Coming home from very lonely places, all of us go a little mad; whether from great personal success, or just an all-night drive, we are the sole survivors of a world no one else has ever seen.
- John le Carre
- John le Carre
It's a beautiful Sunday afternoon and everyone's taking a nap. Figured it's the perfect time to write.
This morning I just finished loading my truck with boxes of toys, clothing and variety of household items. Tomorrow we're headed out first thing in the morning to donate it.
It makes the process of downsizing a lot easier knowing that the things we had is going straight to the hands of people who need it.
The actual act of paring everything down has been an eye-opener. It's not as easy as I thought it was going to be. I never realized I can get so attached to something I barely used. We actually have had a couple of fights because of it. I'm talking about temper tantrums, like taking something away from a child.
The baby steps towards a minimalist mindset is:
Emotional. Like I said, we get attached to things. We become very sentimental about stuff that hold no sentimental value whatsoever. Toughest things for me to get rid of? My game table and my 3 piece entertainment bar set. (It was one of the first things we purchased when we bought our first house.) I decided to get rid of both because it's silly to put the game table in storage when some kid can be enjoying it instead. The bar has no place in our smaller NYC apartment.
There's no shame in owning up around my blog so here goes...
You know what really ate me up? I was pretty pissed off that people were buying great pieces of furniture from us for a great price when I paid full sticker price for it. That's my fault for paying $$$. So I'm really pissed off at myself. Do you smell a sucker? Then it must be me! Zing! Never again though. Live and learn.
Enlightening. It forces you to think about things you usually don't have to deal with. Like, "How the hell did I end up with this much shit?" I swear I didn't get them wet & didn't feed them after midnight so I don't see how they could've multiplied and turned evil on me (I always insert random movie references whenever I get a chance) And it's not over yet kids!
Exhausting. Uh, yes, yes. Actually I should be taking a nap but I had to get this post off my chest. Between last week's yard sale, putting stuff up on craigslist, boxing things up for the move and donation - we're both pretty wiped out.
I just realized each one of those points started with E. That was completely unintentional.
What I learned.
This is the beginning of a process. Not just of eliminating unnecessary objects either acquired or given to us, but understanding how we ended up having so much but only using and needing very little.
It takes a lot of work and effort to make conscious and wise decisions as a consumer. Do I really need this or do I just want it? How is this going to help me/us with our current goals?
How to be a better consumer. We won't have any large furniture when we get to NY which means we'll end up purchasing some basics. We're looking for multifunctional pieces and going for more of a utilitarian route. Space is limited so it needs to have a purpose for being there.
It gets easier as you go along, or it feels like it anyway. You know the term "unloading the baggage?" It literally feels like you're doing that. It's easier to think that someone else is enjoying that guitar that you barely play, that shirt that still had it's tags on, etc.
This doesn't mean I'm giving up everything and just living with 100 things (Amazon Affiliate link).
We're just creating new habits that in the long run will enable us to save money, appreciate the things we do have, concentrate on the stuff that matters, be smarter consumers and focus on building and creating our ideal reality which will hopefully lead to making a lasting difference.
Update: Dropped off all the goods at SafePlace today. It was a longer drive than anticipated but it was completely worth it.
About the title? For me, minimalism is gangster because it's a full-on hard core commitment to undoing the way you live, the way you consume (or not consume) and becoming a more conscious human. It's not just about getting rid of stuff, it's about dealing with lifelong habits and inner demons. So yeah. That's my answer and I'm sticking to it.
P.S. I was torn as to which photo I was gonna use for this post so here's the alternate one.
Be an action figure. Do something.
1. I'm opening comments for this post just because. So feel free to leave a message.
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Dropping words like bombs.
I covered a lot of bases on my last post and there's some very important points there that deserve its own dedicated post. So today I'll be chatting a bit about why choosing a topic is detrimental to not only your site but also keeping your own sanity.
So let's flip this around. Say you're wasting time surfing the web, cruising the Twitter highway. A Tweet buddy puts up a link and you click on it. It takes you to the destination page - a landing page. You quickly give it a once over, scanning it like most people do. After a few seconds you realize you have absolutely no idea what kind of site it is you're looking at. If you're a patient kind of person you'd probably look around for some kind of clue as to what the site is about but most people would probably exit the site, never to return again.
Why choosing a "unique badge" will help people remember you and keep your brain from exploding.
Choosing a topic or a focus for your blog doesn't mean that's all you'll ever talk about. But your audience needs to be able to identify what your site is about without having them hunt down for it.
Areas you can place your unique badge
For example -
- Author of YA zombie novels
- The funny chef: cooking and telling jokes since 1995
- The beer brigade: We drink beer. Then we review it.
If you can't decide what your "thing" is just yet or if you can't peg it down to one, you can whittle it down to a select few Kinda like what I did.
In your about me or Welcome section. Just a few words to describe your site. Don't be vague, be as specific as you can.
For example -
- Welcome to my blog. This is where I write about what I'm doing to get back in shape. I'll be sharing my recipes, work-out regimen and daily progress.
- Hello and welcome. This site will chronicle my life as I build an urban homestead.
Keep his short and to the point. Try to use keywords that will help you be found. These are things that get you indexed in search engines. Don't just put your URL either. And you shouldn't leave it blank at all.
Benefits from selecting your unique badge:
It helps people identify and associate you with it. Retention improves with repetition.
You want them to say "Hey, you're that guy who blogs about cupcakes." or "You're the B-movie blogger", or "You run that site about being an urban minimalist." You get the point.
It helps you keep your focus on the content.
If you're like me you get to be scatterbrained and want to blog about everything under the sun that strikes your fancy. Brain explosion!!! But trying to be everything all at once will make you an expert at nothing. Concentrate on a few things you're really excited about and build on your strengths.
Questions to ask when you're trying to decide what your blog focus should be about.
- What is the one thing you want this site to be known for?
- Who are you trying to reach?
- How do you plan on getting people to notice?
- What topics get you excited enough that you can talk about the subject and keep the level of intensity up?
Be an action figure. Do something. (Comments are closed for now instead you can do the following)
1. If you like this post, please share/recommend with others - email, Twitter, FB, Stumble, Digg, link from your site.
2. Or you can give me the warm and fuzzies by joining The Hooligans and subscribing to RSS.
3. Send me a quickie e-mail to say hello - let me know what your unique badge is for your site. Would love to check it out.
is something I don't do. It just happens to be on TV right now. Not Twister (with the flying cows) but a reality show with storm chasers. I know, lame intro to a blog post but I'm trying to be all spontaneous here.
The topic for this post is not tornadoes but transitions (stress, how it relates to new media and blogging, and a few tips for noobs).
Living life in transition is a bitch. Anytime there's some kind of major change going on - the daily routine falls by the wayside and you're left kinda winging it from one thing to another. On top of that the anxiety levels skyrocket. As I'm typing this I've got a tight knot on my shoulder.
My transition? The final push to get rid of stuff and move to NYC for about a year/year and a half, going back to school, elevate my blogging goals, starting a business.
But hey, life's all about transitions right? Some are more significant than others but the point is to adapt and embrace change. Learn from it - good and bad. Keep striving and trying until you get things just the way you like it.
Like Tom Petty's song says - The waiting is the hardest part.
During this "in-between" stage everything's awkward and you sometimes question decisions, second-guess yourself, maybe even start back-pedaling.
New job? Moving? Starting over? New relationship? New project?
Scary? Hell Yeah.
The first instinct when dealing with something that forces you outside of your comfort zone is to resist. You fight against it because you're afraid - what if you look like a complete ass, what if you're rejected, what if you get a bad review, afraid that nobody will visit you blog, afraid to let people in.
Give perfection the middle finger.
Let that illusion go because it'll get you nowhere. All you'll end up doing is make excuses. Before you know it, you would have talked yourself out of doing something new.
The thing about transitions is the unpredictability factor. Sure, we're all creatures of habit but not all habits are good.
I say screw all that. Once you've committed to doing something, just get it done. Try it out. Launch that site, try a new design, a new style of writing, record that demo...whatever it is. Then quantify the results later.
Great ideas without execution is nothing but pipe dreams.
I can cover all the bases here but since one of my missions is to help you build sites/blogs that don't hate you - I'll deal with that today.
Making a transition from non-blogger to noob blogger or elevate your noob blogger status to something more is tricky.
I've put my noob goggles on to break down the basics for a smoother transition. So here goes.
Where's your focus, man? Pick a topic any topic.
Choose a main topic that you want to be known for and write content around that. You like juggling? Then your blog should be mainly about that and not about pancakes. Unless you can find a link between the two that is. I kinda cheat on this - look at the title - it says "dark fiction writer, new media tips, elevate your passion." Those three are actually interconnected for me and is very relevant to what I'm doing here so at the moment those are my key topics. There's also more to the selection process but I think I'm gonna explain that in a future blog post.
You need some discipline.
No, not like some weird kinky bondage thing. More like a work-flow thing. Set an editorial calendar. Decide how many posts you want and can do in a week and when you want it posted. Then as you brainstorm topics you can assign it to specific days. Before you know it, you'll have a month's worth of content roughly assigned. You can even break each weekly post down to specific topics (i.e., Monday - is movie review, Wednesday - spotlight on gadget, Thursday - fav website, Friday - weekly roundup)
I've actually experimented with the themed post - it's fun but feels forced. I'm on a schedule right now and I just recently started the monthly pre-planning of posts, and it's reduced the amount of chaos and anxiety that comes with writing a consistent stream of content.
You can use Google Calendar.
Me? I have a techy-crush on Teux Deux.
Deadlines. Stick to it.
I hate to say this but be brutal about this part. Do your best to stick to a schedule. Pretend you have a boss and your boss is an asshole, you better get it done or else he'll eat your lunch, pour honey all over your keyboard or slash your tires. If for some reason you know you'll be MIA then let your audience know (even if you have a very small audience). It's like missing a dinner date, you gotta let 'em know somehow why you you can't make it. Don't leave them hanging. It's just the nice and classy thing to do.
Write the way you would talk to someone.
Seriously, show off your personality. This is like a pet peeve for me - I'm always looking for new blogs to read and sometimes I come across one that has a gorgeous visual layout, everything's perfect and shiny, until I start reading the posts...then what a let-down. Nothing is more of a buzz kill than reading stuff that sounds generic, boring, and using words that sounds like it came from a refrigerator manual or a prescription label.
Don't delay. Put the darn thing up and tweak later.
Remember what I said earlier about executing an idea?
There's a lot of elements that can be improved on but just get your idea out there and take action. You can worry about SEO, SERP, social media, keywords, design, functionality, marketing, etc. as you go along. Start bare-bones and learn as you go. Also, you don't need to wear all the hats in your operation. Again that's another post in itself.
Very important. Once you're comfortable with the technology and how it works you can turn around and make it work for you. Then you can actually reverse the process - research, test then launch.
And it's ok if you don't know anything about half the stuff I just mentioned because it's overwhelming.
As Joss Whedon said - There are no rules, so let's all get out there and play.
P.S. - As I was finishing up this post I just realized there's a lot of info that I can further elaborate on so I'll be taking it apart and breaking it down so I can get to the specifics. That should be fun.
So this Thursday - I'll be talking about your blog's focal point and choosing your topics. See ya then. Same bat time. Same bat channel.
Be an action figure. Do something.
1. Share this post and site with others - email, tweet, FB, stumble, digg. (I've turned off comments for now so you can focus on sharing)
2. Subscribe to my RSS then join the Hooligans
3. I love e-mails! Send me a quick note - tell me how you deal with your transitions, how you're spreading your reach and what you're doing with your blog and what you need help with. I love chatting with people so don't be shy!
Way to go Van Saint. You just called your readers a candy-ass.
Not true. NOT all the readers. JUST the candy-asses.
Truth is, I should've posted this like several hours ago but decided to play hooky instead and hang out with the family this morning. Gorgeous weather, nice breeze, no stinking allergies, strong coffee - perfect morning for a walk and actually using that patio furniture outside. How can I pass that up?
So anyway, back to the current topic. Being stuck in a rut. What kind of rut? You name it - creative, personal, business, financial, mental, career, relationship. But for the sake of this post, I'm talking about career/financial/creative rut.
In choosing the direction for this blog, I've reflected quite a bit on my situation as well as the people around me (coworkers, family, friends, acquaintances). I would say there's 2 distinct patterns that emerged, better yet, 2 groups of people.
1) Those who currently live in a fulfilled and satisfied state and 2) those who are stuck in their comfort zone - in perpetual routine mode - not really going forward but not exactly falling back either. They're just there. In limbo land. Something's missing in their life which they've figured out but now they're unsure about what to do about it.
A quick side story to set up my point.
So I have this friend who's not happy with her job, her pay, misses doing creative stuff. She desperately wants to get back to making art and trying to make money on the side doing just that and knowing that I've spent a few years freelancing she asked me what I thought.
So I told her what I thought, probably not what she wanted to hear but it's the truth. Working at home had its perks especially doing something you enjoy and love, but that love turned into a chore I dreaded to do with very tight deadlines, extremely long hours, a few very unreasonably demanding clients and an income stream that was feast or famine at times. In saying that, I told her she can absolutely pull it off and I'm willing to lend her a hand with setting up online stuff, marketing, web and print graphics, etc. But it's gonna be a lot of long hours and she has to fully commit to it or not bother at all. Best time to start is while she has a job so there's no stress in creating income. Right now, she's keeping the job and making some noise on her down time. But she's doing something about it.
I think that's a main ingredient (if not THE main ingredient) for any budding entrepreneurs. You better go all in and fully commit.
Sure, doing what you love is fine and dandy but guess what? That love dwindles after a client delays payment or you've been working 14 hours straight or your significant other is hating your guts cos he or she has seen you less since you've worked at home than when you worked a 9-5. Do what you love turns into what the fuck am I doing?
I'm all for doing what you love but be prepared because it's on!!!
Them's fighting words Van Saint. Step off before you get jacked up.
Settle down. I'm getting to the good stuff.
Death by slow kill -
is a phrase I use in describing that state of mind where a person just goes about their business because it's easy regardless of how much they would rather be doing something else. You can postpone it, deny it, make excuses for it, drown it with your TV - but if you'd rather be somewhere else, doing something else...there's no shaking that away. It's gonna stay there and keep you up at night and pester you throughout the day and the day after that and the day after that.
Don't be a placeholder for the person you really want to be.
There's a lot of self-evaluation involved in making difficult choices and that part is up to you really.
A few things to keep in mind when you make a career switch or decide to start your own business AKA lessons I've learned in the last couple of months.
Identify what's holding you back. Can't remedy something if you don't know what the problem is.
You better go all in. That unwavering vision of your end goal and beyond will help fuel you during those difficult times when you start questioning your love for the game. Because at that point your love becomes a business and you have to treat it as such.
Plan of attack. You need to map out the necessary steps you need to take to get to the level you want to be in. For example - Keep your day job but dedicate an hour or two before and after work for your pursuit. Keep it simple, specific and give yourself a realistic deadline.
Know how much you can handle. Don't spread yourself thin. If you know you can only handle this much workload then don't take on twice as much your capacity. Just cos you're an amazing cook and a master of propaganda doesn't mean you should start that catering side hustle and go solo as a marketing consultant. Pick one and follow through. If you're some kind of genetically altered freak and/or have superhuman powers with the ability to get by on only 3 hours of sleep and juggle tasks like nobody's business then by all means, do it.
Create a work schedule. Yep, have a system that works. You may have to feel it out in the beginning but determine when and where you're most productive and work during those peak hours. (For me, it's very early in the morning or very late at night)
Get used to failing. It's trial and error. Learn as much as you can, test it out for yourself, and reassess your game plan. Chances are, you will fail. So fail and cope with it. Curl up in a corner and cry. Eat a pint of ice cream. Throw a bitch fit on the interwebs. Whatever. Learn to adapt, let it go and move on.
Have fun for fuck's sake. I choose to do things that are fun and enjoyable to me. If it's not fun, I just drop it. What's the point of creating sites or blogging or starting an online business if you're not getting any enjoyment out of it? I mean seriously, if you're gonna bitch and moan about it then just keep your current job and relax at night or weekends.
So there. My lessons learned, I'm passing it on to you. Apply and remix as needed.
Unless you want to be a candy-ass, that is.
Nerd lair check-up
Things I've changed:
Banner - I've changed the banner for the site with my main focus included. It's something I've had trouble identifying in the past but is now in full-focus. Elevate your passion. In doing so, I've decided to place all my other posts (fiction, doodles, etc.) in The Hooligans section only. That way, my main blog (the one viewable by non-Hooligan members) is not cluttered and focused on my current goals. Any previous posts will stay there though. =)
Tags - This was a major pain the ass. And I'm still whittling it down.
Closed comments - If you like what you read, I'd much rather have you share it with others for now.
Be an action figure. Do something.
1. Share this post via Tweet, FB, Stumble.
2. Link to it in your blog.
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Your site/blog is there for a reason (or it should) whether you like it or not. You either set it up yourself or paid someone to have it up and running for you - either way, it's there.
Showing up for class just isn't gonna cut it anymore. so you have to do your homework.
You should do a routine website audit to see what you can improve on.
A site should grow and evolve according to your present goals and reflect your current pursuits and identity.
If you choose to put ads and affiliates on your blog then be sure to do a trial run and reassess if it's really working out for you or not. If not, get rid of it. Don't just slap it up there if you haven't put any thought to it.
I'm sure you've heard about your site as being your virtual real estate, everything you place there should have a clear purpose. Otherwise, it's all just clutter that distract away from your content. You ever bought a CD or downloaded an album and there's one or two good songs and the rest is crap. Yeah, You don't wanna be that guy. You want your site to be all killer no filler (and no I'm not a SUM 41 fangirl)
From the color scheme, the overall tone, font, banner design, writing style, navigation, positioning of content - it all matters. It's all overwhelming if you try to attack all the individual components. So stick to the basics first then build up as needed.
A few basic tips:
Sometimes simple is the best way to go when you're just starting out. There are essential components that I think every site needs.
At the very least you should have:
I practice what I preach - so this is how I've recently applied the website audit thingy to my very own nerd lair.
Things I've eliminated:
- I had a Network Blog (facebook badge) over to the lower right side of the page. It was useless, so I took it off.
-Same deal with Blog Catalog badge, didn't really help out much so I killed it.
-I removed podcast page - it took entirely way too much time to put together an episode and right now, it doesn' contribute to my overall shift of focus.
- Got rid of Facebook Fan page and left the profile page - I don't need two links to my Facebook. Hell, I don't even really like using Facebook.
Things I've added:
- Media page - I need a place to post interviews and written articles for guest blogs. I just did this a few days ago and is still in disarray but it's there for viewing/listening. Just needs to be better organized.
- Very important: I've added more of myself in the mix. Letting my personality, my humor, the way I talk. what excites me, my passion, my interest, what bugs the shit out of me. It's not easy. But if I'm to make something out of this, I have to make the first step.
Be an action figure. Do something.
1. Leave a comment - tell me what you would do if you gave your nerd lair a makeover. What would you change?
2. If you enjoyed this post - share it with others.
3. Subscribe to my RSS and give it a test ride.
4. Join The Hooligans
This is what happens when you leave me with a Sharpie and a blank surface.
Me vs. Muse is completely hand drawn in a stripped down style I'm still trying to experiment with - I was going to digitally color it but that takes too much time. At this point my process is write script, sketch, ink, upload.
Copyright stuff: Don't steal, create your own. Full credits if you link to it in your blog or whatever.
So where was I? Let's see - last time I wrote a post entitled Breaking Free. First off, thanks to all that stopped by and read it.
I left you hanging with how this is all relevant to you. But before I get to that, I'd like to go over some background info and how things are going to be changing around here.
I've been thinking quite a bit about the direction I want to take this site and its content.
Truthfully, this place wasn't intended to be a site for my writing, it kind of just happened that way. It was originally meant to be a site for my new media consulting (for very small biz & solopreneurs), something I was already doing and wanted to elevate to a higher level.
The place was all decked out and ready to launch and at the last minute - I bailed.
For some odd reason, this all coincided with the most creatively productive time (writing-wise) right after an accident I was in and decided to turn it into a writer site instead. Within 48 hours I've completely redesigned the pages to suit my new goal of peddling (yes, I said peddling - no shame in the hustle) my stories to whoever was willing to stop, read, and take notice.
And now all of that is changing. Don't get me wrong - I'm still writing fiction.
But I'm also going through a lot of drastic changes in my life right now.
“Let your plans be dark and as impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.” - Sun Tzu
Yeah, I've read The Art of War quite a bit. But this is one of the few lines I really carry around with me. I've even used it as a basis for a graphic novel I started writing awhile back. I always make plans two steps ahead. Sometimes to my detriment but so far it's worked well for me. I don't overplan. I just keep a clear short-term end goal.
I commented on someone's blog today about making deliberate decisions. I don't dish out advice that I don't apply to myself. So here's my current deliberate moves to date.
This was a tough one but brings the advantages of cutting my expenses in half plus continued education which by the end of it all would double if not triple my annual income. So less money needed means less amount income needed (while going through school) which also means more time to devote to the things that I really enjoy doing.
What happens after school? Well, I'll deal with that when I get my second degree. =)
Simplify through minimizing my possessions
No lies. We have too much crap. Between accumulated things, collections, and gifts - it's like they all got freaky one night and multiplied in my sleep. Sold and donated part of it already but there's still a great deal of purging until we're satisfied with what we do have. I'm not a minimalist but I do like to keep my environment simple and orderly, it just has a calming effect on my jittery Gemini nerves.
Provide better and diversified content
I've been trying not to post overly personal things here well because it's...uh...personal? That and my current day job has this policy. So like a good little office monkey, I must abide by the head office monkey rules (for now - but not for long).
I'm not saying I'll divulge everything here and bleed my whole life for anybody to see and pick apart. But there's more to this site than just a repository for my weird little stories and I haven't really tried exploring that avenue. Most of it is due to the evolution of a site where you just "let things run its course" - kinda like a virus. But no, my new blog direction isn't gonna give you the snotty sniffles and the inability to keep food down.
I have a lot of deep interests besides writing - and I'd like to use this as a platform to display those.
One of my goals is to create an independent business online around this blog and a handful of other pursuits. One thing I learned from my full-time freelancing days was to not rely on only one source of income.
So if you wanna see me grow as a blogger and an artist - maybe cheer me on or just watch me fall flat on my face then you've come to the right place. (By the way, I prefer the first group. If you're part of the latter then meet me at the playground by the sandbox - it's on sucka!)
So how is this going to affect you?
- Better, diversified content - writing, art, videos, better blog posts
- I'll serve as a guinea pig - I'll be testing a lot of new things and keep you updated on results right here. Learn from my success/failure.
What to do next? (the text is in bold and bright red meaning important and look at me! I know...clever)
1. Subscribe to my blog. It's always nice to now I'm not talking to myself. People tend to judge people who talk to themselves.
2. Respond to this blog post with your own post at your own blog. Are you thinking of doing something similar? Already been there? Cool, talk about it then. All I ask is to link to this site and drop me a line as to what your URL is.
3. Spread the word if you see a post you like. Post this in your Twitter, FB, or other social media site you're on.
4. Leave a comment. See #1.
5. Join The Hooligans. See the tab up top. You get access to additional stuff I don't post here. I'll send you a password when you sign up.