July 23./ Laying out Excuses

Writer’s block has hit me hard for the last year. To break out of this period of inactivity, I want to do an exercise that I saw in Twyla Tharp’s book “The Creative Habit”. In it, she lists the excuses she sometimes makes to avoid creating. Afterwards she provides commentary about how she can move past them. In no particular order, here are my excuses:

  1. I’m not a professional / I don’t want to mislead others
    Excuse: A few years ago, when I was hyped about blogging, I often tried to motivate friends to start writing. I heard every excuse in the book. One friend though, said she didn’t want to start blogging because she didn’t want to contribute to the noise. “There’s too many people on the internet shouting their opinions” she said.This was hard on me because I had to ask myself if I was actually contributing online or just shouting my opinions. I’m not a professional on any topic. I don’t have a degree. Most of my knowledge comes out books or experiences. This excuse could be summed up by the introspective question all artists face: “What qualifies you to do this?”

    Rebuttal: Honestly? Most of the internet is filled with people who are not qualified to do what they do. But they do it anyways. For the most part, nothing could really qualify a person. Who says that someone is qualified to walk down the street and vlog their life on their camera? Or toss a bunch of mentos in coke? Or to do anything for that matter?

    As for the ‘shouting opinions’ portion, everyone is going to come across in this way. If you want to share, it’s inherently noisy. You don’t make the noise any louder by producing or any quieter by not writing. If you’re heart is telling you to contribute, go out and create. It’s bound to be noisy.

  2. I’m unclear about my intentions about why I write and what to write about
    Excuse: Often when I sit down when I sit down to write I don’t have a particular topic that I want to discuss in mind. I only have the feeling that I want to write. Without direction or drive, I spin between possible topics for too much time before giving up.The process of choosing a topic is… long winded? Usually this part is intermixed with the other excuses; “what qualifies you to write about this?”, “why don’t you write about a personal experience instead?”, “that’ll take too long”, et cetera. Without a topic, I don’t have clear intentions to create a good product.

    Rebuttal: The obvious solution to this excuse is to take time to define why you write and what you want to write about. Find what topic you want to discuss and stick to it. The first step you should take when sitting down is defining why you’re here and what you’re going to do. Going with the flow is a great skill to have but if you do it too much here, you’ll exhaust yourself wandering through topics with no direction. Pick a topic and hold to it.

  3. My writing skills are rusty and it’s embarrassing to read old posts
    Excuse: While this one is easy to counter, I often find myself faced with my old writing. Not that it was particularly good, but when I was writing daily, my skills were much higher. Now that I’ve stopped writing for almost two years, I automatically compare my current work to that which I was producing during a creative “height”.

    Rebuttal: Comparison will eat you alive. If you spend your time sulking in how you’re not as great as you once were, you’ll never do great things again. If the feeling is nagging you that bad, just work through it and continue to produce. With time and persistence, you’ll hone your craft again. Maybe it won’t be in the same way, and that’s fine, but you will get better as you work.

  4. It’s time consuming and there are other things I could be doing
    Excuse: Without skills, it takes feels like it takes forever to write. I spend 4 or 5 hours writing a short blog posts, then I over-edit it, question myself about whether it’s “good enough to post”, then ultimately log off for the night without sharing it.

    More than anything this make me feel like I’m wasting my time. It takes me a long time to sit down and produce something. “Is it worth the time if the product isn’t great?”

    Rebuttal: All art takes time to produce. You can’t go into it thinking that you’ll be able to jump in quick and come out with a fantastic product. You have to put in the time to create something awesome. Even with greater skill, you’ll still have to put in your hours. Suck it up buttercup, everyone goes through these stages of writing too much, overdoing it, and questioning if it’s good enough. It’s part of the process. Keep going and push passed it.

  5. When it comes down to it, I’m scared of judgement or being held accountable for what I write
    Excuse: These “writer’s blocks” usually boil down to a fear of being judged for expressing something. Whether it be a personal topic or a judgement based off what I choose to reblog or share. “If I write ________, will I come across as too (gay, masculine, feminine, showoff-ish, dumb, know-it-all, irrelevant)?”

    On the same note, I’m afraid that if I write casually, down the road someone is going to hold me to what I wrote. My opinions change as I gain understanding. What I wrote two years ago may not be true about me anymore.

    Rebuttal: No matter what you do, people will always judge you for it. And that’s okay because it really doesn’t matter what others think about you. You’ll always be too gay, too thin, too dumb, for somebody. So what? Create anyways. Have confidence in what you do. You feel driven to create and share. Not everybody can say that.

    The same is true about being held accountable for what you produce. People will always hold things against you. You’ll always be too much of something. Even if it was a past you. Create anyways. Be radical, then contradict yourself. Who cares? You’re allowed to change. You’re allowed to be obscene and different and too much. Do what you love.

Hey y’all, thanks for reading this. I apologize for how long this post has gotten. Brevity isn’t my strong suit. Plus, it’s easy to complain and write excuses! 😛 I hope that if you experience any of these same excuses, maybe you’ll let them go. I’d love to see what you produce. If anyone gets this far, let me know in the comments what excuses you face and how you get passed them. Have a good day/night and I’ll catch ya later!

 

 

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Changes are coming

Almost all of today was spent working on this website in various ways. You wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at it though. I spent stupid amounts of time trying or organize and classify posts that I’d already made. Now I’ve decided that instead of creating new domains, I’ll subdomain this one out to fill whatever purpose I need. Eventually this page will be moved to blog.eric-albee.com. I think it fits much better and I’ll be able to have my portfolio on another subdomain. In another one I’ll have my other projects. It’s not a perfect system but it’ll give me the opportunity to create sites in a more dynamic way.

Each subdomain acts as its own site. Meaning it can have its own layout and set of rules. It looks somewhat professional and it’s a great way to organize. You’ll have to forgive me though, I’ve used every ounce of brainpower on trying to get this stuff to work. I made a mistake and it cost me $75. *shakes fist in air. Sometimes teaching yourself how to do things accidently costs money. Anyways, I’m going to hit the hay. I can barely think straight. -.-

BLOGtober day twenty four!

Sitting Down and Writing

The most difficult part of writing, I’ve found, is starting. It’s easy to find ways to avoid the process. Sometimes I make excuses or purposefully become busy to escape. But the thought always comes back. Sit down and write. You have something you want to say. That’s what fuels this sort of writing. Why does that desire keep returning?

It’s all chaos. Each time I sit down my mind goes in one thousand directions. There’s nothing cohesive. Even reading the lines as they slowly appear is agonizing. This sentence doesn’t match the one before it. They won’t understand what you are trying to say. Delete it. Start over. Make it better. Write more clearly. Edit. Filter it. It becomes unbearable. Some days it feels like I’m walking through tar.

The motivation to create startles me. This need for expression doesn’t make sense. If I’m this critical of what I’m writing, why should I even begin? I contemplate as I write this, if I even want to share it. It’s embarrassing to be open. Yet I know this sort of creation is necessary.

When I created this site, I was regularly blogging. Each day I wrote 100 words. It feels wrong to say that writing was easier then. It was a skill, something I honed through hours of sitting in front of the screen. Putting thought to word. I don’t have that now. I’m undisciplined.

However, that’s not an excuse to avoid writing. If anything, that’s a reason to sit down and focus. I need to write. It sharpens my mind. When I do it regularly, I feel as though my thoughts are linear. They become digestible. The chaos doesn’t clear up, but it becomes bearable.

This is the spirit of writing regularly. Whether it be BLOGtober, a 365 project, or anything in between. It’s sitting down and getting through the chaos. Pushing past the perfectionist that only wants to share content once it’s been revised 1,000 times. It’s ignoring the urge to get up and do some mindless activity to avoid not knowing what to write or create.

Not every day is difficult. Some days I rush to computer to tell you about my day. Photographs sometimes build themselves and come easily. I have notebooks of ideas and post-it-notes on my walls. Yet, confronting the blank canvas is a process that takes time to get used to.

It’s like standing on stage for your elementary school band concert and suddenly the lights shine in your face. You can see everyone in the audience. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve practiced, sometimes that light will shock you. Blank canvases do the same thing occasionally. But it’s not about that. It’s about getting on stage and playing anyways. Over time it gets better but sometimes that light will still shock you.

Anyways, enough about writing. Have you listened through this mix of Kygo’s music? That link goes to YouTube, so anyone can listen to it. It’s the perfect combination of songs to start the day. My friend introduced it to me a couple weeks ago and I put it on all the time for motivation.

Happy day four of BLOGtober everyone!

(Orig. 20150727)

 

There’s a few days left before Blogtober, this is why you should join in!

October is just around the corner and what better way to celebrate than to blog! While I’m already writing daily, I want to challenge you to blog for 31 days straight. All you will need is a few spare minutes and a cheerful attitude.

Below I’ve included a few details about the event:

Why do this project?

Blogging is a great way to record your life and express yourself. It’s also a fun way to decompress after a long day. Writing has given me a greater perspective on my life and helped me both set and accomplish my goals. I encourage others to write because it gives you time to contemplate your days and focus your energy into one product.

After only 31 days, you’ll have something to look back at. For some, this project will be easy. Others will find it difficult because they don’t feel like they have anything interesting to share. Take that as motivation to make your life more interesting. Cook new foods and write about it, go to the movies and write a review, try something new and share it! Blogging can be as simple as punching the keys on your computer, all you have to do is reach for the keys.

Who should join in?

I believe that everyone has something to contribute. Writing is a simple way to get your voice out there and to get feedback. When you write on a computer, you have the ability to read what you’ve written. This creates a loop where you can look at your ideas/thoughts from a greater perspective. You can modify them, erase them, bold them, whatever you want.

By interacting with your thoughts, you can start to understand yourself in a new way. You have the ability to see who you are and how you think. There are many days that I write and look back over what I’ve written with much surprise. Sometimes we don’t know what we know. Every person could benefit by spending just 10 minutes a day writing.

How much should I participate?

This is entirely up to you! When I began this 365 project, I set a few rules for myself. I encourage you to find what works best for your writing/blogging needs. These are some of the rules I chose, feel free to adopt a few of them or modify them as needed:

100 words minimum a day!

Writing at least 100 words daily makes the task easy to do but difficult to B.S.. It only takes a few minutes to write and I’ve found that I usually want to write more. 100 words is a strong enough commitment that I can’t just write one sentence.

Guest Blogging/ Collaborations count!

If you get a friend to write on your blog, that counts as a post! Collaboration is a great way to build friendships and to provoke thought. Everyone has a different perspective and a unique style of writing. Guest blogging helps introduce you to other bloggers and new topics that you could potentially write about in the future.

Video Blogging (Also known as “Vlogging”) is acceptable

Videos tend to be more in-depth that text posts for me. I can usually talk about more information while chatting on the camera than typing away. This option allows you to have more variety during your project.

Posts must be made in one conscious period

This means you must post sometime between when you wake up and when you go to bed. Rather than pushing off your writing to the next day, you must do it. It’s just a simple rule that helps regulate your posts. This one is definitely a measure of discipline.

Where should I post?

You can blog anyway! Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, are all forms of microblogging. While I encourage you to write on a blogging platform like WordPress.com or Blogspot.com, feel free to write anywhere. Blogtober is about your experience of blogging, no matter where you choose to write. It doesn’t matter what you have to say or why you have to say it, only that chose to express it.

 

Happy blogging everyone!

300/365

 

 

Where’d your stuff go?

As a person who regularly views art online, I find it incredibly frustrating when an artist removes most of their work. YouTubers like Randy Phillips create fantastic videos but decide, for whatever reason, to remove them. In fact, I would say that often, they choose to remove their best content. Many photographers I know have done the same thing on Flickr. Bloggers like Jay Brannan and Davey Wavey choose to close their websites.

I say this not in an effort to badger these artists’ work but to pose a question: what is the purpose of your content?

Photography is the easiest content to talk about because I know many artists and I’m a photographer myself. For many in my community, we share our work on Flickr. When I was active on the site, it served as a community where we critiqued one another’s work, as well as documented our progress.

Many photographers chose to do 365 projects, similar to how I’m blogging daily. This produces a lot of content, which floods our profile. As more work is produced, the quality improves. Eventually artists have a clear distinction between their new (quality) work and their old work that they learned through. This gap creates a difficult because it goes back to the question: what is the purpose of your content?

In 2010, one of my favorite photographers shut down her Flickr profile and hid her 365. This absolutely devastated me because I loved all of her work. Everything about it was beautiful! I felt as if part of my soul was ripped away when she took down her content. From her perspective, she was clearing old photographs that no longer represented her quality of work. She didn’t want others to see old images because she wanted to display only her finest content.

Her purpose for posting this content was to show her greatest work. This meant removing the work that she believed wasn’t good enough. While on the other side of the country, I’m at home looking for her content. I didn’t look for only the ‘best’, I wanted the full feeling of her work. It took me years to get over this loss.

YouTubers have done the same thing with their channels. Randy took down almost half of his videos and I don’t understand why. Perhaps the purpose of his content was to represent himself and he didn’t like how half of his videos looked. Again, I watched his content for the whole feeling of it, not just the quality of one.

Davey Wavey is a famous YouTuber who began as a blogger. On his site http://www.breaktheillusion.com/ he wrote almost daily about his life. It was interesting to see his perspective on the world and I loved reading it. Everything felt fresh and timeless. I’ve spent many nights re-reading old posts because I related to them so well. A few months ago he took down his site and moved to another domain. While this was probably to upgrade his previous site, he removed his blog. This is such a shame because I really valued his writings.

Let’s turn the question to you; what is the purpose of your content?

Why do you share yourself online? Some share to create an image of themselves or to document their lives. Others do it for building a portfolio or to gain fame.

Is it right to take down your content?

Well it is your content. You are free to do anything you like. I write this post because I want others to know that readers like all of your content. Having 10 perfect posts is worse than having 75 alright posts. I would rather have much more quantity and a better representation of your work.

I have no right to tell you what to do but I would like to request that you leave your content online. Even if you push it to another site or another location. It’s unfortunate to see so much fantastic art disappearing online because artists want to clear up their profile.

Why do you create? What is the purpose of your content?

255/365

The End of my Facebook Hiatus

Facebook annoyed me, and after six years of using it, I was fed up. Using RescueTime, an app that tracks your mobile usage, I discovered that too much of the day was wasted by scrolling through my “Newsfeed”. That was my final excuse. In an attempt to rediscover why I used Facebook, I took a two week long hiatus.

Why did I even use the site? This question plagued me for almost two years. I told myself that it was the natural progression from MySpace – but there was something different about it. MySpace was a different ballgame with different players. You didn’t have your family in the outfield and there was nothing more than a small “status update”.

MySpace was oriented towards the younger crowd, not the family. It was for a niche group of kids that could be themselves and customize their profile. MySpace gained popularity from the blogging hype, and perhaps it’s best to look back at the origins of social media to take a look at why Facebook became the monster that it is today.

In the beginning… there was only information. Simple data meant to inform the internet surfers that blazed through the net. It was filled with media that you would expect to come from a library, with very little interest placed on entertainment. From this darkness the surfers separated useless from useful. Web logging was a way to link people to sites you found useful. It literally was a list of hyperlinks to various websites.

As the net formed, customization became possible. Instead of posting a list of links, now people could write their opinions about the sites they liked. This lead to blogging (web logging), where online users began documenting life and forming what we commonly think of as a blog.

The difficult with blogging, even still today, is connections between users. If you want to see what your favorite blogger is up to, the most convenient way is to type in their website. This is a hassle because bloggers don’t post every day and you may know a handful of bloggers. Typing in ten different URLs can be a pain and time consuming.

MySpace and other blogging sites wanted to change this by integrating users into one website. This way you could log on and see a handful of your friends without typing a dozen URLs. Even better, they created “statuses”, where individuals could post how they were feeling at any given moment.

Before this point, there was virtually no word limit placed on a post. You could write a single sentence or a novel if you pleased. However, some people didn’t like this because it was time consuming to read long posts. MySpace compromised by limiting users to less than 200 characters. This way you could post how you felt and others could quickly read over it.

Microblogging was born in this moment and this concept would become the basis for Twitter, where users can express themselves through 140 characters. For time and convenience, this was a huge step forward. Instead of typing in different blog URLS, waiting for your dial-up internet, reading through long boring posts – now you could go to one site and scroll quickly through how your friends were feeling.

Facebook borrowed this idea when it created the “Newfeed”, a combination of your friend’s statuses, likes, and activity on the site. MySpace eventually was overtaken by Facebook, due to the ease of use and simple profile design. You no longer had to slave away and create a unique profile; all you had to do was create a profile picture and post statuses.

This was the basis of Facebook when I joined back in 2008: you logged on the iconic blue and gray home screen and were greeted with all of your friend’s statuses. From this point, you could “like” what they wrote and comment on what they had to say. However, “liking” a post seemed to remove the need to write a response. Instead of commenting on a status, you could mindless agree with what they had to say by clicking “like”.

Pages were created at this time so you could show your approval for products and ideas that were displayed on the site. From “Coca-Cola” to “I hate it when I get texts from a person I don’t want to talk to”. Suddenly you were able to show friends funny things that you saw on Facebook.

Going back to blogging, you wrote from a blank screen. On Facebook, instead of writing your own posts, or commenting on other people’s posts, you could just “like” them. This significantly decreased communication between users. The pages were created to bring people together but it instead removed the need to interact with friends.

Memes were brought from sites like 4chan and imgur onto Facebook. Instead of writing statuses, people began to share funny images. While memes can connect users through humor, Facebook continued to decrease communication.

This bring us to today, and why I decided to leave Facebook. The internet that I grew to love was built on communication and interaction between friends. We wrote about our lives and openly commented on each other’s profiles. Instead of sharing funny videos, we discussed what we doing or what we liked. We didn’t “like” what Bob had to say, we wrote that we agreed with him.

To be fair, much of this interaction is still happening; many of my Facebook friends comment on each other’s pictures and posts. However, the structure which shows these posts had changed dramatically. In web logging days, you scrolled through the prime content (the links) and selected directly what you wanted. When blogging was popular, you typed in URLs or saw the posts via sites like Xanga (blogging medium). Back on MySpace, you saw how everyone was doing as they posted their status. Facebook is different.

Right now Facebook claims that the average teenage user has around 300 friends and is subject to 1300 posts every day. The average person doesn’t have enough time to view all of this content, so Facebook decided to prioritize what you see. However, the algorithm that determines the “best” content is based on a flawed system.

Veritasium is a YouTube who has briefly discussed the flaws with this algorithm. You can watch that video here.

In short, the way Facebook determines what content to show you is based on two things: money and interaction. “Like” pages can only have their content shown if they decide to pay the site money. If you have 1,000,000 followers, only 1,000 of them may see your content… unless you give Facebook money. The other way is through interaction; when your friends, or your friend’s friends, comment, like, or share a post.

Likes are by far the most powerful determinant in whether you see content or not. If your friends “like” a post, Facebook sees this and thinks that you may “like” it as well. That’s why you can scroll through your “Newsfeed” and see pictures of people you don’t know; because your friend liked that picture. Remember that likes are mindless and don’t require much involvement. One person can scroll through their “Newsfeed” for an hour and like 150 posts, if not more.

When you sign on Facebook, you’re met with a very large “Newsfeed”. This “Newsfeed” is comprised of: friend’s posts, friend’s liked pages, friend’s liked/commented posts and the occasional advertisement. Many of these posts that your friends like are images or video, which take up more space than text status posts. Therefore most of your “Newsfeed” is pictures and video.

This contrasts with MySpace’s homepage, which exclusively showed how your friends feel. When you logged on, you saw that Suzie was “feeling great to be home”. Because you couldn’t comment on statuses (in early MySpace), you post on her profile or message her. If she didn’t respond, you see that Jeff is “doing great and glad to be starting a new job”. So you message him. If he doesn’t reply, you get offline and do something else.

Facebook eliminated this interaction with the “like” system. You don’t have to message Jeff to talk about tell him congratulations on the new job, you can show your approval by “liking” his status. If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m circling on the how there’s less meaningful interaction on Facebook.

So what did I learn after two weeks away…

1. Facebook consumes more time than people believe.

When you’re waiting for the bus, it’s natural to grab your phone and see what your friends are up to. If you’re between class periods at school, you better believe that people are checking their phones. Any moment the boss isn’t looking at work, checking your “Newsfeed” or playing games like Clash of Clans, Game of War, or Mafia Wars.

What happens is you fill your spare moments with mindlessly scrolling through Facebook. The effect of this is that waste your free moments with useless information. It really doesn’t matter what Jeff is doing if you’re checking Facebook every five minutes. Even to the average user who logs on twice a day, image what you could be doing with your extra time!

At first I struggled with keeping my phone in my pocket. It became such a habit to constantly pull my phone out to look at Facebook and Instagram. Over time I realized that everyone else was constantly on their phone. At work I would go out with friends on their smoke break. I thought it would be a great way to talk and interact but I discovered everyone was always checking their Facebook – disregarding the people around them.

2. People are always on their phones

Before the two week, I knew that everyone was on their phones constantly. Afterwards I really became concerned with how much time people waste sitting on their phones. You don’t really notice it until you stop doing it yourself. It’s like you’re a smoker, you may not realize how much you smoke until you quit. Then you’ll be painfully aware of how often everyone else goes out for a smoke.

My concern stems from how exhausted people seem to be. Instead of taking a moment to breath and look around, people are filling their spare moments with Clash of Clans. Our human-to-human interaction is suffering.

3. Microblogging is terrible

Expressing yourself in 140 character is too shallow in my opinion. Most microblog posts lack depth or well thought out ideas. Their only use is a quick laugh or smile. I see them as a precursor for more interaction rather than their own entity.

When you have a full blog post, you have something to gain from reading it. You can understand how a person thinks or a concept that they’re talking about. Even from this post you’ve gained some understanding about the history of blogging. While it has taken much longer to read than a single sentence post on Facebook or Twitter, it is much more intellectually valuable.

While I don’t log on Facebook to gain knowledge, I don’t log on to hear what your cat is doing every five minutes. Microblogging has trained the population to constantly post useless information. When you take time to write a longer post, you give much more information. Microblogging has significantly reduced the amount of useful information online.

So am I done with Facebook…?

In short, no. It’s a great way to connect with friends that are traveling or live far away. However, I’m reducing the amount of time that I spend on it. I’m also reducing how much content that I “like” and increasing interaction.

While monopoly is not the correct word to describe Facebook, it still seems to fit it. There aren’t many other options that all of my friends are on. So I’m stuck if I want to continue interacting with them online.

In the future, I will look for other media to use. Blogging on this site has changed my life and my perspective on social media. Sites like Flickr cater to another another specialty in me, as well as YouTube. I will continue to use Facebook but I will focus more energy on creating for other sites.

How many notifications did you have…?

On my primary Facebook, 34 notifications and 5 messages. Most of the notifications were birthdays or posts by pages that I subscribe to. Immediately upon returning I got useless notifications that users “liked” my comments on other people’s posts. Again frustrating me. Too many useless notifications.

 

Anyways, this post has become long enough. I saw we call it night!

252/365

Word Count

Last year I earned a reputation as a blog-pusher, which is a person who enthusiastically attempts to get others to blog. I fell in love with writing online, so naturally I spread the passion to friends. I spent a lot of time asking friends to start a blog and usually I was met with much resistance. Often I heard the excuse, “I don’t know what I would write about”.

After writing for eight months, I still don’t know what I’m writing about. Some weeks I write about artists, and other weeks I review things that I like. There are even days that I blog about about blogging (like today!). However, I can always push out 100 words a day for this project. Anyone can.

When this project was created, the minimum standard set for myself was 100 words a day. Like others, I thought that it would be too difficult to write. I feared that eventually the words would run out and there’d be nothing left. Today I installed a plugin to read how many words have been published since December 2013, when I began this blogging project.

I have published 111,117 words. According to Wiki, a common thriller has between 60,000 to 80,000 words, and a mystery could have 100,000 words. While writing a book requires much more organization, I feel like blogging has shown that I have the capability to write over 100,000 words.

This fear that you don’t have enough to write about is completely irrational. It may take time but you can fill a page. If you did a project like this and wrote the bare minimum, you would finish with 36,500 words. Even that is incredible and a low commitment! You just have to spend time building it and cultivating it.

238/365