Thursday, 26 April 2012

How my Dad taught me about persistence.

Today is the 1 year anniversary of my blog. I started it with a post about my Nanna, and how she inspired me to get off my butt and work hard on my writing. Today, I’m writing a post on someone else who has inspired me, though I don’t think he knows how much.

My dad (and me) at my christening in 1976

I’m a child of the 80’s, so I remember back when video games were literally black and white (in the case of Pong), or green and lighter green (in the case of type-your-instructions RPGs), depending on your game. Game consoles didn’t come with memory cards, so when you turned your game back on, you had to start from the very beginning, every single time.

Like a lot of kids back then, my first game console was a Mattel Intellivision. We got it for Christmas when I was 6 or 7 and I have one very distinct memory from that time.

The day my father set it up was the day he gave me a lesson in persistence.

I didn’t know it then though. I thought it was a lesson in “adults will always play kids games first” and “little kids just have to wait until the big kids finish” or maybe “men just never grow up”.

Anyway, with that first ever game console, Santa brought us 2 games - Tron Deadly Discs and Checkers Draughts.

That first day, while all of us kids were out playing with our other shiny new toys, my dad set up the Intellivision and stuck the Checkers cartridge in to have play. Nothing unusual about that with my dad really, since he usually got to have first play with our toys so he knew how things worked.

Well, my dad played that thing for hours against the computer. I don’t know how many times I went back inside to see if I could have a turn only to see the screen unchanged and dad working out his next move.

You have to remember, this was before the internet and walk-throughs, so when the computer beat you, you had to work out why yourself and then counteract it the next time you played.

I think it may have been dark outside by the time my father triumphed over the computer, and I don’t know how many times he lost against it to get that one win. I just remember how stubborn and determined he was to not let a stupid machine beat him in a simple game like checkers.

Here’s why I think that lesson is important now.

Today, we have so many options to take the easy way out. We have books and websites and apps that tell us how to do things, the way we should live and how to beat games. Lots of people watch the movie but never read the book.

We have instant gratification. We want things, and very often, we get them now. Our attention spans seem to be on the decline. If it’s not interesting right from the start, we discard it. If we buy something second-hand, we only want it after someone else has spent the time restoring it.

I think the challenge is to remember that the things we tend to appreciate the most come to us from hard work and persistence.

Kind of like my writing.

I’ve been at this gig for nearly 13 years now. A lot of people tell me I’m crazy. Sometimes I think I just might be. How can I keep doing something that hasn’t paid me a cent? How can I keep wanting a career in an industry that is so hard to get into, and then stay in?

Because it’s who I am.

I love writing, even during the times I say I hate it. Why? Because occasionally, I read something back and I can see how good I am. I can see how good I am getting after 13 years, and I can see how much better I can become.

Just like my dad, I’m determined to work on what I’m doing wrong so that I can be better. Instead of competing with a computer, I’m competing with myself, and sometimes others, trying to tell me I’ll never be good enough.

Just like my dad, I’m not going to give up because it gets too hard.

Unlike my dad though, and lucky for me, computers now have memory. Everything I ever write can be saved and re-read. So unlike my dad, learning from my mistakes is a little less frustrating.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Gagged by a Chupa Chup - Why I'm Re-branding my Blog

Want to keep me quiet? Get me some of these.
When I was coaching a women's soccer team (eons ago), one of the players (who is still a good friend of mine) gave me a Chupa Chup before the game. I was touched, until she said "It's to give you something to suck on so you shut up while we're playing."

It worked. Anyone who knows me well knows I can get very long-winded, especially when I get onto a topic I love.

I'm passionate about a lot of things, and I probably have an opinion on most things, which makes me a very interesting party guest. Especially if I've had a few beers. But I digress.

Personal Me is currently in discussions with Writer Me about this blogging deal. Truth is, I'm over it, and it's not hard to figure out why. I'm trying to get down to the bottom of who I am in order to distil the "Essence of Me", which is supposed to then allow me to decide what I want to blog about.

In order to build a platform for my writing (as opposed to me), I need to work out my niche (which I've found), and work out who my potential readers are (which I'm working on). I need to post things that would be of interest to them, and not get overly personal, because they want to connect with what I say, rather than me personally.

And they want to know I can write.

Makes perfect sense.

The problem? The stuff that I'm passionate about at this point in time doesn't really over lap with my writing. Which means I feel like I'm splitting myself in two here. Since that's pretty bloody uncomfortable, my two halves are trying to come to a compromise.

Personal Me wants to talk (ok, rant and rave) about gay marriage, politics, sport, beer, you know, all that fun and controversial stuff. A lot of the stuff might not be of interest to my potential readers, but it's interesting to me. And I love writing about that stuff too.

Writer Me wants to talk about books and writing and other fun lesbian stuff. All the stuff that might appeal to my potential readers.

Both Me's love the blogging platform. A big part of why I love writing is that I seem to be able to express myself better in the written word, which then makes me able to express it better to people when I talk about things.

I don't want to come across as some sort of activist or raving looney to potential readers though, because my writing is different to that.

I've tried just posting comments on websites, news sites and other blogs, but the long-winded part of me wants to go on and on and on, until someone shoves a Chupa Chup into my mouth to shut me up.

I feel hamstrung by the restrictions I need to place on myself in order to build my writer platform, and it hurts. I've banned myself from the internet a couple of times until I can come up with a post related to my platform, rather than a rant about something totally unrelated to what I write.

I don't want to hate this platform, because I need it to make Writer Me's work viable. But I don't want to restrict what I talk about because Personal Me takes great pride in being interested in all sorts of stuff.

So here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to re-brand this blog. It's where I'll blog whenever I have something to say and there'll be no restrictions on content. This is where you get the raw, unadulterated me. There may be times when there'll be a crossover because I'll want to talk about a book or movie that will also be of interest to Writer Me.

But mostly, this will be me, straight-up. Well, not straight, but you know what I mean.

Sometimes what I write will interest you, sometimes it won't.

But here's the key. What links everything together is my voice - the way I write stuff. I write like I talk - for the most part - so what you see here is basically what you'd hear if I were talking directly to you. My voice is the rope that keeps Personal Me and Writer Me tethered at the hips.

So, I get to write about whatever the hell I want, with the proviso that I write it in my voice and stop trying to cram myself into a writer box that doesn't go with the colour of my eyes.

I get to kill two birds with one stone - I get to keep Personal Me and Writer Me happy, and hopefully they start to play nice again and let me get the hell on with my writing.

So, without further ado, welcome to the new, improved blog - "The Shit I Know".

Why the change in title? I'll tell you all about that in my next post........

Photo courtesy of Vivian Bedoya