Tag Archives: experience

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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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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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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Inspired by the Creativity of Others

A few days ago, I attended a concert at the National Arts Centre, here in Ottawa, to see The Tenors perform with the National Arts Centre Orchestra conducted by Jack Everly.

Much like all of the Pops series concerts I have seen in recent years, the concert brought me on a roller coaster of emotions, between goose bump moments of arias and their triumphant crescendos and moments where I felt a tad verklempt, hearing favourite songs performed live in brilliant new arrangements.

Throughout great performances like that, I can’t help but ask myself, “How do they do it?” How much of it is natural aptitude and how much is hard work? How many thousands of hours each performer put into their craft over the years, to become one with their instruments and to make it look so easy? How hard did each one have to work to achieve this level of proficiency, to produce such beauty that can elicit such strong emotions from spectators?

This inner monologue replays in my head again and again whenever I feel deeply inspired, whether it’s at a concert, in a museum, in a theatre, reading a book or watching a great movie. It’s like a vortex of creativity, swirling around, reaching out and stirring up my own artistic momentum to keep doing what I love doing, keep practicing, work hard and don’t let go.

I sometimes pause and wonder if I will ever get to the same degree of skillfulness and versatility in writing as someone who can pick up an instrument and play a song, just like that. Then I think to myself that I have been known to pull a rabbit or two out of a hat on a few occasions.

Whether it’s a blog post that I was able to commit to paper in one sitting in under two hours (it doesn’t happen often, but it does), a blog post that successfully reached out and really struck a chord with readers, or writing a piece at work that was exactly what was requested, offering the right words at the right time, and being able to do so under crazy time constraints. I reassure myself that I am on my way. Continue reading

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My First Writing Competition

In working through some of my blog posts in the last years, there have been times when I would look at a final draft of a post and then think to myself that it was pretty good, but for some reason it didn’t quite fit with the overall theme of my blog. Rather than rethink the piece, I would just put it on the shelf and maybe the right time and place to post it would find me.

A few months ago, such an opportunity presented itself when I started receiving emails about the annual Writer’s Digest Short Story Writing Competition. I thought that this might be an opportunity to pick up one of those shelved stories and fine-tune it for the purposes of the competition.

With that decision made, in the days that followed, it was with great enthusiasm that I would come home from work, speed through dinner and rush to my desk to chip away at the story, several times per week. The writing competition definitely stoked my enthusiasm for writing again.

While I have never had delusions of grandeur about my skills as a writer, confidence was running high as the themes of the story were current, relevant and would definitely resonate with certain readers. To achieve that, I dug deeply (veeeeeeryy deeeeeeeply) for the material, breaking open some old wounds. Continue reading

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Texting During the Movie: Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down?

iPhone Movies CatFriday morning, I awoke to the news that AMC’s CEO, Adam Aron, was opening the door to the idea of texting in some theatres. My initial reaction was “Are you kidding me?” with a not-so-nice word in the middle.

I immediately stopped myself and thought I was sounding a little like the Dowager Countess from Downton Abbey, horrified at the first telephone in the estate and asking “Is this an instrument of communication or torture?” Then the Bob Dylan song, “The Times They Are a Changing” came to mind.

However, just before posting this blog on Sunday, I noticed several sources indicating that AMC had already reversed their decision. Daniel White at Time.com reported AMC CEO Adam Aron as saying “We have heard loud and clear that this is a concept our audience does not want” … “With your advice in hand, there will be NO TEXTING ALLOWED in any of the auditoriums at AMC Theatres. Not today, not tomorrow and not in the foreseeable future.”

But I wonder if this is really the end of this story? How many times have you been distracted by the glow of a screen in the middle of a movie… or a concert… or a play? Personally, I think we are still at the opening credits of this dialogue. Stay tuned!

The theatre experience

For me, the theatre experience involves completely suspending judgement, suspending reality and completely immersing myself in the story that the producers, directors, actors and technical team are trying to tell me. To me, that is sacred for the full enjoyment of a movie, allowing my mind, soul and emotions to get completely wrapped up in the moment as if I was there experiencing it myself. If I can achieve that, then the experience was a success and money well spent.

I like the entertainment experience of completely escaping and disconnecting from my life for a couple of hours. The world will not come to an end if my online presence is not felt during that time.

Personally, I find it a buzzkill when there is a Continue reading

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Would I Come Back As a Contractor?

Revolving DoorAs the countdown to retirement marches on, surprisingly, the question of whether I would consider coming back as a contract employee comes up at least once per month. The question always makes me smile.

Given that retirement for me is still a few years away, I find the best answer to the contracting question is something along the lines of “Thanks for the vote of confidence! We’ll see when the time comes.”

First and foremost, I take it as an amazing compliment. I know I worked very hard to build a solid career based on quality work, strong ethics, working well with colleagues and maintaining a positive attitude. To me, the contractor question is one that fills me with validation and gratitude.

Over the years I have seen many of my colleagues retire and then come back a few years later for short contracts, sharing their vast corporate knowledge and expertise. It is always a pleasant surprise to see their smiling faces and renewed energy at meetings. Parenthetically, I wish they would stop looking so darn refreshed after a few years away from the office. It makes me very envious!

However, I think it is very natural to dream and fantasize about a time when I can truly reap the rewards of a retirement that I worked a lifetime to build. I look forward to the sense of complete freedom where going to bed promptly, getting up with the alarm, dealing with traffic, and commuting in heavy snow or freezing rain become optional. I look forward to having choices I can make, purely in the moment.

To me, my first priority when I decide it is time to retire is to do just that: enjoy the fruits of my labour: Continue reading

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