Category Archives: Inspiring

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. Continue reading

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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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How Doing Nothing Takes Work and Discipline

Not too long ago, I booked off a day in the middle of the week, with my mind racing as to all the things I could get accomplished and how much I could get ahead in my to-do list.

Weekends can get pretty busy between social engagements and with the cooking, the cleaning, the shopping, the laundry and trying to find a few minutes to recharge for the week ahead.

Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change a thing about my routine. It’s just that after a busy work week with all of its trappings and weekends that are bustling with activity, the prospect of a day off in the middle of the week is an offer with limitless possibilities.

But the question is: do I really NEED to do anything?

As much as I can be an extrovert who likes to be around people, if my environment delivers a steady stream of stimulating activities (even fun ones), I know that I need a break to balance things out to not get overwhelmed.

It is probably no accident that my hobbies have leaned toward quieter, more introspective moments, like writing, reading, nature photography, painting and running. The trick is to ensure I spend enough time on those recharging activities, to build up the energy reserves for the more extroverted side of me to come through in busier times.

But I think part of the problem is that I have been programmed for productivity. Having been brought up in a climate of “make hay while the sun shines”, “the early bird catches the worm” and “idle hands are the devil’s tools”, sitting still does not come naturally. As I hinted in my blog post “Being Bored Was Not an Option”, when I was young, if I ever thought to myself that I was bored, somehow, magically, my dad would show up with a broom or a rake in hand and a list of chores. That being the case, I never allowed myself to get bored. Continue reading

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Filed under Humour, Inspiring, Misc blogs

The First Time My Own Writing Gave Me Palpitations

Regular readers will recall that I put the blog on autopilot in early summer, finalizing several blog posts at once, to offer me some free time to spread my wings and try some other creative writing projects.

It didn’t take long for me to sink my teeth into fiction. I guess ideas had been simmering long enough that putting words to paper came quite easily.

For one story in particular, I already knew my main characters and the main source of tension between them. I started committing those to paper.

What started with a few ideas soon became an outline. Then I rounded up the index cards I filled out over the last weeks related to this story and started typing ideas into their respective places.

What I loved was that I could keep the story up on my computer screen, walk away to put a load of laundry in the machine, come back and add a few sentences, entertain the cat a bit, come back and add a few more sentences, do the dishes, add another couple of ideas. Momentum was building and I was already enjoying the creative writing process.

I’d be lying if I said this particular story was a complete work of fiction. There are a few threads to the story that are inspired from my own life, but only a few people will know which is which.

Well into the process of engineering the flow of tension and conflict, I wrote a first draft of a heated conversation between two characters. For this dialogue, I tapped into something deep in my soul, loosely based on something I experienced personally.

In no way does the conflict in the story line resemble anything I’ve ever experienced, but whether someone is angry about life, people or circumstances, anger is anger. It’s universal and can motivate some very impassioned reactions in any of us.

As I was deeply into the writing zone, almost on autopilot myself, the words and associated emotions poured out of me. The exchange between the two characters flowed seamlessly.

The interaction seemed so natural. In some ways, I was not only creating a moment, I was living in it. The strength of conviction and motivation behind the dialogue was unlike anything I had written before.

When I finished typing out the conversation that concluded with one character storming out of a fictional room, the creative bubble around me faded as I returned to reality. In that moment, I noticed that my heart was racing, my breathing was fast and shallow and I felt beads of sweat on my forehead.

I was having palpitations! … over something I just wrote! Who knew that was even possible?

Instantly, this experience became one of those moments as a writer that I will never forget. At this point I didn’t care whether this piece made it to print or not. The fact that I was able to dig that deeply as if I was in the room with the two characters was a huge rush. The fact that it was able to elicit such a strong response felt like a huge emotional welcome into the creative writing world.

I was overjoyed! I was thrilled! I was euphoric!

If this is what it means to be a writer, then I want a lifetime membership! An experience like this makes it all worth it.

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 Inspiring, Writing

My New Blogging Strategy: Banking Blog Posts

In 2015, I wrote about a weird phenomenon that was happening within my blogging processes. No sooner than I would start outlining and building a blog post, the little writer’s voice within would pitch another idea at me, and I would start working on that one.

Having a run of good ideas is certainly not a bad problem to have. I definitely counted my blessings in that regard. But in its wake, I was being left with a series of incomplete posts, a phenomenon I called The Graveyard of Blog Posts.

As summer began, I was itching to get to work on another creative writing project and wondered how I could keep the blog going for a couple of months while giving my writer’s voice a fresh challenge.

As I was browsing through my drafts folder, the list of posts that were waiting to be finalized had recently grown some more and was looking pretty impressive. I knew that some of them were just waiting for a final conclusion to nail the point I was trying to make or some “icing on the cake” wording to make it pretty.

The point is, I had several that were almost ready to be posted and patiently waiting in the wings.

Maybe that was my answer!

I made it my goal to try to finalize 8 or 9 posts over two weeks, which should give me enough completed weekly posts to put the blog on autopilot with fresh content until Labour Day, and a couple of months to let my mind wander in another creative direction. Continue reading

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Filed under Inspiring, Misc blogs, Writing

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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Why I Love Nature Photography

PhotographyOn my last day off, I couldn’t have asked for a better day weather-wise. The sun was shining, the sky was a stunning shade of blue, there was a gentle breeze and the temperature was a picture-perfect 20 degrees Celsius.

When deciding how I was going to spend this precious day off, I knew that grabbing the camera and spending an hour or so around a nearby creek was at the top of my list.

Upon my arrival, it took less than five minutes to get completely absorbed into the creative bubble of this enchanted forest, focused on a world of tiny subjects in their intricate detail.

Thoughts of the real world had completely suspended. It was like I had jumped into vacation mode, yet was still just minutes from my house.

On this quiet morning, I appreciated the peace and solitude of the moment, even though I was surrounded by many species of wildlife pursuing their business of the day. I marveled at the soothing effect of just being there, bearing witness to nature’s gentle pace.

I noticed that my usually hurried steps gradually slowed down as if to not disturb nature’s ebb and flow. My breathing slowed as well, as a calming effect took over.

I scanned through the tall grasses and plants surrounding me, looking for my next subject. My senses were fully tuned in, trying to spot those moments that we miss while rushing from commitment to commitment.

Thoughts of my to-do list drifted away as I followed a monarch butterfly floating from plant to plant, posing and preening in the sunshine as if to say “Take my picture, take my picture!” I happily obliged and then thanked her for the opportunity. Continue reading

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