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About this time last year, I announced the start of my off-site blog, A Pencil Is Best. it's anniversary time, and I thought I'd report back. Is it still going? would be my first question in your shoes. Yes, it is, and doing pretty well. When I started out, I had no idea how I would generate enough material to keep a blog going. Although I have to say, part of that came from the idea that I had to post x number of things over a certain period for the blog to justify itself. I'm over that now, thankfully. I still post regularly, but without the edge of I have to do this. I am helped in creating content by @Parker Owens. Parker followed the blog even before it really got going, and it wasn't long before I recruited him as a 'staff member'. He adds some of his wonderful poetry into the posting mix. I am grateful and so happy that he does so. One thing the blog does on a regular basis is to promote GA. Occasionally it's a piece that refers directly back to this site, but more often we include pointers. When I post material that was seen here first for example, there's always a link back to the site. I can't pretend it's created a noticeable flow of traffic direct from the blog, but I'm pleased to have an opportunity to promote the site which started me writing. This brings me back to creating new content. Maintaining my writing commitments here doesn't leave a huge amount of time for other things. Fortunately, I was introduced to YeahWrite, a blog that hosts a weekly prompt challenge (amongst a whole host of other writing-related material). I started out by thinking this was fairly easy. My mistake. It isn't; it really isn't. To include two prompts within a maximum of 750 words, making a complete story out of it, and writing well, is hard work. And it has to be done in 4-5 days. What was I saying about not having much time? I don't take part every week, but it has stretched my writing in all sorts of directions: voice, genre, incorporating single words or actions into unlikely scenarios ... The other thing that makes me grow as a writer is the feedback. We are all encouraged to give feedback on other entrants (something I still find rather daunting), but it's the crit from the volunteer YeahWrite editor that usually hits home the hardest. He always finds something good to focus on first, then he zeroes in on everything else. Some weeks there's very little wrong; others, he points out some of the holes and failings in that week's attempt. There's little hedging - he doesn't have the time. At first, I had something of a WTF reaction. Now, I accept his crits, grimacing when he highlights something I know to be weak, considering other elements which I liked and he doesn't. It makes the times when he gives out nearly unqualified praise very special. 'Very nicely done' always makes me smile. In fact when I've posted this, I'll have to get back to the next challenge: Write a first-person story in which you use the first-person pronoun (I or me or my) only two times. And include an amulet. Ideas, anyone?
In a moment of January madness, I decided to inflict my writing on the wider, virtual public by starting a blog on WordPress. I already blog on there in a work capacity, but this is rather different. This is me (as northie) putting myself out there in a very crowded arena. I'm under no illusions about the amount of attention it'll garner, but I think it's worth a whirl. A Pencil Is Best serves both to display my writing, but also to promote the community here. If it results in additional interest for GA, I will be very happy. In addition to republishing a number of my shorts from here, I hope to be using some of the prompts available from other bloggers. Although I have to say, my current writing time is pretty much taken up already. I'll see. From time to time, I'll also be using the blog to give form to some of the many thoughts about writing and the creative process which swim around my head. So if you're already a WordPress denizen, or you simply pass through occasionally, please stop by to say hi. By just going to the site, I will know someone has looked at it (and believe me, that'll be something worthy of note ), or if you're feeling adventurous, anyone may leave a comment. However, there is one significant proviso: you can call yourself whatever you want as the name to go with the comment, but it will only be accepted if you give a valid email address. As the 'owner' of the blog, I see that address along with the comment (it is never displayed publicly). I realise that might be a significant disincentive, but still ... As the title says, I'm venturing forth. What will result? Who knows ...
Let's play the what if game. I should point out, there's a reason behind this, for once. I've started going to life coaching, a program put on by a local gay men's health organization. Normally, life coaching is meant to help clarify your goals and give you a few tools to achieve measurable, concrete goals. By sheer happenstance, my life coach has some psychology training and we seem to have delved off into actual therapy instead of just life coaching. Which is fine by me, apparently I need it. Something we touched on last week was that I often don't feel comfortable advocating for myself and being assertive among groups. Those of you that see me interact on here are likely surprised by such an assessment, but it rings more true in my in person interactions. This has led me to miss out on a few things that I would have otherwise gone for, had I been more prepared to speak up in my own defense. So let's play, and have a relatively frustrating look at what might have been. In primary school, I joined the volleyball team and wandered my way up to playing on the school's top team. This was back when no one could be cut, so the school had multiple teams, even though everyone knew which team was considered the top team for the school. I liked playing with the guys, they were pretty cool and we all had a bit of status from being sports stars for our school. I'd grown up with all of them, and we all agreed that we were going to try out for the high school team together, since we'd played against most of them already and felt that we all had a chance of making the team. In eighth grade when I got to high school, I suddenly dropped out from the tryouts without giving a reason why to either the coach or my former teammates. As it turned out, one of my former teammates ended up playing for the school team for the next five years, so it was definitely attainable for me to make the team if I'd stuck with it. I can only imagine that I would have been better known had I stuck with it and maintained that jock persona all through high school. It would have made coming out easier, because at least then people would know me and not have a confused look on their face when I did eventually come out. Better to be the gay jock than the absolute nothing I was in high school xD. No regrets about coming out to my baseball and curling teams, and there's some delightful stories I can tell about that. I got into my first choice university, and I was surprised to see that UBC had a number of fraternities on campus. I thought it'd be a wonderful opportunity to join a fraternity. Meeting all those guys would have given me a social network right away that would have grounded me a bit more in my first year of university. I didn't join, because I was afraid of getting too busy and far away from home, but it's another instance of things that could have changed. First among the changes would have been a much better social life, since the frats are always busy with something or another, including a few charity activities a year. They wanted me, too! I got asked to join them for a sushi dinner and it was fun, and I should have stuck with them and gotten pledged. Joining the frat might also have given me the push I needed to go try out for the UBC baseball team. At that point I'd been playing competitively for thirteen years, and while I wasn't the biggest or strongest person, I knew what I was doing and had some professional coaching over the previous few years that made me competitive, even against top competition. I backed off from trying out for that sports team as well. This time I gave some crappy excuse about how the tryouts were in the Winter and I wouldn't be ready. I saw a UBC baseball game a couple of months ago. I could have easily made the team, even back eight years ago when I took the coward's way out. Again, it would have given me a social network to rely on and hang out with instead of the mind-numbing boredom of my first couple years of university. It would have given me some extra confidence that I so desperately need in my professional life. In each of these situations, I could have gotten what I wanted had I actually stood up for what I wanted instead of simply giving in to the expectations of the people around me. No one expected me to be good at volleyball, so I didn't try out even though I knew I could. My father didn't want me to join a fraternity because it would take me away from music, so I didn't join. I didn't try out because I didn't think I was good enough and again, my dad was annoyed by the winter tryout. So I didn't try out. Even if I hadn't made any of those teams or been accepted into the fraternity, at least then I'd know because it was entirely due to my own lack of ability or lack of what they wanted for their organization. I'll never know that for sure now, and that lack of knowing haunts me. Particularly because it was based on a lack of assertiveness on my own behalf. Go figure, therapy actually accomplished something. These were all things that we sort of talked about in my session, and now that I've had a few days to expand on them I realize there's a lot more there to work with. At least this will dispel the rumours that I have my **** together. Or who knows, no one believed the rumours that I was gay either, and I was the one who started them.