Hello, January

I have a whole bunch of things I could blog about today, but seeing as this is the first full week of 2015, I’m focusing on getting back in writing mode.

Blogging has been my foundation for the past year and a half, providing structure to my week, and putting me in writing mode on a regular basis. But I haven’t been very productive recently. I didn’t blog during my two-week trip to Japan last month, and then I was busy catching up with other things before going into end-of-December holiday mode.

Yesterday, as I was catching up with my emails, I opened the end-of-year summary that WordPress sent to let me know how my blog has been doing.

Considering I took a hiatus from blogging over the summer, and that I didn’t blog much toward the end of the year, I was pleased to see that I had 8,800 hits in 2014. That’s the equivalent – as WordPress put it – of three sold-out performances at the Sydney Opera House, which has almost 2,700 seats in its Concert Hall.

I used to think of myself as one of the “January people” – the ones who join a gym or revamp their diets at the beginning of the year. I think this year I’ll just take one day, and one blog post, at a time.

One of the writing blogs I follow (Live to Write – Write to Live, by the New Hampshire Writers’ Network) had an interesting post this morning about digital filing for writers. I’ll have to digitally file it, or – um – maybe just refer back to this post.

Hello, January! Happy (and healthy) New Year, everyone!

What I did on my summer (blog) vacation

Now that it’s mid-October, I absolutely can’t pretend I’m still on summer hiatus from blogging.

I believe that starting this blog was the best thing I did after being downsized last year – it helped me evolve and keep writing – but it was good for me to take a break.

Not blogging for the past few months has allowed me to devote more time to my other writing, and to explore new types of writing.

In the spring, I started freelancing for The Canadian Jewish News again. I’ve also spent more time working on my book, and even tried my hand at children’s fiction.

I made a note whenever I had an idea for a post-hiatus blog post, and – to my surprise – the list has more writing-related ideas than food or chocolate ones. We’ll see where that goes. It’s not that I haven’t been cooking, but I’ve been using a lot of tried-and-true recipes that are already on my blog. Time to get more creative in the kitchen again, not just at the computer.

One last thing I’ve been thinking about – earlier this year, I made a family history book as a gift for a young cousin. A couple of people have suggested that this is something I could do for other people too, professionally. The project was a labour of love, but it drew on my journalistic skills, and I enjoyed it tremendously. I’ve been looking into how viable it would be to add it to my freelance repertoire.

So I have a few new directions to consider, and I’m also thinking about where my blog is going.

Until this summer, I was posting on a fairly regular schedule: Tuesdays and Thursdays about writing, journalism and being downsized; Fridays about food; and Sundays about chocolate.

I may scale down a bit… or not. I might not post four days a week every week, but I plan to stick to my designated topics and designated days.




Summer Hours

Lately, life has gotten in the way of blogging. Sigh. Plus, I have a couple of other projects on the go. So I’ve decided to take a hiatus for the summer, unless I get an irresistible urge to blog.

But even if I don’t write, I’ll need to do some research about effective blogging, because I’ve agreed to do a presentation about it in the fall.

Hopefully I’ll have lots of new material after my self-imposed hiatus. Maybe I’ll even upgrade to a website, although likely not right away.

One benefit for me is that not blogging will give me more impetus to work on the book I’ve been writing about the year I lost my dad. When I joined the LinkedIn writers’ group where I have to record my weekly word count, I posted only the number of words I’d written for my book, and didn’t even mention the number of words in my blog posts. But lately, I’ve been counting my blogging and freelance articles exclusively, and the book has fallen by the wayside.

It’s time to refocus. Have a good summer!


Why I blog

I was thinking last week, in the flurry of pre-Passover preparations, about why I still blog on days when other tasks demand my attention – freelance assignments, for example.

My blog has become important to me in the same way that my five-day-a-week walks have. Sure, I’ll forgo them on occasion, but the blogging and the walks have become a staple of my week. I enjoy both, and they energize me in different ways.

But more importantly, blogging provides structure to my week, and helps me be disciplined. I blog on Tuesdays and Thursdays about writing, journalism and life after being downsized; on Fridays about food; and Sundays about chocolate. It’s good for me personally, and it’s probably also good for the blog, because people who read it know what to expect, and when.

Blogging goes more quickly than my other writing, because I write whatever is in my head, usually without referring to notes or having to interview anyone or do a lot of preparation. In that way, I see it as a warm-up for freelance assignments or work on my book.

So I may end up posting later in the day, or even taking the occasional vacation from blogging, but for the most part, blogging is part of my routine.



What makes something worth writing about?

I’ve been thinking this morning about what it is that makes a subject worth writing about.

When I was a staff reporter at The Canadian Jewish News, it was easier to know what to write than it is as a blogger. For one thing, many stories were assigned to me, although I also initiated a good number on my own.

Some of the criteria were easy to recognize – if a subject fell into one of my beats, for example. It also had to be relevant to readers. The best stories were also important, compelling, engaging, thought-provoking, and/or entertaining when appropriate.

Some stories – my own and other writers’ too – had a bit of magic for me, when a subject I didn’t expect to be very interesting turned out to be exceptionally absorbing.

I used to tell student columnists to write about subjects they found compelling, and about things they found themselves discussing with their friends.

It always caught my attention when a subject arose two or three times in quick succession – either an issue people were talking about, or repeated stories that had significant points in common. Often, that was indicative of a trend or issue, and turned out to be the springboard to a story.

I was pleased to read CJN editor Yoni Goldstein’s column in this week’s newly redesigned paper about the “journey” to a new CJN, and the vision for the paper as it moves forward. I’m excited to have an article (about the Ontario Jewish Archives and its new website) in the first new paper.

Yoni’s references to asking tough questions and providing solutions to them – as well as including uplifting stories, and issues that have been swept under the rug – indicate there will be much in the paper that is worth reading.


Designated writing hours… or not?

Every week, Friday is food day on my blog, but I half expected that I would have to call every day “food day” this week. The week before Passover, every day is food day. Shopping yesterday, cleaning the oven today, getting a head start on my cooking as soon as I can!

So far, though, prep work hasn’t superseded my freelance writing, blog, or social time. I wrote this post while I was waiting for my car to be ready, because today was also snow tire removal day for me.

I’ve had three lunches out in the last week, and now that I have freelance deadlines, I’ve been thinking more about how to structure my time.

After I was downsized and started blogging and working on my book, a few people asked if I had designated hours for writing. I wondered if it made me less organized or productive that I didn’t… aside from specific blogging days, when I usually write in the morning.

But my schedule seems to have evolved, just like my post-downsizing path in general. I blog Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, and I work on my book more regularly now that I’ve joined an online group that holds me accountable each week for the number of words I write.

The book-writing hours are still evolving. I try to start earlier in the week, although I still don’t have designated days. At first, I thought I should be writing more, and more often, but now I’m content to write my self-imposed minimum, and sometimes exceed it.

Because of the subject matter (the year I lost my dad, and said Kaddish for him), I think it might actually be better to write the book in small doses, even though it’s not all sad. Parts of it are funny, parts are just interesting, and some parts have broader implications (I hope other people will think so too!).

Now that I’ve adding freelancing to the mix, it would be easy to spend most of the day in front of my computer.

It was good for me to get out of the house and spend time with friends this week. I like working on the things that are most time-sensitive before I head out, and catching up with the rest of my writing later.

Maybe I do have designated hours now. Sort of.





Blogs I read (about writing)

When I started blogging last summer, my main focus was writing, but I posted on the subject of food one day a week. (The balance has since shifted to 50-50, now that I’ve added “Chocolate Sunday” to the mix.)

But when it came to blogs I looked at, I found myself reading a lot more about food than writing. For one thing, there are probably twice as many food blogs than writing blogs (even though there must be a gazillion writing blogs – a recent online search yielded a nonuple-digit number of hits).

For another thing, I have a lot of experience writing, but less experience writing about food. I knew that some food blogs are very popular, and I was curious about what makes them work.

Lately, however, I’ve found more and more writing-about-writing that interests and inspires me. I thought it was worth sharing a few links:

Here’s one with a forgettable url, http://nhwn.wordpress.com/… but a much catchier name, “Live to Write – Write to Live.” The “nhwn” refers to the New Hampshire Writer’s Network. The blog has some interesting posts, and links to other writing sites.

I like this one too, http://francesmariebowens.wordpress.com/, with more good links, inspiration, and updates on the blogger’s novels-in-progress.

Writekidsbooks.blogspot.ca is a favourite as well, even though I don’t write children’s books. But much of it applies to any type of writing, and I happen to know the blogger, a talented writer.

Lastly (for now), here’s one I thought I was following, but apparently was only accessing through Twitter: www.writewithwarnimont.com. Lots of useful info.





Pre-writing blog posts – good idea, or not?

I was on vacation last week, and thought seriously about posting when I was away, but my internet connection was slow and I decided to give myself a vacation from blogging too.

A friend suggested to me not long ago that it’s a good idea to have three blog posts in the can. I often make note of ideas as they occur to me, but somehow I feel it would be “cheating” to pre-write too far in advance.

Looking back on recent posts, I see that most of them tie into whatever has been going on in my life (or my head) at around the same time I wrote them. For me, that’s part of the appeal of blogging, and a better measure of progress in my post-downsizing journey.

Wondering what other bloggers do…


I’m just regrouping – I’m fine!

I think I need to follow up on last Thursday’s post, when I compared being downsized to the breakup of a relationship, and also looked at similarities between the post-downsizing transition time and the mourning period I went through after I lost my father.

A couple of people seemed to be concerned about me, and sent messages of support and reassurance.

Don’t get me wrong, a big part of why I’ve been okay after I lost my job is the support I have from family and friends, including those I used to work with.

I’m past the “mourning” stage of being downsized, but I’m definitely still regrouping and figuring out what’s next.

It helped a lot that my departure wasn’t abrupt, that I wasn’t the only one, and that – during the two weeks I had between receiving notice and actually leaving – my colleagues and I were able to spend time in the lunchroom over tea, coffee, and comfort food, processing all the changes that a restructuring meant.

For the past seven months, I’ve been telling people I’m in transition. Shortly before I blogged last Thursday, I said it again when I ran into someone I knew through my work at The Canadian Jewish News. It was the first time that it didn’t feel right, that maybe I should be past that stage.

The exchange prompted some personal reflection, along with my post last week. I wondered if I’m enjoying blogging too much, and whether I’ve become “stuck.”

I started the blog to help me transition to whatever is next, but the blog may actually be what is next for me. Or a big part of what is next. On reflection, it feels right. At least for now.






How long does it take to move forward after being downsized?

Seven months after being downsized, is it too late to say I’m still in transition?

I don’t think so, but sometimes I feel like I’ve been saying that for too long. At the same time, I still have a few items on my post-work to-do list.

A colleague told me last summer that being downsized is like going through a breakup. I’m sure someone told me once that, after a breakup, it takes a month for every year the relationship lasted to get over it. If that’s true, then 22 months of transition would be about right after 22 years at the same job. But I couldn’t find that formula online, and an article I found indicated there is no formula that applies to everyone.

I’ve also thought about how things played out for me the year after my father died, because I’ve been told that you need time to grieve for a job loss too. The Jewish mourning period for a parent is a year, and I’ve often thought that the year following my dad’s death was a time not just of healing and regrouping, but of life lessons. They’ve been helpful to me these past months.

I have a clearer sense of what I value, and I trust that my instincts and this blog – which I started partly as a way to figure out what’s next – will lead me in the right direction. However long it takes.