter is still around. Social Media I find to be exhausting and not where the majority of my readers come from. Organic growth through the WordPress reader is how most find my blog and I’m ok with that; this is a hobby blog and I’m not a company, so growth will come naturally.

Asking for Follows: The Stats

While it doesn’t hurt to ask for a follow or a like, I found that asking for support only made a real difference in the first months of 2020. After that, it was more or less the same as it has always been. For the last quarter of 2020, I stopped asking for follows at the end of each post and didn’t notice any changes. As such, I’m making the change for 2021 to make a mention on my update posts and thus free my other posts from the clutter. I also may draft a default statement rather than write out a new statement each time; this change should be cleaner and I expect to see positive results for 2021.

Patreon and Ko-Fi

The ultimate goal is to have the blog pay for itself, the dream is to make a little extra spending money on the side. To do this, I will need to invest more time and energy into both sites, which is easier said than done. 2020 was a successful year for Patreon and was happy to receive some support during the year. Unlike asking for a follow, I may simply keep adding a link to my support page after each post or I may simply ask here. While there is a tab on the website, I’ve found more engagement when I’ve taken the time to mention it should you feel inclined to help out this one man blog. All in all, 2021 is looking to be the best year of my blog and my hope is that it dwarfs 2020, which is now officially the best year the blog has had.


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As always, thanks for reading!

January 2021 Status Update: 2020, How’d I do?

This last year has been a crazy year. I’ve had to make major life decisions that have affected my trajectory for the near future. No easy calls but hopefully decisions that lead to a better tomorrow.

A New Year, an improved me

Since I can remember, I have always tried to draft resolutions for the new year. In High School, they were typically one goal and it wasn’t until college that I started adding multiple. Years of failed attempts left me upset, until I took the SMART method from my studies and applied it to my resolutions. Even then, this was far from perfect. In 2019, I went a step further and implemented what I called a “tangible” goal to help measure my success. SMART covers the how, but it doesn’t necessarily cover the why. This year, I want to take time to look back on my 2019 goals that I carried over to 2020. And more than simply focus on what I didn’t do, I want to take the time to focus on my successes.

Language

German and French were the two languages I wanted to add to my language toolbelt. My main motivation is I’d like to spend more time in both countries and not feel like a tourist. Since I’ve already lived in Germany, my main focus for the last couple years was German. In that time, I’ve watched my first German TV show and as of late December, have completely finished the German language tree on Duolingo. That doesn’t mean I’m done with German but it does mean that I now have a foundational base and can begin moving on towards quantifying my language expertise. As a chronic dabbler, I have a bad habit of simply dipping my toes in the water without ever getting wet, so this is beyond exciting. So my Language goal for German? Has been met!

Because I’ve finished German on Duolingo, this shifts my priority to French. French I find extremely difficult to pick up. I’ve been learning it sporadically over the last couple years and while I have some idea of the language, it is elementary at best. Over the next year, it is my hope to build a base much as I did for my German. Luckily, I enjoy learning languages, so it’ll be fun to see how far I go.

For 2021, my stretch language goals are to learn Latin and eventually Japanese. Japanese is completely unnecessary, but it’d be fun to know the basics should I ever travel there. Since for the most part I spend 10 to 15 minutes everyday on Duolingo, I’m not too worried about meeting these goals to some extent.

My overall tangible goal for the year is to take an aptitude test to know where I stand.

Coding

Perhaps the most exciting development, I have wanted to code for the longest time dating back to when I did Lego robotics as a Cub Scout. A missed Summer camp, dropping out of Computer Science II in High School, and a couple decades have finally brought me the furthest I’ve ever been. Online coursework through Codecademy and I finally have a base. Python, SQL, and JavaScript are the 3 languages I’ve started with and I’m actually having fun. For 125 days I learned Python and I hope to get back on the horse after taking a couple months to relax. If I can get 8 months of coding in, then the year subscription will have been worth it. With that said, coding has been a resounding success in my book!

Three coding specific goals for this year: finish my Computer Science coursework and get a certificate, then finish my course in SQL and “How to build a video game with JavaScript”. I had two main childhood dreams: catch all the Pok√©mon (which I did this year) and make a video game. So all in all, not too shabby for the year.

Painting Drawing Art

I did not get into painting this year! The plan was to originally sign up for art classes and then bam, the plague rolled into town. That said, I did adjust the goal to broaden the scope. The only reason I want to paint is because I’ve heard it is very therapeutic. I’ve since adjusting my goal to include penciling and doodling. To that extent, I’ve succeeded as I bought markers and spend about 5 minutes from time to time drawing lines and circles on a paper. It’s fun, easy, and relaxing.

This year, I want to focus on penciling as that’s the easiest as far as getting started. The plan is to take all my old homework notebooks that I just have sitting around and convert them into my personal art sketchbooks. I’ve subscribed to Skillshare, so a class is literally a click away. I remember being quite good at drawing as a child, so I’d ideally like to recapture some of that childhood spark.

2021, one new goal

Yes, 2020 had other goals that I never met, like camping and running a half marathon (albeit the half marathon can be forgiven) as well as cooking. Looking back, this were just taking a shot in the dark. If I exercise, I exercise but forcing myself to run was too much to ask. Gone are my cross country days and while I eventually want to tackle the half marathon beast, it’ll come when everything else falls into place. Camping is great in theory but in practice it was too difficult to get out given my anxiety. I thought camping would help with my anxiety, but it is clear now that I have to work on my anxiety first before camping can become remotely possible. Cooking is another marathon situation. I have no urgency to cook and while ideally I’ll get into it as a hobby sooner or later, having it as a resolution adds more stress than joy. If I cook a meal every once in a blue moon, I am ok with that. That aside, my new goal for 2021 is…

Music!

I am a nut for all things that can improve cognitive function. My two goals are to learn piano and eventually the violin. My brother bought an electric keyboard a while back and never played. Growing up we had a grand piano that I would play around with until one day we didn’t. So now, I’m going to right a childhood wrong and learn to play without an instructor because online tutorials are actually quite good! Violin I will most likely need someone to teach me but piano has thousands of tutorials and offers the least resistance to learning. It’ll be tough but if it can make me smarter, then it’s worth it.

My tangible for the year is to take a month course and do exactly what the teacher says. I want to simply have fun and find the joy in playing an instrument, which I’m sure I can do.

Epilogue

A new year, fewer goals. 4 in total. gone are the days of exercise resolutions and resolutions I don’t need. This year is a focus on what I enjoy and developing skills that I can carry out of my twenties. It’s a year of change and solidifying who I am and where I want to go. I am ready to move past 2020 and into a new year, so here’s to hoping 2021 is better!

The Passion Dilemma

A title written, never finished. Perhaps, now, a fitting time to add words to a page and bring an article to life. As part of my ongoing project, I’m taking old posts never published and breathing new life into them.

This article was started October 24th, 2017 and the last timestamp shows 10:49pm And given the title, it’s fitting. A question without an answer and in fact, the question that produces more and more questions than it ever has answers.

A little while back I wrote “The Happiness Equation” as an update post to simply put thoughts to paper and try to make sense of my ever changing world. A reflection piece and one that I’ve since reflected upon.

As I translate my jumbled thoughts, a clear picture begins to emerge and while it’s still incomplete, it’s better than what I had before.

In a matter of speaking, I hit the emergency brake while I was still driving.

I let the stepping stones sink into the shallows of the river for one last glimpse of childhood and I’m glad. I’m not ready to drop my flame just yet, the real question is figuring out how brightly it burns and where.

Career wise, I’m in a good spot. I’ve moved laterally within my organization and my role is keeping my life fresh. I’m slowly learning to relax and take a breath.

My career goals have become increasingly a checklist. Every time I talk, it sounds like I’m trying to tick my box. Good or bad? Hard to say but I need to chill. My lifelong problem has been I always try to skip a few steps. I see point A and point B but tend to miss everything in between. So now it’s time to deconstruct and analyze. No more talk about College and where I was, the conversation must turn to where I am.

So, where am I? My passion is I enjoy helping others. I love the process of learning and sharing to those who might find what I have to say interesting. Outside of that, I can’t really say who I am. Writing as a hobby? Great. Photography? Enjoyable when I get out and take photos. I learn skills only to see no end, the constant acquisition of progress for the sake of progress. I stay relevant for the sake of being relevant and that is concerning. I said my career was a checklist when in reality it applies to my life as a whole.

I keep building and then breaking, to what end? Instead of thriving, I am simply struggling to survive. I can’t find my “why” even if it hit me across the face. Perhaps I’ve reached a point of insanity, trying the same thing over and over again expecting different results yet I keep trying.

I change the angle and still see the same road. I will be the first to admit I am broken and where once I repaired, now I begin to fracture. And that’s the beauty of life, riding the highest highs and lowest lows. The fact that my heart feels ready to burst at any moment and spread its warmth like confetti all over my cubicle is a good thing. It means I’ve stepped outside of my comfort zone. Too fast? Too soon? Too Much? Ain’t that always the case.

My anxiety has ensnared me and I wonder as the chains break, that they weren’t holding the foundation underneath. I’ve been short of breath and my body wants to freeze, however, I’m not going to let it. My list is ever growing shorter and the page is about to flip unto a new chapter. As I learned in cross country: strength, confidence, and desire. I haven’t come this far only to fail now.

I am learning to trust once more and opening my heart (queue the eye rolls). No more paranoia and no more fear. I breathe and feel my heart beat, and if I’m alive, I can move forward. One step, one foot, slowly (if only, I’m running at this point), and with a map in hand. I now know where I’m headed and where I need to go.


Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed my content. It’s been ages since I’ve finished an article and am glad I can hit the “schedule post” button for this one. A fun little ramble as I go through my life and try not to vibe “hot mess”. Next month I’ll try to have one article published regarding mental health and the topic I’ve picked is anxiety. When will that be? God only knows. Outside of that, expect more poems and short stories sprinkled throughout the year as I reach the next chapter in my life and after I’ve had some time to swallow a few more chill pills.

cheers!

– Mike