The Evil in Blogs

A Blog is the lifeblood of authors and writers…and the handmaiden of the Devil.

Oh sure, Blogs (Weblogs) are everywhere these days, millions of them scurrying around like roaches in an abandoned house, populating themselves exponentially, preparing to take over the world. If you don’t have a Blog, especially in our world of writing, you might as well hang a No Trespassing sign on your door.

Since I was nearing authorship of my first novel, and since so many writers had their own Blog, I decided I would too. It was so easy. The intros on the websites and blog pages said so. “Anyone can start a blog in 5 minutes.”… “Build a great-looking, fully-functional website in 48 hours.”…  “The only limit is your imagination.”

The only limit for me, I discovered, was my tolerance for emotional pain and how much liquor I kept at the ready.

I figured, since I was fairly literate in word processing, spreadsheets, email, the Internet, and other programs and tools indigenous to the computer world, the learning curve on how to build a Blog would be short. I envisioned the concept of drag-and-drop. It turned out to be drink-and-curse.

I did have at my disposal a son-in-law who is a webmaster, but instead of just plopping it on the web in a couple of hours, he gave me an instructional weekend and then told me to play around with it. So I dug in and spent the better part of a week learning now to build my Blog and maneuver behind the scenes on what is known as a Dashboard. I was my own Blogmaster.

First I had to select a Theme. There’re thousands of ‘em, luring you in with colorful images and theme options, none of which I had any idea what they meant. That done, I had to wrap my head around the differences between Pages and Categories, and how to make Posts appear in each. Then came the Widgets, followed by the Media Library, and the Links, and the Menus. The bourbon flowed, the late night sessions got longer. I doubled up on my prescription of Xanax. Satan smiled knowingly.

Finally as I found some minor satisfaction with my end product, I encountered the coups de grace (definition: a death blow, especially one delivered mercifully to end suffering). The Plug-Ins. Hundreds of them too, some of which worked. Simply deciphering how to access them was a journey: search…download…locate…upload…install…test…move…drink more bourbon.

I finally succeeded in building a Blog. Whether or not it is an effective one I won’t know for awhile. I’m not selling anything yet, at least not until my first novel is done. I don’t offer professional instruction, insightful information or pearls of wisdom. But it’s done, even though it will evolve.

I did re-learn a valuable lesson, one we all have heard many times. The countless things that take us away from the craft of writing, which is the common denominator that brings most of here in the first place, is a dangerous diversion. The week I spent learning how to build a blog could have been spent knocking out the final chapters of my Novel.

Unfortunately these days, writing is not just about writing. We’re forced to spend more time marketing and networking than most us prefer…and specifically, tackling the not-so-pleasant beast of social media, which turns out to be one of the largest time-sinks known to man. It’s been said that success is 3% talent, and 97% staying off the Internet. We’re all going to have to find that balance between what we choose to do ourselves that is not writing and what we decide to outsource to professionals, for a fee of course. When you find an answer, let me know. Until then, I’m going to go write something.


Mouths on Fire

My Democratic-leaning computer didn’t burst into flames recently when I ran across a post on one of my Republican friends’ Facebook page. It was a quote from the late Adrian Rogers, a well-known conservative clergyman and past president of the Southern Baptist Convention. In part it read:

“You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.”

In the beginning, most of the 28 “comments” were rabidly in agreement, but as the hour rolled on, opposing comments, equally as passionate, began to appear.

And it struck me, as it has so often lately, that the vitriol on both sides of the opinion had diluted any hope of dealing with it. Nobody was listening. I could almost hear the arms breaking while everyone patted themselves on the back, and torches and pitchforks quickly appeared on the streets of Facebook.

If I had all the answers, I’d run for sainthood (although fundraising would be an issue). Differing opinions don’t mean either is wrong, they are just, well…different. I imagine somewhere in the middle ground of any rational analysis lies the truth, or some version of it, ordained only by a higher power, challenging us to look for her, to seek her out. And be better than we were before we started.

Sadly, most of us give up without even bothering to look. It’s much easier to shout down the opposing viewpoint than to thoughtfully listen to it, pick out the best of both sides. Mouth open, ears shut. It doesn’t take long before the brisk, passionate defense of our own position overrules our desire to enhance it. And the words begin to turn sour.

Even though I’m a Liberal and back the concept of some form of government support, as long as it is unavoidable and not abused, I still can see the logic in Dr. Rogers’ statement…as far as it went. But to me it stops several miles short, over-simplifying the issue to the point where it describes something that doesn’t exist and nobody wants. A partially-told truth is not the truth at all.

Sometimes, in our zeal to make a point we fall back into self-serving oversimplification, to the point that our words distort. The aggregate of life’s struggles can’t be captured in a clever phrase. It’s infinitely complex. Real life in the trenches involves emotions, hopes and dreams, failures, disappointments, insecurities, and more often than not, random opportunity.

One argument against helping the 99% is obvious and indisputable. The well-documented abuse of a well-intentioned system by thousands, maybe millions, that aren’t willing to help themselves, only poisons the well for all of us. Those self-serving scavengers are on my crap list too. But geeze-o-pete, if the car is broken, maybe instead of setting it on fire, we should just repair it. We’re smart enough to find a way to deny the offenders without punishing those that desperately want to rise above it.

I say, with some conviction, that if any of the 1%’ers, including and especially our almost uniformly wealthy congress, suddenly found themselves in the Twilight Zone, thrust into the unfamiliar role of not knowing where their next meals or house payments were coming from, their votes would be considerably different.

The late Flannery O’Connor once said “The truth does not change according to our ability to handle it.” I’m not saying Dr. Rogers’ convictions are ill-advised. I get his point. But if we boil away all the rhetoric and verbal cover, I’d wager there is more substance left unstated in his words than one paragraph could ever deal with.

I’ll continue to welcome spirited debate with any of our legislators or blog friends on any issue of their choosing. I could use a good education. But I’ll bet if we jettison the earplugs and pass out chill pills at the beginning of any gathering, it might be possible for all of us to get a fresh take on something we thought was a done deal.


Which F word on July 4?

No, not that one. There’s lots of others to pick from.  Fourth?  Fireworks?  Family?  Fun?  Freedom?  Maybe. But for me this year – Father’s Felt Football. A home-made pillow, a belated Father’s Day gift from step-daughter Tiffany, hubby Elmer, and granddaughters Lily and Rosalie, during my two-day stay with them this week in Nashville.

Biker Chicks

Elmer patiently worked with me trying to teach me how get this infernal blog up and running. Lots of food and laughter, debates and bad jokes around the kitchen table, rolling in the floor with frenetic, energy-laden kids, wild hamsters on the loose, a smorgasborg of nothing…and everything.

On my peaceful motorcycle ride back, a human easy-bake cookie in the 95-degree blast furnace of I-65, I couldn’t help but give thanks for the priceless opportunity to be taken in by adults who teach their children love every day. Some of us aren’t so lucky. It makes me grateful. And a little ashamed when I slip up and gripe during those fleeting moments of frustration and disappointment that follows us around.

My other step-daughter Hailey, with Tom and young Finn, and daughter Layne, with Zach & their 4-legged children Winnie, Munch, and Maggie, are all just as loving. My times with them just as fulfilling, brimming with love and laughter. In reflection I realize, as I often do these days, that the 4th of July is only what we make of it. And every other day after that.