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My regular Microblog Mondays habit has made me forget how to write. Or more correctly, it has made me forget how to write short sentences. I’m perhaps more naturally inclined to longer sentences, but I do try to write clearly and simply. I want to say only what is needed or is helpful, but that’s not always easy. I remember my thesis supervisor telling me that I wrote well, saying that my simplicity was a strength. I remember feeling surprised.

Yet when I joined a particular organisation a couple of years later, I didn’t feel that simplicity was a strength. In that organisation, it seemed to matter who your parents were, or where you went to school, the accent you spoke with, and how you pontificated, as much as what you thought or how you performed. Written messages were shared widely throughout the organisation, and this led to what I would call competitive prose. I remember laughing once at someone’s particularly arrogant message, when they used an obscure word but in completely the wrong context. My laughter wasn’t cruel, but rather it came from pure relief that all these seemingly arrogant people weren’t perfect. Maybe, at times, they were as insecure as I was?

In my late 20s, I had a new manager who wrote in short, at times ugly, but simple and clear sentences. It was a dramatic difference to his predecessor, who was Cambridge educated and prided himself on his more lyrical, often overblown style of writing. I fitted somewhere in between the two styles, but was encouraged to adapt my own style to that of my new manager. (Somehow, this prestigious organisation never really accepted that style did not, in fact, equal substance.)  I found it easy to shorten my sentences, and to insert a full-stop (period) instead of a comma.

In subsequent places of employment, I was freer to write in a way that came naturally, or that was, appropriately, tailored to the audience or the purpose.

Business writing is, of course, quite different to blogging or creative writing. I can be more conversational, and I can vary my style from sentence to sentence. I love the freedom this brings. I can be brief. Or not so brief.

Microblog Monday posts though, have played havoc with my writing style. I adopted the suggested eight-sentence limit as a rule rather than a guideline, and I’ve been doing it for so long now that I feel as if I can’t stop. If I stop, I’ve been defeated. So I carefully edit my Monday posts to eight sentences. I use colons and semi-colons, parentheses and brackets and dashes, all in the pursuit of eight sentences. That’s not my natural style either. I’d probably never even written a sentence with a semi-colon before Microblog Mondays came about.

I can’t blame Microblog Mondays though. If I wrote more often, breaking away from my self-imposed Monday discipline, I might find my own voice again. I want to try. And so I hope this will be a case of “watch this space” rather than a rolling of the eyes and a sarcastic “yeah, right.”

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700

This is my 700th post on A Separate Life since I started this blog in January 2009. It was by then my third, no, fourth blog, after a 365-day blogging project got me hooked on writing, and an alphabetical project that saw me go through the alphabet several times here and on a travel blog. At the

At the outset, I was quite a purist and focused on words, not pictures. Since then I’ve done some photo blogging, but always with words as well as pictures. Lists, once also viewed as a cop-out, have become more frequent visitors here too. I’ve shared some good times and some of those not so good, introduced you to some of my favourite things and places, had the occasional rant, and talked about the life of a Kiwi.

But the thing that makes me happiest are the people who come to visit, the ones who have been around since 2006 or who have become regulars more recently. I’ve been privileged to share my life with you all, and hope you’ll stick around as I try to make it to 1000.

 

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I’m going to drip-feed a few travel stories from my trip, but I need more than eight sentences, so won’t be doing it on Mondays. I wrote a first story on the weekend here (The Great Puffin Hunt), and may continue writing on a new travel blog.

Yes, I know I have been procrastinating about restarting a travel blog for a long time, but the thing is, it is all bound up with procrastination over relaunching a travel business (designing custom-made itineraries for travellers) that I started many years ago. Back then, at the same time that I was starting to get clients, I also began getting a lot more (and better paid) consulting work that took all my time and energy. Consequently, my fledgling little business was sadly neglected and has effectively been put on hold for the last decade or so.

Times have changed, and whilst there is much more information available on the internet now to assist travellers, it can also be overwhelming and extremely time-consuming, so I still believe there is a market out there. I’m almost ready to relaunch it now, but I am still figuring a few things out, at the same time trying to boost my confidence. So at this stage, all I can say is watch this space.

 

Microblog_Mondays

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I love the feeling of a new year. I know it is all just artificial, but I like the feeling that I’m leaving a year behind, with all the sadness and helplessness and lethargy that I felt last year left in the past too. So I’m not going to review my last year of blogging, even though I’d already written an eight sentence post all ready for today, and likewise, I’m not going to make any resolutions for the coming year either, as that just dooms me to failure.

However, I do have some good intentions; I want to try some new things this year, some new challenges, maybe something new with photos, and I know it has been a long time since I blogged daily for a month, and I might try that again too, though I’m not making any promises. There might be a gap in the middle of the year, as I explore new places, but that should, I hope, just provide further material for blogging.

Actually, lacking material for blogging has never really been my problem, given that I have a Word document for this blog that holds all my published posts, a long list of possible blog topics, and quite a few drafts (over 200), some only a title or with a few notes, some half-heartedly half-started, others (only a few) that might be largely completed but unpublished posts, posts perhaps that I wasn’t satisfied with, or didn’t feel right for the time but will be one day. This document is where I draft all of my posts, and serves as a backup for my blog, and after reading some warnings about people losing their entire blogs saved on WordPress or Blogger, I have for some years saved it automatically to the cloud (so I can access it anywhere and anytime I like), as well as periodically backing it up on an external hard drive (there’s been too much work to lose it all). That’s my public service announcement, timely today as I read this morning that a friend accidentally deleted one of my all-time favourite posts of hers, and has no back-up.

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I discovered Loribeth in 2010 or 2011, finding at the same time a woman my age who seems to speak my language. Along with some of my other favourite Friends-Not-Yet-Met, she hails from Canada, a country that New Zealanders always feel that we know much better than we actually do. So Loribeth teaches me about life in Canada, the freezing winters and the hot, humid summers, the huge distances they travel (she’s taking me – virtually at least – on a road trip right now), the busy cities. She’s a writer and a reader, and as a result of her reviews, many non-fiction memoirs have now been added to my To-Read list, to be tackled one-day-when-I-have-time.

We may be separated by half the world, but I feel that we have much in common. Like everyone I write about in this series, I hope to meet Loribeth one day. I suspect it will be in Canada or the US, and the fact that she lives in the same city as some other Friends-Not-Yet-Met and near still others just across the border greatly increases the possibility of a meeting. Still, I regularly encourage her to escape the harsh Canadian winter and enjoy a gentle New Zealand summer, including a glass of wine on our deck (wind permitting).

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It’s the New Year. Whilst that often brings a feeling of renewal, a chance to change what hasn’t worked, and to wipe the previous year’s troubles away, this year it feels harder to do that for a number of reasons. But I need to shake that off, and take the time to look back  – with the assistance of the WordPress annual report on my blog (thanks, WordPress) – and ahead, too.

2015 was my blogging year of the photo, with 148 photos uploaded. I participated in a photo-blogging project in May and afterwards wanted to keep that up. So I’ve progressively used more photos to brighten my blog, and complement my posts. I’ll try to continue this in 2016.

I posted 99 times last year, which is frustrating to learn on 1 January. If only I’d checked my annual report yesterday, I could have reached 100. Still, it isn’t even twice a week, especially not when you consider the daily posts in May. So a resolution for 2016 is to try to post more often, and not rely just on #Microblog Mondays.

Still, I posted every Monday for #Microblog Mondays, and that was and continues to be a good discipline.

One of my most popular posts in 2015 was written in 2011. It was Ten Bad Smells. Makes you wonder what people google, doesn’t it?

I had visitors from 82 countries! That’s pretty amazing, though USA, Canada, NZ, UK, and India contributed the most readers.

Once again the loyal and insightful Indigo Bunting, my first ever commenter back on 1 December 2006, was my most prolific commenter. I think she deserves a gift. Hmmm, I might be able to arrange that.

This year, I hope to blog more. I’ll keep doing little snippets about life and Wellington and drives I take, but really, how often can I write about the harbour or a favourite café without getting endlessly repetitive? So I want to be a bit more thoughtful this next year. Please, hold me to it!

Finally, I love all of you who bother to read, whether you comment or not. Though commenters (see above), do hold a special place in my heart! Hint. Hint.

Happy New Year!

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I’m a bit of a serial “liker” on that well known social media site that a friend of mine calls FutterBucket. “Liking” is easy. In a simple click, it seems that I can fulfil all my social obligations of being present for my friends. I do, though, worry that sometimes people will think that I just click away willy-nilly, without thought, just to be seen. I saw someone today post an image (from George Takei) with a selection of suggested FutterBucket buttons, including one that said, “Like so I don’t have to comment.”  I cringed a little bit, because yes, I admit that sometimes I do this.  Usually, though, I don’t. Usually I click “Like” if I’ve genuinely laughed, or agreed, or simply want the person to know that I’ve read them, that I’ve witnessed an event in their lives, that I’ve heard their thought or concern, that I can relate.

However, a few weeks ago I read an article by someone who stopped “liking” things on the internet for a period of a few weeks. They wanted to see how this would affect the way they used FutterBucket, and how they interacted with their friends and acquaintances on the internet. That sounds an intriguing experiment, I thought, and promptly forced myself to stop “liking” things too.  I haven’t “liked” anything for about two weeks now.  Around the same time, I signed up on another site for a one-week blog commenting commitment. The combination of these commitments has made me think about the way I interact with others on the internet.

I had worried that if I stopped “liking” things on FutterBucket, I would lose the feeling of connection with my friends. But in fact, it was the opposite. If I felt there was nothing to say, I didn’t say it, and I didn’t click “like.” But when I did say something, I usually got a better response, on both FutterBucket and blogs. A conversation began or a closer connection was made. I felt more engaged, more thoughtful, more present for my friend or blogger.

I decided too to observe how I reacted to receiving “likes” or comments to things I might have said or posted. Did I shrug and move on, or did I engage? I realised that I do consciously note who “likes” something, and I’m always appreciative they took the time to click. There is an interaction, and sometimes that interaction is unexpected, and makes my day. It meets a need, fills a purpose, however small.  And if I notice this, then it makes sense that others might notice when I do it too. And perhaps when I don’t.  So I recognise that over the last week or two I may have seemed to disappear to some people. Whether they did in fact notice, or whether they cared, I’ll probably never know.  I can only fully engage with those who comment, as they can only engage with me when I say something. For example, I’ve just had a light, fun conversation with a friend in California about New Zealand food. If one of us had just “liked” something, as I probably would have a few weeks ago, and left it at that, we would never have had this brief moment of connection. It made me laugh, I learned something new, and I hope it made her smile too.

And on both FutterBucket and blogs, my latest experiment got me thinking about those who never comment, who never engage with me, who never reciprocate. I feel fine that there are people reading my blogs (especially my other blog, that receives hundreds of hits a day) who never comment. They don’t want (or are not ready) to comment, but they must find something that is valuable there. I’m comfortable with that. Flattered, even. But I can think of a few people – both on FutterBucket and on blogs – who receive comments from me regularly, but rarely, if ever, comment or acknowledge me in return. Maybe my comments/likes are unwanted.  They’re certainly unsolicited. Do I do it because I feel I should, because I feel it is the polite thing to do?  Yes, to an extent.  But now I think that that’s not necessary.  So I start to wonder if my constant comments/likes make me appear needy or annoying? That’s not what I should be asking myself though. I need to ask myself if I get any benefit from reading these people. If I do, what should I care whether they reciprocate if I feel moved to comment? I shouldn’t.  I should just take it all at face value. (And lo, I see the beginnings of another post.)

In conclusion, as a brief experiment, my ban on clicking “Like” really just confirmed what is common sense. As humans, we want to interact with and relate to our fellow humans. Calling “me too” or nodding or clapping helps. But it isn’t sufficient. It’s better than doing nothing though, and I’ve decided that there is definitely a place for it. So I’ll go back to clicking “Like.” But I will think now before I do it, and will try to type more frequently – and more thoughtfully – than I click.

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