Truthful Tuesday (from 24 Nov 2020)

I saw an answer to this one yesterday and thought it was an interesting question. It’s one of the Truthful Tuesday prompt series, and PCGuyIV asks:

Do you now or have you ever been employed doing what you love?
Do you agree with this saying [presumably work to live or live to work] or is it a bunch of poppycock, and why?

Yes, I’ve spent a lot of my career doing something I love – I design and write software. It is truly satisfying sitting down with a blank piece of paper and then designing, then implementing, something, which solves a particular problem. I can’t ever imagine myself not doing that, whether paid or not.

And, because this is software, it is all in my head. Any disabilities I might have are irrelevant. I’m every bit as strong now as when I was able-bodied.

My latest project – it is just at the initial stage of going live – is a small web site containing COVID numbers, just for our village. Nobody asked me to do it, but they are numbers that I’ve been collecting for a while and thought I would share. Hopefully other people will find them useful, too.

It is still work. When I worked for the banks up in London, even though I felt ever so fortunate to be doing something I enjoyed, I still had to be there. My time out of the house was about 6:30AM – 7:30PM, Monday to Friday. I wonder how many others would fancy those hours? Plus I did other odds and sods besides.

There were obviously other sources of discomfort, the main one being when clients expected something impossible, which happened all the time. But they were just the chaff – writing the systems themselves, I’d have done for food.

So the second part of the question, work was about half of life. Mathematically. 13+/24 hours, 5+/7 days. If work’s enjoyability didn’t play a massive role in life’s enjoyability, something would have been very wrong!

Open Book Blog Hop (wb 16 November 2020)

In her Open Book Blog Hop, Stevie asks:

Has the pandemic affected your writing? If so, how? Have your writing habits changed in reaction to the ‘different’ world we are faced with?

Okay, it’s a tricky one this week, just because I’m not a writer. Not literature, anyway. So I’ll interpret the question as a more general regular activity rather than writing, specifically .

Actually, my regular activity is writing, but software rather than literature. And I ramped that down, just because there seemed to be more important things to be doing.

Over the last few years I’ve been doing some voluntary work. It is only calling people to chit-chat, but that human contact is important, especially when many of the clients are isolated anyway. At the start of lockdown, I said “if there is anything more I can do…” and my list doubled overnight!

Ostensibly, it was tangible things, “do you have enough food?”, but over time the intangible came to the fore, people’s mental health. Some people went crazy, while for others lockdown was no different to any other day. Please take a moment to let that sink in – some people are forced to live every day as though they are locked down. But while that is terrible, when lockdown did happen, these people already had their logistics sorted. Many people are still locked down (from February, they have never not been locked down) and I am still in contact with them.

So, there was one “regular activity” which got ramped up.

Another was blogging. Before, I posted 3-4 times per week, but I thought it was important to put out some kind of regular “heartbeat” message. Because when we post, whatever the subject, we’re also saying “I am OK”. It’s weird, because there’s nothing we can actually do if somebody isn’t OK, but we care anyway. I do, I’m sure you do, too.

So I started posting daily. I got involved with a few more prompts, which helped find something to write about. A lot of these were just links to a song or a photo, but I was posting daily. And, I tried my hand at fiction and poetry, because… why not? Between you and me, I’m really pleased with how the poetry has gone – absolute nonsense but I enjoy writing it, I find it easy, and people seem to like reading it.

So while I’m not so sure I’d measure volume, I’ve certainly found my scope has broadened.

Blogging Insights (wb 9 November 2020)

Dr Tanya asks a few this week, but don’t worry, each one is quite short.

Evergreen or Topical content, which do you prefer writing?

I don’t really differentiate between the two, and writing one or the other depends on my mood. I also like to mix things up a bit.

In the sense that a lot of my posts are responses to prompts, and prompts are issued on a certain date, then you might say that a lot of my posts are topical.

However, when I come up with responses, most of the actual content is evergreen, so I’ll go with that instead. Poems, flash fiction, or even about my beliefs… none of them have a shelf-life.

I try not to overdose on subjects like politics, some of which is topical. Sometimes I just feel so strongly about something that I let off steam. Often, politicians are inconsistent, and I don’t mind pointing that out. But in general, it isn’t that I’m not interested, but more because I think people don’t want to be reading that. I don’t, not all the time.

Which do you write most often?

Evergreen, probably, although I don’t keep count. I’m certainly conscious that I don’t want to ram things like politics down people’s throats.

Which of these adds more value or engagement to your blog?

Value? That’s for the reader to decide.

Engagement? Funnily enough, I think my poetry, which I consider to be mostly evergreen, seems to attract the most readers and likes. It’s quite difficult to tell because again, I don’t keep tabs, but just taking a cursory look at my list of posts, poetry seems to attract as much as 50% more likes than straightforward prose posts. For my part, if people enjoy reading this nonsense then I am encouraged to keep writing it. But at the same time, I don’t want to write just poetry.

As for engagement via comments, I have no idea. I try to field each comment as it comes in, but don’t look any deeper. Most comments are from people I already know (in the blogosphere) and actually, it would be nice to sometimes receive something short from people who “like”, but don’t comment, even if just to say Hi.

Open Book Blog Hop (wb 9 November 2020)

In her Open Book Blog Hop, Stevie asks:

What would be the hardest thing for you to give up?

Okay, Stevie splits her response into a few different strands, so I shall do the same.

On one level, it is my meds. A couple of things with me were known many years before the stroke, but I certainly didn’t take them seriously and neither, I think, did my doctors. And then I had a stroke. I mean, during that “stroke” event, all the meds were overhauled, but also, I’m much more hands-on.

I think we, as patients, need to have a mindset that a doctor will be happy to advise us as best they can, but when all is said and done, they don’t really give a monkey’s. And that is how it must be – we have to be in charge of our own health. But the flip-side is that we can’t afford to think my doctor’s got me covered. Because they don’t.

Okay, more lightweight things. I use my computer pretty much all day, every day. Especially with the internet, it gives me that level of communication that I don’t have in real life – a lot of stroke survivors lead sedentary lives. The other thing, I worked all my life in programming computers, so I got back into that and it helped me get my brain back, sharpen myself up again. Things like actually using the computer have become harder, nuts and bolts like typing and reading the screen, but I get by.

I’m speaking from experience, here, too, because I did have to give up the computer for about six months after the stroke – my eyes weren’t good enough to see the screen properly. Fortunately that improved, although when I started back again I had to use a magnifying-glass program to see everything. Even now, I listen if I can and have worked out several ways of doing that.

So there’s another thing I wouldn’t like to give up.

Lastly, tea, because… who could?

Incidentally, one thing I managed to do with pretty much no problem was to give up the company of people, specifically during Lockdown. You might be surprised how little my day-to-day life has changed since last year. You might also be surprised how many people, particularly the elderly, this applies to. Okay, coming clean, I live with my wife, but she is all the company I need. The longer this goes on, the more I realise that my world is in my head – and in my computer!

Blogging Insights (2 November 2020)

Tanya asks this week:

Can you share some tips and tricks for using the new Gutenberg editor on WordPress ?

Okay, I have a tip. When you want to put a little section-break in a post, there is a block called the “Separator” block. It has the option of an inch-long, centered break, as I did above, or a full-line break, as I will do below.

And it supports different colours, if that floats your boat.

The reason? Why not create a break using underscores? _____

Well, when my reader picks up that construct, it repeats the word “underscore” many times over. Can you imagine a whole line of eighty-odd underscores? Can you imagine how annoying that is?

The effect is that I stop reading the post. All that writing effort, wasted! Can you imagine, people rate their time so cheaply?

This is not simply my little peeve, but an inclusivity thing – it is an appreciation that some people might not use their eyes to take in a post. Do people want to make their posts accessible, or not?

Incidentally, I noticed that when I copied Tanya’s question, she’d made it bold and italic, to make it stand out. She could have just used the “Heading” block instead.