New Year Musing

The WriterIt’s time to reflect on the experience of blogging after a year and at the threshold of a new one.

Every blogger has something they want to express or knowledge or experience they want to share. For some, a few lines posted every few days are golden. No sweat! For others like me, it is more of a struggle because finding the right words is the art of reaching the goal. Blogging promised to be a discipline I needed for writing regularly because it insisted on a schedule of regular posts. It was easy to postpone my other writing work until the end of my to-do list, which is never-ending. The experience of blogging has made me more productive and helps to develop a craft for writing about things I really care about.

I was never much interested in the technicalities of servicing or enhancing a website, which can become so absorbing that little other work gets done. Blogging offers the amazing opportunity of publishing work without first having to find an agent and a publishing house or satisfy an editor, and avoided waiting for a manuscript to emerge as a book, journal or magazine article at the end of a long production line. It satisfied my impatient nature. Admittedly there are times when my writing schedule is a burden. I never lost heart in the process, though sometimes I lost my way down some arcane side street. But often the duties of life and travel crowded in. Then a grey cloud floats over my desktop until the moment that I press the Publish button, when my spirits lift with the cloud as if it’s already cocktail-time.

I am told there are more than a hundred million registered blog sites worldwide, although probably less than half of them are attended. The vastness of the blogosphere is intimidating. “Who cares about my tiny voice?” That’s what I thought a year ago, and still think. Nevertheless I launched this blog carelessly believing that even if no one ever read my stuff the exercise would be good for my soul. And when someone sends a comment it feels like a red letter day.

If you are thinking about starting a blog and have as little expertise as I had a year ago, I recommend Blogging for Dummies. All of the points below are explained in books for novices, but these have been most important to me.

  • Write for yourself because you never know who will read your posts, if anyone finds them. This may sound perverse advice because reaching people on the WWW is our purpose. But writing helps me work through a subject, forces me to check facts, and organize a page for pasting on the screen. Posting content to a schedule resonates uneasily with memories of handing in homework at school, but I know it’s good discipline!
  • A reader is more likely to sign up and return to your website if your work is well-written and attractively presented. Choose a style you admire. My model is The Economist magazine, which I read from cover to cover every week, even if I don’t agree with everything printed.
  • Paying a few bucks for services is a wise investment. Some plugins are free. Anti-spam is essential (e.g.  Akismet).
  • Post regularly and frequently otherwise readers forget you. This is my weakness. I sometimes choose topics demanding far more time to prepare than I calculated.
  • Short posts are more digestible and more likely to be read than long ones. Some of mine have evolved into essays up to 2,000 words. I know I am ignoring my own advice, and perhaps I should break long posts into episodes for publishing every few days.
  • Throw in a handful of hyperlinks to relevant websites to save writing around the topic. It is nice to credit other authors.
  • Ads in a blog? I posted links to a couple of my new books on Amazon, but otherwise I’m a careless promoter and would never make a businessman.
  • Add pictures to adorn your post, but try to avoid copyrighted pictures or if you really need them save the permission-to-use receipts. Reduce the size of your own images to 72 dpi if you don’t want to donate them to the world at full resolution.
  • Adding your own videos is a very good idea.
  • I like using links to music (obviously You Tube).
  • Link to your social media sites to get the messages out—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. And choose relevant Tags as they pull traffic in.
  • I haven’t used commercial services to boost search engine optimization, so I can’t comment.
  • Finally a MUST! Save all your content in an independent medium – cloud or external hard drive.

I have been pondering how Roger Gosden Musing will evolve. So far my themes have been nature, science, and related memoirs. They rolled into my mind without a long-range plan, often prompted by something in the news or an idea that just wouldn’t go away until I had worked it into a post. I will continue along this haphazard path a little longer, but I’m uneasy about the amount of time that blogging steals from books I need to finish.

At some stage in 2014 I will start posting terser commentaries about biomedical news which flow more easily for me than nature study and conservation which, although loves of my life, are expansive subjects that send me crawling for information. Of course, biomedicine is such a huge swath of knowledge and endeavor that I can only peck a few morsels chosen for their interest or because I spent my career on them. Expect to find plenty of posts about the biology of aging as I revamp Cheating Time, a book published in 1996 and now out of date. I was always drawn to the mystery of growing old, and now I’m better qualified to write about it and more thankful for a new year!

Next Post: Shifting Baselines

About Roger Gosden

British-born scientist specializing in human and animal reproduction & embryology. Academic career spanned from Cambridge and Edinburgh to McGill and Cornell's Weill Medical College in Manhattan where he was Professor & Research Director. Married to Lucinda Veeck Gosden, embryologist for the first successful IVF team in America, he retired early to Williamsburg, Virginia, to write and to recover from 'nature deficit disorder'
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4 Responses to New Year Musing

  1. Jen Krapez says:

    Thank you for your blog, Roger, I always look forward to reading about your patch of the woods. It reminds me of going for a walk with you and chatting as we go, about lots of different things…
    Happy New Year!

    • Roger Gosden says:

      Hi Jen. Remember the hikes with the research group in Yorkshire that ended at the pub? Those were glory years and much good work came out of the labs then and was almost as much fun as hiking. I would feel more sad that we can’t have those gathering again now that such good friends as well as family are spread across the world except that I know they are enjoying their lives in new homes or have returned to their old home town (you!). Thankfully we have media to reach beyond arm’s length for hugging them. Happy New Year! Roger

  2. Roger, you are to be commended for your dedication to this project. I don’t think I would have lasted this long. I started logging daily events on Twitter earlier this year but that soon petered out. I have now resigned myself to Facebook for my occasional rants and photos. I do however take pride in saying that Kathy and I have managed to keep up our annual Christmas letter which I started in 1984 – long before the Internet became established. If I ever get to the point where I forget the past these reports will definitely come in useful! I suppose I should piece them together as a life story for future McConkey generations before I get too old and senile. Now if only my great-great-grandfather had thought of doing that!

    • Roger Gosden says:

      You should compile the newsletters for posterity. I wish my parents and grandparents had left more records of their lives. For example, we hardly knew anything about my father’s war service except the bald facts that it ran from 1939-1946 with the Eighth Army in North Africa, Sicily, Monte Cassino and Austria. His medals were stolen by a burglar. After months, the Ministry of Defence has sent some details, but we will never know what he really experienced. Thanks for helping to get us into ancestry research, which is continuing.

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