My Story Continues And Ends With Profanity

  • Garden writer starts with a small regional paper
  • Moves to a larger city paper
  • Writes a book
  • Gets an agent
  • Gets published several times.
  • Wins award for best writing in garden books
  • Starts writing online
  • Get several more print books published
  • Internet bubble takes out publishing companies. Advances shrink (really low if at all.)
  • Writer goes all in on Internet and advertising revenue
  • Create seven websites – a gardening empire
  • Facebook comes along
  • Intrepid writer continues
  • E-books arrive and writer begins publishing himself.
  • Welcomes Facebook.
  • Welcomes YouTube.
  • Welcomes e-books at Amazon.
  • Writer shuts down six of the time sucking, low-income websites.
  • Uploads multiple e-books.
  • Facebook, YouTube and Google search all have algorithms determining content value
  • Writer and garden-expert can’t compete with Facebook’s own internal content, forums etc. Shuts down his membership site and Q&A forums.
  • Keeps Amazon ebooks.
  • Pretty much stopped Facebook as he refuses to work for free for the biggest and richest content source in the world.
  • Youtube is being evaluated for value. (update: video at Facebook is being evaluated as you read this.)
  • Writer realizes his gardening experience won’t get passed down unless he gives it all away and finds another way to eat and pay the mortgage.
  • Writer takes a deep breath, says, “screw it” and retires from full time garden writing.
  • Writer realizes he’s a storyteller at heart, so he switches to fiction.

The story continues…

A few weeks after I wrote this draft, the data came out that video at both Youtube and Facebook were now the preferred way for delivering content on the Net. In other words, video was now more popular than text and the two largest Networks controlled video delivery.

As you might expect, I’ll have more on this in the near future.

(Insert “F” profanity), here we go again.

I’m Having A Mid-Life Crisis

I’ve probably said this a thousand times in the past year, “I never thought I’d retire.” Part of that is I’m a storyteller and I can’t see stopping telling stories. Just can’t.

Another part is I didn’t plan to retire. I have no idea how to retire. And I’m not totally convinced I want to retire.

Instead of retiring, I think I’m going to have yet-another mid-life crisis. Having one of those has always worked for me in the past. I’m probably up to ten or eleven of them.

How does a seventy-something have a mid-life crisis?

How does a seventy-something have a mid-life crisis? The answer to that is the same way his twenty-seven year old self did when he built his first small greenhouse on the back of his house. He simply looked at what he was doing in his civil-service, hospital job, tossed every option into the air and sees what catches his fancy as they all drifted down to crash onto the floor.

And yes, some of you may not consider your 70’s as “mid-life.” I have no idea either but if I decide I’m mid-life it gives me far more options than if I decide I’m “old-life.”

So everything – absolutely everything – has been tossed into the air.

The process is simple

The process is simple.

  1. Write out a list of the things I’d most like to do.
  2. Eliminate the impossibles.
  3. Consider what remains.

I’ve decided playing in the NHL is likely out of my reach. For the record, as a high-school aged athlete, I played goalie against a few players who went onto hockey careers. When their slap-shots were pinging off the posts and I’d never seen the puck coming, I knew it was time for two things: 1) get glasses and 2) never, ever get back between the pipes. Both of those things have been successfully accomplished.

Ditto driving for F1 or NASCAR. I don’t think I could afford the laundry bill I’d need after driving at those speeds surrounded by some totally crazy drivers intent of passing me one way or the other. I mean, have you ever seen what a car does when it’s going about 200 mph and somebody deliberately gives you a “push” with their bumper on the rear of your car?

I’ve either driven or been in a car in Toronto, Montreal, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, France and Jordan in rush hour – those were all close enough.

FYI – the craziest, without a doubt, was Amman, Jordan. As an example, I was in a car on a regular city road – two lanes (one in each direction)- when rush-hour drivers morphed it into a three-lane road all going in one direction. Want to go in the other direction? Sorry you’re SOL.

Garden writing?

What about more garden writing? Well, let me tell you a true story. I had a small but specialized flower nursery with about 20,000 square feet of greenhouse growing space (plus some outdoor beds) along with an equal sized retail operation. We grew somewhere around 1900 species/varieties of perennials and 600-800 kinds of annuals and vegetables. It supported the family and it was pleasant enough work to support our decision to live in the country.

I gave a talk to a local group about starting seeds and one of the Harrowsmith magazine editors was also speaking. After the seminar, she asked me if I’d consider putting my talk into an article format. I said sure. (With 4 growing kids, you don’t refuse any gig.)

It took me about an hour to write up my notes into an article. Another hour or two editing it and it was shoved into mail and forgotten in the ongoing nursery work.
A while later, a package from the magazine arrived with my article nicely laid out between the covers and more importantly a rather large (for the time) cheque.

  • My response was to look at the size of the cheque.
  • Remember the number of hours I spent on it.
  • Decide this was far more profitable and pleasant than fixing balky furnaces at 2am when it’s 40F below and you have 10-15 minutes to get the furnace fixed or drop $20,000 of your gross income.

Over the next few years, I wrote more and more to become an award-winning garden writer and never regretted it for a second.

But then the Internet and “fake news” arrived. Sigh…

I’m not getting into a content production battle

Garden writing has changed with the rise of social media and content farms producing garden information. I once met the owner of one of these content farms at a wedding and we had a really interesting discussion over dinner about what his team did. But as a single writer, I can’t duplicate what they’re doing. I no longer even want to try.

And don’t get me going about fake gardeners who promote “solutions” like milk powder for tomato blossom end rot or Epsom salts for damn near every other garden problem.

Getting into a content production battle isn’t on my life list of things I want to do. I’m tired of that fight so while I’ll continue to post, I’ve cut back… way back.

And what about fiction?

I just finished putting both of my pen names on hold. Lots of fun to write but I’m retired and I’m putting damn near everything on hold to evaluate and decide what I want to do. I may bring them back and I may not.

Hence the mid-life crisis (again).

I have other stories I’d like to tell and some tech “stuff” I’d like to play with. I have personal gardens to build, tons of stone to pile creatively, friends to hang with, cool plants to find, books to read (oh, so many books and new ideas!) and a mid-life crisis to enjoy.

There’s a good chance I’ll return to storytelling and writing but…

What’s next? Who knows? I’ll have to get back to you.

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A Crazy Week Went Sideways

It must have been the rain. Or, friends and family visiting. Or, not enough alcohol. Or…

Well, I have no idea why my week went sideways, up-ways, down-ways and just plain crazy-ways.

I started messing about with Google Web Stories software and after a few hours with the app, manuals etc. I asked myself the critical question of why I was planning of turning one of my books into an electronic fun house of strange technology?

Why was I thinking of making interactive videos to explain X and Y in gardening when I already had that information in an ebook? Why give the data away for free when readers resisted paying $.99 for it?

Why spend a week of my life so website visitors could get the info for free and avoid spending a buck?

I couldn’t come up with a good answer other than the old one that’s always stood me in good stead – I tell web stories and this is new software and I’d like to see if my readers like it. (And I confess, I really like playing with bright and shiny new software.) 🙂

I spent the morning, pushing and pulling bits of “easy to use” boxes hither and yon on the page (mostly “yon” I think as a few of them disappeared all by themselves). But then I deleted the software as it was a time sucker. I find it fascinating though with what might be accomplished in interactive learning when the software matures a bit.

The data is already on my website. Or video. Or, it’s in an ebook. And it’s a $ buck or a couple.

I’m over it.

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Five Thoughts I’m Working On

I’ve been working like a beaver on reimagining and rethinking what my so-called, creative retirement looks like.  There are a ton of questions in my notes and few concrete answers at this time. (But the potential answers are shining out on my notes as I collect and rewrite them on summary pages.)

This post is a followup post to this one.

First Thought

Don’t laugh at this post. But really, if you do – have a good one.

Seriously. I’m a creative with a hundred ideas roiling around in my brain at any given moment.  It took a lot of thinking and I killed a lot of trees in those notebooks and went through the nibs on several fountain pens over the past year to finally come to these thoughts and get them down on paper.

Second Thought

I’ve come up with three questions as of the end of June 2021

  • Does this activity help me be a better person?
  • Does this activity help me live longer?
  • Does this activity help me create cool shit?

These three are the key questions but I felt I needed a few extra notes to clarify some points in my own head. 

Third Thought

  • Does this activity help me sell books or other creative outputs?  
  • Is selling the main objective or am I doing it for the sheer hell of creation.

Fourth Thought

Is it fun?  Because if it’s not fun, there better be a damn good reason I’m doing it.

Finally, Number Five

Is it going to help somebody else?

Bottom Line

  • I’m going to work/attempt to apply these questions to as many of the things I’m currently doing (or planning on doing). I’m crafting my own creative retirement and I think these five thoughts/questions are a good starting point.
  • The things I’ll be doing don’t have to tick all of the above points but they do have to focus on more than one of the above thoughts (and the more, the merrier.)

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Being Retired Gives Me New Options

Apparently I’m now retired and I’m adapting to this new stage in my life faster and faster. The first year after I was summarily told, “You’re retired,” by my better half was rather “interesting” as I sorted out what this really meant.

Did I have to stop doing stuff and clean up the golf clubs? Do I …. Or, should I…

If I told you I have a year’s worth of morning notes working out what it means to be a retired writer/creator, that should be enough to illustrate the point.

I filled notebook after notebook with ideas and angst. Until I finally sorted it out.

Being retired means I have choices every morning.

I get to decide which of my many projects I want to tackle or indeed even if I want to take on anything.

Don’t feel like writing about gardening? OK – don’t. Want to make a video? OK – do. Want to take the day off? Fine by me. Want to outline a new fiction book? Sounds like fun.

Get the picture? I haven’t stopped writing and creating but I’ve really taken the load off by having the freedom to pick and choose some, all or none of the above every morning over coffee.

In many ways, it’s increased the idea generating part of my brain. My morning notes are more positive (even with Covid) and yet I have a rather large problem.

I have so many choices. Too many choices and ideas. LOL. Now, I have to rank order these things and make choices about what to do .

One major decision

The biggest decision was quality over speed. How to introduce Transmedia storytelling into all the things I write. (link to one of my fiction sites where I’ve begun the process behind the scenes.) It seems it would make sense and maybe even be fun to introduce a variety of media into each post or story. I’ll get back to you on this.

As social media – Facebook and Youtube – have now won the content wars and video making is more lucrative than text, it’s time for me to move forward in new storytelling directions.

I’m still working this out but I’ll report on it when it starts to come together.

Second Major Decision

It’s very much a realization that I can no longer do it all. (If I ever could) But now, I no longer even trying. Some things have to come off my to-do list. This too is a work in progress.

Third Major Decision

I’m going to write and create in any one of my genres or real-world creative endeavours when and how I please.

Fourth Major Decision

This blog will continue as a text-only blog for the foreseeable future. It gives me a place to write about things that don’t fit in any other genre.

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Websites, Storytellers and Dry Stone Walls

Here are a few random thoughts that have been in my morning notes the last week or so.

  • Websites are to display a storyteller’s humanity not to provide the end product – the story.
  • I no longer refer to myself as a writer.
  • Instead, I’d put “Storyteller” on a business card. When you use words, images, audio and video, you’re well beyond just writing.

And how, dear reader, would you define yourself in a more positive way?

Dry Stone Walls

I build dry stone walls as a hobby and they’re a permanent and very real, solid weight. They’re much more satisfying in a way that a website will never replicate. If I were a few years younger, I might have pursued this more seriously rather than as a hobby. I’m not particularly good at it but I do enjoy it immensely.

One of my dry stone walls around my garden

The objective is to care, and care deeply about at least a few things in your life.

The Imperfection of the Net

Six months after my death, the majority of my work for the past 25 years will be electronic chaff.

Stoicism helps. I read “The Daily Stoic” every morning as I’m drinking my tea or coffee.

Questions, Questions, Questions

One question I’m dealing with as a creator right now – I have a massive electronic “trail” of content sitting online. Do I backdate and improve it or do I simply let it go and move forward in new ways. (Not only this site but my gardening site has hundreds of posts that need updating, repairing.)

Does the backdating and improving provide value both to my readers and to myself?

I’m leaning towards simply moving forward.

Got an opinion? Tell me below.