Daily blog? Hmmm

If I actually end up daily blogging, this will be Blog #1.

It isn’t so sudden and it definitely isn’t out of nowhere, but it sure is extreme for me to even consider daily blogging when I am in the midst of juggling so many other things.

And of course it’s over Shabbat (Saturday) that I think of these insane new projects, let alone take them seriously. It’s the one day of the week that I don’t work. With all my daily responsibilities fallen to the wayside, my creative juices are rejuvinated and, at the time, these great ideas to take over the world (in ways other than those I’m already implementing) seem like good uses of said juices.

It makes sense I’m drawn to this idea because I miss my personal writing, something that gets little attention since my writing career took off. That’s the irony. I always wrote, about whatever was going on in my life – I wrote about nutrition when I was a dietitian, about Judaism when I was struggling with my place in the religious world and about dating when I returned to Jerusalem and hoped to revolutionize the dating system (hint: I failed).

But since I began writing – read: website content management, editing, proofreading, translating, event calendar management, etc. – for a living, I find that I do almost no personal writing.

This is because all my writing energy goes to my work. This is something I didn’t expect when I worked towards a writing career, but I try not to feel down about it because writing for a living was my dream!

(P.S. Dreams are never the same in reality as they are in our minds.)

Anyway, the other issue I have with my personal writing is that almost every topic I decide to write about turns out to be too personal once I get into it – either for me or someone else – and then it gets really complicated and then I give up. It is such a huge challenge to write from a personal place without writing in a way that’s too personal.

This makes me think of two people.

First, is a woman. A poet. She came to read her poetry to a group of elderly people in the day center where I worked while I lived in Vancouver. She got up in front of the clients and shocked us all (well, those of us who could hear well enough) with a a piece about passively lying on her back, staring up at the ceiling… While her husband had sex with her.

In retrospect, who cares that it was in front of elderly people – I’m sure they had plenty of sex in their lives. But Lord, wasn’t that a little more exposure than she wanted? Apparently not.

The other person I think of is Casey Neistat, the super famous YouTuber who daily vlogged for around 500 days (almost completely) straight. His daily vlogging warrants its own blog post because he is so incredibly inspiring and talented and inspiring (yes, repeatedly purposely) but my point here is that he made a video about his life and thoughts for around 500 days straight and never put anything in that was more personal than he felt comfortable with (I didn’t ask him but I can just tell). His wife and two kids are in there but I’ve never seen him and his wife hug or kiss. I know almost nothing about their relationship. He stopped putting his baby’s face in the vlogs after a certain point. And no personal conversations made it into the videos.

On the one hand I felt the lacking and yearned to see or hear something more personal. But on the other hand, I would think that it was because he was so strict with his own guidelines that he was able to keep it up. There was no question – those personal things weren’t going in. And so he worked around that in an extremely artistic and still interesting manner.

Anyway, I know I have a lot I’d like to share and I’m going to try getting back into that. At the very least I’m going to try to blog a little more. And at the very most I hope to get into blogging daily. Let’s see who will win – less or more. :) Stay tuned.

Photo resizing hack (for images from the web)

Please note: Two days after I wrote this, screenshots and all, Fotor launched a new user interface to their website. Oops! So, some of the steps might look slightly different but it should still work the same. DML

Often images are the bane of the website content manager’s existence. Finding them, making sure you have credit for them, resizing them properly… It’s all quite tedious and often can take longer than the actual written content!

So when my colleague showed me how he resizes images using the Fotor collage creator, I got pretty excited. He uses the collage creator not for its intended use but I think it’s going to save me a lot of time. This is especially useful when you’re working on a site where you need to upload the exact same size image. In this case, it’s best to set up the Fotor collage creator once and then leave it open, ready for your use throughout the day.

This hack can work for images saved on the computer but as far as I’m concerned part of the fun of this hack is that it works with images from the web without having to download them first to your computer!

Here’s how to do it. I’ll use a Facebook image for the example:

1. Find the image you want on Facebook, right click on it and save the image URL.

image resizing hack august 2015 1

2. Go to fotor.com and click on MAKE A COLLAGE.

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3. On the left hand side of the screen are a lot of settings. Scroll all the way to the bottom. Click on the lock button so that the height and width can be edited independently and put in the dimensions you need. Click “Confirm.”
image resizing hack august 2015 2

4. In the collage area, delete all the extra boxes until there is only one left.

image resizing hack august 2015 3

So it ends up looking like this:

image resizing hack august 2015 4

5. The border will be automatically set at 10. You can change it to zero also on the left hand side.

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6. Click on the down arrow next to “Open” and the click on “Web,” the bottom option.

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7. Paste the image URL which you saved in the field that pops up. Click “Open.”

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8. You’ll see it load in the bottom right hand side of the screen.

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9. Drag your photo into the collage space and drag it around until it’s situated the way you want.

10. When you’re done, click on the save button which looks like a floppy disk.

image resizing hack august 2015 9

Done. Do you have any awesome ways you edit photos for web? Please share in the comments!

En dash, em dash, hyphens—how to use them and how to create them in WordPress

How many of you writers differentiate properly between the usage of the hyphen, the en dash and the em dash? Not yours truly! Until today, that is. I hereby vow—well, not exactly, of course—to explain to you how to use these three little beauties properly in your writing and to then use them properly myself.

Photo source
Photo source

According to this piece on Get it Write Online

The hyphen is used like this:

Twentieth-century
or
Well-being

The en dash (which is the width of the letter N) is used like so:

7:00PM–9:00PM
or
August 17–September 2

And the em dash (which is the width of the letter M) is used like this:

I went to the store—the one on Keren Hayesod—and I bought the damn apple.
or
The apple turned out to be rotten—or so I believe.

Now how do you create en and em dashes in WordPress?

Aha! This is the second most exciting part of this post. Turns out WordPress is all ready to go with en and em dashes. I learned from this post that if you simply write two hyphens next to each other, without spaces, you’ll get an en dash and if you do the same with three hyphens, you’ll get the em dash.

– this is a hyphen
— this is an en dash
— this is an em dash

Finally…

All this being said, is this whole topic passe or do you think it really is good for writers to make sure to use these punctuation marks properly?

P.S.

According to this piece, the official way to create en and em dashes is like this:

In any software program that handles text, the em dash can be typed on an enhanced keyboard as Alt + 0151—that is, hold down the “alternate” key and type, using the numerical pad on the right side of the keyboard, the numbers 0151. The en dash can be typed as Alt + 0150.

Why you should stop reading your readers’ comments

A very famous blogger (if only I could remember who) doesn’t allow comments on his blog. If someone wants to share their thoughts (or passionate attacks) about a piece, they can do it on Facebook, he said, in order to keep it more controlled and to keep his website clean.

Continue on, my friend. (image source)
Continue on, my friend. (image source)

Assumptions assumptions. It is assumed that having a conversation going on your blog is some great ideal. And that it’s important to interact with your readers, replying to most/all of their comments. Why? And talk about freakin’ exhausting!

I keep speaking to popular bloggers who are emotionally worn from comments left them by their faithful followers. Sometimes it’s the same reader every time who pushes the writer’s buttons. Sometimes it’s trolls (whatever that is). But does it matter? Every time, these writers spend countless joules figuring out:

  1. How to internalize the comment – what to think and feel about it.
  2. Whether or not they should reply to the comment of question.
  3. What to reply.
  4. Whether or not they should continue a conversation with the reader.

Ugh! Aren’t we writers? How did we become socializers instead?

Now, this is not only a problem because it takes up so much time and energy. It’s also a problem because of how it can affect a person’s writing.

Having to deal so much with readers’ comments has three potential negative repercussions.

  1. A feel good picture (image source)
    A feel good picture (image source)

    It could have the writer calculating what/how/how much to write too much based on the readers. This could be misguided based on one or two verbal people who have nothing better to do than try to get your attention. It could also be based on not getting comments, the thinking being that if I didn’t get comments, it must not be a good piece or maybe I’m just not a good writer.

  2. It could make the writer obsessive about what comments she’s getting and how many. It could have her returning to a post many times on the day it’s posted in order to see how it’s doing. This activity is supposedly based on the above-mentioned assumption that it’s of utmost importance to read your readers’ comments and interact with them. But this what writing is supposed to be about? I don’t remember reading about the importance of obsessing over readership/commenting in On Writing by Stephen King.
  3. It almost definitely creates a situation where the writer becomes dependent on external feedback – writing passionately after getting good feedback and hiding miserably in a corner after negative feedback. And when you’re bombarded with feedback (silence is feedback too), it’s a creativity-sucker (or a muse-muter).

I think one of the great challenges for writers is figuring out how to tap into our own feedback system and decide selectively who is worthy of our listening ears. From whom am I truly interested to hear what they think and continue developing my writing accordingly? This is a question not to be taken lightly!

For now, this piece is dedicated to the talented bloggers I know who periodically curl up in a corner because of the interactions they need to deal with online. When I hear about it, I feel like giving them a virtual slap and saying, “Don’t you see that you’re writing is good? Continue on, my friend. Continue on.”

The dark secrets of my writer’s block exposed

Oh, I love to write. So why do I keep not writing? Considering this conundrum I realized if I can’t write, I may as well write about not writing.

Here are 11 reasons I don’t publish way more considering how much is going on inside my head and how much I love writing. I am not sure if there are many more or, maybe, there is actually one reason standing behind all of these.

  1. She's a lefty!
    She’s a lefty! (Photo source)

    The tools: I don’t love using a computer. I don’t like the electronic feel and it hurts my hands and eyes. Also, because I do all my work and a bunch of “socializing” on the computer,  it’s hard to separate between them and my beloved hobby, writing. This is a huge psychological issue, with me often finding it difficult to focus. And as for hand-writing, I do it quite a lot; the first draft of this post took place in my handy dandy notebook. But my hand starts hurting from writing (many of us lefties were not taught how to properly hold a pencil) and it’s sloooow which doesn’t work with my…

  2. Impatience: So much importance is put on productivity today that it has made me hyper-aware of time ticking by. I might feel the need to stop and think, to contemplate, to formulate but it’s so hard for me to allow myself to give my attention how I need because the productivity devil makes me give up and often, ironically, do the most unproductive thing of all – Facebook. Or any other…
  3. (Photo source)
    (Photo source)

    Distractions: We are bombarded with information (which is often presented as utmost important) probably way more than any king or emperor was until 100 years ago. I am quite convinced it’s a big challenge for our brains to decipher between important and less important distractions. It’s very confusing. Not to mention that distractions are a perfect excuse to stop trying to finish the piece that anyway will probably be…

  4. One in a million: Because we’re so exposed to “the rest of the world,” it’s hard to continue feeling unique. Every time I come up with a piece, even write a large portion of it, I get down on myself for being like all the other people who are currently expressing themselves publicly and are, in my mind, writing the same stuff I’m writing. Also, knowing what else is out there often makes me feel the need to heed to…
  5. Convention: Because I see the big world, I see how people typically write and when my writing doesn’t fit convention – for example, often I feel like writing posts that will be very short (like, 1-2 paragraphs) – I get self conscious and stuck and instead of continuing writing whatever I want, I convince myself that it’s…
  6. A waste of time: If a piece is going well I start thinking that it doesn’t need my attention anymore and I focus on something else. If it’s going badly, I get emotional about it and push it aside. I also get stuck because of…
  7. Inhibition: I’m so careful about people’s feelings which makes it almost impossible to ever write 100% what is on my mind. This bums me out. Particularly when I notice…
  8. This is my laundry! (Photo source)
    Check out my (and my closest friends’) dirty laundry! (Photo source)

    The more verbal writers: They seem to be much more lenient about #7. I get busy resenting them – judging them for being insensitive and being angry for all the attention they get, feeling like it’s attention being taken away from me. Meanwhile I am also aware that, in fact…

  9. I’m often not interested in other writers’ writing: There is supposedly some kind of writers’ culture going on but truth be told, I’m not interested in most bloggers’ writing. So why should mine be of interest to others? And what if this is a sign that…
  10. I’m going to fail: Of course there is the fear of failure. The concern that I won’t get across what I want to get across how I want to get it across. The feeling that I’ll finish the piece and feel like it’s lacking (much like I feel right now as I write this piece). And all of this, of course, makes me think of…
  11. (Photo source)
    Smooches to me. (Photo source)

    Narcissism: So I’m going to publish my writing for the world to see? What is that?

There. I said it. What are your dark feelings and thoughts around the “thang” you really want to be doing? And if you don’t have any dark and difficult feelings, I don’t really want to hear from you. Thanks. : )

WiseStamp.com – the ultimate interactive email signature

WiseStamp.com is a new email app. Yeah, I hear app and I go, app-huh?

Basically it’s a signature that is automatically updated with the things you care about, the things you want people to know about and it is pretty interactive too.

Here is what mine looks like.

Keep in mind that those cute little icons are buttons to my accounts on each of those sites! You choose what you want to show in your signature and you can have one personal and one business – whatever works for you.

I’m LOVIN’ that I have put my blog rss feed into the signature and it automatically shows the latest blog post I’ve written. It’s a dream come true for bloggers! No more copy-pasting every time you want people to know about the latest thing. Check out the apps gallery for a full list of what you can include in your signature.

It’s an addon that works with Chrome, FireFox and Safari and it’ll work with the major web email providers (gmail, yahoo, etc.). Let me know what you think!

Um, nobody noticed…

Just read an enlightening blog post by Leo Laporte who just realized he’s been focusing too much on social media and not enough on more meaningful things like blogging.

Yeah, not everyone is necessarily going to come to the same conclusions but I did find his article enlightening. It reminds me to take seriously where I put my time. Last thing I want is to look back and realize how much time a wasted (I cringe when I write that because I waste so much time!).

You want to hear what experience he had that brought him to his realization? He thought he was posting to Google‘s Buzz for a while and then realized all his stuff was disappearing so no one even saw it. And no one seemed to notice that he wasn’t around all that time either.

Definitely worth reading.

Buzz Kill

Photo by aussiegall on flickr.

I’m a techy person by default and even then not so much.

Here is an example of a Hawaiian geek. See? We don't even look alike! (btw, he really is a geek - check out the original photo.)

I think it’s amusing I feel the need to define where I fit on the oh so important scale of geekiness*. And, honestly, I often feel uncomfortable with my lack of geekiness, aka, my not total excitement when it comes to learning things like HTML and all those other ABC languages. There is something very satisfying to me in knowing quite a bit of technical stuff but when I can get by without knowing something, I am pretty happy.

The thing is that I LOVE to write and I have found that more than any other medium, I enjoy blogs as the perfect place to put my thoughts and ideas down. This, of course, necessitates learning at least a minimal amount of technical stuff.

So, when I’m in a position that I have the opportunity to be taught something, I’m usually happy to learn. And when I need to figure something out for one of my blogs (like mapping which I recently did a couple of times), I feel very satisfied when I succeed. I am also very happy when people ask me technical questions and I know the answers. (When they ask me I like to think it’s because I give off a somewhat geeky (if fake) aura. And when I know the answer, I just feel like the coolest geekette around.)

My point is that there are a lot of things that can be overwhelming about blogging but at least the basics (and some) are totally doable even if you are not in love with computer and internet stuff. If you’re patient with yourself, of course. If you really want to be blogging, just start and slowly learn more and more until one day you’ll find yourself changing font, inserting media and all of this while standing on your head.

* A geek is a computer nerd, or a very techy person, in case you didn’t know. And if you didn’t know, please pretend you did and write a comment telling me how I just wasted 15 seconds of my life writing this * message. Just to be cool.

Photo by madmarv00 on flickr.

WordPress.com: When I put up a new post, can the email that goes out be a shortened version of the post?

Question: I’d prefer to send out only the beginning of blog posts so that people have to go to the site to read the post. Otherwise I assume that I’m not generating hits. Unless you know if by opening the email that would count as a hit (that doesn’t make sense though).

Answer: Fuggetaboutit. In WordPress.com, as far as I am aware, there is no such option to specialize the email that goes out. But there is another issue here of wanting to generate traffic and feeling like a reader who only read your stuff in an email is a waste of a reader.

Best to get rid of that way of thinking, IMHO. Think about it. What if you had 1000 people signed up to your blog to receive updates by email? Would that not be awesome? You are not the first to ask this question, of course. There is an ongoing discussion online of, is a reader a worthwhile reader if they don’t click on your blog and my opinion is that yes, they are.

First of all, if you want clicks because you’re hoping to make your millions through your blog, you’ve gotta get rid of those expectations. One has to work LOOOOONG and HAAAAARD to make money from a blog. Right now (and always) you need to focus on writing the blog because you love what you’re writing about and you want to share your thoughts with others who might benefit from it.

And that goal is reached no matter if they read your blog on a bog, in a boat, on an airplane or on a goat.

I know, it still doesn’t feel totally right. I mean, hits is like the online currency. But also think about it this way: Both go up at the same time. If people like your blog, some will sign up for email updates because that is your preference and some will stop by because that is their preference. And, those who are signed up for emails will stop by when they want to comment.

One more thing: Clicks may be gold online but it is ease of use and convenience that keeps people coming back. Make your site annoying to use, people might like the content but will feel like you’re manipulating them in some way. You’ve gotta be nice to your readers. And being nice means creating a place to click when it’s good for them.

A newsletter would be different. If you were to send out a monthly newsletter with the highlights of your blog, then you wouldn’t include everything at once. But for regular blog updates, I think the way WordPress.com currently does it is best.

WordPress.com: How do I know who has signed up for email updates?

I kept forgetting where to get this info because it didn’t seem logical to me. But now I remember. :)

Under “Dashboard” is “Blog Stats.” Click on the stats and then scroll to the bottom. Under “Email subscribers” is “Blog” and next to that is a number that is a link. Click on that link and you’ll get what is probably a loooooooooong list of all the people subscribed to your blog.

Well, maybe it isn’t that long yet but hopefully soon it will be.