Posts Tagged ‘blogging’

on writing and story telling

Like most people I started writing at school where essays were regularly required on a range of topics according to the subject being taught. Although we were usually given a target number of words, 500 being common, we were rarely kept to this, 10% under or over would normally be OK and, of course, you had to have addressed the subject.

The only time that I can remember being given a specific target was as a punishment when I was found with a Free Nelson Mandela badge on my duffle bag, such adornments being forbidden, and was told to write two essays, one in support of his release and the other in support of his continued confinement and both of which were to e exactly 500 words. I had a week, and delivered both. I’m not sure if they were read, they were not commented on, but the words were certainly counted.

After I had left school my first couple of jobs involved me writing about properties for sale and here an economy of words was required to attract people rather than bore them. After those jobs I moved into areas where the only writing that I did was to fill in forms and, this being the early days of computer input, such forms were filled in using capital letters set into pre-printed boxes. My handwriting skills faded along with any ability that I might have had to write.

In the late 1970s I moved into a job where I wrote invitations to tender for major engineering and construction projects. I had to re-learn handwriting to a standard good enough for the typing pool to interpret and how to tell stories in a way that would produce responses that would do the jobs that were were asking for. It was another opportunity to be economical with language in order to be very specific.

Then I got into computing and wrote programs using the very structured language of business machines (BOBOL was my genre, for want of a better word). It was story telling of a sort, in that you told the computer what to do to make things happen. It was an intellectual challenge to apply the specific syntax required, but was almost like learning to write in a foreign language. It was called pseudo code and was a staging post between English and the machine code that would be generated from it.

Business report writing followed that and here I was back in the world of writing in my native tongue, or at least sort of. It was story telling in that you had to write words that would lead to a conclusion and the tale that you had to tell did not always lead conclusively to the end that was required. There was a skill in biasing the facts so that the reader would follow your path to where you wanted them to go. Paths that might have led to other conclusions needed to be there, but written of in such a way that the reader would not choose to follow them. This allowed for the situation where the chosen solution proved to be the wrong one, but you could show that the right option had been there, but was not selected. The technical term for this is arse covering.

Until the advent of desktop computers and word processing in the mid-1980s the typing pool ruled business correspondence and the typing supervisor’s word was law. The house style ruled and no matter what you wrote it would be tidied before it was allowed out (unless you had upset them; I recall a colleague who misspelled warehouse with an h after the w and did not make the next letter clearly an a. The result was a proposal for an whorehouse). One could learn a lot about writing well if one courted that typing pool supervisor.

I became reasonably good at writing business correspondence in all forms and it was some help in advancing my career until Business Speak, or Management Speak, came to the fore and my penchant for writing plain English went out of fashion. The ability to write, or speak, completely meaningless bollocks became the skill to have. I loathed it.

My first efforts at blogging came after I went freelance as a business consultant. A web presence of some sort was necessary to keep my name out there and I dived in looking for my cyberspace voice. It was in an airport lounge in the US that I found my muse. I was sat with one of those yellow legal pads that are the norm over there scribbling down ideas for blogs. Sat next to me was a rather frail looking lady and we began to chat. She was a journalist who also worked as a freelance editor and was suffering from terminal cancer. She had been making a visit to former colleagues and was heading home to die, but she took one of my business cards and said that she would look at my writing. Her advice was to aim for 600 words each week and to say something at the beginning of each blog that I could bring the story back to in the last paragraph. “Become a columnist” she advised.

I took that on board for some time and if you dig back into these musings you will find that I hit 600 words week after week and a lot of those blogs I am quite proud of when I look back on them (which isn’t often). It was hard work and I admire the people who do that sort of thing for a living. When I began to earn money from writing features three years of banging out 1600 words once a month was hard enough, but to write a daily, or even weekly, column is a talent that I admire immensely.

As may be obvious if you are following me I have begun to write regularly again. I am trying to find my way back into writing more often if not regularly. Part of the issue is having something to say. but there are five part completed novels sitting in my files and to get one of those over the finishing line would be an achievement. I could re-visit some of the other books that I have written and revise them perhaps (they are still selling).

To be able to write for pleasure is a great thing and as long as I can stop it becoming the chore that it did at one time then maybe I can get back to a regular pattern. If you are happy to read what I write then it is nice to have an audience.

on blogging

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I began blogging. This was my first blog and it was in tended to work around my business identity as ThatConsultantBloke and so it kept to topics that were relevant to the sort of people that I wanted to work with. There were other things that I wanted to talk about though, mostly on topics that I was interested in and so other blogs appeared.

Then I got to another junction in the road where one of my other blogs became an arm of another business venture that I had and so there was another split so that I could balance work and pleasure there too. This blog refined into something of a weekly ritual for me and it has been the one that gets more of my attention, but it was, at one point, one of eleven blogs that I was writing on. And most of those blogs had their own Twitter and Facebook feeds too.

Towards the end of the last decade I slimmed my operations down and closed several of the blogs, but this one and the other business blog still needed upkeep, but my capacity to keep the blogging levels up still fell short of the resource I had available and so content suffered. Then lockdown came and I started doing something different with this blog, but that too has tailed off this year as times move on.

I am going to be 70 very soon now and I think that I need to look at my remaining blogs. The last big revision saw me merge my personal websites into these blogs and it strikes me now that keeping them all going is simply an act of vanity. I have run down both of my businesses and have no need for promotion of them anymore so what to do next?

A lot of the content of the blogs has some value and so I don’t want to let it go so the likelihood is that I will merge this blog with The Voice of the Bloke at the Back and merge my two motoring and transport related blogs into one. That will leave me with three blogs (there is a music related one too). I need to read up on how I do that and also to understand the consequences of doing it so I have some research to do.

So you may see some changes in the coming weeks. The days are drawing in and I will be spending less time in the garden so I can focus a bit on sorting these blogs out. That will probably see a significant change to the way that they look, but it all good stuff for keeping the brain cells active.

Thanks for stopping by.

PS: I have just realised that a large number of posts have vanished from my blogs. It appears that when I thinned things out earlier in the year, and gave up one of the author identities that I was using, anything that I had written under that ID is lost. C’est la vie.

tcb web site changes January 2021

Over the next 24 hours or so this WordPress site will become my web site. Those who follow my efforts elsewhere will be aware that I have been dissatisfied with my web hosting provider for a while now and have moved other web presence to WP. This one was part way through a paid period and so has had to wait until now to make the change, but buttons have been pressed this afternoon and the move is in train.

Hopefully all will go as smoothly with this one as has happened with the others, but there may be a slight glitch with emails as there always seems to be a small window in the transfer that something whistles through. If you have emailed and do not get a response within a day please resend or use one of my other contact methods.

The look of this site may change slightly as I work out how best to manage the change.

Thanks for looking in

on blogging

I know that I am no longer very consistent in blogging here. I would like to get back to the days when I would write exactly 600 words to go out at 0600 every Monday, but my life now is very different to the one that I had back then.

Early in my blogging I was a road warrior and frequent business traveller. There would be time on trains and ‘planes (and waiting for them) to rough out blog posts and time in hotel rooms to polish them. Even whilst driving I could, if nothing else, capture Ideas for I used to have a voice activated digital recorder on a lanyard around my neck. I started using it when I first had a hands free ‘phone kit in my company car and could not always be relied upon to remember exactly what someone had told or asked me. Having the digital recorder was a help later in the day and I soon came to use it for recording ideas. It also captured my occasional thoughts on other motorists…

So I would have all of these ideas, many based on something that had happened that day and could be caught whilst fresh and then developed. Initially I wrote blogs as individual stories that were as long as they took; one might be 450 words and the next over 1000. It was a chance encounter in an airport that changed things for me and developed my approach as a writer.

I will call my mentor Janice for the sake on anonymity. She saw what I was writing one day and struck up a conversation that led to her following my Monday Musings and she contacted me later to suggest that I set a word count and tried to develop my blogs to fit it exactly. She gave me a framework to write to and encouraged me a lot. Through her tutelage I began to write things with a tight focus and the challenge of sharing a sentence here and a word there to get to the 600 word target was one that I began to enjoy. Janice died less than a year after we met, but I tried to keep up her standards for some time.

Later I became a professional writer in that I began to be paid for regular magazine features. I had written a few features and short pieces going back to the late seventies, but had stopped when I was not paid by two publishers, one of whom not only used my words, but also my photos. That soured my interest in writing for publication until I was approached for an article. That commission was used and paid for and led to a series followed by another series and for nearly three years I had an article out every month. Carefully reading what appeared in print against what I had submitted gave me a lot of respect for the skill of a good editor in making small and subtle changes to enhance what appeared on the pages.

The Summer of 2016 marked a turning point for me professionally and changed my lifestyle considerably. No longer did I have the periods on solitude to capture ideas nor the lonely periods in hotel rooms where I could work those ideas up into blog posts, each carefully sculpted to an exact length. The magazine for which I had been writing closed down and that took away one of the disciplines too; there is nothing like writing to a publishing deadline to focus the mind and a personal target is no substitute.

It is rare now for me to be in the position where I have had seven or eight weeks worth of blogs written and scheduled here. I did manage it briefly last Spring, but then personal projects took over my time and I lost impetus again. Can I get it back? I don’t know, but I do like to write and it is something that I want to try and get back into.

Thank you to those who have followed me so far. I hope that I can maintain your interest.

the lockdown log 7

So far the day goes well. Thursdays I have off from my part time job and so I, being an early riser, get on with more personal projects. This morning I have written a new page for the companion blog to this one and saved the draft for reviewing later and been out for my essential chores trip. Read more…

the lockdown log 6

Not quite nine o’clock and I have been working for about three and a half hours now, including a quick trip to my local Waitrose for a fix on some of the things we have not enjoyed for about two months. It has been a productive morning so far. Read more…

missing in action

It has been an interesting year to be sure: We have seen political upheaval here in the UK (and we’re not done yet thanks to the red team), watched the fun and games over in my second home in the USA and through it all I seem to have not found much time to keep my blogging here that regular. Read more…

travelling in hope – scheduled posts coming up for the next two weeks

I’m off on my travels again later today heading off to work for a week and a bit on what is, at least for me, another new continent. I’ve written recently about how British expertise is in demand around and this will be my third new continent in 5 months so you can see what I mean. Read more…

holiday humour – could I have sobotaged the Aztecs

TCB checked his tie in the mirror and smoothed down his suit. “You’ll do” the Berkshire Belle told him from the bed where she lay reading the morning paper, adding “It says here that the price of chocolate will be important to you today”. He grinned, “Probably means I’ll fancy a Kit-Kat for the train, but won’t pay rip off Britain prices at the station”. Read more…

mid week musings on blogging and plans for this site

I am in the process of taking a look at how this blog should work and to reduce the amount of time that I spend each week on keeping this and its companion web site running smoothly. Read more…