A few months ago, I dramatically announced I would be ending my contributions to the Write Place Blog. I posted the image of an open road as though to indicate my future lay elsewhere. In hindsight, that picture might best be interpreted as evidence that the road forward remained open, and that nothing was, in fact, finished.
All I really needed to do, it seems, was hit the reset button.
Starting Over Again
That idea hit home a week and a half ago when I saw Stephen King speak at George Washington University in Washington, DC. How ridiculous, I thought to myself after the event, while clutching a copy of his latest novel, Revival, to my side and heading over to the Farragut North Metro in the bitter cold.
How can I possibly leave behind the world of books and writing? Seeing Stephen King was a bucket list kind of thing. His writing represents values I have long held: 1. the importance of imagination in making life choices (and not getting boxed in like a sheep by everyone else’s popular ideas), 2. the humanity that emerges from reading when you realize the world is filled with people as complex and as worthy as you, and 3. the ability to spend a lot of time in your mind and feel fulfilled rather than lonely.
Of course, the world outside one’s mind cannot be denied. And so when I called it quits on my blog in late September, that was largely the result of deciding I needed to pursue commercial endeavors to staunch the financial bleeding that came from the separation process I have gone through this past year. My wife and I parted ways last March, and a decent part of my life since then has been filled with bills related to the separation.
But everyone has a variety of needs–financial stability is just one. Personal fulfillment is another. Abraham Maslow might suggest fulfillment is a higher-level need that one should pursue AFTER more fundamental needs have been met. I would disagree. The peace of mind that comes from investing in personal passions has implications for everything from health to the manner in which one conducts himself in daily affairs, and with colleagues, family, friends and oneself.
In other words, while I cannot deny the external challenges I face, I would be foolhardy to deny certain spiritual needs as well. (I don’t think “spiritual” is too strong a word here.)
Where the Blog Has Been…and Where It’s Going
My blog posts over the past year have demonstrated various (very public) chapters of my journey through the separation process. They began with advice-led posts about writing fiction. They then moved on to very specific weekly posts about the history of Wichita, Kansas, which were intended to support a short story in-progress, Wichita Snake. Then, finally, I stopped contributing to this blog altogether until the late September post when I announced that this was the end.
And yet here I am again, put into gear by Stephen King. Why should I be surprised since he’s only been around for the better part of more than 30 years of my life!
If I keep on keeping on, as the saying goes, perhaps the way forward I always meant when I started this blog will become clear. Perhaps the true direction will reveal itself. But who is to say? This post may just end up being more of the same drama I spouted in September.
Nevertheless, to play tour guide to my readers for a brief moment, I want to point out how I have made a few content changes to the blog. First, I included a menu item on the home page entitled Blogging Services. Secondly, I revised the About Me section to reflect details about my fiction AND my interest in helping collaborative law attorneys with marketing and blogging services. Finally, the blog descriptor on the top right corner of the home page has been updated.
I am, essentially, going to attempt to balance the commercial with the passionate aspects of my life with this website. A few months ago, I stumbled upon the website of one Alexis Grant who, by coincidence, happens to be local to Washington, DC. She is a young digital strategist and entrepreneur who supports the aspirations of writers while offering more traditional marketing and social media services. I like what she is doing.
5 New Commitments for The Write Place
And so, in the spirit of attempting to find common purpose among the disparate directions of my blog over the past year while learning from those who have already attained some degree of success online, I will commit now to doing the five following things:
1. Professionally design and restructure the Write Place Blog. If I am going to be serious about this website and blog, it needs to look serious. I have twice approached a website design firm that has expertise building and designing websites on a WordPress platform. I work with these guys at my accounting marketing job, and they do a good job. Both times, I backed down at the last minute because I still wasn’t confident my ideas about The Write Place were fully developed. If I am going to avoid frustrating these guys, I had better pull the trigger next time. Three strikes, as the saying goes, and you’re out.
2. Change the name, layout and domain name of the website. I dislike reading QuickSprout by Neil Patel because he always gives great advice that reflects what I am NOT currently doing on my blog. LOL! When I say I may consider changing the name and URL of this site, my guess is that I will do it less for search optimization purposes and more for branding. Blog posts may not even drive the majority of content on the home page when I do relaunch. But even if I do change the domain and layout of the website, I still feel pretty strongly about keeping “Write Place” for the name of the blog.
3. Seek agency representation for Billy Maddox Takes His Shot. I am probably not the only one who ever got pulled into a new idea so much that I left behind something I should have kept doing. After I finished my novel and began searching for literary agents about a year and a half ago, I read an interview with one agent who explained that writers who already have an online platform are attractive candidates as clients.
So I started this blog.
To my credit, I did not throw the baby out with the bathwater. I didn’t stop querying agents right away. In fact, I stepped things up by networking with agents at the James River Writers Conference in Richmond, VA. I pitched one agent face-to-face–successfully, I might add–and she asked to review pages from my novel.
But after I sent in my pages, I never heard from her again. It is absurd that my feelings should be hurt by this experience. I have been in the game and have bled too long to have my feelings hurt by something a literary agent does or does not do. I attribute my decision to finally turn away from querying other agents as the consequence of getting distracted by the blog and because of all the shit that started going down in my marriage.
Time to hit the reset button on querying agents as well. I once read a blog post by a writer who balanced querying agents with writing new material by always strictly maintaining five open queries. (I wish I could find that blog post for linking purposes). That helped him manage the time he spent querying agents so he could also keep writing.
And really, how much time does it take to invest in five open agency queries at one time? It doesn’t take long to find literary agents who could be a decent match for your writing (I use QueryTracker to conduct research) and send in your query letter.
Regardless of what some agent might have once said about the attractiveness of an online platform, I wrote a damn novel. I need to get back on that horse called Query and ride.
4. Find a few collaborative law attorney clients through guest blogging. Let me be clear, as President Obama is fond of saying. My goal in finding clients is NOT to replace my day job, which I enjoy very much. Having now gone through the collaborative divorce process myself, I am keen on the idea of sharing information with couples in the midst of relationship problems to help them recognize choices exist when it comes to separation and divorce. Marketing is often described as sleazy and disingenuous but I sleep well at night. We all market ourselves and our ideas one way or the other, even if we don’t (or don’t want to) think about it that way.
I have conducted enough research to know a variety of state and regional collaborative divorce associations exists nationwide. I don’t know how responsive they will be if I offer to write marketing-related articles for their websites (with back links to my own). But according to best practices when it comes to driving traffic to one’s own relatively new blog, it is best to start publishing on sites that already have a decent flow of traffic.
So why not?
5. Get back to Wichita Snake. I wrote about 30-40 pages of a long short story called Wichita Snake that tells the story of Billy Maddox’s great-grandfather who ultimately becomes an Arizona Ranger after confronting an organized band of thieves in Kansas. But then, with all the turmoil, responsibilities and time management challenges associated with my life as a single father, with going through separation and with the demands of my professional life, the writing slowed to a trickle and then stopped altogether.
That’s not good. What makes it worse is that, as I was writing, I began to see links in my mind between Billy, his great-grandfather and all the Maddox men in between. These were truly exciting discoveries to make but they have largely slipped away again since I stopped writing.
Once I have my new website designed and launched, once I have some queries out for my novel, and once I’m driving traffic to my site and hopefully scoring a couple writing assignments, it will then be time to turn back to my fiction, starting with Wichita Snake.
I look forward to it!
I won’t give myself a timeline to accomplish any or all of these commitments. Timelines are supposedly a good idea to keep project managers honest. But I have already achieved sufficient success as professional services marketer at my day job to not owe anything to anyone. Besides, it’s been struggle enough just to find the right direction and appropriate goals for this blog. Plus, the holidays are coming up.
So I’m going to go easy on myself when it comes to a timeline. At the very least, I have committed myself to the above-mentioned goals in a very public way. So there you go.
I’ve hit the reset button on the Write Place Blog. The road is still open. I know the direction. The future awaits.
More again soon.