Blogging: Building Your Platform

 

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Thor sorting leaves. He knows where to find the good ones.

It’s been too long since I’ve been able to update! I’m writing this post in my bedroom/office/box storage room. Yes, the prolonged move is taking forever, but I will be off to a new state and house by the end of the month. Fortunately (or unfortunately), that means you’ll be hearing a lot more from me in the near future. Oh, Thor is walking/running now…so yeah, busy times!

Today I wanted to take a moment to announce a milestone on the QE page. I’ve met and surpassed 1000 followers! Oddly enough, the last 200+ followers have come during a period of non-activity on my page [insert excuses: moving, baby, editing, writing, stay-at-home dad, military spouse].

So how did the blog continue to generate activity without me at the helm being proactive? I mean, does my blog even need me anymore? Has it gained self-awareness? I wish…

thanksBefore I get into the platform building section, let me say “thanks!” People talk about followers just being numbers. You’ll only make X number of sales from X number of followers. It all seems so impersonal. Speaking from my experience, I’ve received awesome emails from people checking in on me and the family, gained clients,  found collaborative writing partners, joined a Legion, uncovered fellow editors (key wielding clones), and I’m very humbled and appreciative of these relationships. Sales are one thing, meaningful relationships are something much more. So again, thanks for reading and coming back for more.

Building the BlogNow that I’m done gushing, let’s talk brass tacks.

I wrote a how-to post about blogging before: Blogging: What Works for Me. I wrote that post in July of last year when I had hit 400 followers. People were curious about my process, and I’m always happy to share. In it, I offered some tips about how to craft your writing and your activity to increase viewership. Towards the bottom of that post, I wrote a very short paragraph titled, Technical Mumbo Jumbo.  It seems some of that technical hoopla is more essential than I realized.

The technical aspects of your blog are what allow you to reach beyond WordPress and start generating views from search engines and other sources. In the last two months, where I only generated a few posts, those 200+ followers were likely due to me taking advantage of some of the features within WordPress. It’s also due to the type of content I ordinarily post.

Looking at my site analytics I’ve noticed a massive amount of views are being generated from search engines. This was planned. *maniacal laughter* Here are some ways to make your blog more visible outside of WordPress and gain more traffic.

evergreenWrite Evergreen Content. When I say “evergreen,” I’m talking about the shelf-life of the post. Some posts we write are author/editor/blogger/life update posts. For many, it’s a given you will want to reach out to your readers. “I’ll be here at this convention” or “Check out my new release.” There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just that those posts won’t be the workhorses on your page. In terms of search engine visibility, unless someone knows exactly what to type, they likely won’t stumble into those posts. The workhorses are the posts that don’t have a fuse or timeline.

There is little chance someone who’s never been to or heard of this page will type into Google, “Quintessential Editor Barnes and Noble Rant.” There is higher likelihood someone might search, “the herald archetype.” Both of these searches will bring up posts from this blog on the first or second page of Google, but one (the archetype post) is far more likely to pull a reader because it’s a logical search term.

The Barnes and Noble rant was a needed outlet for me to express my disdain, but it has little real usefulness to people.  On the other hand, posts about aspects of writing are tools people actively seek out. While your blog may not be centered around writing, finding ways to write content with no shelf-life and high applicability is a good move.

Your Blog Headline is Important. I didn’t realize this at first, but after studying the stats on my page over the course of the last eight months, I can’t refute the numbers. Writing and publishing clever headlines makes me smile, but they have little application outside of WordPress Reader. In fact, they can make your content nearly impossible for someone to stumble into from the endless sprawl of the interwebs.

harry-potter-newspaperThink of your blog headline like an internet search term. While the blog headline may be clever and will snag fresh readers taking advantage of the WordPress Reader, after a few weeks or months it will be buried. Yes, people can utilize tags and categories to find your posts here on WordPress (if they scroll long enough). However, search engines are a much bigger ocean and require more precision.

For example, I wrote about how to anchor readers using setting. I wanted to use a really clever headline for the post. Instead, I went with the very bland Setting: Anchoring the Reader. If someone types in “how to anchor a reader with setting” or “anchoring a reader with setting,” this post is usually on the front page of most search engines. The words a person might use to find this information with a search engine can be different, but the headline contains most of the words they would use.

Know the difference between a category and tag. Tags are the golden ticket. Not only will they allow people in WordPress Reader to narrow down their search and stumble onto your content, it also factors into search engine results. If you couldn’t tweak your headline to nail the topic entirely, you will want to add those missing words, individually, into the tag. Also add tags that are applicable to the topic.

For this post, I’ll likely have [writing, blogging, how-to, advice, WordPress, headlines, understanding, categories, tags, fiction, non-fiction, Corey Truax, dad]. You’ll notice dad there, it seems WordPress dads are always looking for kindred spirits so I always leave a breadcrumb trail. If you’re an author/editor/business person, it never hurts to toss your cats-dressed-vintage-photo.jpgname into the tag of each post. The more posts out there with your name on it, the more likely someone doing an internet search of your name will stumble into your blog.

[Here be rumors and unsubstantiated banter] I’ve read that some users will flood the tag area of their webpage posts. So let’s say you write a post about knitting sweaters for kittens. Some people will copy and paste more than 100 related and unrelated words into the tag field hoping someone searches for a topic and walks into their trap. In my opinion — you kitten sweater knitting maniacs — that’s a good way to ensure an unwary person never returns to your page. I’ve also read that certain search engines will boot your post from their search results if the tag seems like spam. [Here ends the trail of kitten tears]

labyrinthCategories Keep People on Your Page. Categories are how you organize your page. We don’t want readers to feel like they are navigating a labyrinth. I started with five or six main categories. One of them was “Writing.” This was a mistake because it lumped too many posts of different types into one giant category. If someone clicked the Writing category, a massive list of blog posts popped up. Some may have been what they were looking for, some weren’t. I broke “Writing” down into more precise categories: Conflict, Setting, Description, Dialogue, and so on. When I did this, repeat views from a single reader skyrocketed. Alas, some people who came to the page didn’t care about every aspect of writing.

If categories are a new concept for you entirely, WordPress has a page dedicated to explaining what they are and how to make them work for you. Check it out here.

You can really take advantage of your categories by using the widgets included with WordPress. Widgets offer different options that display navigation tools. If you are unfamiliar with widgets, WordPress has a page for you here.

That’s it for today. The last bit of advice I’ll give is this, take the time to understand how to leverage the tools I talked about above. It’s heartbreaking to see people grinding away so hard and not getting readership. Especially when their blog page is how they generate business. Implementing these small tweaks will add two minutes to your process — at most. Those two minutes will ensure your webpage is easy to find, navigate, and use. And heck, maybe your page will achieve self-awareness.

question-markDo you have any tips that have worked for you? Do you understand the bizarre search engine algorithms? There a few more tools I have under my hat, but this post is already well beyond my 1000 word cap. If there’s enough interest, I can write another one with some extra bits of info. Until we cross quills again, keep reading, keep writing, and as always — stay sharp!

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Writing for the Busy Parent

Welcome to another Feature Friday…sort of. As always, the days are just whizzing on by. I’m doing something new for this Feature Friday. It’s my first collaborative post. I’d like to welcome Dillon, from over at From Rad to Dad.

Why thank you Corey! It’s a pleasure to be here! Hi, new friends!

dillon-fam-4A little intro about my family! Korina (my wife) and I are both 26 years old, and at the time I’m jotting this down our son, Killian Jaymes, is 10 months old. I work a normal 7 to 4 Monday through Friday job while Korina runs her amazing nerdy crafting business from home while taking care of Killian, whose occupation is currently pooping his pants and chasing our dog Lupin around.

We run a small Youtube channel where we document our life in weekly videos. Korina and I also both write our parenting blogs and work on our modern fantasy stories! Well, when we find the time to write on the side, which is actually what this blog post is about.

So writing is tough, we all know that. And parenting is tough too, even folks without kids can fully acknowledge that. But what’s it like trying to be a writer and a parent at the same time? That’s what Corey and I have teamed up to shed some light on!

With that great introduction, below are the five questions we are addressing. If you are tackling the challenge of being a parent and writer, feel free to Contact Me with some answers to the questions and we will link you into this post and point people to your page. If you’d like a photo(s) included, be sure to attach them. The parenting struggle is a bit easier when it’s shared.

Now to the questions.

  1. How do you balance work, home, writing, love, and life?
  2. How has becoming a parent changed your outlook on writing and reading?
  3. What’s the biggest misconception you’ve faced with stay-at-home parenting, or parenting in general?
  4. As a parent, where do you go to write? When is the best time for you to write?  
  5. Why do you write, and how does that reason impact your writing?  

QE’s answers:

family-11.) For me, scheduling is the single most important thing I do. I’ve found I have to constantly tweak my schedule as life changes (Thor grows). Allocating my time prevents me from over-committing to a single project and leaving others lagging behind. When Thor’s awake or my wife is home, I typically don’t spend too much time writing or editing and instead try to take advantage of the time as a family.

2.) When I became a stay-at-home dad, losing my work identity was hard. As Thor grows, he’ll never look at me as “His dad who was in the military or who was a cop.” I think children having a way to identify their parents to others is important. Dedicating my time to writing and reading lets me share stories with him, but also helps me feel confident he will know his dad “does” something other than just take care of him.

3.) The biggest misconception I’ve faced is that because I’m a stay-at-home dad I have tons of time and don’t really have any commitments. Most laypeople don’t look at writing and editing as a real occupation. When people ask what I do (which inevitably comes up), I tell them I write and edit books. This is usually answered with an awkward smile and look that says, “That’s not really a job.”  

img_23344.) I have a study where I write and edit. For me, having a space dedicated to work helps me focus in on what needs to be done and not get distracted. I usually work while everyone else sleeps, or during my son’s naps. Right now, I only sleep 4-5 hours on normal days. When my wife is home for her weekends, I try to catch up on sleep and recharge.

5.) I write because I love reading stories and have always enjoyed telling them. Reading stories to my son is one of my biggest joys. Even though he’s too little to understand them (almost a year old), he still stops what he is doing and listens, as if he’s trying to understand. I write with my son and family in mind. I don’t tailor the stories to them, but knowing they will read them is very empowering. Knowing after I’m long gone my son might have a book I wrote on his own shelf is even more inspiring.

Dillon’s answers:

dillon-fam-21.) In short, an unhealthy amount of coffee. Outside of work, my schedule changes frequently and I spend as much time with my family as I can. They recharge my batteries and motivate me to be better than I am — they are my greatest inspiration. I give myself every opportunity to write, I have Google Docs on my phone, so I squeeze in a few lines, or outline points while in line at the post office or even in the bathroom. I make small time throughout my day burst-writing as much as I can, and then I spend time editing in the same fashion. Piece by piece!

2.) My outlook on everything changed the day I found out about Killian. I wanted to write, not for fame or glory, but to simply have him look up at me and say, “my dad is cool, strange, but cool.” I want to write interesting things, motivational words to help him in the future when the rain pours down and I may not be there. I want to read so I know how to answer those questions that he’s going to come at me with. I want him to know there are a million ways to be creative and he can chase any of them.

dillon-fam-33.) Parents trying to be perfect. I thought, for a brief moment, that becoming a parent would make me picture perfect. It did anything but. So many parents have picture perfect Facebook lives, and that is garbage. We fight, we cry, we make mistakes, we show up late, we forget the diaper bag, we don’t read bedtime stories every night, we forget to write, we are tired and no one ever talks about all of that being okay. And IT’S OKAY, we are not supposed to be perfect. We are supposed to be human.

4.) I don’t have a dedicated place or time, a lot of my writing is done on my phone in lines or on my lunch break at work. Even though I don’t carve out dedicated time, I still write, I still edit, and I still post. Getting something done when you can is better than not ever getting to it. If I’m gonna pick a time, I really like writing in bed later at night with my wife sitting beside me and Killian sleeping in his crib. A small cup of coffee beside me as I type and a flurry of grammatically horrible words strung together is where I always end the night. Usually followed by me saying, “I’ll fix it tomorrow!”

dillon-fam-15.) Two reasons: To motivate other parents, and to remind us all it’s okay to fail and make mistakes. We are not perfect; we are parents. I love being a dad and I want to share the stories of how it’s changed me and hopefully help at least one parent out there not feel so worried about it all. As for my personal writing: I am a genuinely curious day dreamer, and when a character walks into my head I want to chase them down the rabbit hole and see where they go and how their story unravels. I have to know how they end up. I guess I just want to share these stories on both the blog and in my personal writing. I want people to be happy and confident.

question markThat’s it for today! Again, if you’re a parent, grandparent, or parent to fur-babies—we’d love to hear from you. How do you manage the madness?  Contact Me and I’ll update this post with your answers and link your blog into the post as well. Every now and then, Dillon and I will recycle this post on our pages and put our feelers out for more struggling writers/parents. From Dillon: Thank’s for taking the time to read! Hopefully you picked up some tricks for your own crazy writing style! Thanks Corey for having me!

Until we all cross quills again, keep reading, keep writing, and as always—stay sharp! As Dillon likes to say on his page, “You’ve got this!”

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A Writing Dad: Managing the Madness

Discussing Fatherhood.jpgSince I started doing this blog, I’ve been getting emails/messages from friends (new and old ones).  Some of the messages are really encouraging, and others are laced with hidden sarcasm.  Many of these exchanges, while on the surface are kind, hide this sentiment, “Oh…you’re writing a book, editing, and doing a daily blog.  Dad life must REALLY be busy.” *insert sarcastic eye roll*

Now, I know my friends and family love me.  I also know they aren’t intentionally trying to bust my proverbial balls.  But the truth is, dad life is busy.  Those of you who are parents (past or present) know it to be true.  So to save myself from explaining my process over and over again, I thought I would compile it here.

To preface this, it should be noted I am a stay-at-home dad.  My wife Heather is in the military and works as a Navy Nuclear Engineer.  She wakes up before Thor does , and usually gets home as he goes to bed (not easy for her at all).  Like I said, I’m a real deal stay-at-home dad.

So here’s an average day.

baby thor sleeping.jpg

Thor – my alarm clock.

I get up at six or seven.  Thor is my alarm clock. During the day, Thor takes three naps.  He’s still only eight months old so he is supposed to get around 3.5 hours of nap time a day.  This gives me three blocks of time to actually accomplish tasks like: write blog posts, editing, work on my own novel, clean bottles, scoop cat litter, laundry, engage in battle with the growing forces of dirt, eat, sit down on the couch and stare up at the ceiling fan.

Heather usually gets home around 7:30 pm.  We spend time together until she crashes out at around 9pm -that’s when I start working in earnest.  I usually go to bed around 1-2 am.

If you think about it in these terms, I have roughly 8.5 hours to accomplish everything I need to accomplish.  It’s comparably to a normal working day.  It’s just that around half of that time is split between everyday life tasks.  Also, if Thor is throwing lightning bolts and beating on his anvil (not napping well), time is even shorter.

The Workday.jpgI think what makes it seem like I have a lot of time is the fact I use all of it.  I’ve read studies where people who have normal 9-5 jobs only spend a fraction of that time doing actual work.  I know from my own experience in past jobs that I have easily wasted away days accomplishing little to nothing.  I would get one “big” thing done and say, “That made this day productive.”

Now I work for myself.  I also believe in what I do with a full heart.  When your passion aligns with you work, amazing things start to happen.  You find ways to weave those passions into your “free” time.  Work becomes habit, because it’s no longer a dreadful task to accomplish.

For example, I read to Thor everyday.  We don’t watch tv.  I don’t just leave him sitting in a playpen drooling on toys and plotting my demise.  I read to him.  We read about everything.  He has probably listened to me read more books on writing than most people have ever read.  We both benefit from this.

baby thor on the computer.jpg

Thor helps with the blog.

I blog everyday.  I blog about writing.  Even this “escape” guides me closer to my goals and aligns with the craft.

I talk about writing everyday.  Many of my friends are writers.  We talk about my projects, their projects, doubts, hopes, life, and everything in-between.  When my wife gets home she asks me how the book is coming along and what is happening in the blogospace.

So yes, I do have time as a stay-at-home dad.  However, it’s time I carve out with my own two hands.  I had to cut away the frivolous little things, and make space for the big things.  And honestly, it was easy.  This is the important takeaway.  When you key into the one thing that truly makes you tick – it should be fulfilling to build your life around it.

Thor and I reading.jpg

Thor and I analyzing literature (picture book).

Are some days harder than others?  Heck yeah.  Do I have doubts?  Sure.  Do I sit down and have to punch the voices in my head who say, “You are wasting your time with this Corey.  Writing isn’t a real job Corey.” Yep.  My knuckles are always bleeding.  But deep down I know this is what I’m supposed to be doing.  That’s a good feeling.

More of a rant than a writing tip today.  But honestly, the more time you dedicate to the craft (whatever your chosen one is), the more the muse will sing for you.  Time dedicated to the craft of writing offers you many escapes.  There is much fulfillment in the act of writing, studying the craft, and reading other authors’ works.

Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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On Writing, Blogging, and Fatherhood

Thor Born.jpgNovember 23rd of 2015 is the day my life shifted into a new (and frightening) gear.  My son Thor Alexander Truax was born.  I knew this new addition would change my life, but I wasn’t entirely sure just what this meant.

Before Thor came I was a police officer, before that a Homeland Security scholar, and before that eight years of military service.  My entire adult life, up to this moment, was spent making myself better, smarter, stronger.  My identity and self-worth orbited around my work.  I remember driving my police cruiser to work on my last day and turning in my gun, badge, and gear.  At the time, turning my back on this job and explaining I was going to be a stay-at-home dad, was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done (despite how much I hated that job).  I felt useless.

Even in the hospital when I saw Thor for the first time I didn’t have that “ah-ha” moment.  It’s horrible to write, but it’s the truth.  I wanted that moment so badly, but all I could think of was all the things that needed to happen.  Double check the car seat, make sure documents are in order, check out of the hospital, help Heather walk to the vehicle.

me and thorIt was a few weeks before the moment came.  Thor was crying, I was trying everything I could to calm him down, and nothing was working.  I put him down on the bed in his tiny swaddle and just stepped back.  I was absolutely defeated.  He just continued bawling.  Then for a few seconds he stopped.  He blinked his little mole eyes and squinted toward me.  Then it happened.  The moment.

He needed me.  He needed me more than any job, or title, or position could ever need me.  He needed me to be there, to protect him, to guide him.  If my life was a book, this moment was my paradigm shift.  I picked him back up, and of course, he continued crying.  It was okay, because the more I think about it, if he would have stopped in that moment, I probably would have started.

The weeks following this epiphany really made me examine my life.  Was I living a life based on the prestige of my current job, or based on the joy  I derived from it?  It was the former.  This needed to change.

This brings me to writing and blogging.   For me, they are one in the same.  I blog about writing, because I enjoy learning and sharing what I find out.  It solidifies the information in my brain housing unit when I write about it in my own words.  Writing has always been a passion, but it was a passion repressed.

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Just a single piece of my history.

As a child I wrote essays that won academic awards, and in the military one of my duties was as a journalist.  Despite my skill and ability, it wasn’t something I was particularly proud of.  If someone asked me what I did in the military I would give them the cool version (the version I felt gave me the most prestige).  I was a Combat Cameraman.  I deployed to Iraq with Army Special forces.  I did important work.  Respect me.

It was the lie I used to bolster my precious ego.  To maintain the illusion I was creating of the professional bad ass.  It was the murder and betrayal of the little boy who grew up as an only child in the deep country.  A boy who read Calvin and Hobbes underneath the blankets with a flashlight when he was supposed to be sleeping.  The boy who imagined himself throwing the One Ring into the mouth of Mount Doom.  The boy who would would trace comic books and rewrite the dialogue bubbles.

If I could have been honest a long time ago, then I would have written multiple books by now.  I love the craft, the work, the feeling of looking at something and saying, “I made this.”  There is a tangible product afterwards.  A feeling of completion.

It took the birth of my son to realize how important this sentiment is.  The ability to do what you love and revel in the fruits of your labor is admirable.  The strength to honestly assess what it is you are passionate about and pursue it is even more noble.  In this way, Thor saved me.  Even as a helpless little bundle who needs me to do everything for him – he saved me.  With tiny baby fingers he hacked away the illusion and left me bare.

carpe diem

So today my writing advice isn’t about writing at all, it’s about life.  Don’t wait until you are almost 30 to pursue what matters.  Don’t let a job define who you are.  Do what you love.  Do what makes you happy.  Shed the titles.  Enjoy the process.

That’s it for today.  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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Father’s Day: A Hallmark Holiday?

Me and Thor

Me and baby Thor.

Today is my first Father’s Day – at least my first as a father.  Facebook is churning away tagged father posts and I can never keep up with it all.  My wife made cheesecake last night (which I ate for my Father’s Day breakfast), my seven-month old was especially fussy, I called my dad, and life is going on.  I’ve always been wary of things like Father’s Day.  The cynic in me thinks it’s just a trick for Hallmark to sell cards.  I wanted to see where this particular holiday tradition came from.  A few google searches later I had my answers. (I found this on the interwebs, so it has to be true!)


Monongah DisasterT
he first origins story comes to us from December 6, 1907.  Location – Monongah, West Virginia. Circumstance – “the worst mining disaster in American History.”  An explosion rocked a coal mine killing 361 of the 367 men working within.  Of the fallen, 250 were fathers.  This left approximately 1000 children fatherless.  A thousand fatherless children.  I read it twice, I’m writing it twice.  The following year the Williams Memorial Methodist
Episcopal Church South (their sign must have been long
to fit this name on it) had an observance for the lost fathers, marking the first “Father’s Day.”  They did it on July 5th, 1908.  This was an issue because the day before was Independence Day, thus, the Father’s Day didn’t really get traction beyond the city of Fairmont, West Virginia where this first observance was held.

The second origins story comes from the daughter of a civil war veteran.   Sonora Smart Dodd’s father was a single parent who raised six children in the early 1900s. Dodd was sitting in church in Spokane, Washington during a Mother’s Day service and thought it was ridiculous fathers don’t get the same deal – after all, her dad did it all alone. She spoke with her clergy and on June 19, 1910 Father’s Day services were held throughout the city of Spokane.  She kept the tradition alive with the clergy until she went off to school and Father’s Day fell away once again.

fathers-day-kaywoodie-pipe-54-swscan06305-copyDodd came back to Spokane in the 1930s, started cracking clergy skulls, and pushed Father’s Day into the national spotlight.  Much of the nation discounted the holiday as a cheap trick to create a commercial holiday and sell stuff.  Help came in the form of the Father’s Day Council, which was headed up by various men’s retailers.  They ran advertisements in major publications to push the idea of this holiday, hocking their various wares as well.  If mom gets flowers on her day, dad should get a nice new tobacco pipe on his!

NixonUltimately, from 1913 to 1972 multiple politicians and presidents attempted to turn Father’s Day into an actual federal holiday.  Every time there was resistance from Congress.  They feared it would become a commercialized holiday.  President Nixon, with a fist of fatherly love, signed it into law in 1971.  He may have been a lot of things, but Tricky Dick obviously loved his father.

And here we are.  What have I learned from this?  Yes, Father’s Day is a commercialized holiday.  Hell, what ones aren’t anymore?  However, the catalyst that created this day was love, loss, and remembrance.  It is a holiday highlighting the concept that we will never forget those people we love and how they impacted our lives. So, in short, happy Father’s Day to all those dads out there.  Past and present included.  May the lessons you teach and the love you impart echo through eternity.

More of rant today than anything, but hey, thanks for reading.  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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Let Sleeping Babes Lie

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Me and Thor.

My six-month old puts his head down for a nap.  It’s one of the two he takes during the day.  When his eyes close, I jump all over the house trying to get things done.

A part of me wonders if I will ever be a productive member of society again.  Once a master of organization, now I try to content myself with getting all the bottles washed before he wakes back up.  In those odd moments when I have time, I spend most of it trying to decide what to do with it.  Watch television?  Read?  Copy edit?  Work on my novel?  Take a nap myself?  Eat every unhealthy thing in the house?  Tackle one of the countless chores needing to be done?

Or perhaps I could make a blog post.

I never really understood the value of time until I didn’t have any.  If fatherhood is teaching me anything (outside of patience, diaper skills, and baby fingernail trimming) it is to focus on doing one or two things well, because there isn’t enough time for the renaissance man jack-of-all-trades nonsense anymore.  Just a mindless ramble today.  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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