Practice Writing Every day! Use your Blog to do it!

Practice Writing Every day! Use your Blog to do it!

We’ve all heard it before, “Good writers write frequently, they practice and sharpen their writing skills by writing 500–sometimes 1000-1,500 words each day”. Practice makes perfect.

Stephen King makes 40 million dollars a year for his wordsmithing, and guess what? He writes 1000-2000 words every single day. He’s been doing this for decades, so if anyone’s getting practice writing, he certainly is! Is it any wonder that the people who succeed are getting practice daily?

Nothing comes for free. Not even talent– because it must be continually refined and updated and this takes time of course, precious time that you could be spending elsewhere. You’re going to have to get good at trying… attempting to write and doing it regularly. And you’re going to have to get good at being brave.

Now, here’s an idea, how about using your personal (or public) blog space to practice your own writing? You certainly don’t have to scribe your inner-most thoughts every single day or post anything too controversial that might turn you into a public pariah, but you can find something to blather about.  I know you can.

If you haven’t noticed, this is exactly what I do here on this blog! I’ve committed myself to once-a-week blogging (which is writing, right?). My ultimate goal for this blog is posting 3 times each week. Do you have any long-term goals for your blog?

There are these random thoughts that come to me while I’m unloading the dishwasher. Sometimes they come while lying in bed just before sleep impales my brain. Perhaps a stranger makes a crass remark in a parking lot. More often than not, it is movement–physical movement–that triggers a cascade of thoughts. As writers, we all need a cascade of thoughts.  We need a supply of input in order to have ANY output. Ironically, now that I have two children, I’m moving so much more and my thoughts are swirling but I have less time to write. These thoughts are the jewels that need to be mined.

In my mind I can think of the two most important things for bloggers:

  1. Posting weekly/regularly.
  2. HAVING CONTENT–you NEED something to write about, to babble about that has the potential to draw a reader or arouse curiosity.

People are unable to blog because of the 2 reasons I listed above. I promise. That’s it!

The content part is the biggie. There are far too many people out there who are worried to write because they HAVE FEARS ABOUT THEIR CONTENT. They worry about how they are perceived. They worry that:

A. they look like they complain too much.

B. they look like they’re bragging/being a show-off

C. they’re making too many (public) errors in their writing.

D. they’re writing is too inane.

E. they’ll leave some indelible mark on the internet so that people can, at some point in the distant future, point to what they wrote and say, :”hahaha, you wrote that piece of crap. You suck”.

F. People will think they’re mentally unstable

How about, who cares? None of these reasons are legitimate reasons for the passionate writer/thinker/creator. In fact, all of the above are great avenues for writing from time to time. Eventually you’ll find other topics to explore, but generating content is definitely going to be the thing you struggle with, so don’t let any of the thoughts above halt your progress if you happen to go into such territory.

Now how about a link with advice from an experienced writer to those of us beginners? Here you go:

Why is Stephen King so successful at writing?

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How To Stop Being a Perfectionist (when you become a Mom)?!?

How To Stop Being a Perfectionist (when you become a Mom)?!?

It’s difficult, I know. Maintaining general order in as many areas as you could attempt was that one thing keeping you sane, giving you some sense of comfort and control. You didn’t realize the sense of relief you derived from an organized, uncluttered, esthetically pleasing environment. You are a type A, an ambitious, non-time waster. You accomplish things and make plans. You’re not one of these people who allows messes to build-up. You don’t follow the crowd but chart your own course through life.

Alas, no more. Messes are strewn throughout every corner of your home. Whenever you make a laborious, time-consuming initiative to straighten one space, you’re being taken down in another– often 2-3 steps back. Your tot is creating havoc in every possible dimension with the help of a pair of gooey hands.

Meanwhile, you get to enjoy the non-stop screaming chorus put forth by your 6 month old. You’re frantically trying to remove objects that could trip anyone. You can barely think.

You’re not embarking on any kind of major “spring cleaning” adventure. You’re only trying to make your surroundings safe and prevent an ER visit. That’s it. If you had any spare moments you would be doing the have-to’s: diaper changing 2 kids, meal preparation, folding laundry, taking out all the garbages, vacuuming the entire house, filing the baby’s (longish) fingernails, taking a shower, …even these activities would provide a glimmer of hope that you’re succeeding at something.

Tony Robbin’s aptly said, “Happiness is Progress”. But it’s so hard…because you’re not getting this feeling of progress. Ever. And to make matters worse, you’re a perfectionist so this is kind of your M.O. You live for the feeling of progress. Here is a picture of our mantel: This is how I think of perfection…or, my-kind of perfection, at least. Ahhh, this is what I like.

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And this is my kind of imperfection–our house when we first moved in. Stuff everywhere, in disarray. And, to be honest, there are many days where it looks like this ALL OVER AGAIN. This is what I don’t like. My cortisol levels

I often like to joke, “How does one torture a modern, western woman?” ANSWER: You prevent her from accomplishing anything. No career for you, young lady. We will just give you some money “to get by on” and you can clean up all these messes over and over again and you won’t have to learn anything new. Bonus, we’ll bring you fast food and prevent you from exercising.” NOW THIS IS TORMENT.

Joking aside, How can I ever get away from this incessant, mind-overtaking need to be a perfectionist…to get things done and done perfectly? I honestly don’t know. I’m trying different strategies right now. .. everyday. What to do…what not to do.

I guess what I’ve learned about myself is that I do many things for my own psychological comfort– not because they are that necessary. I want to learn as much as a I can because I want to have the skills and education to fall back on if I were to need them. We all are lucky and unlucky at different points in our lives. It’s easy to assume that you’ll always be lucky or that you’ll always be unlucky. You’ll probably cross back and forth on that road a few times in life.

I’ve recently decided to turn down my perfectionism a few notches. That is, I pick one (maybe two) areas where I allow myself to be a perfectionist. It’s important for us perfectionist-types to have at least 1 area where we can still manage our perfectionism–otherwise, things seem so chaotic to our brains that we can’t even think. For me it’s floors. I hate dirty floors. So I let myself vacuum frequently; every other day for sure…sometimes every day. The other area that I’m committing myself to (besides occasionally taking care of the children) is exercise.

So that’s it. I had to set some limits. I give myself 2 areas to be a perfectionist and try to let the rest go until I have more time in my life. Once I get more time, you can bet that I’ll be crazy.

No TV Or Screens For My Tots!?! Also, Checking out 30+ Library books for My 2 year old each week!!

No TV Or Screens For My Tots!?! Also, Checking out 30+ Library books for My 2 year old each week!!

I know what you’re thinking, “That’s a terrible title”. No it isn’t. You clicked on it. And net traffic as well as ‘time spent on a site’ is the best indicator for Google’s ranking of your content.

We have 1 television (1 TELEVISION) in our home and it’s in our bedroom. I firmly believe that young children should be exposed to very few (if any) weekly screen-hours as possible.

But why? Aren’t there plenty of educational programs that act as free babysitters? Yes. Most are these days. Why rant against T.V’s or screens?

It’s really not so much what your children watch on a screen, but how long they watch it and how emotionally affected and attached they become to it. Since I never developed the habit of “T.V. watching” during childhood, I’m a bit biased. You’re free to scroll past this post if it bothers you. I know there will be plenty who disagree.

I tend to see T.V.’s net benefits as: 1. Fun entertainment that dampens original ideas and 2. time waster (which, I guess, isn’t a net benefit, is it?).

Compared to most of my peers, I spent very few hours seated in front of a screen or even watching movies. But this wasn’t because my parents thought that TV resulted in a “lack of original thinking” or that it “suppressed imagination” (i.e. the reason many educated parents limit T.V. viewing). My mother would comment that television was “too sarcastic” and that it didn’t “provide good morals”. Hence, my brothers and I were not allowed to watch The Smurfs.

We were allowed to watch endless episodes of Leave it to Beaver and my parent’s bought plenty of wholesome Christian inspired movies for us to watch. These were not very enticing. Needless to say, with these alternatives, I simply stopped watching screens. Sure, I watched a few movies here and there throughout my childhood and teen years, but certainly not enough to be able to recognize even the most well-known stars.

So, what’s really the problem with T.V./screens then?

In the end, what TV does is it makes everything else in life seem boring. That’s it. Life is already quite boring for most adults. For young children, the television seems to quickly desensitize them to their once bright and novel surroundings–those things ready to be used for unstructured play–and makes them seem comparably boring.

Furthermore, television, movies and social media homogenize. They make a bunch of people who all talk and think, more or less the same. It encourages a sort of mindlessness. Ever notice how people are seemingly always quoting from movies instead of coming up with their own phrases?

We know that most adults have already been desensitized and/or spoiled to some degree. Children, unless exposed to lots of screen-time, still maintain an air of unspoiled excitement for the mundane. I think its preferable for children to hold onto this tendency as long as they can. It will eventually teach them how to create their own solutions for boredom–how to transcend boredom using their very own intellect and imagination. They might discover hobbies, educational pursuits or even entrepreneurial ventures in the mist of being bored. And this is because they are forced to find a remedy for boredom on their own.

Being able to defer gratification and envision the bigger “future reward” is a skill that can be developed at a young age. I think it’s very important to help your children hone this skill.

A couple months ago we were letting our tot watch 2-3 episodes of a children’s program from Amazon each week. It’s called “Tumble Leaf”. I noticed that on the days that she viewed, she became increasingly angry–even hostile–once the show was switched off. She would throw tantrums–as if she was having withdrawal from her favorite drug. She would screech and thrash on the floor for long periods after the television was off. This made me realize that she was really developing an unhealthy attachment to this program.

The past few weeks she has not been viewing any screens. Before Tumble Leaf, the only shows/movies she watched were: Bambi, Dumbo, Snow White and a few nursery rhyme songs on YouTube (only a couple times each month–at most, and it was when we were in a restaurant or some other public venue where she wouldn’t sit still.)

In other news, I’ve started to incorporate weekly LIBRARY TRIPS into our schedule. I’ve been very consistent the past couple of months. Every week we go to one of the libraries here in our city and I pick out 15-30 books for her each time. This way, at night, after I read to her and tuck her in and she begins her 2 hour screamfest, she ends up being distracted by her new library books. She will sit and look through them until she falls asleep. This is a great way of preparing her to be a future reader while also calming her down before bed.

Turning the pages of a book is much slower-paced than television, computers, tablets or phone screens. There is a much-needed confining or “restricting” quality to books. She learns to delay instant gratification–because she has to go through the physical effort to turn the page in order to find out what comes next.

Compared to a screen, she will likely spend more time on each page, looking at all the interesting pictures, colors and letters without being constantly offered the opportunity to “click elsewhere”–as you see on YouTube videos. She will develop a strengthened attention span as she appreciates all that she is seeing on each page. She might also want to go back to a previous page, and look for what she may have missed. By starting with books, I believe this will instill a deeper and fuller approach to learning…ANY SUBJECT. It kind of paves the way for “how to learn”.

It is this slow, methodical approach to learning that can teach your child how to learn all things.

In the end, it will be books–more than any other object in your home– that will prepare your child’s mind for school learning. They will need the necessary skills to sit still at a desk for a period of time to listen to the “boring teacher” and to read/go-over the “boring paper materials” and books presented to them without constantly jumping from one thing to the next.

I’m willing to bet that over time, a phone, tablet or other screen-type device will inadvertently teach your children how not to focus. I’m convinced that these devices will teach your children to become dependent on them for ALL (or, most all) of their fun.

No Cereal in Cupboard? Granola from Scratch.. Plus- Our Tomato seeds have finally sprouted!

No Cereal in Cupboard? Granola from Scratch.. Plus- Our Tomato seeds have finally sprouted!

Now that I figured out how to make blog posts on my phone I can make content while I nurse my baby. But he’s super interactive with hands flailing the whole time. We will see if I can complete this post.

I’d like to blog 2-3 times each week if I could find the time– but for now, I’m staying committed to my 1x per week at least– no matter how bad or weird it is. Blogging is as much about getting into the groove as it is about the content.

To preface this post I’d like to be clear that I never really follow recipes, so I apologise for not being very decisive with the instructions. I just can’t get myself to do it– I feel like I’m locked in a straight jacket. Plus, l always learn something memorable when I make a mistake.

Today I woke up to find our 1 cereal box was almost empty. While disappointing, it wasn’t tragic.

I realized that I had a variety of on-hand items that might be concocted into granola.

Things like: oatmeal, shaved coconut, pecans, walnuts, dark chocolate, flax seed meal and wheat germ. Honestly, these were all I had. My raisins had been depleted a couple weeks ago and I didn’t have any dried cranberries or pumpkin seeds that so many recipes suggest. Oh well. I had enough items to make it work. A practical point in being creative, for me, is figuring out strategies to use what l already have– for as little money (and as few trips to the store) as possible.

The main thing you need to make granola is oatmeal. I found some random items here:

Recipe:

3 cups oatmeal

chopped walnuts (3/4 cup more or less)

chopped pecans (3/4 cup more or less)

Coconut flakes (I used 1/2 to 3/4 cup)

1/2 cup flax seed meal

1/2 cup wheat germ

Brown sugar (to your preference)

Broken up dark chocolate bar (or chips or whatever you have)

Dollop of honey

Splash of vanilla

1/2 tsp salt

1/4- 1/2 cup vegetable oil

300 degree oven and bake for 10 minutes? Or whatever. Just don’t burn it.

Mix everything up:

Spread on cookie sheet:

And store your freshly baked granola in an airtight container.

It tasted delicious! Now to store by in the pantry. 😀

In other good news? Guess what? Our tomato plants that we planted from seeds are finally growing! You probably remember this blog post: Greenhouse where we planted them.

Well here they are. Tiny tomato plants finally popping out of yogurt containers. They’re growing!

Why is (Regular) Blogging so Difficult?!?

Why is blogging regularly so difficult? It’s probably because many of us who are attracted to this hobby happen to be perfectionists in the first place.

We also tend to be a bit ostentatious at times– as we like to show off our stuff, thoughts, writing etc.. (What person would venture into such arena if they didn’t have a smigeon of this trait?). Your writings, expressions and pictures are going up public– for anyone to see– and you know that. Face it. You’re a bit of a show- off.

There’s nothing wrong with any of this. You need to be a bit showy to make this work. Embrace the “braggy” side of your blogging personality. This will help you in the long-run because without content, you just have a user name and password– and an empty blog.

It’s the “perfectionist” side of your personality that will be holding you back. You’ll want to express yourself but come to realize that’s it’s a bit weird, the ending is rough, your point wasn’t made, and the esthetics of your post are off-putting. That’s okay. You can’t please everyone. And apparently, not even yourself. So let go of the perfection-tendency and start writing and posting frequently.

We’ve all heard that it’s “quality content” that sets you apart and makes you stand out in Google’s search ranking. This is true. The point is to have something that is interesting enough so that people come back or view other posts on your blog. You’ve snagged someone then and Google seems to know. This is what “quality content” means.

Keep writing and pressing forward but most importantly, keep thinking. After all, it’s from these random thoughts that sprout throughout our days that provide the fodder for our blog posts.