Social Media is a Sketch Pad

Witty. Funny. Common words I’ve heard and read so many times from different people who would describe my ideas and how I write. I’m not good at accepting compliments, nor giving one, but it always gives me the needed kick to keep writing whenever I receive such.

Countless times I have encountered writer’s block and I know it will happen again–and make it as an excuse again. Even the most prolific writers dread it. Managing writer’s block is key to overcoming it. Like how you manage your boss–related but it’s another story.

Churning out ideas forming inside our head requires turning individual words into one that makes sense. One that is fluid, harmonized, or at least structured. (While I type at this moment I struggle already so bear with me.)

Sometimes the intent to impress by being verbose is the culprit, a trap leading to a draft that won’t be published ever. So writing something brief but catchy does the trick in keeping that writing brain running. Let loose and type away.

Many people online appreciate news digests. It’s become the trend since information technology overloaded the world wide web of anything under the sun. I don’t have the exact stats but I am quite sure I’m not the only one who would do a quick glance and scroll to the next that interests me. Nobody nowadays likes spending too much time on one article. Agree?

This is why I now treat social media as a sketch pad or a writing testing ground. I love the challenge of writing something short but interesting that I was among those who hated the day when Twitter decided to go let go of its 180 characters limit. Twitter was more fun back then.

Then there’s Facebook. Its “What’s on your mind?” is always a come-on to express something in the form of words or images or a combo of both regardless of quality of context. Done properly, however, posts could solicit the desired impact, reactions, or interactions. The challenge lies in knowing who your readers or friends are, how they would respond. So far my recent activities prove that being creative, clean, and having rant-free posts mean more likes, love, and laughter.

Sometimes one like is more than enough.

I also realized that posting beyond my circle of friends is also a good test of how my ideas and insights would be received. I once shunned commenting on news on Facebook as it exposes me open to the public, specifically to the trolls and grammar Nazis–karma sucks, I know. But I discovered that posting comments or opinions is one way of getting timely feedback about my writing style. So what works based on recent personal experience? Staying relevant to the topic, respecting the opinion of others, and infusing some wit (or sarcasm) do get good reception.

Practice, practice, practice they say. So whether perfection comes–if and when–or not I will try to write, write, write, and write more. It’s not going to be always easy but it would be a shame if I don’t even try to let my ideas see the light of day at least for fun or for a paid job. Which reminds me to check if there are job orders already…

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Mood: 2/10 Honks! (All boys day today! Wifey’s day out.)

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Should We Take Our Playlist When We Run?

To plug in or not to plug in, that is the question. Everyone would agree that music does affect the way we do things. While we have individual genres, whatever that is in our playlist influences our behavior whether we’re up for a long night of school work, crunch numbers at the office, finish a writing deadline, or when we want to get in the zone during a workout.

I have this wired Phillips earphones for about 10 years already.

Whenever we want extra focus we shut the rest of world out and enter our invisible cocoon, we play our favorite song. Others seal themselves completely, almost air tight, thanks to headphones. Introverts know this better.

Back in my younger days I was a fan of earphones or headsets. Yes, those Walkman days and then MP3 players. I don’t know when I stopped but I believe it was when I realized I need to talk to people. When I became mature–let’s say that’s true.

Safety was also an issue which is why I use less of the earphones especially when I’m mobile. When I started running more and read more about this sport, it seems that the number of cons against running while plugged in outnumbers the pros. There are so much road hazards that runners need to be aware of so being able hear a wayward driver coming from behind, for one, is a big advantage.

My opinion against wearing another set of technology in the form of the earphones remained until the day I sought that extra push to hit the steep Baguio terrain. That cold early morning I took my phone, plugged my very old but trusty wired Phillips earphones and ran. That was my first time running with Arnel Pineda, Big Fat Joe, Depeche Mode, and the rest of my Napster tracks (oopps) playing along. It made the trip on the undulating road to Burnham Park and back less tiring and stressful. Music saved the day.

For days since then I was back to wondering if these bone conduction earphones I’ve heard of months ago are worth buying. But this morning I got my answer from an unlikely source. A Facebook friend not so known for being minimalist posted a YouTube video about using technology instead of it using us. For me, the video’s message was clear and it takes me away once more from the urge to run with earphones plugged. For how long though, I don’t know.

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As a frustrated writer, I also appreciate having music in the background. In my freelance days, I’ve finished countless articles, met writing deadlines with the help of the right music. And alcohol. I have likewise composed better blog post when music sets the mood and motivation.

My bluetooth headset we got in the US.

Few days ago I was contacted for a part-time writing job and so it seems that I would need to once again isolate myself for hours (if) when the job orders start coming in. Maybe that bone conduction earphone I see online is worth having after all.

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How soon before someone becomes a freelancer? I’d say ten. Last week Marcus got his first feel of his mother’s home-based job when she asked him to encode few numbers from PDF to Excel while she took her break and surprisingly, wifey said he got the numbers right. Maybe, he’ll earn his first dollars soon. Haha.

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Mood: 2/10 Honks! (900-calorie breakfast after a 5K.)

Blog Mileage

Update here, dump there, good posts, bad posts, anything goes. That’s what I’ve been doing regularly lately. There would be days I get stuck correcting or revising archives before I repost and there would be days I just copy and paste the article on its original timeline.

You see I’ve been busy. Running, working out, and writing have been fighting to get their own share of my time. For now I continue to focus on my goal to repost and will just worry about them later, hopefully ahead of grammar Nazis or just before Grammarly starts to force me to get its premium service. I just can’t let years worth of posts stay on my backup Word document which I saved prior to me messing up my site few years back when I wiped out several posts just because I forgot to pay attention to what I was clicking. Lesson learned: back up, back up, back up.

Today I reposted a couple more and I received a prompt from WordPress that I just hit 500 posts. Wow. And to think I’m just about to finish year 2008.

Another WordPress achievement.

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There are things that just can’t be part of my conscious effort to embrace minimalism. Writing is one as I now have drafts and doodling all over my phone, laptop, paper notebook, and some hang on in my head. This is one of those few cases wherein clutter is probably good.

Then there’s material stuffs. This week I gave wifey the approval to buy the TV she’s been wanting to have and been saving for. The least I could do on Valentine’s week is to give a nod. There’s now a giant Ultra HD Devant TV in the middle of our small house which made me realize 50-inch is the biggest we can get unless we hang the TV across the kitchen and view it from the living room. So far the Call of Duty and Fallout 4 games of our 9-year old son have been more gory.

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Claimed our free Starbucks cake. Free always tastes better.

Wifey also got me a pair of new jeans while in SM San Pablo last Monday. This one is for the books as the last time I purchased a pair was almost five years ago. My existing pants are either tattered not by design but due to wear and tear and all of them, FYI, are a couple of inches loose already. I need a new belt next.

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Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Cold Valentine’s Day weather.)

Time to Learn SEO Again

SEO starts to sound exciting once more. It could have been a year or more since I gave up on SEO because I just find it hard to understand. I once believe that knowing keywords and inserting them strategically in an article is SEO already. It was wrong, completely wrong. Keyword density wasn’t enough.

The problem with SEO is that there are so many people who claim to be experts. Tools and tips that these people recommend are either complicated or doesn’t work–at least for me. Some are just downright confusing that eventually made me stop caring much about driving traffic to my site. As long as I can write and post an article then I am already fine with it. Screw traffic.

But we need traffic and SEO drives blog traffic. Just this week I read The Next Web’s article titled SEO Simplified For Short Attention Spans. It is probably the most interesting article I have read about SEO to date. Maybe I have short attention span or maybe the explanations the article presents do make sense for someone who has given up on SEO. Or maybe it has something to do with my recent return to article writing, thanks to oDesk, which made me get interested about it again.

This week I look forward to spending time in front of our desktop and start all over again. The plan is to start looking into META and ALT tags which are the things I have ignored but could actually impact my site’s visibility. Wish me luck.

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First accomplishment was changing from ugly permalinks to pretty permalinks.  It pose a bit of challenge as the Dashboard is deceiving. It appears that it is a matter of just clicking on the radio button and save changes but it is not. The web.config.xml needs to be updated as well and WordPress.org forum has answers that could confuse further so below are two short steps to cut the chase.

Pretty permalink, ugly permalink, How to make pretty permalink work
How to change from ugly to pretty permalinks.

The original web.config.xml file contains the following below. Use an FTP client to save the file to your desktop.

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>
<configuration>
<system.webServer>
<rewrite>
<rules/>
</rewrite>
</system.webServer>
</configuration>

To make the permalinks work, what needs to be done is just to change the content to:

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>
<configuration>
<system.webServer>
<rewrite>
<rules>
<rule name=”WordPress Rule” stopProcessing=”true”>
<match url=”.*” />
<conditions>
<add input=”{REQUEST_FILENAME}” matchType=”IsFile” negate=”true” />
<add input=”{REQUEST_FILENAME}” matchType=”IsDirectory” negate=”true” />
</conditions>
<action type=”Rewrite” url=”index.php?page_id={R:0}” />
</rule>
</rules>
</rewrite>
</system.webServer>
</configuration>

Overwrite original file by uploading it back to your WordPress directory. Bingo, pretty permalinks!

Source: http://codex.wordpress.org/Using_Permalinks

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Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Pacman-Algieri fight. And we need to be in Batangas for free cable.)

Write About Writer’s Block

Writing and Driving
Illustration by MIke Kline as posted on Flickr Creative Commons page.

 

A day left before August ends and it’s me – 0, writer’s block – 1. No reason, just excuses. But this tweet from @AdviceToWriters uplifts me:

Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all — CHARLES BUKOWSKI

On a traffic-free day I arrive early at work and when it happens I either read or write in the car. These past few days I drafted some but never had the time to polish my ideas, one of which is again about hitting the dreaded writer’s block. But I didn’t post it for fear that it will soon become the biggest among my tag cloud. So thank you @AdviceToWriters I learned another tip from you. Yes, anything to write about is probably worth writing.

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Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Had a good run, had good breakfast.)

How to Quickly Align Text From PDF to Word

The afternoon schedule of my kid has given me the time to continue reposting old blog posts that I have saved using Feedfabrik. Without this application I would have lost everything I wrote since 2006 when I made a boo-boo during a WordPress upgrade about two years ago. (It’s a blessing in disguise though as I have discovered a LOT of embarassing grammar lapses.)

Copying and pasting, however, from PDF to Microsoft Word creates an alignment problem which I have been patiently dealing with for weeks already. Realizing that I have barely achieved a significant percentage of repost–my Feedfabrik proof PDF file has more than 1200 articles–I finally turned to the internet for help. Someone out there must have had the same issue. I was right.

Thanks to Superuser.com, I found the answer to my problem. And it’s a very simple one.  Shown below is a screenshot from my MS Word that shows the same set of text from my PDF file.

Don’t mind the excerpts, I’m about to edit it.

Upper half of the picture is how it appears when text is pasted directly from the Feedfabrik proof.pdf file.  Looks easy to align, right? But if there’s a thousand pages to deal with, trust me, it will drain anyone out.

The lower half of the picture is the way to go and it’s done using a neat trick from Superuser.com which I simplified below.

1) Copy text from PDF.

2) Paste text on Google search box (I assume this will work with any other internet browsers).  Do not worry about the length of the text, it doesn’t matter as the next step will get everything back.

3) Use CTRL+A (or CTRL+X) to copy every text you pasted on the search box.

4) Paste text on MS Word.

Take note though that if there are multiple paragraphs being copy and pasted, each paragraph has to be manually separated from the other. But this is something I can handle unless there is another trick to solve this.

Now where was I? Ah, December 22, 2006. Hmmm, bad grammars.

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Mood: 3/10 Honks! (Still with runny nose after four days. I hope I’d be better tomorrow.)