Being Active in the Blogging World Yet Hanging Out in the Background: My First 50,000 Hits on WordPress

Thanks for 50,000 hits.

Maybe it makes perfectly good sense or maybe it’s just a quirk of mine, but the word “blog” repulses me.  For me, it’s a four letter word.  When I hear the word “blog” I think of a sweaty and bloated 25 year-old guy with a faux-hawk and hairy arms, sleeves rolled up, sipping down his third cup of Starbucks coffee, much too eager to turn what he perceives as a clever Tweet into a post (like “Note to self: Never again combine cold leftover pizza and a PB&J sandwich for lunch.  Ugh, will my stomach ever forgive me?”, hoping for no less than 12 people to click “likes this” on his facebook wall).

And that’s what brought about #5 of The Code:  Avoid referring to the website as a “blog”. Blogs are for people still using MySpace who are stuck in 2006 or that are obsessed with facebook status updates.  I write.  I put up new posts.  I even write articles.  But I don’t have a blog.

Technically, I am camped out on the edge of the outer circle of the blogging world, since I do write regularly on a website that facilitates my hobby/passion of creative (and ideally not too egocentric) writing consisting of whatever random thing I think of that day.  So how do I differ from a full-on blogger?

1)     I am completely aware that I have no celebrity status whatsoever and that what I write is not a substitute for some vain reality TV show that I secretly want to be a part of.

2)     I do not write in a careless and casual tone, like I’m sending a mass email to everyone in my contacts.

3)     I mock facebook and Twitter culture in my writing; despite the fact my posts are automatically linked to both of those websites.

Being that I’m now nearing a thousand hits a day, I’ll be refraining from writing another post in my “10,000 Clicks” series (the title always starts with “being” and ends with “ground” and I usually feature one of the nine parts of The Code) until I reach a hundred thousand clicks, otherwise I’d be writing them too frequently at this point.  The reason I write this series is to document the growth of Scenic Route Snapshots.  When I reach a million a hits, I want to be able to look back and see how exactly I got there, not just simply based on fuzzy memories.

Other posts of this “10,000 Hits” series:

Being Down to Earth, Yet Never Really Touching the Ground (posted April 11, 2010)

Being Original, Yet Never Really Breaking New Ground (posted May 18, 2010)

Being Engaging, Yet Never Really Standing on Dangerous Ground (posted on June 10, 2010)

Being Excessive and Eventually Finding Common Ground (posted on June 24, 2010)

The Art of Storytelling: How to Be a Good Storyteller- Start in the Action or Plot, Note the Irony and Comedy, Then Do a Quick Recap

I’m not good at it.  I just follow a formula I made up.

Last month my Italian second cousin Phyllis from Kenosha, Wisconsin left me a comment on my post People Watching in Nashville Traffic, saying, “I love your stories!”  Until then, it had never crossed my mind that I even told stories.  I’ve always seen myself as a younger Grandfather Time- the voice of a man who keeps one foot in the past and one in the present, in order to keep a nostalgic feel on everything “new” idea I write.  Just an involved narrator.

I’ve always thought of myself as a commentator on life.  A writer of nonfiction.  There’s no hesitation in me admitting I’m no good at making up stories- fiction is something I am only a spectator of, not a creator.  What I can do is embellish the story that is already there.

Michael Chabon

Michael Chabon

By connecting the facts to old school pop culture references with a subtle smart Alec touch.  Finding ways to make the ordinary occurrences of life seem more interesting than they are.  My favorite author, Michael Chabon, refers to it in his book Maps and Legends, as “the artist’s urge to discover a pattern in, or derive a meaning from, the random facts of the world”.

 

And that’s basically what I’m doing.  And I get so much out of it.  It makes me feel like, in a sense, I’m about to prove the world’s wisest man ever, King Solomon, wrong, when he said there’s nothing new under the sun.  (Though he’s still obviously right.)

Because everyday life events actually are more interesting than they seem.  They may just need to be seen from a reversed diagonal angle.

So now I’m embracing the fact that intermittent in all my quirky observations are actually little stories.  The tag “storyteller” became even more real to me yesterday as I was conspiring with my sister to write Which Role Do You Play in Your Family? When I asked her what my roles are, the word “storyteller” came up write away.

There are certain things about yourself you can only learn from other people.

Frank Lapidus

Maybe my surprise in all this is the connotation that the word “storyteller” conjures up in my head.  Some eccentric, animated man looking like Frank Lapidus from LOST (for some unknown reason) telling a corny ghost story to a bunch of kids gathered around a campfire who all gasp at the end of the tale when he says, “And the ghost of Tom Joad still haunts this campground today in the form of the wolf that killed him…”  And of course, right as he finishes that sentence, the storyteller’s buddy, who has been hanging out in the woods waiting for his cue, howls at the top of his lungs, for dramatic effect.

 

But now I get it.  Storytellers can also recite true stories.  Nonfiction.  That is my specialty.  And now that I better understand who I am as a writer and communicator, I am starting to realize my frustration when people don’t tell stories the way I like to tell them (and hear them).

Like the guy at work who drags out the end of the story until the last sentence.  And I think to myself, “You can’t do that!” Because I get annoyed waiting to find out the point of the story and I stop listening and start thinking about something else, and whatever I start thinking about instead ends up becoming a new post on this site a few days later.

Or the friend of a friend who uses the punch line or climax of the story as the opening line.  Again, “You can’t do that!”  Because then I feel like there’s really no point in sitting around to hear all the details.

What that tells me about my own form of storytelling is that I have a formula for it:

1)     Start the story in the first moment of action and/or the plotline.

2)     Get to the resolution of the story by the second paragraph, approximately 1/3rd or halfway through the length of the post (or if the story is being told orally, 1/3rd or halfway through the time set aside to tell the story).

3)     Spend the rest of the time or page space picking out the irony and humor of the story’s events.  By not ending the story when the story actually ends, but instead, ending on an provoking or comedic recap note, it opens up the door for the listeners to share in the story- because the story is resolved, yet left open-ended.  (Like the finale of LOST.)

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on storytelling, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog” by clicking on the link below:

dad from day one

Real Life Thoughts on Death and the Afterlife

 What if I was wrong this whole time?

At the times of my life where I have doubts about my faith, by default, a few things come to mind which always bring me back to security.  After all, it’s not so difficult to get distracted with thoughts like, “with all the different religions in the world, only one can be right…how do I know I picked the right one?” 

I instantly remind myself that Christianity is the only religion where a person can not be a good enough of person on their own to earn eternal life: Aside from doing “good works” (helping those in need) a person has to become humble enough to rely on the grace of God to save them, through faith. 

Both necessary elements of salvation (good works and God’s grace) are based in love.  Our love for all other people (which reflects our love for God) and God’s love for us. 

If nothing else, the fact that Christianity is the only major religion in the world that requires love for it to work, that’s enough for me: We love God by loving other people; He loves us by showing us grace (undeserved blessings). 

And while it may seem New Age, or like a medieval fairy tale, or even an idea as “out there” as something from the show LOST, I can’t deny that it’s impossible not to think about what happens when we die.  Especially when someone in real life, that I know personally, dies. 

I don’t see how a person could go to a funeral and not seriously question what will happen when they themselves die.  It takes so much faith to say, “I belief when we die, we die” or “I’m a pretty good person, if there’s a heaven or an afterlife, I think I’ll make it”.  I don’t have enough faith to say that.

And since I have less faith, I instead believe in Christianity.  Because for me, it takes a lot of pressure off of me.  My good works aren’t the cause of my salvation; they’re the proof of it.  The rest, God’s has already taken care and is taking care of and will always take care of.

Worst case scenario: I’m wrong.  I live my entire life under the belief that a sinless Jewish man over 2,000 years ago somehow took on all the wrongdoings of every person in the world’s past and future by allowing Himself to die so that He could live with them in eternity, then came back to life to tell us to let everyone know that He loves them and that we should love others through our actions. 

So I spend time studying an ancient holy book written by a bunch of (mainly) Jews, memorizing the highlights of it that stick out the most to me.  And instead of by instinct worrying about things I can’t control (like trying to sell my house), I pray about them in the best faith I have, knowing that God will be glorified through it. 

And by doing my best to follow the teachings of that ancient book, I end up staying out of trouble, for the most part.  I eventually die and at my funeral people say that I was a good person and that I loved the Lord.

But in this worst case scenario, let’s say I was wrong about it all.  Let’s say that this life really is all there is- so I die and that’s it.  I have no consciousness or memory; I exist no more.  Like I was never born.

That worst case scenario is a risk I’m willing to take.

But aside from me thinking that Christianity is the best fit for me compared to other religions, aside from the fact that death itself makes me think about what happens when I die, there is the fact that life itself points me to a Creator. 

And if there is a Creator who took the creative thought and the time to invent the universe and the people in it, there I want to know who He is.  And if I know who He is, I want Him to like me.  And if I want Him to like me, I’m gonna find a way to do it.

So I did.  And ultimately, all those “God-given” thoughts led me to becoming a Christian. 

Christianity in a nut shell:

Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, not that of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one may boast. (Shows the importance of being humble enough through faith to accept God’s love for us through the sacrifice of Jesus.)

 Ephesians 2:10 “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared behforehand so that we would walk in them.”  (Shows the importance of our love for other people through our good works, which mirrors God’s love for us and is proof that we love God.)

dad from day one: What Does a Real Baby Do?

Fifteen weeks.

My expectations of what it will be like for my wife and I to have a real baby are pretty limited.  When I try to imagine it, I can only think about a few things: the baby crying, the baby being hungry, feeding the baby, the baby wanting to be held, holding the baby, the baby pooping, changing the baby’s diapers, the baby sleeping, us wishing we could sleep.

And aside from the 80’s sitcom stereotypes, I of course am well aware, thanks to everyone who has ever been a parent and given me any advice: There’s nothing in the world more rewarding than being a parent.

In November I will begin to feel like a real parent (once the kid is born).  Until then I won’t really truly be able to understand or fathom this most rewarding thing in the world.

It’s funny to think that eventually we won’t be comparing our baby to the size of a certain fruit.  (This week our baby is the size of a naval orange.) Eventually, our baby will be the size of a baby.  Interesting thought.

Excerpt from “the bump.com”, regarding week 15:

“Continuing the march towards normal proportions, baby’s legs now outmeasure the arms. And, finally, all four limbs have functional joints. Your fetus is squirming and wiggling like crazy down in the womb, though you probably still can’t feel the movements.”

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

http://community.thebump.com/cs/ks/blogs/nb_checklists/pages/how-big-is-baby.aspx?r=0&MsdVisit=1