Category Archives: Writing

People Watching and the Holidays

Like many other places, Toronto’s malls, subway system, and other public places are bustling with activity at this time of the year. No matter when someone might use or visit them in the month of December, there will be far more folks there than will be the case in January when the new year has finally arrived and everyone has settled back into their usual routines.

One of the things I like about this point in the winter holiday season are the opportunities it gives for people watching. I will be returning to the usual subjects for this blog soon, but I can’t stop thinking about this topic and thought it would make a good one for today.

There are so many folks out and about now that all of the stories they tell with their body language, facial expressions, and the occasional, accidentally overheard conversations provide endless scope for the imagination. You can learn so much about them by paying attention to how they behave when they think no one has noticed them.

I love seeing how people and animals interact with strangers, loved ones, and everyone in-between. You can learn a lot about someone based on how they present themselves and how they behave in public.

Dogs wiggle in excitement when their favourite, or sometimes any, human walks around the corner and into view. The occasional pet snakes, parrots, rabbits, and cats that I’ve seen folks carry around don’t seem to have a strong opinion about our species either way. Small children stare wide-eyed at the holiday displays, decorations, and advertisements in stores. Friends reunite, families figure out what to eat for lunch, couples embrace, and a million other interesting things happen simultaneously wherever large crowds of people gather.

There’s nothing like watching strangers live out these fleeting moments in their lives. The writerly portion of my mind can’t help but to make up stories about who these individuals are and what might happen to them after they’ve finished their to-do list and gone back home.

Not knowing if my guesses are actually correct or not only makes me more interested in continuing to play this game. Everyone that I’ve ever met has portions of their personalities, identities, and interests that aren’t easily or immediately noticeable when you first meet them. I love it when I notice little hints about these parts of themselves however those hints might be shared.

To be perfectly clear, this isn’t about stereotyping anyone or assuming that because they’re X they must love/hate/be indifferent to Y. (Let X and Y stand for whatever your imagination desires. I did not have anything specific in mind when I typed that sentence).

Instead, it’s about seeing how real people behave on a perfectly ordinary day that stands a very good chance of being neither the worst nor the best one they’re ever going to experience. In fact, they might not remember anything about it at all six months from now. They’re simply a regular person (or, in some cases, animal) going through the routines of their lives.

It’s the patterns that interest me the most. There are certain behaviours that just about everyone seems to share, especially when they’re feeling happy, hungry, or tired. On the other hand, I love seeing glimpses of the things that make each person unique.

I’m still looking forward to the quieter days to come in January, but in the meantime I’ll keep a friendly eye out for all of the things you can learn about strangers by noticing how they behave in public.

Do you like people watching? If so, when was the last time you did it?

Blogging Changes I’m Making This Winter

Every time one of my favourite blogs shares a post with a title similar to this one, I get a little nervous about them shutting down or going on hiatius. If you’re the same way, don’t worry! lydiaschoch.com isn’t going anywhere.

I have and will be making some changes to this site that I wanted to let my readers know about, though.

All of these changes are being done in hopes of driving more traffic to this site. I’m confident about my writing abilities, but in 2019 I’d like to become better at marketing the things I create so that new audiences can discover my blog and my stories.

Marketing is something that I honestly struggle a bit with, so if you have any advice I’d sure like to hear it. Comment on this post or send me a DM on Twitter if you’re interested.

In the meantime, here are the things that have, will, or may be changing on this site in the near future. Not everything is set in stone yet, but this is the direction I’m thinking about taking in the new year.

Comments on Old Posts

As of earlier this week, I’ve opened up comments on all of my old posts. I’ve received some messages from people who were disappointed to find comments closed on posts that were shared more than 10 days ago. Originally, I’d set them to close after that amount of time to combat spam that was overwhelming my inbox.

The spam has been much more manageable this time, so let’s see if I can make this a permanent change. If your comment doesn’t show up right away, it probably got caught in my spam filter. I do my best to release those posts as soon as possible, but do feel free to nudge me if it’s been a few days and you don’t see anything yet.

Reader Questions

At the end of this month, I’ll be blogging about a question that a reader asked me in the comment section of a post recently. Her question was so big that it might take more than one post to fully respond to. Stay tuned for that post. It’s going to be a fun one.

I’d love to make this a recurring feature if or when other readers ask me questions, so fire away if you have any!

Book Blog Memes

From talking to other writers and bloggers, I get the impression that participating in weekly book blog memes like Top Ten Tuesday can be an excellent way to drive new traffic to your site.

I’m still looking into which ones would be best for me to participate in, and that list is one of several online that I’ll need to go through between now and January. Top Ten Tuesday is extremely popular, but I’m also curious to see if I can find something that’s specifically related to sci-fi/fantasy, mindfulness, or fitness. Whatever I pick, I will only be doing one or two of these a week at the most.

Suggestion Saturday

As much as I enjoy doing Suggestion Saturday posts, they are having less and less of an impact on drawing new visitors to this site with every passing month. They also require an investment of my time that I’m wondering might be better spent writing other types of posts.

I have not yet decided if I’ll keep doing this in 2019. I need more time to think about it.

Guest Posts from Others on This Site

Yes, I will continue to offer other bloggers the chance to write guest posts on this site if they contact me first. I’ve seen some bloggers become pushy on this topic, and that’s not something I’m comfortable doing at all. This is something I only want to do with people who are enthusiastic about it.

With that being said, I will be on the lookout for sites that list guest post opportunities to see if I can sign my site up for such a thing. It would be interesting to introduce you all to other bloggers who write about the same sorts of stuff I do.

Guest Posts from Me on Other Sites

If I find such a site, I may also be signing up as a guest blogger there. You all will receive links to any posts I write for other blogs, although I’ll have to come up with a creative way to do that if I put an end to Suggestion Saturday.

How Do You Attract New Traffic to Your Blog?

Please let me know in the comment section! I’d love to hear your tips.

Why Writers Should Pay Close Attention to the Insight’s Exploration of Mars

For anyone who hasn’t heard this news yet, NASA’s Insight spacecraft is scheduled to land on Mars today. If all goes well, it will dig sixteen feet down and soon begin transmitting data about this planet that no telescope can possible tell. Scientists hope to learn three things from this exploration:

  1. What material the core of Mars is composed of,
  2. What, if any, seismic activity might be happening on this planet and therefore whether the core is solid or liquid,
  3. The temperature of the core.

(Thank you to The Oatmeal for explaining these points in such humorous and vivid detail!)

Once we have the answers to these questions, scientists should able to figure out if Mars is still warm enough to have pockets of liquid water anywhere on it.

Here on Earth, liquid water is one of those things that is necessary in order for life as we know it to exist. If there are martian lakes, ponds, or rivers there that haven’t frozen over or evaporated yet, it’s possible that we could find organisms of some sort in those places.

I can’t tell you how many sci-fi books I’ve read about life being discovered on other planets, mostly on Mars. It’s a trope that the science fiction community has circled back around to over and over again for as long as this genre has existed.

Writing a post about why this mission is important for the sci-fi community would honestly be redundant. We know why we’re excited to see what this mission uncovers about what Mars was like in the past and how habitable it might still be in the present.

Obviously, this would be something that would quickly make it into the history books if or when it ever happens, but today I wanted to talk about why this possibility matters for all writers.

No matter what genre you’re writing in, I think you should pay close attention to how this story develops today and in the future for the following reasons:

  1. We need more books about characters who try over and over again. Not every Mars mission has been successful in the past. In fact, about half of them have failed. I can’t help but to imagine how all of the people who worked on those missions felt when they realized that a faulty piece of equipment, math error, or a technical glitch had prevented their machines from doing the job it was designed to do. To tie this back to writing in general, imagine how a small misstep that your character took or in the opening scene could have equally serious consequences for him or her down the road!
  2. Doing everything right is no guarantee you’ll win. I keep running into stories lately about characters who are triumphant in the end because they followed the rules. While I understand why this sort of plot is popular, I’d sure like to read more examples of characters who face hardships without the plot intending their setbacks to be a lesson for the audience. Sometimes bad things happen to good people -and characters – for reasons that have nothing to do with what they may or may not deserve.
  3. There is such a thing as multiple heroes. If, and hopefully when, we received word today that the Insight has safely landed on Mars and begun performing the tasks it was trained to do, there won’t be one specific person who can take credit for this success. There are dozens of people who worked on designing, building, and programming this machine. This doesn’t even take into account all of the other folks working behind the scenes to support this team as they made all of the necessary preparations to give the Insight the highest probability of success currently possible. The same can be said for many of the imaginary worlds that writers dream up. Very few parts of The Lord of the Rings would have turned out the same way if the only folks trying to bring the One Ring back to Mordor were a few small hobbits!
  4. History can change in an instant. Yes, sometimes things evolve so slowly that it takes years, or even multiple generations, for people to realize that what they were taught growing up is no longer correct. This isn’t always the case, though, and I think that this unfolding news story is an excellent example of how our understanding of science, biology, and cosmology might change in an instant.

I know I’ll be paying close attention to what sort of landing the Insight makes as well as the discoveries it will hopefully be sharing with NASA in the near future. Will you be keeping an eye on this story, too? I hope you will.

 

 

The World Needs More Blogging

Before I dive into today’s topic, I’d like to make this clear that this post was written as a gentle nudge for people who’d have the time and energy to dedicate to blogging if they knew about the individual and societal benefits of doing such a thing

It is not meant to be a commandment for our friends who don’t (or no longer) have the emotional bandwidth for such a thing. If this describes your life, take care of yourself. I hope things improve for you soon.

Everyone else, keep reading.

Yesterday, one of the blogs I follow shared a link to a site called Parent Hacks.

Asha Dornfest wrote a post there recently about the ways people connected online in the 2000s. Blogging was much more common back then, and it was rarely if ever done for profit.

Instead, people formed communities in the blogging world based on their interests and experiences for the sheer joy of it.

Google did (barely) exist back then, but it wasn’t the best way to find new sites to read. Instead, you met folks through links on other sites or by clicking on their username when they shared an interesting comment on a site you both followed.

I remember following links from the blogs I was already a fan of then to new sites that introduced me to folks who lived in places that were nothing at all like the small, midwestern town where I was growing up. Some of them lived halfway across the world. Others had life experiences that I knew nothing about, and they were gracious enough to explain what it felt like to be them.  This process of getting to know strangers over the Internet lead to some beautiful friendships (and even a few marriages, from what I recall).

It also made the Internet a better place to visit, and I’ve been saddened by the slow disappearance of this culture since then.

Asha wants to bring this sense of community back to the Internet, and she’s especially calling on former bloggers to help:

Our blogs could once again be that, writ large, distributed across geographical, political, racial, religious, ethnic and gender lines. No silos, no algorithms. Just real people sharing real stories so other people can read and comment and feel a part of those stories and be reminded about what connects us. Incubating community without a specific agenda beyond sharing of ourselves and connecting people.

Her post specifically talked about rebuilding the United States, but I think this should be something that’s done across the world. The Internet has too often been used for negative purposes. Luckily, this same tool can be used to bring people together instead.

The hashtag that Asha invented for this movement is #netpositiveblog. I will be using it on Twitter, and I hope you’ll all check it out as well.

Need Help?

If anyone reading this needs help figuring out how, when, or what to blog about, I’d be happy to offer you some tips whether you’re a returning blogger or a brand new one.

I’ve been blogging for more than fifteen years now across various platforms, and I have a few tricks tucked up my sleeve for everything from coming up with consistent ideas for new topics to connecting with the wider writing community in general.

Is It a Good Idea to Take a Blogging Break?

No, this isn’t my way of saying that I’m taking a break from blogging. I’ve done it once or twice in the past for various reasons, but I have no current plans to ever do it again.

(If that ever changes, I’ll take my own advice and let you all know in advance that I’m going quiet for reason X and expect to be gone for Y amount of time!)

The real reason why I’m asking is because this question came to mind recently after a new post popped up on a blog I follow that hadn’t been updated in three or four years. Honestly, I’d forgotten it was even still on my RSS feed because of how long the gap between posts had been.

As soon as I realized the owner of that site had begun writing again, my face broke out into a grin. I’d missed his stories, and I was eager to see what he’d been up to while he was away. He’d disappeared so quickly that I hadn’t had any idea what had happened to him. This was something that had made me feel a little sad even though I respected his right to fall silent.

This Is a Guilt-Free Zone

I know I could very well have readers out there who have abandoned their old blogs or other sites. If this applies to you, know that this post is a guilt-free zone. There are many different reasons why someone might need to stop writing, and in no way am I trying to make anyone feel bad for making the choice to step away from their site whether it was a temporary or permanent decision.

Quality vs. Quantity Content

Raise your hand if you’d rather wait for an excellent post, vlog, or other update than settle for a mediocre one that arrives sooner!

One of the things I wish I could change about Internet culture is its focus on churning out new content on a regular basis regardless of how well-developed that video, post, or other form of communication actually is.

I’m all for blogging on a schedule if you have the time and energy to devote to posting a certain number of times a day, week, or month for the long term. However, I also believe it’s better to not post anything than it is to post a half-baked idea simply to stick to a predetermined schedule.

From what I’ve observed with friends who had to take breaks from their blogging or other activities online for various reasons, your core audience is still going to be there when you return. Speaking as someone who considers herself a part of the core audience of a few different folks, I will still be around in a month, a year, and even longer than that if or when a favourite writer ever decides to return to his or her blog, Youtube account, or other online hangout.

If You Can, Say Goodbye

I do have one request for friends who find themselves needing to pull back from their regular posting schedules. If possible, I’d love to see some sort of message from them saying that they’ll be gone for a while. You don’t have to say why you’re leaving if you’d prefer not to (although I’d love to know if it’s due to something that might change again in the future if you don’t mind giving out enough details for this question to be answered).

Once again, this is not intended to make anyone feel guilty. Sometimes life makes it really difficult to leave that final update on a site or channel when you’ve decided to stop updating it for now or forever. I’ve known people who stopped writing after they received serious diagnoses of diseases that required the vast majority of their energy. Others fell silent after getting a new job, or having a child, or going through any number of major life changes that drastically altered how much spare time they had to share with the world.

Still, it’s nice to know a little in advance when a site is shutting down and if there’s any hope of it ever being revived. I find myself growing emotionally attached to some of the people I meet online. While I’d never ask any of them to share details of their private lives that they want to keep hidden, it sure would be nice to know why folks occasionally disappear and if it’s okay to reach out to them every so often to see how they’re doing (assuming they’ve become a friend and not just a blogger I follow).

When people choose not to do this, I always wonder what happened in their lives that made them walk away from the audience they’d built up.

  • Did they develop a mental or physical health problem?
  • Were Internet trolls bothering them?
  • Was it a bad case of writer’s block?
  • Did they say everything they had to say on the topic(s) they chose to talk or write about?
  • Have they finally discovered Okunoshima, Japan, and are they planning to live with the bunnies there forever?
  • Do they want to be checked up on, or do they not even have enough energy for that much interaction from the folks who care about them?

The possibilities are endless. If only we could have even the slightest clue as to what is going on in the lives of these people and if it’s okay to send a friendly message asking how they’re doing.

Respond

Have you ever taken a blogging break? Has one of your favourite sites ever stopped getting updated? Do you think content creators should alert their audiences when they need to stop publishing posts or uploading videos?

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