But before I go

One last thing.

If you noticed a recent flurry of subscribing activity to your site from me, there’s a reason for that besides wanting to keep up with what y’all are up to.

After a short correspondence with (I think) WordPress.com support, I’ve changed the address of this site from its current mishmash of name and numbers to mojournerwrites.wordpress.com I’ve been assured by (I think) WordPress.com support that all of you will come along for the ride, but in case it all goes pear-shaped, I’ve safely tucked you away in my Reader to invite you back. (Originally I hadn’t intended on posting about this; I was going to just go ahead and change the site address. Then I had a small panic attack.)

But, let’s be frank, some of you make it really, really difficult to subscribe to your site! Some sites don’t have any kind of subscription form or Follow widget. What’s up with that, people?

And, won’t you let me know in the comments that you saw this post either in the Reader or by email? Thanks (whew)!

Saying goodbye, for now

An entire year has passed since I signed up for the then new WordPress.com Blogging for Beginners course and launched this site. I had good intentions to stick to the plan (the Road to Hell, and all that) but Life usually has other plans. We have a saying,

“Man proposes, G*d disposes”

I worked through the course lessons (twice!), but it’s been hard to escape the crushing gravity of the pandemic-induced black hole of no concentration and to think creatively. So in the end I stuck to familiar topics I’m comfortable with and I hope I didn’t put (all three of) you to sleep.

This certainly wasn’t how I expected this year to go.

Photo by Lum3n on Pexels.com

There are a few observations I want to share here about Blogging for Beginners. I don’t have any qualms with the course material itself; WordPress.com has years of experience in this field. The community P2, however, left me feeling a bit itchy:

  • The people shepherding the community P2 (i.e. WordPress.com Happiness Engineers) need to be designated in some way on the P2. At the beginning of the course it was especially confusing figuring out who was who and there are now over 660 members on the community P2 as of today.
  • I think it might be more productive for learners to limit a study group to a hundred or 200 participants and then add more, but separate, groups as more people sign up. This would have the advantage of making a group more cohesive since each group would have signed up closer to one another. This would also make it easier to find and follow other course participants. And, possibly, less attrition, too.
  • The course advertised quarterly meet-ups, but, AFAIK, there were two such meet-ups during this past year and a third one now scheduled for this week, coming in just under the wire. (As an aside, winter is a holiday season for many different cultures, so why the emphasis on Christmas?)
  • It would have been helpful to have a guide of “do’s and don’t’s” on what to post on the community P2; sort of a “community standards,” if you will. That would have been a good Page to add to the P2, along with the actual how to post Introduction post.
  • While some may not agree, I found it disruptive having people post a full blog post on the community P2 rather than on their own site. Yes, you’re more likely to get feedback from the community this way, but keep in mind that the other 659+ course members also want feedback on their posts.
  • I also wished for a better way to report possible abuse directly on the P2 post (report this post) rather than needing to send an email or fill out a contact form.
  • Lastly, it bothered me that the Blogging for Beginners course was revamped and our progress reset without any announcement prior to it happening. (Blogging for Beginners is now the paid continuation of Intro to Blogging, a free, self-paced course without a community to share progress with.) Good communication is, and has always been, key to fostering trust.

Feel free to disagree or agree in the comments.

I do want to take a moment to thank those who inspired me with their own blog posts and their comments on my site and on the community P2 (in no particular order):

Jude Tulloch theleadlesspencil hbsuefred lindasunshine22 Mary W. Walters Sheri Edwards stephvpalmer Sheri Dye annbh356 chrismcbeth and all the others too

I’ll continue following your sites in the Reader, but from here I’m taking time off. The course I mentioned ended and I still have lessons to finish and even more nagging me to start. And then there are those offline projects beckoning me.

Perhaps you’d also be interested in these free writing courses:

Adios until we meet again, either here or on your site!

Let me tell you about this book I read…

One of the people who encouraged me to start writing again (whether she knows it or not) is a good friend who is a published author. I’ve had the great fortune* of hearing about her process, seeing her progress and reading her early drafts.

She’s just published her 3rd book, “The Pomegranate” and what a breathtaking saga it is. Here is my review from Goodreads:

The Pomegranate by S.J. Schwaidelson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

S.J. Schwaidelson‘s beautiful storytelling is absolutely immersive, bringing to life the myriad sights, sounds, smells and tastes of Batsheva’s journey from childhood to womanhood to motherhood, in intricate detail, in brilliantly described cultures, people and locations, with characters and dialog so well-written and believable that you’ll feel like an eavesdropper. Although the story takes place in the 12th century, the themes presented here are timeless and universal.

I loved every minute I spent with this book and its characters and was truly sad when I turned the last page and it was done. Splendid writing that’s a joy to read. Definitely on my “Must read again” list.

I couldn’t put it down and finished the book in about 3 days.

If you are looking for an amazing read to sit with by the fire over a glass of wine, I can’t recommend this one highly enough.

Are you on Goodreads? Look me up or leave a link to your Goodreads profile in the comments.

*(She’d probably say “misfortune”!)

Destination: Unknown | The Task at Hand

In May 2017, two young brothers, Ollie and Harry Ferguson, launched a plastic pirate ship named Adventure into the North Sea at Peterhead, Scotland. Following the practice of generations of seaside bottle tossers, their ship carried a message asking anyone who found it to record the vessel’s location before returning it to the sea.

Destination: Unknown | The Task at Hand

A gorgeous post on why doing anything worthwhile takes sustained effort and the long view.

This is a good opportunity to talk about reblogging, or sharing other WordPress.com bloggers’ content on your own website.

This is not the dodgy you’re looking for.
Someday image search will be better focused.

Reblogging is not a new feature, but it has a somewhat dodgy past here on WordPress.com. When it was first introduced in 2010, there was an outcry from veteran bloggers concerned that this was just a new way for sploggers to lift legitimate content for the purpose of promoting the splog site, which was covered with ads looking for a click (which is against the WPcom Terms of Service, by the way). Over the years, the reblogging feature thankfully continued to improve overall.

These days, whenever someone reblogs your content, a small excerpt of the original post and the featured image is shared on the reblogger’s own site, where they can directly comment on the post itself. This then sends a pingback to the original site, letting the original post author know their content has been reblogged. This is much the same as how Quote Tweets work on twitter.

In spite of these improvements, not everyone is interested in sharing their content in this way. To turn Reblog off on your own site, head to My Site> Tools> Marketing> Sharing Buttons and disable the “show Reblog button” and save your changes. But, even after a dozen years, we’re still waiting for that disallow setting to be honored in the WordPress.com Reader. Maybe someday.

A note on commenting: Feedback is the lifeblood of any blog, but all first time comments are held for moderation. Thanks for understanding. Not sure what makes a thoughtful comment? Check out the Comment Guidelines.

I had to laugh!

Like a grand, 7-course meal that you are enjoying to the fullest (especially the wine), after taking it in small bites, I finally finished Anne Lamott’s book “Bird by Bird“. There were things in her book that had me wildly nodding my head in agreement and other things that left me wondering “what IS she talking about?!” It was all written with great humor and sensitivity to absolutely no one, but in a good way. It’s like having a writing instructor in your back pocket.

If you are struggling with the writing demon that wakes you up in the middle of the night, and then waits while you look for your glasses, a notepad and pen, I can highly recommend this book.

I mean, really. How could I not with a chapter title like this!?

Do you have a favorite book that gave you insights to the writing process? Why not share it in the comments?

A note on commenting: Feedback is the lifeblood of any blog, but all first time comments are held for moderation. Thanks for understanding. Not sure what makes a thoughtful comment? Check out the Comment Guidelines.

Be Brave

Three weeks ago, life was returning to something resembling pre-pandemic. We dined in a restaurant, went out for coffee on a whim and met with vaccinated friends, unmasked and indoors. Our government removed both the indoor mask mandate and the limitation on how many people could congregate indoors and we started thinking about going to a movie. The pandemic was finally beginning to recede from our thoughts, especially with the extremely low number of new cases and no new deaths. Then the Delta variant arrived.

Almost overnight, new daily cases topped 200 per day, hitting 500 per day during this last week alone. The more unsettling aspect was the large number of vaccinated people who tested positive for the Delta variant. That has thrown me into a full-fledged lock-down funk, whether government imposed or not, and I am not coping well this time around. Anxiety is not my friend.

Outdoor activities do offer some relief, both mental and physical. Before August showed up last week with its heat and humidity, we went out early in the morning to one of our more urban national parks, both to avoid the traffic en route and the above-mentioned heat and humidity. This park is now surrounded by apartment buildings. Truly an oasis in the city.

Click to open the lightbox.

To help ease my mind until it’s possible to get out during the day (without taking your own personal steam bath with you), I’ve been listening to nature sounds on mynoise.net. Here are a couple of my favorites: Japanese Garden and Northern Woodland. Hope you enjoy these and, if you do, please consider donating to the site.

A note on commenting: Feedback is the lifeblood of any blog, but all first time comments are held for moderation. Thanks for understanding. Not sure what makes a thoughtful comment? Check out the Comment Guidelines.

On Writing and Why Perfectionism Kills Creativity

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.”

Anne Lamott via Brainpickings

Spending more time reading inspirational writing about writing, then it hits you that all this reading is not getting your writing done. I blame Brainpickings, one of the most engaging sites on the internet.

Sadly, I’ve also fallen down the rabbit hole of Lamott’s “Bird by Bird.”

Double dare you not to do the same.

A note on commenting: Feedback is the lifeblood of any blog, but all first time comments are held for moderation. Thanks for understanding. Not sure what makes a thoughtful comment? Check out the Comment Guidelines.

Uncharted Waters

Elaborate sandcastle on the seashore with sun setting and child in background

Image above © mojourner

Smooth between sea and land
Is laid the yellow sand,
And here through summer days
The seed of Adam plays.

Here the child comes to found
His unremaining mound,
And the grown lad to score
Two names upon the shore.

Here, on the level sand,
Between the sea and land,
What shall I build or write
Against the fall of night?

Tell me of runes to grave
That hold the bursting wave,
Or bastions to design
For longer date than mine.

Shall it be Troy or Rome
I fence against the foam,
Or my own name, to stay
When I depart for aye?

Nothing: too near at hand,
Planing the figure sand,
Effacing clean and fast
Cities not built to last
And charms devised in vain,
Pours the confounding main.
--A.E. Housman
(More about this poet)

Featured image by Saif Memon on Unsplash

As we head into summer in our hemisphere, this felt like the right time to share this poem by A. E. Housman. We are fortunate to live very close to the sea and I will never tire of the delight of seaside sunsets.

Sharing a poem by a different poet each month is the feature that speaks to me best, if not exactly my stated course goal.

A note on commenting: Feedback is the lifeblood of any blog, but all first time comments are held for moderation. Thanks for understanding. Not sure what makes a thoughtful comment? Check out the Comment Guidelines.

Theme vs. Design

“No one spends more time on your blog than you — make sure you love the way it looks.”

If the object of your website is to have people easily find interesting (or specific) tidbits, then isn’t it better to think about arranging your site content for the way your visitors might use it? Are “looks” all that important? In my experience, they may have been at one time, but not so much these days.

Most online content is read today on portable devices, in RSS readers (like the Reader here) or relegated to AMP pages (making the web look like a feature phone, circa 1999) if your site is arrived at through a search engine result or via a twitter link. Those apps strip away anything that is not content. Thankfully, WordPress.com has made checking what your site looks like on mobile devices really easy.

Open up your Customizer. At the bottom of your browser window on the left, you’ll see this:

Preview your entire site easily in the Customizer

The controls at the bottom of the Customizer sidebar allow you to preview the entire published content of your website. The default view is the web browser (looks like a computer monitor), but you can also choose tablet or mobile device. Granted these views are generalized and not device specific, but you’ll have a better idea of how your content is being displayed on mobile. (To really get a good idea how your post displays, sign up to follow your own site!) Preview your draft posts and pages to see how features like the Cover block, Block Patterns and the other suggested content displays on mobile. You might be surprised.

More importantly, do you arrange or customize your content to encourage site visitors to explore beyond the post or page they landed on? Do you use categories and tags? Do you have a focused menu or other layout items, like a Posts block or Related Posts block? (All those are good SEO practices as well.) Because this is all content, the information will appear when someone visits your site online and on a mobile device (if not always as expected), but not when viewing in an RSS reader.

Working my way through the “Love Your Layout” assignment, I found the quote above mildly discomforting. When I’m on my website, I’m usually in the Editor, not looking at the public side of my site, unless I’m previewing it. Is that unusual? Should I be worried?

A note on commenting: Feedback is the lifeblood of any blog, but all first time comments are held for moderation. Thanks for understanding. Not sure what makes a thoughtful comment? Check out the Comment Guidelines.

Reader, Reader

Never have the first 35 words of your blog post meant so much, or possibly so little!

My WordPress.com “Blogging for Beginners” assignment this week is to get to know the Reader feature and follow 5 new blogs, guilt free. When I open the Reader, I see the few sites I’ve already followed:

  • Whatever John and Athena Scalzi’s blog. (Yes, that John Scalzi.)
  • The Task at Hand someone I followed many years ago, lost and found again. (And had to laugh that her blog showed up in the course’s Reader image.)
  • The Writing Website whose stated purpose is to help writers write!

Notice a very narrow focus there?

To find new sites to follow, I tried Search and this is what I got:

Click this image to open in a larger window.

At the top of the page, just below the Search box, are a few suggested topics, and I’m not sure how they are determined. Then comes a scrolling list of sites, which perhaps is based on those suggested topics. Displayed in that list are a large thumbnail image (featured image), then the post title and then a short post excerpt.

Thinking about your own site, do you feel your post excerpt will pull in new readers? (If you don’t create a post excerpt, or don’t have that option, the first 35 or so words of your post will be displayed.)

Then I thought about adding and following topic tags in the Reader. At first “Blogging for Beginners” looked to be a great way to find blogs of the other participants in our course. However, looking at the tag search results, what do you think?

Not quite what I expected, either. While I understand that the goal of the lesson is to find and follow blogs of interest in the Reader, for this coming year I would like to follow my course mates. At the moment it doesn’t seem like there’s an easy way to do that.

If you know or have an idea how to do that, please speak up!

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