Tag Archives: heart

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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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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Filed under 50+, Humour, Misc blogs, Writing

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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How the Cat Opened My Heart

I think it would be fair to say that I have always been a sensitive guy. Some might even say that is a bit of an understatement given that I have been known to cry at previews at the movies. It might be a bit inconvenient and a tad embarrassing, but I am quite comfortable being the guy for whom sympathy, empathy, compassion and joy run close to the surface.

To me, feelings remind us that we have blood coursing through our veins and that we are part of the human experience. It’s a wonderful thing.

But is it possible to become even more sensitive than that? You bet! And I have the cat to thank.

When I was planning and preparing for the adoption of my cat Ivy, almost two years ago, no one mentioned the many ways a pet can alter one’s range of emotions. What an unexpected epiphany!

I have accepted the fact that when she is waiting for me at the door when I get home from work, it’s likely not because she missed me, it is because it is feeding time. No delusions there.

But after she has filled her belly with her favourite catch of the day and starts following me around as I prepare dinner, that’s when I start sensing that she missed me. And of course, the feeling is mutual.

On a cognitive level, I have always understood the attachment between pets and their owners. Now, as a new pet owner, I also understand it with every fibre of my being.

It’s not like my heart needed much melting to begin with, but with Miss Ivy, it melts a little more each day with everything she “says” and does. She is a ten pound bundle of cuteness. Continue reading

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The Cat I Didn’t Take Home

It has been almost one year since I took home my beautiful cat Ivy and as you can see by the picture, she has made herself quite at home. Frankly, she is just about as perfect as she looks in the picture and I could not have asked for a better little friend.Ivy_Cat_May2016

Yet, I still feel bad when I think about the other cats I met during the “Cat Auditions” last spring. It feels so wrong to be thinking about other cats when I am petting Ivy, but I think it is natural to hope that they all found good forever homes.

One in particular has been on my mind a great deal, I met one day after work at a pet store near my office that carried pets for the Ottawa Humane Society. Just for a point of reference, let’s call her Gloria, even though that was not her real name.

When I got to the store, there was a dog and a dog owner in the store chatting with the two clerks, inquiring about a furniture “investment piece”. From my vantage point, the dog appeared to be a happy and friendly puppy, joyfully playing for her audience and soaking up all of the attention. But from that same vantage point, Gloria’s cage looked empty.

When the dog and his owner left, I asked the clerks where Gloria was. They walked me to the cage saying she was probably just hiding because the dog likely made her nervous.

Sure enough, once we got to the cage, a little head peeped out of the cardboard box in the cage, revealing gorgeous Gloria… but incredibly stressed Gloria as well.

Gloria was an older cat, 7 years old, with a story that tugged at my heartstrings. Continue reading

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