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Blogs Are Still Relevant in 2019

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While putting in extra time to market the re-release of Detroit 2020, I have been giving a lot of thought to blogging. In particular, blogs versus social media.

While I forcibly had to upgrade to a smartphone from last year’s beloved flip phone, I still refuse to put any social media apps on it, because of all the creativity-stifling reasons outlined here.

I’ve reduced my usage to Twitter alone, via a desktop app. I feel it’s a better way to interact with the service.

But enough about that…

If you’re a writer, or anyone with a serious artistic hobby, I want to convince you that having a blog is still totally relevant in 2019. You might think blogs are falling by the wayside, but I believe they are still a powerful tool for relationship building.

Blogs Are Your Space

Blogs are a place for you to compose complex thoughts, and more nuanced posts on broad topics. They are also a place that you can display or discuss your creative work to an audience. That body of work comes together and creates a much stronger online identity and portfolio of work than the limited profile spaces that social media sites give you. Most of those social profiles give you a spot to place your URL. You should have a blog to put in there. This is especially true if you pay for your own blog hosting and can customize things extensively.

Blogs Promote Long-Form Content

Readers want long form content. Videos, memes, and 280-character posts are generally glorified fluff commentary. To really understand something and have an informed conversation that is more than just noise, you need “long reads”. Blogs are still the best place online for that. No imposed limitations and the ability to use different forms of media to create complex posts. That old saying “content is king” still applies.

Blogs Are Easy

People say things like “I don’t get Twitter.” or “I don’t get Instagram.” Social media platforms all have different little quirks and systems that they use to stand out. Those quirks create a learning curve, and sometimes rules of etiquette. Blogs are so much easier. You just click, read, and then comment if you are inclined. There’s no hashtags or icons or flags to figure out why (and if) you should be pushing them.

Blogs Build Real Audiences

Blogs build relationships. They create “real readership” and and an engaged audience. Most social media entails “liking” a post, and maybe a quick comment or two. It’s essentially saying “Hey, we both enjoy this same thing. Cool.” and not much happens after that. Bloggers can guest post, link to one-another, and re-use or share content in a number of ways with other like-minded people. Plus, similar to email lists, readers/followers are generally much more committed than on social media sites. I know personally that I see familiar faces on this blog commenting and interacting with posts. That’s a rare situation on Twitter, especially once you break the 100 Follower mark.

Blogs Are Future Proof

Social media sites are under increasing scrutiny, and the next new thing is always trying to usurp the current leaders. Blogs are a mature technology, like email, that can be moved to different hosting sites and create a body of work that is persistent and owned by its creator (usually). Plus, outside of occasional ads, blogs aren’t secretly harvesting your personal data just to use them. They are still a more “pure” form of internet communication. Sure, the author may want to sell you something, but they are more up front about it. And often, many bloggers post just for the sake of it with no ulterior motives.

These are just a few of the reasons I believe blogs are still relevant in 2019 and better than social media. If you’re an author or artist reading this and don’t have a blog or a personal website with the ability to make blog posts, I implore you to get one.

 

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Flip Phone 4 Lyfe

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I switched back to a flip phone a few months ago.

After my 3rd smartphone in 4 years broke, I got frustrated with such expensive products being so fragile, and on a whim at the store I said “screw this, do you have flip phones?” The girl at the store laughed and said, “Yes. Those still exist”. I now have a phone that makes calls, texts, and can sync email and calendars, plus some other basic things like an alarm clock and FM radio. It costs $20 a month.

I wanted to save money on my mobile bill and have a sturdier device, but this is the stuff I didn’t expect:

  • That I’d spend a few days freaking out in some kind of weird “smartphone withdrawal”, habitually touching my pocket, while trying to remember how to use T9.

  • That my social media usage would basically dwindle to nothing (a few times a week) because that urge to scroll was no longer there.

  • That my attention span and focus would slowly improve over weeks, to the point I’m way more productive at work and at knocking out long overdue “to do” lists.

  • That I would notice friends, family, and like 50-80% of random strangers with their heads buried in a screen FAR more than I ever had before.

  • That I am becoming intolerant of people replying “huh?” or “wait, what did you say?” in conversations when their faces are buried in those screens.

  • That I would start consuming art & entertainment & news much more deeply. Reading text more slowly, and not half-watching movies while looking at IMDB to figure out “what else that guy was in”.

  • That I would pick up the nice digital camera I received a few years ago as a gift and rediscover a love of photography – capturing fewer photos with an intention of artistic expression, not just mindless snapshots of food.

  • That Garmin GPS have a McDonald’s button in 2018 (What a time to be alive!)

  • That a pencil and 50 cent notebook works nearly as well as Google Keep.

  • That I can be bored again, and boredom is a good (and sometimes scary) thing that can be filled with creativity and introspection.

  • That being the only person in a Starbucks not on a smartphone makes you look like a WEIRDO since people watching is apparently rare and frowned upon these days?

  • That only charging my phone about once a week, and not really caring if I forget it at home are quite freeing.

  • That smartphones are really cool, and super convenient, but convenience comes with costs that I don’t think society has fully recognized yet.

  • That it is really, REALLY satisfying to snap your phone shut when some annoying telemarketer calls you.

TL;DR – I went back to a flip phone and it had a bunch of unexpected benefits. You might want to try it out sometime.

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Why Are We Too Busy to Write?

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Credit: Guardian.com

I’ve been reflecting on being “busy” lately. It seems whenever I catch up with friends and family and ask how they are, most reply “busy” almost automatically.

Many of them also marvel at how I “find the time” to write in between all of life’s other obligations, and I tell them it’s not a big mystery. It is just a matter of simplifying and prioritizing what matters most to you. I also had – what I believed – to be a kinda sorta conspiracy theory that we’re being constantly told we’re busy by marketing companies.

Ever notice how many ads tell you that you’re too busy to clean or make dinner? Once you focus on it, you can’t un-hear it.

Anyway, in the spirit of NanoWriMo, I wanted to share this great little article by Oliver Burkeman over on The Guardian about “shadow work”, which gives a name to this constant state of “busy” we all seem to be in.

SPOILER ALERT: it seems the promise of technology and automation backfired a bit.

What do you think? Do you always feel busy, and struggle to carve out time for writing or other creative endeavors? Let me know down in the comments.

Have a great weekend!

 

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On Writing, Smartphones, and “Waking Up”

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Something happened last month that has profoundly affected my creativity.

My smartphone broke.

Yellow jackets get pretty ornery around late summer (they sense their collective impending doom), and as luck would have it, I got stung in the hand while scrolling Twitter. My phone hit the sidewalk and even a fancy $3 case and screen protector couldn’t save it.

What does this have to do with writing? Everything, as it would turn out.

Enter the flip phone.

I’ve contemplated how much I relied on my smartphone for a while now. I used it too much, and research is showing the negative effects of technology overload, especially on creativity. I decided to switch back to a flip phone as an experiment, and the results were almost immediate.

This is what I found:

  • I’m perfectly OK without a smartphone. I have other computers/devices (GPS, laptop, etc) to access maps and information when I need it. It’s freeing to not feel “connected” at all times.
  • I AM BORED AGAIN. I realized just how long it had been since I felt boredom. I was literally programmed to grab my phone to “fill in the spaces”. Now that the flip phone only serves very intentional functions (calls, texts, email) my body and brain are literally retraining themselves to accept true downtime again. Walking around, standing in lines, all those things that prompted smartphone use are filled with contemplative thought and observations.
  • I realize how pervasive smartphones are. I’ve joked that I’m “awake” now, but being more present has allowed me to see just how often other people are on their devices. It is nearly constant. Kind of scary, but this experiment is about me, not about what others are doing.
  • My attention span is slowly returning. Deliberate, focused consumption of books, movies, and television (even a newspaper!) without the risk of distraction has made me realize the strange cognitive dissonance that “two screening” had caused. For the first few days I felt randomly distracted and jittery sitting through an entire movie. That is slowly fading, and I find myself contemplating what I give my attention to more deeply.
  • I have gotten so many more story ideas in these bored moments. Creativity appears to be expanding to fill those gaps.
  • I have more time to write. Those little (and not so little) pockets of free time are spent writing instead of mindlessly scrolling on a screen.

This endeavor is still burgeoning, but so far I’ve seen mostly positives for the trade offs in convenience. Will I ever get a smartphone again? I’m not sure. But for now I’m enjoying a newfound well of creativity, and only paying $20 a month for something that won’t break if it bounces off a sidewalk.