Browsing Category Blogging

Seeking Senior Bloggers

Have you ever said to yourself, “I’d love to be a blogger, if only I knew where to begin? I don’t even know how to use a computer.”

According to The Pew Research Center out of 500 million bloggers, less than 1 percent are age 65 and over. Bloggers in the 21-to-35-year-old demographic group account for over 53 percent of the total blogging population, followed by 19 percent who are 36-to-50-years-old. But enough boring statistics and more about the sparse number of senior bloggers.

I am in the 1 percent. No, not that 1 percent, the “less than” group identified by Pew. Before the door of opportunity opened 12 years ago, I had no plans to include blogger on my resume. Then, one day a friend suggested, “Why not augment your love for writing and create your own blog?” Thus, post-retirement, I birthed my second career and added personal blogger to freelance writer and published author.

In addition to writing a blog, I study them. I’ve found that the gazillion younger than 50-year-old bloggers tend to write about fashion, politics, health & fitness, music & entertainment and technical devices. Although some senior bloggers tackle those same subjects, the majority of posts written by seniors concern elder lifestyles and the challenges of advancing years. Many of their posts have titles about subjects that very young readers would call old people stuff. Healthy Aging (translation:  avoiding the decrepit zone). Fighting Aging (Good luck with knocking that out). Defying the Aging Process (enter Botox and plastic surgery). And the topic that none of us old-schoolers want to discuss, the one that keeps most of us in denial – Funeral Planning (Think Dreamgirls, “And I am telling you, I’m not going.”).

Anyone who retired in let’s say the last 15-20 years who did not learn computer skills while they were in the workforce, I will bet you my best friend’s social security check that some of them are not inclined to do so now. Sadly, I know mature people who not only lack computer skills, but some think that a hard drive is being on the road for two hours or more without making a rest stop.

For seniors who want to learn to compute – it is not too late. There are basic computer classes available everywhere. It seems pointless to ask someone who may not own a computer and lacks computer skills to check on-line for computer classes, although a tablet or smartphone might suffice. But you could ask a computer-savvy friend to help you search online, or inquire about classes at a library near you. Some libraries offer free computer classes that provide hands-on training to adults. AARP offers tech training for people 50 years and older.

Seniors, you need to get that training and start blogging so that we can increase our numbers in the blogosphere. There are plenty of things to blog about:  sports, travel, food, name it and claim it. And of course, there is the personal blog.

I enjoy being a personal blogger. That’s my forte’. However, I offer some words of caution to potential personal bloggers. Share your thoughts at your discretion.

Before jumping in with both feet, think of personal blogging as swimming nude at a public pool. Your posts will be as exposed as a naked swimmer on a diving board. It is one thing to log your personal experiences and private thoughts in a diary, but another to publish something on-line that the whole world can see. Be forewarned. Accept that putting yourself out there, placing your thoughts on display will open you up to criticism and as well as complements. But don’t let the fear of criticism deter you. Life is too short to worry about what others will say about you. Do your thing – with style and humor – and give them something to talk about.

Here are some basic tips on getting started with your blog.

  • Choose a domain name. The domain is the address of your website that people type in the browser’s URL bar to visit your site. Imagine that your website is your home and think of the domain name as your address. I chose Potpourri101 because it suggests a variety or mixture of subjects, not just old folk stuff. In the American university course numbering systems 101 often designates a course for beginners in a particular subject. Thus, potpourri101. (A blog can be set up with or without a unique domain name depending on who is hosting your site.)
  • To make your website accessible to other people on the Internet, you need a “host.” The web host provides the technologies and services required for the webpage to be viewed on the Internet. It will store all of your website files:  code, text, images, video, etc, on servers.
  • Get a blog platform. A blogging platform is a software or service that you use to publish your content. There are many platforms, but I like WordPress because it offers numerous free blog themes. Imagine having an interior designer decorate your home. The theme is the appearance or decoration, so to speak, of your website. You may want to check out Godaddy.com or SiteGround.com as sources that host WordPress sites. A downloadable copy of an excellent book WordPress for Absolute Beginners can be found here.

After you get everything in order, write, write, write on your blog! It will expand your horizons.

In the process of exchanging comments and emails about some of my posts, I’ve made friends with other bloggers as well as readers who are not bloggers. And lest you think that the lot of them are old fogies, they are not. Many of them are as young as you – or as young as you think you are.

I hope this post will encourage other seniors who may have scratched “become a blogger” off of their list. We’re waiting for you to join us. Just do it!

 

 

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Fanning the Flame

My personal journal has 786 pages, 319,829 words, so far. I know that because the status bar in my Microsoft Word document tells me so. Experts will tell you that there are some differences in a diary and a journal, for this purpose I’ll use both words interchangeably.

Sometime around the late 1970s, I began journaling. Like many people who write diaries I used a pen and paper, and in the years that followed, I dutifully filled three, thick loose-leaf binders with almost daily entries. And then one day, I shredded every single page from each of those volumes.

Thinking about it now, I realize that it was not the first – nor last – regrettable thing I have done in my lifetime. But on that day, some years ago, when I destroyed my journals it was because I had a flashback to when I was around 12 or 13 years old.

In those early teen years, I had a little diary with a pink cover that I had purchased from Murphy’s five and dime store. The diary had a flimsy key lock that one could easily open with a hairpin. I kept the book hidden from my family – so I thought – between the mattress and box-spring on my twin-sized bed. Teenagers today are much savvier. They know that of all the places to hide something, beneath your mattress is the last place. That’s the first place your mother looks for your stash of anything.

Before I tell you, I’m sure that you’ve already figured out that my mother found my diary and even worse, she read it. There were no shocking revelations in there, just the age-appropriate thoughts, emotions, observations, and dreams of a young teenage girl growing up in the early sixties.

Back then, I was no different from many teenagers today who feel that they cannot talk to their parents. I found comfort in writing in my diary. It gave me someone to “talk” to and confide in. When one day mother’s teasing and censuring let me know that she had read my diary, I felt hurt and violated. I ran to my bedroom, grabbed the diary from beneath the mattress, and tore out every page that had anything written on it, and then I ripped those torn-out pages to slivers. When I finished, the floor around my small wastebasket looked like a confetti bomb had exploded. I picked up the paper that had missed the wastebasket, tore it some more, and then tossed it and the diary cover with its flimsy lock and remaining empty pages into the trash.

Fifteen years after I destroyed that first diary, I purged the journals that I had begun writing after I left home. Purge two was also unplanned and happened unexpectedly. I was distressed over something that occurred earlier in the day. After I recorded the incident in my journal, I spent some time sitting on my bed, reading some of the pages that I had written weeks, months, even years earlier. It wasn’t all bad, but the unpleasant things brought back pain and raw emotions as if it had happened yesterday. I realized that if I suddenly dropped dead, it was likely that my mother would eventually get my journals and once again read my private thoughts. She would not understand the anguish I had endured in the years following my broken marriage because I had never discussed it with her; nor would she comprehend my struggle to overcome the life-altering, ongoing effort to raise my children solely on meager salaries from low-income jobs. But because she had tried to persuade me to stay in a marriage that I felt was doomed, she would say, “Didn’t I tell you?” My journals would have been contemporary fodder for a teasing tongue.

Had she read those old, tear-stained journals they would not have revealed that the broken-spirited young girl expressing herself on those pages, the one determined not to be beaten down by the struggle and liabilities of single-motherhood would eventually mature into a strong-willed woman. But in time she would see and become proud of the finished product.

When I turned on my shredder and began destroying those journals, I thought there go years of memories. But my hesitancy didn’t last. It only took me to imagine my mother’s face as she had mocked my young teenaged self, for me to resume feeding pages into the shredder. Don’t misunderstand, I loved my mother, but she had her faults, as do I, and as do you. If I could reveal why I destroyed those journals without bringing mother into the equation, I would, but I can’t.

Unfortunately, I never imaged that one day I would be writing a blog and even a book or two and I sometimes regret my spontaneous decision to destroy those journals. Life wasn’t all bad. There were many pleasant days and events that I recorded in those pages, especially times spent doing fun things with my children, but as age would have it, many memories of my past are now mere shadows in my mind.

Aside from the fact that writing is therapeutic, the desire to write burns in me like an eternal flame. So of course, I eventually began journaling again. But now, instead of writing everything down, I use my computer. My journal is password protected. My dear mother, God rest her soul, is dead and my children are grown. Anyone who gains access to my journal now or after I’m gone won’t find it so accessible. And if they do happen to learn the password and read my private thoughts, they may decide that it wasn’t worth the effort to try and pry and perhaps judge.

I often write about my life on my blog, and some of my narratives come from my journal. Of course, I only reveal publicly what I want to share and I suppose that’s one reason I keep procrastinating while writing my second book. There is so much more that I want to disclose than was shared in the first book.

Book two will be a memoir picking up where book one ended. It won’t have the historical value of say, The Diary of Anne Frank, or the comedic impact of The Diary of Bridget Jones, but it could possibly read like the Diary of a Mad Black Woman. It will be introspective. It will be me.

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Contemplating Blogging?

Blogging 101-1Anyone can start a blog. If you can write, you can blog. If you write well, you can have a loyal readership of your blog.

For you readers who are interested in starting a blog but don’t know where to begin, there are numerous bloggers that will give you detailed and lengthy instructions on creating a blog and possibly making lots of money with it. Google them. However, if you are pressed for time and prefer my two-minute pitch on getting started continue reading.

  1. The first thing you do is find a blogging platform. That’s a service that will publish your content on the Internet. There are several free blogging platforms out there including Blogger, Tumblr, Ghost, and one of the most popular — the one I use for each of my websites — WordPress.
  1. After you’ve decided on a platform, choose a domain name. Your domain name is your web or network address. Think of it as an on-line street address that will help people find you. Choosing a name that is short and memorable is the best way to go, and the name should be relevant to the content of your blog. If you need help selecting a domain name, there are sites like godaddy.com that will assist you for a cost.
  1. Once you’ve selected a domain name, you’ll pay a small charge to register it. You will also pay an annual renewal fee to keep your blog up and running. If you’ve gone that far, then you probably already know what content you want on your blog. So, now decide how you want your blog to look. If you are a new blogger, follow the KISS principle – Keep It Simple, Sugar. (I threw you a curve with that acronym, didn’t I?)
  1. Design your blog. You can design your own blog using the software associated with the platform you chose, or you can have someone design it for you. Depending on the purpose of your blog and how you want it to look, you could spend a few dollars to get a practical site up and running or hire a designer who will charge a few hundred dollars for a custom designed blog with impressive bells and whistles.

The amount you spend to set-up your blog depends on your objective. There are countless types of blogs. Do you want one that will promote your business, provide consumer information, inspiration, or guidance, or do you want a figurative soapbox on which to express your thoughts and personal opinions? A personal blogger, that’s me. Keep in mind if you choose the latter and are an opinionated person like yours truly, you may attract followers who enjoy reading your posts, but you will also attract people who disagree with you and won’t hesitate to say so in the comments section. (Virtual haters, begone!).

Remember – it’s YOUR blog. Your blog is your voice; meaning you can rave about things you like or bitch about things you dislike. Providing that you don’t write anything that will have you nervously twitching in court while facing a lawsuit, or land you in jail for a social media offense because you took the First Amendment literally, then you are good to go.

Through your blog, you’ll make contacts that you might not otherwise make. Over the years, I have connected with and become friends with a few good bloggers. I follow their blogs. They read mine. Next thing you know, as a result of our online interactions, we’re exchanging emails, discussing ideas, and even sharing funny stories or other tidbits about our families.

In my opinion, the hardest thing about blogging is coming up with interesting topics. Sometimes I write about current events, and my hot topic — politics. Other times I share more personal thoughts and feelings. Whatever your topic, you cannot be timid about taking a stance on what are sometimes contentious issues. You never know who is reading you.

Two cases in point:

  • In September of 2012, Dr. Sydney Ross Singer, medical anthropologist and author of several health books commented on a post I wrote about how women feel about wearing bras. He emphasized that “chronic constriction from bras is a leading cause of breast cancer.”
  • Last year, my post about not being a bandwagon person brought a tongue-lashing comment from one of my readers who implied that I was a bigot. (That shoe doesn’t fit.) The comment was longer than my post. So be it. I had expressed my opinion. The anonymous commenter expressed his or hers.

If you are determined to maintain your position even though it means going against the grain of prevalent opinion, don’t expect to win a popularity contest. And don’t worry about whether everyone will agree with what you write because not everyone will. Just like on Facebook, you’ll learn to accept flattery with humility and take criticism like a referee booed for making a bad call during a Superbowl game.

Blogging will give you plenty of writing practice. To date, I have posted over 400 blogs. You may also acquire new skills like understanding the difference between a theme, plugin, and widget.

My two minutes are up. If this post wets your appetite, then go ahead and blog. And while you are enjoying it, keep in mind the wisdom of a fellow blogger who wrote, “A blog can help you build a legacy that will outlive you.”

 

 

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Blogging for Dollars or Bidding Time

Friends keep sending me links to sites that are hiring bloggers to write content. Thank you, friends. Good looking out. I appreciate that. While additional income is something that no normal person would turn down, especially when working at something that he or she enjoys, I won’t commit, right now, to writing content for anyone else’s website, because I am having enough trouble finding time to write my own blog.

It’s not that I don’t have the time. Lord knows since I retired I am relishing the time that I have to do my own thing; things that I didn’t have the luxury of doing when I was working a full-time job. Some of those things either got pushed aside or were never done because my free time was limited.

So my problem now is not a time-management issue – or is it? Like many of you who are reading this, I have other varied interests and commitments. An insatiable appetite for reading. Attending community and co-op meetings or activism and social activities. And although I know I could live without TV, I admit I do regularly watch talk shows – primarily news summaries, political commentaries, documentaries, and self-help programs. And I confess, I regularly view three programs – EMPIRE, SCANDAL and This is Us – strictly for entertainment.

Listening to music is my favorite mode of relaxation. And since I had enough traveling on trains, planes, and automobile when I was employed, travel is not on my list of things to do when I retire. Writing is.

When I was employed, I prayed for time to write to my heart’s content, read my growing library of books, and do whatever I felt like doing whenever I wanted to do it. That prayer was answered eight years ago, and here I am still begging the Higher Power for more free time in a day. Some people just cannot be satisfied. Right?

Well, currently I am in the process of redesigning this website. The Word Press format makes it relatively easy, still, for a novice, it requires a lot of Goggling for instructions, tweaking, and finger-crossing before pushing that activate button. Once I get everything situated on this site to my satisfaction, then I might sign up with some of those content writing sites and go blogging for dollars.

 

 

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