In what seems to have been the passing of a mere handful of months, I am actually commemorating the official on year anniversary of my very first blog post. Invoke your most treasured passage of time cliché and marvel at the fact that A Crock of Schmidt is indeed one year old. Already!
Something Festive From The Back of the Liquor Cabinet
As is the tradition in our society, such anniversaries are to me marked with both celebration and reflection. I have therefore just downed a shot of something I found in the back of the liquor cabinet that looked festive and will endeavour to write a state of the blog address. As luck would have it, my first ever post was a summary of five reasons for starting a blog. What better way to mark the passage of one circuit around the sun than to revisit those five points and see how I did.
So pour yourself a glass of champagne, I happen to have enough of whatever this is for another shot, and raise it in toast to the first anniversary or birthday, not sure which is more appropriate, of A Crock of Schmidt. I haven’t the slightest confidence that I’ll make it to another one so drink up and give a hoot this time!
1) “You should have been a writer.”
Gratefully, I still get told this once in awhile. I’ve even had a couple people ask me when another blog post is coming, an admittedly infrequent occurrence of late. I have 131 Facebook followers (thanks to much begging begetting much pity) and 220 Twitter followers (for much the same reason). Hell I even have NINE people (so what if one is my wife) who signed up for email notification of new posts to my blog. That’s almost a fandom!
The experiences of this past year leave me feeling like I am closer to becoming a writer than at any point in my life which is both encouraging and terrifying. And yet, I somehow feel equally further from that goal than ever before.
I started blogging thinking it would be a wonderful transition from letter writer to book writer. I think that’s what I was doing anyway. Oh hell, I don’t know. It seems my plan was faulty whatever it was originally. Let’s face it, I just don’t write much. I enjoy it well enough. When I’m finished a piece I’m genuinely proud of the accomplishment. I think I’m fairly good at it; good enough, at least, to believe that doing this “for real” isn’t an entirely impaired hypothesis. I just lack any passion to do it seriously.
Over and over I read about authors, successful or otherwise, who are driven to write. ALL. THE. TIME. And they’ve been doing so since they first learned to scratch out the alphabet with a crayon. I am not like that. Not yet. Possibly not ever. It worries me that I’m chasing a dream that really isn’t mine. I fear I don’t actually have dreams of my own. Maybe I just fear, period.
Needless to say this point remains a work in progress. At risk of sounding like I’m offering yet another excuse, I think September will prove to be the ultimate test as to whether this endeavour has legitimacy for me. If I’m ever going to write like I mean it, and by that I mean daily, focused, creative work, it’ll happen in the new school year when I have 6 ½ hours each weekday to dedicate to my craft. If I cannot find the desire to write then well I might as well pack it in and find a job. Judgment day is coming.
2) I need a job or I’ll be forced to get a job.
On one hand, I have all but confirmed that blogging as a job, an income generating job resulting in meaningful monetary compensation, is just not going to happen. On the other hand, have you been following the price of oil lately?
In my shortsightedness, this is a conundrum I had not envisioned. Not only have I eliminated a potential new career but an old career is simultaneously eliminating me. I loathe becoming an online product shill at $100 a pop yet my fallback position is an industry now chopping jobs with all the enthusiasm of a lumberjack on speed. And a 43 year old returning from 7 ½ years off isn’t likely to buck that trend.
I suppose then, on this point, I am right back where I started. Perhaps writing the next great novel is the way to go. Surely that’s reasonable; easy.
3) I don’t want to be one of those dads.
I think I already am one of those dads! I have quickly become a technological ignoramus. There was a time I considered myself a borderline nerd. People would come to me for assistance with a computer or a program and I could actually help. This didn’t happen often but enough to give the impression I knew more about these futuristic machines than the average bloke. In high school I admit to having spent lunches in the school computer lab playing embryonic role playing games some of the legitimate nerds had created. In university I even programmed a Reversi game that was able to beat me, though that might be more a testament to my Reversi skills than my coding skills.
Sadly, those days are long gone. I am now the one in desperate need of help. I can’t figure out how to setup a network in my house. I recently purchased a tablet and basically use it as a $500 portable radio because that’s the extent of my functional knowledge with it. All these little app icons might as well be Egyptian hieroglyphs for all the usefulness they are to me. And this tablet cum radio is replacing a 30 year old receiver brimming with all the high end connections employed in 1986. I’ll make you a deal on it; it’s a Sony. I’ll even toss in some bitchin’ JVC speakers from the 60s.
Then there is the odorous cesspool that is Social Media. This stuff was foremost on my mind when I came up with this point. Not only are websites like Facebook and Twitter, to name only the two best known, pertinent to developing a blog audience they are the technologies most of us fear our children using. Lots of bogeymen and bogeywomen (bogeypeople?) out there waiting to prey on our kids not to mention the horrors of cyber-bullying or the pitfalls of, gulp, sexting.
Here I am relieved to say I’m more informed than a year ago. My blogging alone has introduced me to the world of WordPress and the cusp of modern coding. I’m no expert by any means, but I’m moving up the learning curve rather than plunging off it. I also now know what Reddit and Pinterest and Ello and Instagram and Imgur are. Hmmm, now that I’ve put that on the page it’s kind of depressing that I know what those are. Still, it’s progress and of value as a parent.
Or one would think it is except for this little irony Fate tossed into the salad; kids don’t use them anymore. This is especially true of Facebook and Twitter which are now the favourite online hangouts for adults. Not surprising in retrospect. When adults find where the kids are hanging out, the kids don’t welcome the prying eyes. They find a new place to hangout. Same as it ever was.
Still, I suppose it is a start. Absolute ignorance is not a wise parenting option. Besides, you’ve got to go where the kids were to figure out where they went. I have significant work left to do on this point and while I despise Social Media like public schools hate peanuts I am determined to remain relevant as my kids grow ever closer to using these tools themselves. So I think on this point I’ve had a modicum of success even if I haven’t enjoyed it.
4) I’m getting a wee bit lonely.
Here again we are greeted with a comparison of hands. In one lies the fact that I remain a wee bit lonely which suggests this point too is a monumental failure. In the other lies the fact that I now remember why I’m lonley which can only be seen as a thrilling success. I’m lonely because I don’t like people.
I once knew this but had somehow let it slip from my conscious mind. One year online was plenty of time to re-establish and reinforce this truth. People are exasperating at their best; contemptible assholes at their worst. And if the internet is anything, it’s an orgy of people at their very worst (and I am not so arrogant as to exclude myself from that assessment).
I suspect this is mostly my issue. I don’t do confrontation well. It causes all sorts of unpleasant circuitry malfunctions in my body. I recognize it is one of my failings but try as I might it’s one I find great difficulty in altering. And Social Media is about the worst place to attempt to remedy such a failing.
Here’s the great (and frightening) truth about Social Media; YOU have absolutely no control over the context and intent of YOUR words. Everyone else gets to determine that. And believe me; people are just itching for a reason to be offended. Silence is no longer golden, folks, it’s a survival mechanism. Stupid and Vulgar are running the asylum, Sensitive and Petty guard the doorway and Humourless is in charge of activities.
If you’re lucky, you may make a friend or two online. Even I have managed to do that. But in general you’re more likely to meet a plethora of people who just annoy you in ways that surely must contravene the Geneva Convention. Perhaps I need to develop schizophrenia for the company. Oops. That no doubt offended someone.
5) I hope to correct a personal fault.
This may have been my last point but it was a very important one to me. More than anything else this past year I tried exceptionally hard not to involve myself in online arguments and debates. It’s something I emotionally am not adept at and the internet is rife with fights waiting for combatants. As I said above, they don’t give a crap what you actually say they’re only interested in whether you agree with them. Actual listening doesn’t happen much. The world is talking at each other like never before but nobody really wants to have their opinion changed, never mind informed. Everyone’s just looking for the confirmation that comes with finding like-thinking minds regardless of how frivolous or putrid the idea.
I must admit I have failed myself a few times. Unlike in the past, I was reasonably quick to rectify this and disengage. I always removed my offending comments but it remained an overwhelming frustration. I’ve had to remove myself from Facebook groups, for example, just because it was too overwhelming to me. All the loud, obnoxious, idiotic people bombarding me daily with opinions and bravado outweighed the joys of comradery and community. It was awful. I still struggle often with those social groups I remain part of.
And yet it must be me. This is my problem. When everyone annoys you it’s hard to make a logical argument that they are to blame. All this anxiety arising from what others say just eats at me. So I retreat and disappear. I’m under no delusion that this is any indication of growth on my part though it’s better than fighting aimlessly or reflexively. Still I find that I’m completely silencing my opinion from the world. I have important, useful things to say. Well I’d like to think I do. I just don’t know how to say them eloquently. I don’t know how to not get angry or frustrated when the inevitable multitudes of dumb and obnoxious arrive in response.
My blogging thus far has by and large typecast me as a goofy, humour writer. If I suddenly start inundating my 10 fans with hard hitting opinion pieces on what’s wrong with everything will I alienate them? And does the world even need more opinion? Does it even matter?
So while I think I’ve done better at this but still don’t feel like I’m a better person for it. My approach is lacking. Not getting involved seems a coward’s way out. Yet I know jumping into online arguments is not the answer either. I’m perplexed at what to do. This is a work in progress, shall we say.
Thinking About It Is What I Do Best
Where does this leave me as I cautiously venture forth into my second year of blogging? It seems I’m pretty much where I was when I started the first year. There has been some progress but not a lot. As is often the case, more questions arose than answers. I maintain an interest in this pursuit. I can’t shake this sense that something biggish is about to happen with me, an explosion of creativity. Whether that manifests itself in a worthwhile manner or an embarrassing one remains to be seen. In the meantime I’ll get back to what I do best; thinking about it.