Useless

Hello, my name is Rachel and I am a useless blogger.

nametag

When I was little, the single most frustrating retort from my mother was when she would close my most recent, incessant argument with:

“JUST. BECAUSE.”

I needed a reason why I couldn’t chew gum/ wear a t-shirt with ‘easy’ emblazoned across the chest/ yell at my maths teacher (all true stories).  I needed reasons so I could keep arguing. So she would tighten the set of her jaw and shut up shop. Just. Because.  It’s taken being a mother myself to understand the value of the statement. It’s a full stop, a justification in and of itself. It’s enough, already. It’s when something needs simply to be accepted.

Back to this blogging malarky. It used to be that I would write a couple of posts a week, sometimes more. Each around 800 words apiece. I’ve amassed a large archive of words. But more often than not these days, I’m so busy in my offline world that my online world makes much less noise than it used to.

When I started blogging, I studiously ticked the boxes on the ‘backend’ of my blog. I fretted over my ‘niche’ and tried to quantify my ‘audience’. I ran giveaways, launched ‘series’, built awareness for my illness community and cared more about ‘SEO optimisation’ in my writing. But these days, I care most about writing. Just writing. If you are reading this I am so genuinely grateful, because I haven’t done much to bring you here or keep you here. I’m just being me, writing my story, in post-sized-bites.  I guess, technically, that makes me a useless blogger, a tag I am really proud to wear.  Because blogging is about much more than all that useful stuff. Blogging is about self-expression, about reflection and learning. For me, it’s a record of my thinking, an archive of my journey.

Veggiemama (Stacey) from Melbourne started it all. You can read here about how the useless-blogger-groundswell began, that my mate from I Give You the Verbs (Annette) turned into a movement, complete with it’s own hashtag (#uselessblogger), that ate the cat that swallowed the fly. I don’t know why we swallowed the fly, perhaps we’ll die!

It’s a grand thing to know that my blog can continue, ‘useless’ as it may be. It’s a bit extravagant maybe, blogging anyway, blogging about all of my life, not just one part of it. Writing even when what I have to say comes out and I think ‘yawn, who is going to want to read this anyway?’. But I have great faith that my readers, like you, have free will, and will only read on if you want to. If you don’t that’s fine with me too. There are blogs that I have lost interest in over the years. If you are here it’s because you want to be. I like hanging out with you! Thanks for staying.

This whole ‘useless blogging’ thing resonated with me. The blogs I love most are the ‘useless’ ones. The ones people write for the love of blogging, not the pursuit of followers.  The ones that bare it all, that lay their hearts out on the screen, full of authentic power. The vulnerability, the mundane, the beautiful normality of life. And sometimes, too, the pain.  I love these blogs because their authors care most about being real. It’s much more interesting to me than a pretty splash page, a new header image, or fancy widgets. Those things all have their own merits, but it’s content that floats my bloggy boat.

Do you blog?  Are you a ‘useless blogger’ too?
Join the revolution!  Be a daredevil and blog,

just. because.

The Bunny, the Book and the Blog

and a happy little side effect called euphoria

Oh it’s a buzzy world I inhabit today!  I’ve just had my monthly infusion and that makes me feel a bit manic, a bit weird (just quietly) and like I can manage anything (I think that is the euphoria side-effect, again): only I don’t. Manage anything. Because it’s just a feeling, not a practical reality.

B(3)

(it is hard to find ‘a’ words to go with that picture, so A-nother had to do! I’m not tired of them, as that word implies, I am very, very grateful for them).

In reality, I’m here on the sofa, letting the weird win over, waves of bust-outta-my-skin-feeling, crazy, heat, palpitations, fuzzy vision and a yuck post-infusion taste in my mouth.  Thankfully, the flush is yet to begin, I can look forward to that joy tomorrow. So I’m riding it out, resting and hanging out with my bunny-onesie-pyjamioed daughter.  We’ve been giggling.

I like it.  So here we are while I fizz away in my slightly manic post-infusion-way and show her how I post on my blog.  Why? She wants to start her own, how cool is that?… I’ll keep you posted on how that goes!  Here she is, modelling my current reading material.  You’ll see why, soon.

 

B

 “So, Mum. How do you write a blog post?”

“I’ll show you!”

NOTES FOR MY GIRL
(and anyone else who wants to write a post someday)

STEP 1:
You find something that you want to WRITE about.   It might be a conversation that you want to discuss, a picture that inspired you, something that riled you or a moment that ‘smiled’ you.  Whatever it is, get writing. Start with some context for your blog piece.
I want to write about a great evening with you, my girl and how it relates to learning to blog.  So I start to tell the story, like this:

We’re in the lounge, my BobbyD, and me.  We’re having our special after dinner cuppa and unwinding; we’re discussing this bookDavid and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants, by Malcolm Gladwell. The kids have gone to bed (or so we think….) and I’m inspired because Gladwell’s way of pulling things together is totally brilliant. I already love his other works, and he has written here about something I am passionate about… the misfit. By the way, have you read ‘Outliers’?  I think it’s essential reading for every parent teacher and coach.  This one looks to be just as good!

…and then you SAVE DRAFT and carry on writing until your piece has a beginning, a middle (and eventually, a clear end) like this:

So anyway, I’ve always loved the story of David and Goliath.  David’s bravery, his self-assuredness, his strategic approach to what seemed like insurmountable odds. It’s a great story for the book to start on. So I’m regaling my hubby with Malcolm’s pithy, easy-to-read, yet intelligent writing style, when our tween enters the lounge. She crosses her long legs underneath her on the sofa and settles in to listen. I pause, and remind her that it is bedtime. She says, “But… it’s just…” and I wait for what usually follows. (Insert here: I’m thirsty/ I have more homework/ One more chapter/ just another hug…).  But she flashes a huge grin and continues,
“it’s just that… you’re cool when you have cuppas and talk about books.  I want to hang with you.”

Is it a cunning ploy? If so, she’s getting good. If not… oh, if not!  I am completely taken by the notion that I might, finally, after ten years, have achieved “cool” status with my girl!  And it’s connected to cups of tea and books! I don’t want to let go of that loveliness, not straight away. Maybe she could stay up. Just a little longer…
…she is clearly very astute.  Because it doesn’t stop there.

In a master stroke, she tells me I am also cool because I blog. That she would like to blog, too. She offers to get my computer, and retrieve some of my secret chocolate stash from the censored location (so much for that spot!) We settle in to write this post together.  We take some photos to use in the post. She wants to know all about how it works.
How cool, is she?!

I’m suckered right in. She’s here beside me now and we are blogging. 🙂

STEP 2:

Gather what you need.  Computer, chocolate, photos.  This is really what you do right at the very beginning, but it came up in the story now, so it will have to be step two.  Yes, Bee.  The preparation is important, it will save you time later.

STEP 3:

Click that button up there to the right that says, SAVE DRAFT.  Then, ADD LINKS to all the text which make sense for linking outside the blog (to relevant websites) and to your own (to something you’ve written before).   Links are the highlighted words in your post that will take readers to other webpages. I will link the text about Malcolm Gladwell’s book so people can find it, and then I will link the text that refers to my daughter, to a post I made last year all about her.  She adds that I should link Daddy’s name to the post I wrote about him
(see? She’s cool and clever).

STEP 4:

Source and edit and UPLOAD YOUR PHOTOS. I keep it pretty simple, I either take photos on my iPhone, or pay and use licensed pictures from Canva (an online blog graphic app). I do that to make sure I am not breaching copyright with other peoples’ pictures.

When you’ve edited them and got them looking just so, add them to your page and make sure the settings are right. I could go on about that, but my girl has to go to bed now, so showing her this bit might have to happen next time I am cool enough for her company…

I interrupt this transmission to put her, firmly and finally, to bed.

Wow.  That was fun!  I think I am going to like teaching her how to blog!  If I am the admin of her site, I can keep it as safe and as private as possible.  She wants to blog about her favourite pastime, horse riding, followed by…
“horse gaming, horse pictures and horse products and horse books and favourite horse gear…” (take a breath, girl!)  I think finding her ‘niche’ will be pretty straightforward!

STEP 5:
SAVE DRAFT.  Check, EDIT, go through your post.  When you are sure it looks right (Bee, that means when Mummy is sure your post is ready, appropriate and proofed!) you can schedule it or PUBLISH it immediately.   I always check it again the minute I publish to make sure I didn’t miss things.  It’s easy to miss things in the wordpress draft format. In fact, I find editing after publishing to be highly motivational!

STEP 6:
Let people know it is there! Link your post to your blog’s facebook page. Add it to the ‘link ups’ or ‘share threads’ you are part of on any facebook groups you belong to.  If your blog has a subscription plug in, people should get an email to say it is there.

STEP 7:
…aaaand, finish with a question or two.  It lets the reader know that you would love their interaction.  It turns it into a conversation.  Much nicer.

Tada!  That is how I write a blog post.
If you are a blogger, is your process similar?
And even more important, are you COOL, too?

 

B(1)
Photograph by Bee Cox (my girl)

Ah!  I’m cool, yes I am. Maybe only for one ten year old girl who doesn’t want to go to bed.
But it counts, okay?

 

The Unplanned Pregnancy

This post is kind of special!  It’s…glitter numbers proclaiming The Chronic-ills of Rach's 200th Blog PostHe he he!  I think that means I can call myself a BLOGGER!

It was a bit accidental, becoming a blogger. I’d been doing some writing for my cousin’s website when she joined me to the Australian Blog Chicks group on facebook. Someone there recommended a blogging course.  It made me think that maybe there was a particular way to write for the web and maybe I needed to learn how.  At that time, I was in bed for a lot of every day too, so an online course seemed like just the thing.  I enrolled in the ‘Blog with Pip’ course for May 2014.

But Dysautonomia put me back in hospital just as it began. I was devastated to miss the start, but Pip set my mind at ease and encouraged me to begin anyway. Her course materials are available beyond the course dates, it was a huge relief!  However, I quickly realised that I’d need to actually have a blog to get the most out of the course.  And that is how The Chronic-ills of Rach began.  A bit like an unplanned pregnancy. Sudden, unexpected, but nice… once you get used to the idea!

And like a ‘whoopsy’ baby, the arrival of my blog illuminated the fact that having one was exactly what I have been needing, without ever knowing it!  Blogging has been wonderful for me. I’ve been able to write out things that help other people, but in doing it I have helped myself. It’s been therapeutic, educational, stretching. I’ve had a platform for discussing important issues, an opportunity to raise awareness, a space for making personal reflections, an outlet for my creativity and the beginning of a brand new direction and purpose in my life.

As a kid, I always thought of myself as a writer, but somehow the years between then and now convinced me that dream was for someone else. Like I couldn’t legitimately claim it, or it was too late, or too lofty an idea. Over the last twelve months, post by post, I’ve been claiming back my territory. That dream is mine! I am taking it back. I’ve been using my words. Like a big girl.

Thank you for reading my blog.  🙂  A blog is just a diary if no one ever reads it and I am so glad you have chosen to click on over.  Really, thanks!  You make my day, after day, after day!  Your comments, your presence, make the writing so much more meaningful for me than just navel gazing.  I have a context, we have a conversation. It warms my heart.

According to my web host, I’ve had 1,115,155 hits since I started last year.  Woohooooo!  That number makes my mind swim.  I’m blogging from a tiny country at the bottom of the world and my biggest numbers of readers come from the US, France, Germany, China, Latvia, Australia, Ukraine, Italy and Russia, in that order. Of course, some of my ‘readers’ are probably internet crawling robots, but I don’t care (!) all are welcome here, especially if they contribute to giddy numbers like the one above.  Happy days.  I am in a celebrating mood.  Might have myself a cuppa.

Well done little bloggy baby.  We’ve made 200 posts together.  We’ve made new friends. We’ve made a difference, and if the difference is only for one person who felt less alone because of my words, then it is worth all the effort.  If you are thinking of beginning a blogging journey, I can’t recommend it highly enough.  Try Pip’s outstanding course.  Get amongst it, I promise you will surprise yourself.  Blogging is a gentle, collegial, congenial way to flex your writing again.  Why not?

And if you are a blogger already, please leave a link to your blog in the comments below.  I’d love people to find your blogs through my blog. It’s a bit like a neighbourhood block party.  Blog party!  Heh!  Leave a link and tell me how blogging got born for you.

Ciao!
Rach

Back soon…

Little by little,one travels far

I’ve been buzzing about like one of those big bumble bees, drunk on nectar.  Erratically bumping into everything and trying to get to all the places I need to get to, do the jobs I need to do, and most of all, pack. With numerous, frustrating pauses along the way.

Because on Friday I am leavin’ on a jetplane!  A weekend of soul nurturing cousin-time with my cousin and friend, Erica.  We’re going to celebrate our fortieth birthdays in gentle style, over in RADelaide!   And as an extra bonus, I am hoping to meet some of the people from the support group I belong to and people from the blogging group I am part of, too!  My wheels are booked and will be delivered before I am. So, apart from the packing, it’s all done.

Actually, I am so nervous.  About the flight.  About how I will cope with the fly-in-fly-out pace of my schedule. About not wasting any opportunity and not wasting the money it is costing to get there. I’m banking on the gem of a fact, that once I’m there, the only person I need to look after is me, with the odd nod to Erica.  We’ll be just us.  No kids, no hubbies. That seems like a pretty cruisey thing!  I’m hoping the cruisey will balance out the struggles and it will all be okay. Fingers crossed.

Packing is a bit of a feat when you get dizzy on standing. When your arms ache if you lift them higher than your heart. When everything you need seems to be down too low or up too high, or needing to be washed, or folded or found. I think I am getting there, but honestly, it is sooooo slow I can hardly stand it.  I really miss those days when I could write a list and whizz through it BAM, and BAM and BAM. Now it’s kind of bzzz…..splat… bzzzzzzz…. splat.   But no worries, this busy bee is going to get the job done!

I’m going to take a break from blogging while I am away.  I hope you will still be here when I get back.  Or if you go away too, come back and find me and my blog again sometime!   See ya soon!

Celebrating 100 Posts

Really?  I’ve written a hundred posts?

Maybe it snuck up on me because I get to drive a speedy little mean keyboard machine.  It goes so much faster than the laptop I was driving earlier. It’s a slim little silver number my hubster got me for Christmas.  Oh, I LOVE IT (Thanks BobbyD).  The WordPress dashboard on it lets me know everything I need to know about my cruising altitude, my readers, almost everything I could wish to know about my blog.  And today when I opened my dashboard to post, it said:

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 9.07.50 am
So this is Numero Cento! I reckon, that’s cause for celebration!

My blog was born on May 15th, 2014 (I backdated seven posts I had written earlier) .  I never actually intended to start a blog. I had thought the course I was enrolling in was going to teach me about the art of writing for blogs.  I had previously accepted a little blog writing gig and I wanted to get it right.  But I soon realised that the purpose of the Blog with Pip course is about more than just the writing. It’s about learning how to create your own and the importance of community in blogging.  So I did create one!  This was my first blog post. And whoosh!  A hundy posts, in four months!  And finding all of you! Woot!

I’m super happy about reaching a hundy, because one of the reasons I have always told myself I can’t write a book is that I didn’t think I could write that much.  I know quantity is not everything, but SMASH goes one of my barriers. Yes! Knowing I can write that many words is pretty exciting.  Each of my posts is an average of 800 words.  That’s 80,000 words right there!

If you’ve been with me from the start, or if you are one of the brave souls who has explored all of my blog, that’s a HUGE reading achievement and great loyalty!  Thank you so much!

Am I being ridiculous thinking maybe, just maybe… I could write me a book!? I’m thinking, with an equal amount of discipline, I could maybe get some of my book writing ideas out.  Maybe?  A bit of writing every day….   hmmm?  I’ll let you know how that goes!  I did a little bit of googling about word counts.  If you, too have some books slow-burning their plot turnings through your brain, you might find this interesting too.

Bree Ogden from The Lit Reactor says this:


“Adult Fiction:  Anything above 70k but less than 115k (science fiction and fantasy tend to run up around 100k-115k words). The sweet spot for adult is about 90k.

Middle Grade:  With fun, lighthearted, simple middle grade you’ll want to stay around the 20k-30k word count range. The average middle grade is 30k-40k. Upper middle grade can hit in the 50k word count range (possibly longer, if it’s something really special).

Young Adult:  Young adult fiction allows for a lot of flexibility in word count. And as you’ve probably guessed… it is sitting pretty right in between middle grade and adult. YA manuscripts can have a word count anywhere from 55k to 90k.  

Picture Books:  Picture books are generally less than 1000 words. About 500-700 words is perfect.

Also remember (because there are a bunch of new novel imprints opening their doors), a novella is 40k or less.

Pro tip: Try not to completely tether yourself to word counts. Let your writing take you where you need to go. But use good intuition and follow some of the rules.”

I am writing as often as I can because building a writing discipline is at the heart of most Writers’ advice about the business of writing books.  I read this recently and saved it, because I think it’s so true.
“There are enormously talented people around but the problem is getting organized to use your talents. A lot of people lose it, they just lose it. Life starts turning somersaults over your back and the next thing you know you’re confronting things that seem to you more important than getting organized to do your writing. And if you can’t get organized, then you can kiss your talent goodbye. It happens in so many cases, it’s almost a loss, as though you have a field of flowers and were never able to collect them.”
Bernard Malamud

I think it’s a stretch to think I fall into ‘enormously talented’ category, but I love to write.  Love it. So why not me, too? I’ve wanted to write books since I was a tot.  I read my first book at three. And I was hooked by the magic of it all. Might be time to start picking some of those flowers.

For some novice writers, the road to a writing discipline might be a diary, or a short story series, or poetry or even their first novel itself.  For me, it’s blogging.  I have connection with a real audience, lots to say, and a format for saying it.  It encourages me, gives me confidence.  When you read my blog entries, I feel like writing more.  When you comment, well, that there is blogger’s gold. Pure loveliness.  A shot of ‘keep going’ straight into the brain!

Chronic-ills of Rach, Happy Bloggiversary.  We made one hundred!

If you are new here, you might want to check out some of my favourite posts from the last four months:
She’s Around Me Now (the discovery that my ‘writing self’ was back)
In The Event of my Demise (my strange sort of poem delivering post-mortem instructions for my hubster)
His Heart (all about my man’s heart issues)  and
Grief Music (sudden upsurges of grief, music, and the loss of my Mum)

Look at what my boy made me!  The. BEST stiffificate EVER.  I am a full hearted mumma!

10386295_10152776423235815_4555611082837255000_n
…and here’s a little bit of schmaltzy, happy music from Phil Collins.  This is how I feel today!

Taking Stock


Screen Shot 2014-05-25 at 12.54.46 pmI’m doing a course on blogging and writing (just in case you missed my many references to it).  I am loving the course and determined to do all the assignments, because you can take the girl out of girly-swot but you can’t take the swot out. Which just means (if you are not a kiwi) that I am a big fat nerd.

So here it is.  A list of what is happening in my world at the moment.  If you are a girly-swot too, who loves lists and wants one of your own, join in! I’d love to see your list, too!  I’ll add the empty list at the bottom of the post so you can copy and paste it.   Message it to me over on:
https://www.facebook.com/chronicillsofrach  or add it to the comments below.

Making: havoc of my kind

Cooking: lots of slow cooker, save-my-bacon meals for six.  But last night(!) an inspired-by-Rosie, pulled pork and noodle stiry fry with lots of fresh veggies and handfuls of coriander.   Oooooh… delish.  Even if I say so meself.

Drinking: tea!  Wanna cuppa?

Reading: Half The Sky, Let me Sing You Gentle Songs, the Dovekeepers…
(well, in truth, I’m just looking at them in my ‘to read’ pile and actually reading lots of blogs!)

Wanting: an ugg onesie.  Have they been invented yet?

Looking: at the ‘insides’ of lots of amazing heads in the blogosphere

Playing: over and over in my head,  a conversation I had recently with my doctor

Deciding: that expanding our family was the right thing to do after all

Wishing: I had enough energy for my expanded family all of the time

Enjoying: blogging with Pip and the Pipsters

Waiting: for the rugby to finish so hubster can join me in sweet slumber

Liking: (“blog crushing” on) Michelle from Living with Bob, Annette from I Give you the Verbs and Kellie van Meurs from To Russia with Hope.

Wondering: if Zed will be okay in his first TV audition next week

Loving: being challenged by my BLOG WITH PIP course!

Pondering: the sounds coming from down the road… is that joyous celebration or a fracas?

Considering: whether we should investigate that...

Watching: BBCs ‘Hunderby’… crying myself silly with laughter. It’s a spoof period drama/ comedy.  Think Jane Austen, crossed with The Young Ones.

Hoping: I will wake up in time tomorrow to wake Bee for her sunrise photography session with the other Be.

Marvelling: at the wondrous coincidences that occur in my life, all the time.  You too?

Needing: some oomph.

Smelling: Lemons from the Chilean Pisco Sours Hubster made tonight.

Wearing: Lazy Bones PJs (Australian genius in a pajama)

Following: suit.

Noticing: that my blog is a bit different to what I thought it would be. Less informative so far, more impressionistic.  What do you want more of?

Knowing: I am so lucky to have this beautiful big blended family.

Thinking: how I have always been happiest in International communities and that is why I love social media

Feeling: happy tired instead of sick tired.

Admiring: the character Bee showed at riding today when she pushed through her terror and made the jumps that she thought she couldn’t get over.

Sorting: our finances.  I’m in charge of them for the first time ever!  eeeeeek!

Buying: Star Coins for StarStable (I know.  Ridiculous.  And I am in charge of finances?  Help.)

Getting: closer to happy more often.

Disliking: NZ being so small and at the bottom of the world, so far from some of the best Dysautonomia specialists.

Opening: the doors to the things I have needed to express for a long time.

Giggling: at Hunderby’s naughty bits.

Feeling: affirmed and supported and loved by people I know and by people I haven’t even met in person. It astounding how good that feels.  I have a community.

Snacking: I’m not!  Gold star for me for the last five minutes of no snacking.  But just by the by, ‘snackage’ is quite possibly one of the loveliest types of eating. Closely followed by dessert spoon lingering.

Coveting: The writing lives of Naomi Bulger, from ‘Naomi Loves’ and Pia, from ‘Woven Words’.

Wishing: I had a magic wand.  There are lots of places I would wave that thing.

Helping: with my words. People are finding my words useful and I really love that.

Apologising: for not making links yet for all the lovely people and blogs mentioned above. That’s a bit beyond me this second. I will amend that on the morrow (check back here and get clicking)!

Hearing: a song on a loop in my head:
“Every little thing is gonna be alright” (after a little meme glued it in there).

Here’s the list.  Your turn!
Making :
Cooking :
Drinking :
Reading:
Wanting:
Looking:
Playing:
Deciding:
Wishing:
Enjoying:
Waiting:
Liking:
Wondering:
Loving:
Pondering:
Considering:
Watching:
Hoping:
Marvelling:
Needing:
Smelling:
Wearing:
Following:
Noticing:
Knowing:
Thinking:
Feeling:
Admiring:
Sorting:
Buying:
Getting:
Bookmarking:
Disliking:
Opening:
Giggling:
Feeling:
Snacking:
Coveting:
Wishing:
Helping:
Hearing: