1 in 140 Million

With approximately 140 million bloggers and 175 million tweeps out there, what are the odds that it’s possible to make connections? To build friendships?
When I started blogging four months ago my goal was simple: to “build a writer’s platform.” Beyond that, I expected nothing. Beyond that I knew nothing. In short, I had no idea what I was getting into….

But the truth is, I found out the real power and strength behind blogging and Twitter is in the relationships and friendships you build, like the one I have with Natalia Sylvester who writes beautifully at one of my favorite blogs: finding truth through fiction.

So today I’m happy to say that I’m guest blogging at Natalia’s blog about this very thing. How against the odds, the massive number of bloggers and tweeters out there, it’s possible to build real friendships and connections like I have with Natalia and my other Twitter and blogging friends.

Please be my guest and read my guest blog What are the Odds? at Natalia’s blog!

The Case of the Restless Writer

The WIPs

Ever since the blogathon ended, I’ve been restless. And a little grouchy. All of a sudden I have an extra hour or two a day, the amount of time I was spending blogging. Every single day for the month of May.

June 1 should have been liberation day, but I couldn’t help myself, and I posted a short blog about my garden. June 2, I told myself I had to blog to participate in the school picture day blogging event.

Then finally: June 3. Saturday. There was absolutely no good reason I had to or should blog. The weather was gorgeous, the weeds in the garden beckoned, and we were all together as a family. But I wanted to post a blog!

Aside from the “few other things” in my life like spending time with my family, laundry, cooking, gardening, reading, there were always my WIPs, forlornly awaiting more attention through my daily blogging. Those old friends sat in their respective stacks and electronic files, patiently waiting and collecting dust.

I finally, ashamedly admitted to MEH (My Engineer Husband) that I wanted—no needed—to blog! That I was even writing a guest blog for someone who didn’t ask me—I offered! I was writing another to submit for consideration to a blogging friend looking for guest bloggers while she was on vacation.

In short, I was in trouble.

MEH reminded me of a book we used to have called Positive Addiction by Dr. William Glasser. In this book, Dr. Glasser talks about how people reach a transcendent, meditative state by doing activities they love everyday. And further, if you miss a day, you may suffer from symptoms of withdrawal (like anxiety or restlessness). Most of Glasser’s research involved running, but he also found people who became positively addicted to gardening, knitting, juggling, and—yes—even to writing. As with their evil cousins negative addictions, positive addictions are ones you are driven to do every day. Unlike negative addictions, however, positive addictions strengthen both mental and neurological capacity. And here’s the thing: Dr. Glasser suggests these strength gains carry over into all other aspects of life.

AHA! The minute I started reviewing the features of positive addiction, I realized MEH was right. I had become addicted to blogging!

Hello, my name is Julia and I’m a blogging addict.

A blogging fool, is more like it. Because although blogging is wonderful: it gets me writing everyday, it connects me to other wonderful bloggers and writers, it gives me positive feedback from comments, it gives me an anchor to my day. And, now I know it makes me feel better all day long….

But it is also not-so-wonderful. Because I neglect my WIPs. Which is, after all, the whole reason I started blogging: to write more with the eventual goal of being a published author.

Yesterday, after several hours of weeding and housecleaning therapy, I realized my solution: WIP Replacement Therapy (WIPRT).

With this new and radical treatment (that yes, I invented, but feel free to use it for your own blog addiction treatment), every time I feel an urge to write a blog (except on M-W-F and Sundays J), I will replace that urge with working on my fiction WIP. I will write at the kitchen table everyday for at least an hour, and it is my hope that within a month of WIPRT, I will be positively addicted to that instead of to blogging!

It won’t be easy, but with hard work and perseverance, and a little help and reminding from my writing friends on Twitter, I think I can do it!

Are you, like me, addicted to blogging? Do you have any other positive addictions? Do you think WIPRT will work for me? And, most importantly, will you pledge to be part of my WIPRT support system on Twitter?


80,000 Words

Just a few of the 20,000 words I blogged about this month, word cloud created by Wordle.net

I debated naming this post: “Blogging is Easier for me than Writing Fiction.”
Because the truth is: blogging is easier for me than writing fiction. I love blogging, and by dedicating my month of May to it, I have written 20,000 words to be (approximately) precise. In fact, daily blogging really adds up and for the past (almost) four months, I’ve blogged every day but two—so to extrapolate: I’ve written (approximately) 80,000 words in the past four months.

Those 80,000 blog-words serve a wonderful and important purpose; they:

1. Got me writing every single day and made me realize that I can make a commitment to daily writing and stick to it.

2. Connected me with wonderful, supportive, encouraging writers, who have given me daily feedback on my writing.

3. Reminded me that day after day, little by little, words add up.

Still, I look at all those words, the time that went into writing them, and I think about my WIPs. With the same focused attention I give to my blog, I could finish a draft of a novel (and more) with 80,000 words.

The truth remains: I want to be a published novelist. And the only way I know how to do that is to keep on writing fiction.
Which is why I’m renewing my daily date with my kitchen table. Some how, some way, by hook or by crook, I will figure out a way to put the same kind of dedication and commitment to work with my fiction. Even if it’s easier to write my blog.

Which is easier for you? Blogging or fiction? How do you switch gears between the two?



Blog 101

The lie of “2 truths and a lie” from yesterday’s blog was: #2, I really did NOT eat an ant! (Yes, I really did have bbq hippo!) Only one person guessed right: Leah of Leah’s Thoughts! Next time you’re in Maine, I’ll buy you lunch, Leah…but not ants….or hippo….maybe lobster?

This is Blog 101. The 101st blog I’ve written.
I was pretty surprised when that number popped up today. I didn’t realize I’d written so many blogs, but they really add up. Anyway, I started going through my old blogs, and I made some interesting discoveries, which I decided to—what else?—write a blog about!
The very FIRST BLOG COMMENT I got was on the blog called The 2% Club—about personality types (it was the 5th blog I posted)…I thought this post would really pull in commenters. I was wrong, I got only one comment! (In the interest of full disclosure, my real-first-first comment was made on the second blog I posted, but I found out later that one of my IRL friends wrote the comment anonymously, to help me get the comments rolling!) 

I have to say, this was one of the most discouraging things about being a new blogger—not getting any comments on the early blogs I wrote. In the whole first month I blogged, I only got about 22 comments, total, on all posts! That’s one of the reasons I make a point of commenting on the early blogs of new bloggers.

But it’s also one of the reasons there are some blogs I WISH I’D POSTED LATER, like….Is Writing Like Love? that I posted on Valentine’s Day, about 10 days after I started blogging. I loved it and still do! It got 0 comments, a big goose egg. Nada. I think the LOVE post (actually I blogged about LOVE all Valentine’s Week!) might have been more popular and might have gotten more comments if I’d written it later in my blogging career (did I really just say that?!).

Even though I loved that one and some of the other early blogs, by far the blog that was THE MOST FUN TO WRITE was the one I wrote on the old typewriter! And the MOST BELOVED CHARACTER ON MY BLOG? Clearly MEH (My Engineer Husband) who not only has had comments directed at him but also some commenters have asked for MORE information about him, and some people have even commented on what a good writer MEH is. (Little known fact about the MEH posts: they are in fact written by me….as MEH says: he’s an engineer not a writer.)

There is a BLOG I WISH I’D NEVER POSTED, and that’s A writer wonders: What Hails From the Forest Deep. I was trying to be funny and whimsical, but I fell flat on my face. I was thinking: woodchuck in a red vest. But honestly? I think a few of you thought I had gone around the bend, and I was implying I’d found (and believed in) sprites, gnomes or other mythical creatures? Not so.

By far, the MOST READ BLOG POSTS are the ones I’ve written about librarians. I owe this all to the inspiration of Marilyn Johnson who wrote THIS BOOK IS OVERDUE! After I read Marilyn’s book, I wrote a kind of a review about it (I’m not a book reviewer by any stretch of the imagination), then I visited and blogged about the Boston Public Library, and then I actually met Marilyn Johnson at a reading in Portland, Maine, and of course blogged about that! The first blog I wrote about Marilyn’s book has gotten double the hits of any other blog I’ve written!

But not the most comments. The MOST COMMENTED POST was Found Around My Desk, the one where I posted pictures of my desk. This post and the one about Marilyn’s book, about two weeks apart in post dates, were the ones that finally made me feel like someone was reading what I was writing! The desk one didn’t surprise me at all because aren’t we all curious about other peoples’ homes and writing spaces, especially we nosey writers?

Finally (if those were the two most popular blogs, followed closely by Poof! Three Writing Wishes and Writing from a Strong Sense of Place) then the MOST SURPRISINGLY FLAT-FALLING BLOG was The Mystery of the Blue Bags! I really like this one, one of my personal favorites, but it got NO comments! Go figure; it just shows that I never know what people will connect to and what they won’t! Just one of the mysteries I’ve uncovered in Blog 101.
What kinds of things would you like me to write about? Which blog posts of mine have you liked the most? The least? Do you have favorite blogs you’ve written? Do some that you like best fall flat on their face?



p.s. And don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about Crows, Lucky Letters, and a Ghost Story…look for those coming up soon! And yes, more about MEH!

Coming Up Blank

Do not attempt to adjust the picture: this is
what it looks like in the mind of wordsxo

For the first time in my almost three months of daily blogging, today I’m coming up blank.
This is a particularly bad thing because just two days ago I started the daily Wordcount Blogathon 2011. And, so, I’m committed to—really more committed to—daily blogging. And here’s the important part: someone may be watching and actually noticing whether or not I’m blogging everyday.

And, if I finish the challenge, I could win prizes. Which in a way is like payment. And, perhaps more importantly, I could develop more readership of my blog. Which is kind of the point.

Okay, I’m not going to get all psycho-analytical here (believe me, no one wants to hear my deep-seeded problems), but I have to wonder why, for the very first time since I started blogging, it’s NOW that I have problems.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t have plenty of ideas, like: why writing is kind of like the slow moving slug I saw on my walk through the Dog Woods this morning, who the heck writes wine labels and why my wine has a first name, why and how I know that I write like a man, Joe the Crow and how research shows that crows recognize individual people, what my lucky letter is and how to figure out what yours is, and of course there are always more stories about the history of my house and gardening, specificially how gardening is a metaphor for the writing process.

I hear you: “Julia, the brief summaries, they don’t sound that good.” 

Believe me, they will turn into good blogs—someday! But not today. Because today I can’t write a blog about anything but this: I AM COMING UP EMPTY, PEOPLE. And more importantly WHY?

Okay, maybe I am going to get a little psycho-analytical (just a little, don’t worry). I will tell you this one thing about Julia Munroe Martin, founder and blogger of wordsxo: I do not like to be told what to do and/or how to do it! Why? Who knows!? I do know that it has caused some issues in my life, things like not being able to sit in a cube in corporate America (I lasted four years) and not liking to be anything but President when I’m in a parent organization, like the PTA (yeah, I’m one of those types). And, liking to write what I want to write, when I want to write it.

So how does this fit into a career as a freelance writer, you wonder? I need to really, really believe in a project or client. And when I do, I produce great results. (It’s one of the reasons I like working with nonprofits.) When I don’t, then eh, not so much, or I quit. I think it’s in my personality profile as an INFJ—I really need to feel invested in things I’m involved in; I’m idealistic that way.

Okay, that’s all; I needed that. Tomorrow, tune back in, when I’ll be back on track with another daily blog—and it won’t be a self-analysis of my blogging habits, I promise! But what it will be? Who knows?

What do you do when you come up blank? Do you have days like I do that you just can’t write about any of your ideas? 

Cheers and on with the day!

Writing Off the Beaten Path

Every morning we go for a walk at The Dog Woods Trail, and usually our path is pretty predictable: once around the baseball field or down a road to the short loop designated for dogs. But, for some reason, this morning our old dog decided to go off the beaten track.

As we followed her down the unfamiliar path in the woods, I realized that sometimes as writers we go off the beaten path, too.

On a dog walk, it can bring the thrill of seeing something never before seen, like a new bird, a freshly blooming wildflower, or the early-morning sun slanting through newly-leafing trees. Or maybe the not-so-fun: wading through an unfamiliar mud patch or ending up with a tick from traipsing through the dense thicket.

In writing, off-the-beaten path can be a new direction. In my case, leaving the familiar terrain of journalism and technical writing to follow a new path of fiction, creative nonfiction, and blogging.

By going off the beaten trail, I’ve given myself permission to write and blog about things I might never otherwise have considered—like the other day when I wrote a blog post about a “home” in a dead tree in the woods. With the unexpected consequence of some readers thinking I might believe in fairies, it was a fun nonetheless to dabble in fantasy, a genre I’ve never before tried.
Or last month when I blogged about something intensely personal: my brother’s sudden death—certainly a path I never would have even considered before blogging—which brought the unexpected but most appreciated solace and sympathy from new writer friends.

Sometimes writing off the beaten path pays off in other ways, like a few years ago when—on a whim—I decided to write a short romance story that ended up being accepted for publication in a mainstream, national women’s magazine.

And sometimes trying a new direction offers personal unexpected rewards—like how my blogging has led to a renewed commitment to writing of all kinds and to connections with other writers I never would have met otherwise.

So, as chance-y as it might sometimes be, this writer will take a lesson from her old dog and keep taking journeys off the beaten path. Who knows what it might turn up next.

What writing (or life) journeys do you take off the beaten path? What are the results? Are they the ones you’ve expected or have there been some surprises?


Old School Style Blogging

[Click on image to view larger]

Grandma MEH’s typewriter

express.co.uk article about the manual typewriter

The Daily Blog

Yesterday my blog was about about renewing my commitment to my WIPs—because I wasn’t putting in enough writing time. Along with my other planned strategies, I re-stated my commitment to daily blogging—something I committed to when I first started blogging.
Thank you so much for your wonderful comments: so supportive and encouraging (this is one of my favorite, albeit completely unexpected, parts of blogging!). In addition, a few of you brought up a question I ask myself often: is daily blogging really a good idea? Why do I do it?

With this question bouncing around in my head, yesterday I signed up for the 2011 WordCount Blogathon. (My Twitter writing friend @jwalkerwrites, who blogs at My Morning Chocolate, suggested I might like to participate.) In this challenge, an annual event, I am committing to blogging every day for the month of May: 31 consecutive days.

Reading about the Blogathon helped remind me of some of my personal and professional reasons for daily blogging.

§ My training is in journalism, and my professional background is in technical, business, and nonprofit writing; and one of the reasons I started to blog was as a way to get the word out about me as a writer for hire. I want potential clients to see not just the breadth and depth of my writing but also that I have the drive and motivation to write every day.

§ The truth is I enjoy this kind of writing: creative nonfiction. When I first finished journalism school, one of my goals was to write an opinion or humor column in a newspaper. I never attained that goal, but blogging is a similar kind of writing, and it’s something I enjoy.

§ Through daily blogging, I finally, on a regular basis, have people reading what I write—and I get positive feedback! It is a lonely solitary life and profession as a (largely unpublished) writer. As a fiction and creative nonfiction writer, I’ve had about six pieces published, and through daily blogging I know that my work is at least publicly available for reading. It’s a great feeling!

§ Finally, although blogging is hardly the same as fiction writing, daily blogging makes me think hard about ideas: what will I blog today? How will I develop the idea? How can I write about it so it is interesting to the reader? What are people interested in reading about? These are questions that I think about in my fiction writing, too, so daily blogging helps me to exercise these muscles in a different way.

So, that’s my thought process about daily blogging! That said, once the Blogathon is over and I am comfortable with my reading/following base, I am likely to follow advice and common sense and reduce my blogging frequency to three to four times a week. Because as much as I enjoy blogging, I also know that to pursue fiction writing I need to put as much time as I possibly can into developing my craft and producing results.

Are you interested in participating in the 2011 Wordcount Blogathon? You can still sign up until 11 p.m. PST on May 1. Check it out!


Streamlining the Process

This week has been one of interruptions to my usual routine. While on the road, I’ve been getting all my email and tweets on my IPhone. (Thank goodness, after my recent indecision blog, I did get an IPhone. It has proven indispensable this week.)
One thing I’ve noticed, however, is that I get way too many notifications in email about all the great blogs I follow. When I first started following blogs, email (versus RSS) seemed like the best way to be told of new postings. I’m one of those people who likes to be spoon fed, at least where information is concerned. If something is not right in front of me, I might get distracted by another shiny object at hand—so having something delivered straight to my inbox seemed like a perfect fit.

However, now that I’ve subscribed to more than a few, I’ve decided that I might need to switch over to feeds.  The problem is, as I’ve started to transition over, I realize that it will be somewhat time consuming to cancel the subscriptions, as well as to figure out where to get the feeds (google vs. my Mac email box), how this works, and then how to implement it to work best.

Since it’s going to take some work, I’m wondering if it’s worth it!  As I thought it over, I began to get curious: is this a problem unique to me, or do some of you have the same issues with too much information coming into your inbox?….if so, how do you handle it?

Has this been a conundrum for you, as well? How do you get notified about new content on blogs? Via email or RSS feed? If email, do you have a system set up for sorting emails into folders? Or do you bypass all of this and just have a list of favorite blogs you check everyday? Do you rely on Twitter to prompt you? Or some combination of all?


Found, Around My Desk

Found, Around My Desk

This blog was inspired by a Twitter friend. (Thanks Jen Bee!) The day before yesterday she posted a picture on Twitter showing a pile of papers with a ruler next to it, entitled “Found, around my desk.”

First, I was amused. It’s a whimsical photo. And very artistic. Then I wondered: would I do that? I mean, let Tweeps see my desk? In my office—inside my home? As I thought about it, over the course of the day, I realized that in many respects you—my writing Bleeps (blog peeps) and Tweeps—are like co-workers, becoming friends!

Writing is so solitary that aside from MEH (My Engineer Husband), my kids, Abby the dog, and the occasional IRL friend who I drag into my office to show something to, no one ever sees where I work.

So, today, co-workers and friends, here’s the tour of my corner of the world: my desk (shown above; sorry, it’s a little messy but it’s my work area…), where I spend 6 to 8 to sometimes-10 hours a day. Where I blog, tweet, and write.

And here’s a the view I most often look out to.

The view out my other window

Now, here’s an invitation to you other solo co-worker writers out there: I’d love to see where you work—please post photos of your desk and the view out your window!



The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

I’ve had a cold this week and a bad attitude. Yes, a B.A., riddled with self doubt.

During these times, I can really get down on myself. I compare myself to everyone else: her blog is amazing, she had six books published already, he is half my age and has a bestseller. Worse yet, I want to give up. I’ll never be as good…I might as well go back to only business and technical writing. Wait a minute, maybe I can’t: when was that client supposed to get back to me?

See what I mean? And every time I’m in one of these moods I think about the book I used to read to my kids: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. A favorite because a) it’s such an incredibly good and well-written book, and b) it nails the feelings. The kids could relate and so could I.

So this morning when I started going down the drain, I thought about Alexander and the woman who wrote the book. I know she wrote it about her son, Alexander, and the bad day(s) he was experiencing. But the feeling is universal. I need to remind myself of that. Everyone has a bad day, everyone questions, everyone wonders if they’ve made the right decisions in their life.

Maybe even Judith Viorst.

After I felt a little less sorry for myself, I did an amazon search and found Ms. Viorst’s latest (of many) book: “Unexpectedly 80: And Other Complications.” I thought, I need to get that book! A woman as wise as Judith Viorst, who wrote one of the books I think about every time I’m having a bad day, may be able to have a thing or two more to say to me.

And if that doesn’t work, maybe, just maybe, I’ll move to Australia.



p.s. So, help me out here: you have bad days, too, right? What do you do to help yourself feel better and more positive? Or do you just write through it? What books or authors do you think of?

5 Ways Getting Rid of TV Makes Life Better

Two months ago we got rid of TV.

It’s not that I watched too much (unless you consider four hours of the Today show every morning too much) or that it was interfering with my life (how could it, we had a DVR so I could record anything I wanted to watch for later). The plain and simple truth is we couldn’t afford it after MEH (My Engineer Husband) lost his job.

At first it was really hard, and very strange, to not tune out in front of the TV whenever I wanted to. But now, I’ve discovered that in many ways I am actually enjoying not having TV. Here are 5 ways my life is better.

1. I get more done: more writing, more reading, and recently someone commented on how much cleaner my house looks. According to A.C. Nielsen, the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day (that’s 28 hours a week, and I’m afraid I might have been much higher…). That means that just since we’ve gotten rid of TV, I’ve had almost 200 extra hours to do other things! (Like blogging—I started my blog after we got rid of TV!)

2. We save $100 a month! I can hardly believe we paid $1200 a year for cable TV! Don’t worry, Time Warner is doing okay without our money, we still pay over $75 a month to them for phone and Internet service. (And, in all fairness to Time Warner, they were willing to let us keep “basic cable” for $15.95 a month. No deal: we go big or go home.)

3. We have real conversations without the humming numbing television in the background.

4. I feel happier and less sad. 53 percent of news stories are about crime, disaster, and war; and 79 percent of Americans believe TV violence helps contribute to real-life violence. Further, a study of young men by University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine showed a connection between higher levels of TV viewing and greater levels of depression. Watching beautiful people with perfect homes living unrealistic lives or being bombarded with endless advertisements of things that no one can afford to live without—what’s not to be depressed about?

5. I have come to appreciate the silence and peace of just being. A lot of the time, the TV would be on in the background for no reason. Studies have shown that television viewing prolongs dominance of right brain functions, and thus causes a trance-like state of mind. And while I admit there are times I’d really like to zone out in front of the TV, I’m trying to do more constructive and healthier things with that time—like reading or coming up with new things to write about or taking a walk.

Even though we gave up TV purely for financial reasons, it has brought many positive side benefits. So many, that we are seriously considering giving it up more permanently. Still, sometimes I’m not so sure…there are things I miss, too, and at times I think we should bring TV back into our lives, and I just need to develop more self control over when and how much I watch.

What are your experiences with TV? Does it interfere with getting things done or are you able to tame your viewing enough that it’s not a problem? Are there positive benefits of TV, in regard to writing, that I haven’t thought of? (No, this is not just looking for an excuse to get TV back in my life!) I’m interested to hear your thoughts!