Category Archives: 50+

What Surprises Me Most After Four Years as a Blogger

Last year, I posted a blog entitled “The Ups and Downs of Blogging Statistics” in which I admitted to checking out my blog statistics and keeping an eye on trends, but not obsessing about them, given that this was “rehearsal” time for me.

Blogging was a building block for me to refine my writing creative skills in preparation for my aspirations as a creative writer. My blogging was for the fun of it, and you were more than welcome to join me along the way.

But four years into the blogging journey, there is one aspect that often surprises me: the posts that keep getting viewed weeks, months or even years after I have originally posted them, and getting fairly consistent views over the long term.

As a blogger, I don’t sit down and think to myself, “This post will get a thousand views”, it doesn’t work that way. And even after posting the link on Google, Twitter, Facebook, Flipboard and sometimes Pinterest, we are sometimes at the mercy of the algorithms for how much prominence (and page views) a post might get.

I have read a good number of articles on blog promotion, and I have definitely taken experts’ advice to try to maximize clicks whether through a well-chosen title, a sharp picture to accompany it, adherence to a consistent posting schedule, as well as seeking lessons learned by the most viewed posts.

But writing a post that resonates, that gets picked up by social media and generates a lot of clicks is not always that scientific.

Just the same, I really enjoy the creative freedom that a blogging platform like WordPress offers me, in curating my own site with topics that I find interesting, curious or funny that could be of interest to others.

It is those blog posts that seem to consistently draw interest, long after their original posting dates that have me scratching my head.

In “The Colonoscopy Countdown” I take a humourous look at the dizzying steps required to prepare for a colonoscopy, a rite of passage for me when I turned 50. I’d like to think it’s a post that can make light of a crappy situation.

50 Great Things about Turning 50” was just a reflection on the joy and gratitude I felt in turning 50. On average, this post seems to get a couple of views every week, whether I actively promote it or not. Who knew?

In trying to draw common denominators, I’d suspect that these two posts reflect on milestones in life experience, topics that affect different people on different schedules, and likely topics that elicit regular searches.

I am hoping it is the combination of life event and effective use of keyword tags that brings these posts into people’s search results, followed by that magical click of the mouse button.

How Index Cards Became My New Writing Tool” is a fairly recent post about my shift to committing my writing ideas to index cards. To me, this was the answer to my ideas flowing like a leaky faucet at random times and the many ways I was capturing them, which left me the headache of scavenging through multiple platforms to find “that thing” I wrote two weeks ago.

Posts about writing tools, tips and strategies seem to draw regular page views. When I think back to how many times I have looked up writing tools, tips and strategies, I can only deduce that other writers and bloggers must be doing the same as well. For that very reason, I love this community that shares its experiences, which helps everyone in the long term.

Is My Cat a Social Eater?” particularly surprised me, especially when there is debate as to whether this is actually fact or fiction. I can only suspect that I was not the only one asking the question, for it to keep popping up in my page views. Just the same, my posts about the joys of pet care and being a first-time pet owner receive regular visits as well.

Similarly, the collection of posts about running seem to do fairly well in late winter and throughout spring, likely as runners start thinking of escaping their winter cocoon and ramping up for upcoming races.

Blogging continues to be a source of fun and joy for me, thanks to YOU, the readers. I can’t say I envisioned I would still be at it four years later, but I am! I am so grateful for your comments, your feedback and the clicks on the topics that seem to interest you. You continue to inspire me!

For those reasons I thank you for your encouragement to stay true to myself and writing from the heart… even the quirky posts!

Did you enjoy this post? If you did, please know that there are plenty more where that came from! If you haven’t already, you can check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox.
Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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Filed under 50+, Cats, Humour, Inspiring, Running, Writing

Would I Volunteer When I Retire?

Ever since I turned 50, not a day passes that I don’t consider what I might want to do in retirement.

It is kind of funny because for the first half of my career, it was all about mentally preparing for the next work assignment and the next career step, hoping to strike to right balance between something I can be good at, something lucrative and sustainable, and something that will keep me happy.

At this stage in life, the hunt is still on, but not so much about the next career step as it is for activities I may be interested in pursuing in my next chapter.

Of course, there is no rush. As I suggested in my post about my retirement “gap year”, sleeping, recharging my batteries and writing for the fun of it will be my top activities in that first year. But at the same time, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking note of the activities that make me happy and which hold particular meaning to me.

Volunteering is one of those activities.

Much like with one’s career, I think it is very important to pitch in not only where the need exists but also to volunteer for causes that are close to one’s heart. In doing so, the time spent volunteering should be more fun and energizing rather than draining.

This is what I tried to explain to my dad many moons ago, when he objected to my volunteering just as I was launching my career. In retrospect, I certainly understand his point of view in that it was important to focus my full energy to my burgeoning career. But early on, there were days that I felt that my job was not tapping into my full potential, especially from a creative perspective.
That is why I was looking for other outlets. Continue reading

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Top 10 Reasons Why I Still Don’t Have a Tattoo

When it comes to tattoos, I don’t know what it is but I can’t say I am anywhere near the idea of getting one.

I have the deepest of admiration for the folks who have embraced tattooing, who will proudly show you the ones they have and can describe in intricate detail the next ones they want to get.

Plus, as a creative spirit myself, I can genuinely appreciate the works of art I have seen, when I consider the skill, the patience and the attention to detail that tattoos require. Those masterpieces are a demonstration of the artist’s passion as well as for the proud owner’s for whom the tattoo holds special meaning.

I also tip my hat to the courageous souls who have braved the pain of the procedure, as I imagine that some of those images appear in some pretty sensitive areas.

Despite my admiration, I am no closer to getting one myself.

Tattoo fans, it’s not you, it’s me!

Even though I have no fear of the needles themselves, I have been able to narrow down my tardiness to the tattoo party to the following top 10 reasons: Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Humour, Misc blogs, Top 10

Could Robots Replace Writers?

Not too long ago, I was listening to an interesting report on the evolution of artificial intelligence (AI) and the types of jobs that could be replaced by robots. Of course, the occasionally insecure writer in me wondered, could robots replace writers and screw up my retirement plan?

While I am certainly not an expert in the field, nor should this blog post be interpreted as an expert opinion, the Pollyanna in me says if it could happen, we are probably some time away from that.

To me, a good story really boils down to three things: the reader, the writer and the story itself.

For a story to be successful, it needs to engage the reader and resonate on a human level. It needs to connect with readers on an intellectual and on an emotional level. The story needs to stir up feelings in the reader to keep them coming back for more.

To achieve that, the writer needs to tap into their imagination, their emotions, their experience, or all three. Plus, with each writer’s unique point of view in the way that they craft a story, additional layers of interest are created and the writer’s sense of style is stamped on the story, much like a fingerprint.

A good story could be a testimonial of human experience that discusses the strong emotions felt along the way such as the struggle, the pain and the joy. A good story can take us to a world we could only imagine. Good stories can also scare the crap out of us, play with our minds, or inspire us.

To do all of the above requires heart and passion. Continue reading

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A Half-Baked Post about the Importance of Halves

Do you remember those childhood days when adding “… and a half” to our age was of critical importance? I was watching a TV show recently where they interviewed a young star who was asked how old he was. When he added “…and a half” it took me back. Waaaay back!

I can’t remember exactly when I started, but I recall adding “… and a half” to my age since the beginning of the school years when fractions were first introduced. “What a great invention!” I thought.

When I place myself back in childhood, I remember always being one of the shortest kids in my group of friends and when grown-ups would be guessing my age, they were always on the younger side.

While I’d like to think I’ve acquired better social skills since then, at the time, I did not hesitate in correcting those crazy grown-ups by telling them exactly how old I was. It seemed like adding “…and a half” proved them even more wrong.

In my 20’s, as my career was just starting, those halves would still show up from time to time in response to how many years I had been in the work force or how many years I lived in that first apartment, but the halves started losing their importance and fading from vocabulary. Continue reading

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Anxiety: When it was Time to Seek Help

As I get older, I like to think that I have things pretty well figured out and that it takes a lot to surprise me. I have become more accepting of my quirks and foibles and my reactions to situations are generally consistent, coming from a place of authenticity and self-awareness.

Through the years, I have also conquered some minor fears and sources of internal struggle that definitely kept me on my toes.

For me, the trick to remaining calm, cool and collected through life has been to gradually widen my comfort zone. It took guts, perseverance and hard work, but when taken in baby steps, it served me well. With a wider comfort zone, I could trust in my own skills, knowledge and resourcefulness in the face of adversity and stress.

And to cope with stress, I had in my back pocket a huge tool kit of stress management techniques, breathing exercises, mellow music, meditation techniques, grounding techniques and relaxing hobbies, not to mention lavender bath salts, scented candles and massage therapists on speed dial.

With things seemingly so neat and tidy, why is it that at the same time I felt I was becoming older and wiser, anxiety was suddenly creeping up on me as well?

“I say the universe speaks to us, always, first in whispers. And a whisper in your life usually feels like ‘hmm, that’s odd.’ Or, ‘hmm, that doesn’t make any sense.’ Or, ‘hmm, is that right?’ It’s that subtle. And if you don’t pay attention to the whisper, it gets louder and louder and louder. I say it’s like getting thumped upside the head. If you don’t pay attention to that, it’s like getting a brick upside your head. You don’t pay attention to that—the brick wall falls down. That is the pattern that I see in my life and so many other people’s lives. And so, I ask people, ‘What are the whispers? What’s whispering to you now?'” – Oprah Winfrey

To read more: http://www.oprah.com/own-master-class/oprah-winfreys-master-class-quotes/all

To me, those whispers were showing up in the form of reactions to situations that seemed out of character. Beneath my usual calm and cool exterior, I was starting to experience more moments of nervousness, an increasing intensity of nervousness, longer spans of ruminating over issues and needing more time to bounce back from dealing with life’s issues. I was also having a much harder time letting go, no matter how many times I heard that Idina Menzel song. Continue reading

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How I Need the Internet to Go “Off the Grid”

In keeping with tradition, last month I booked some time off for some rest and relaxation from the office and to take in the festivities of the Eurovision Song Contest, from the comfort of my couch here in Canada. For what seems like ten years now, Eurovision has been the focal point of my version of “spring break”.

The first few days of my time off consisted of jotting down some blog ideas floating around in my grey matter and puttering around the house, getting chores done. With those out of the way, when Eurovision came on, I could truly let myself get swallowed up by my sofa, pillow, blanket and cat, and to completely disconnect from the world.

That is… until I woke up Tuesday morning to find I was already disconnected from the world.

No Internet service!

After a series of attempts over two days to restore my Internet service over the phone, with the assistance of cheerful client service representatives, it finally took a site visit from a technician on Thursday to get everything fixed up.

Once I was on the couch, with pillow, blanket and cat, watching the Eurovision semi-final #2, my cares completely melted away with each passing costume change, wind machine, and key change.
The next day, I watched semi-final #1, and on the Saturday, I watched the finals live with the other 204 million viewers around the world. Everything seemed right with the universe again.
But those few days I was without Internet, I surprised myself at my dependence on it. How do people actually go off-the-grid anymore? Continue reading

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