Vacationing in the Hybrid-Ease

Sun reflections in blue waterI’ve been on quite a long hiatus from this blog–my apologies to anyone who might have been hanging around for updates! Between work and family stuff and trying to develop new and interesting skills, I haven’t made time like I should have. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, life takes you to strange places, some wonderful and some terrible, others just plain bizarre.

Sometimes it’s all three…but when you return, you’re the richer for it.

You might be wondering about the title of this post–what the heck does “Hybrid-Ease” mean? Well, I’m awful about wordplay and punning, it’s true. While I’ve been away, I’ve kind of struggled with my compass spinning, and figuring out what it means to be a generalist in a world of specialists. I’ve always been this way, good or bad, helpful or not. Do I look like a flake? Yep. Do I seem like a butterfly, flitting from one topic to the next? Probably. Am I indecisive? I don’t know (ha ha).

In other words, I’ve been trying to make peace with being a hybrid. And honestly, I don’t know why that should be such a bad thing. I mean, hello, Leonardo da Vinci? Benjamin Franklin? Michelangelo? I want to be a Renaissance woman! Writer, artist, programmer, developer, designer, entrepreneur. Why do I have to choose? Finding a way to become great at all of those things and make a living doing it may not always be easy in an age of specialization, but it’s well worth the effort.

So like the Hebrides, those beautiful, wild, strange islands off the coast of Scotland that have inspired poets, scientists, artists, and travelers for centuries, I’ve decided that my career can be a unique blend of many things and still exist in the world. Perhaps not what everyone’s looking for–I’m no Fort Lauderdale or Cancun–but I’m sure to please those searching for something a little bit off the beaten path :)

Technical Difficulties

Technology. So incredibly useful, and so incredibly annoying at times. I don’t know about other writers, but I’m blown away by how many cool new apps are out there to help me market my work. Social media sites abound, creating your own blog is a snap, and the submission process has sped up, largely due to emailing subs instead of snail-mailing them. It really is amazing.

And then I try to update my website, like this morning, and want to bang my head against my laptop in frustration. So many choices, so much to learn about setting up automated mailing lists and RSS feeds and Google Analytics that I want to run to the nearest non-wired spot deep in the woods and clear the tech-fog from my poor little brain.

How do we manage it all without throwing up our hands in despair? I honestly don’t know, because I’ve done exactly that several times as I’ve struggled to master HTML and CSS and favicons. That’s why I’ve decided that I need help! I’ll be heading to the Midwest Writers Conference next week, where I’ll be receiving some one-on-one social media tutoring from an expert. Whew! I plan to share what I learn after I come back, which I hope will help other writers facing the technological juggernaut.

If you’re a writer who’s mastered the art of balancing the tech and art of writing, I want to hear from you! What do you do to make it all work out? The floor is open for discussion…

Spam–or, Very nice stuff here hopefully I learned from it

I miss the days when Spam was a good thing. Not that it ever really was good FOR you, but I thought it was pretty tasty stuff as a kid. Spam sandwiches, fried spam, diced spam in salads, you know the drill.

Now there’s Spam 2.0–virtual Spam. Totally tasteless stuff, literally AND figuratively. I log on to WordPress and find 14 new comments, all of the spam variety, and groan. A platoon of messages from hair removal product peddlers and work-at-home opportunity pushers that tell me how wonderful my blog is, how interesting, how useful…all couched in such generic terms, I feel like I’m reading my horoscope. The perverse side of me imagines that someone’s blog about satanism and how to perform human sacrifices for maximum magical effect is receiving the same crap, and I wonder what the author thinks. “Very nice stuff here,” the spam reads, “hopefully I learned from it.”

But the worst part of it? The cheerfully atrocious spelling, grammar, and punctuation of these missives make me cringe. Imagine someone beating you over the head with a baseball bat and screaming, “So you wonderful! You wonderful! I not know what you saying but you write I like!” then being amazed that you don’t seem to like them very much, because they’ve been so dreadfully clever. Ugh.

I don’t mean to complain (okay, well, maybe I do) but it seems to me that spam accomplishes nothing more useful than pissing off people you’ve never met. Under the right circumstances I can get behind that, you understand, but haven’t we had enough junk cluttering up our lives already? My fragile, overworked synapses just can’t take any more.

Perhaps I’m being too cynical–maybe hairremovalgal42@gmail.com (any similarity to actual email addresses is unintentional and coincidental) really did learn something from my blog post about creating an emotional connection to her characters. I’ll wish her well as I delete her message and indulge in a fresh Spam sandwich to celebrate my contribution to her intellectual advancement.

Bloggity blog blog blog

I’m sitting here, staring at the blank space where I should be writing  fascinating things but mostly stuck on how to get my website to look less like someone wrote the XHTML code with their feet and more like an actual professional designed it. I’m wondering if I should have swallowed my pride and used one of those prepackaged websites instead, like someone watching smoke billow out of their kitchen as the Chicken Kiev burns to a cinder and thinking too late that a bag of Bertolli’s might have been a good idea.

But the thing is, learning something new takes time. No matter how bright or skilled you are, the harsh truth is that you’ll most likely fail and, very probably, make a horrible mangled mess of what you’re attempting to do before you get better at it. Have I blogged much? Nope. Am I making a mess of it? Maybe. Who knows?

I went to my first writer’s workshop a few weekends ago at Ball State University, ironically enough where I did my internship for my doctorate, and listened to published writers discuss how to get serious about writing. Kelsey Timmerman, one of the speakers, said something that seems incredibly simple, but makes a lot of sense–the more you write, the less you suck. What’s the takeaway lesson? Keep going. You, gracious reader, may also be a writer or follow a different career path, but I imagine you’ve had brushes with burnt lasagna or birdhouses that should be condemned or speeches that left you wishing for a portable black hole to escape into, and can sympathize. So I’m going to keep going, and I hope you stick around as this little site and I evolve over time. Maybe you’ll find things here to keep you going, too.

Thanks for coming to visit, and for being patient.