30 December 2014

A New Year Approaches

Source: Mikael's Playground
I'm usually on top of wishing everyone a good holiday before the holidays actually hit. This did not happen, so Happy Belated Happy Holidays! December is an action-packed month for celebration...but with it almost over, it's only natural to think of what's coming Thursday--a brand-new year.


As I do every year, I take a moment to explore a general focus for the coming year. I don't like to call them resolutions, because resolutions can be broken. But if I have an overarching theme, I feel more comfortable that I will be successful with what I'm working towards.

My major focus for 2015 will be to prioritize my own writing.

I knew when I graduated from Seton Hill that I wasn't going to get the same amount of time to focus on writing--that the ability to devote days and hours to fiction would never again come so easily. Now that I've been out of school for a year (I was actually taking courses at SHU until December 2013 so I could keep my financial aid) I realize I've let my writing fall by the wayside.

Disastrously so. 

Once I started teaching college English composition courses, I stopped working on my own writing and devoted energy--as I realize now, far too much energy--on my students' work. Of course I wish for my students to be successful, but after a couple rough terms, I've found that a lot of the attention I devoted to my students just didn't produce results. Often I spent considerably more time grading a student's paper than the student actually spent writing it, and the majority of my free time was devoted solely to grading. I've learned, especially after the term that just wrapped, that if I do not devote time to my own writing, I will be miserable. 

I want to be a productive writer. I have a lot of projects that I've been working on that have hit a standstill because of misplaced energy. I'm working on a fantasy trilogy, a comic series, the score to an animation project, and a short story I want to submit to markets. I also want to self-publish a separate title or two to get more of my work out there while I continue to seek agent representation. And I want to be able to do all of this while I teach at the college. 

"Langston Hughes 1936" by Carl Van Vechten
I've realized the way I've gone about this has been all wrong. So I know I've got to make my own writing a priority and not turn it into "something I'll do when I have the time." This is how writers fail. And I did not devote decades of my life and thousands of dollars toward my education to fail. 

Every time I think of my goals and my life's purpose, I always think of  the poet Langston Hughes: "What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up, like a raisin in the sun?" I know that if I do not feed my dreams, everything starts to fall apart in one way or another. I've got to keep my dreams nourished, and that means I've got to be strong and carve out time in my life every day to write. I've got to be strong enough not to make excuses and I've got to be strong enough to not feel guilty because I'm writing. 

That's my focus for this year. It's been an issue I've struggled with for a while, but since I've left graduate school and started teaching, it feels like it is more urgent that I make writing my priority. I'm going to do it...because if a dream doesn't dry up, then..."does it explode?"

Here's hoping all of you will make time for yourself and your dreams this new year. See you in 2015!

14 December 2014

Blog Design Bummer: nRelate bids farewell!

Perhaps a year ago or so I was tired of using Linked Within to show "recommended posts" at the bottom of each journal entry on this site.

A large part of that had to do with customization: I wanted more control over how my site should look, and after doing some research, I chose nRelate to serve this function. Not only was it easy to add their html/javascript gadget to Blogger, but it allowed me several design options for how my images looked, how the headlines looked, and more. It also allowed ways to monetize sponsored content and also let you keep track of clicks and views...although, being a design newbie, not a lot of this mattered to me--I just wanted something that looked good.

Then I received a very brief email December 4th stating very simply, 

Unfortunately, we are retiring the nRelate platform at the end of this year.For those who are presently using our service, we will stop serving recommendations on December 31, 2014. For all users past and present, reports will be available for download in the Partners dashboard until January 9, 2015.  For those who are using our ad service, payments will be sent out on schedule in the new year. All nRelate services including our customer facing dashboards will be terminated, and you should sign up for an alternative discovery platform by the end of December.

I now have the joyful task of finding a decent replacement for my nRelate content bar, and I'm at a loss for what to do.

I'm hesitant to go back to Link Within, but I also don't want to spend money on a product when I'm making the lowest amount of money I've had in years...(read here  and here).  So far, the products that I'm finding on the web either charge money or are designed for Word Press sites...

And I briefly had a Word Press site. I didn't like it because of the amount of money I had to throw in to customize a webpage, but it looks like most of the widgets designed for blogs are Word Press.


If anyone has any suggestions for a good content-widget formatted for Blogger, please let me know in the comments!