Zen and the Art of Blog Maintenance.

DSC00524At our  meeting on Saturday in Newcastle library, Emma raised the question of what should be in a blog. The deluge of advice was overwhelming. Among the statements were the following:

Blogs should be short.
Blogs should be personal.
Blogs should be lighthearted.
Blogs must instantly catch the reader’s attention.

All these things have an element of truth in them. However, when I look at the blogs I read, I find that none of them fit all those criteria.

In fact what matters is the subject matter. A blog about the depredations of the family cat, aka The Exploits of Miss Dilly in Jan Edward’s blog will be light, and brief.
A blog on the art of writing on the other hand can be much longer and denser. It will most likely be broken up into fairly short sentences which ensures that the reader doesn’t lose interest, but the word count can be substantial and I will read through to the end.

Some blogs are highly emotional, or controversial, others informative, still others purely entertaining. What makes me read is the initial impact. What keeps me coming back is whether my interest has been sustained and most important of all,  regular posting.

Hence the art of blog maintenance. If you want to keep your readers and turn them into followers, then you have to blog regularly.

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Reading the cards

Tarot Yesterday Jan and I met for our usual Wednesday morning coffee at Trentham Gardens. Apart from setting the world to rights we talk about our writing and I shared a problem I was having with her. Not knowing which way to go, I made a flippant comment about having to ask her to give me a Tarot reading.

To my surprise, but why I should have been surprised by anything this amazing woman does I do not know, she reached into her handbag and out came the cards.

My arms came up in goose bumps. I shuffled, cards were selected and laid out on the table. I asked the question and there in the spread before me was the way forward.

You might assume that because we know each other so well it was Jan herself who was pointing me in the right direction. Except that it was all there written in the cards, which I had seen her lay out in front of me.

Seeing it there cut through my confusion; I felt calm and able to cope with things over which I had little actual control. A feeling which still remains with me.

I’ve always believed in the power of the Tarot. My palms tingle at the very thought of handling the cards. They are not necessarily as a way of foretelling the future but as a means of resolving present dilemmas.

But there is more to a reading than just interpreting the ancient images. A good reader has skill,  but he or she must also have the gift. Exactly what that consists of I don’t know, or where it comes from, or whether it can be taught.

What I do know is that Jan has it and I am grateful.

Visiting Mum

533257_354654481282249_1155705509_n A week ago yesterday my ninety three year old mum was rushed into hospital with a strangulated hernia. After a three hour operation in the early hours of the morning, the worst was over.

Because the three of us, my sister, my brother and I all live a fair distance away visiting wasn’t straightforward. Pete is working full time, Anuk is a self employed artist and I’m a writer. Since I can write anywhere, I picked up my HP notebook and  came to stay with my daughter and son-in-law, who luckily live in the same city.

The week that followed was surreal. Every morning I got on a bus that took me across the city, through parts of Bristol I’d never seen before, to Southmead Hospital. I’d spend a good part of the day with Mum, then about 3. 30 in an attempt to beat the rush hour I’d be back on that bus.

The journey took an hour. A good time to think and plan the next book, or short story, but the mind doesn’t work like that. My thoughts skittered all over the place. Obviously I was concerned about Mum’s progress and when and where she would recuperate, but my thoughts dipped in and out of time. I had vivid images of bus journeys to and from school, of what it was like coming to stay with my parents when my kids were young and then odd glimpses of the lives of fellow passengers, or people I saw in the street.

At the end of it, I’d limp back to Lucy’s where I was fed and watered and generally looked after until it was time to start the whole process the next day.

The oddest thing of all was how quickly this all seemed normal. The rest of life was like something seen at the far end of a telescope. All that mattered was being there with Mum.

Coming home was a jolt to the senses. Having to do more than travel, visit, eat, sleep and do it all over again, felt so odd. There was a strange feeling of distance of not being quite here yet.

Already that’s fading. There’s nothing like having to wash the cat’s paw prints from the kitchen floor to bring you back to reality. And writing this blog too makes everything seem more normal.

Minding Maddy

Maddy's naughty look  I spent last weekend in sole charge of my  three year old granddaughter. Minding Maddy was a full time, full on occupation. From the moment she woke up, to the moment she fell asleep she was the centre of my attention. Not because she is a naughty or difficult child but because the whole point of time spent together was to enjoy being with one another.

We read books, we watched Frozen, highly overrated in my opinion, but Mads knows every frame and talked me through the scary bits. We played going on a picnic which involved packing up toy food in a teddy bear back pack and making a fire on the kitchen floor. We also went to see SS. Great Britain and Mads took me around the ship, which she knew from previous visits and made sure we found the man in the toilet and the girl being sick in a basin. She was also keen on the medical room and with the bottles of leaches.

I loved every minute of my weekend, even the tentative knock on my door at 2am. It also got me thinking. The whole experience was completely absorbing; there was no time to worry, or fritter time everything was immediate and concentrated. In fact it was an extended exercise in Mindfulness.

And what impact did it have on my writing?

Coming home, after a good night’s sleep, I was ready to get back to work. I was also reminded of the importance of concentrating on one thing at a time. To be fully focused  is satisfying and efficient and makes the best use of time, either for writing, being with people, or even day dreaming.

Thanks Maddy.