Category Archives: Writing

A New Beginning Spring 2015

Spring is in the air, and since Spring is the season for new beginnings, I thought that it was time to give this site “Off The Record” a new lease of life.

Writing articles regularly on your own web site or blog is easy, provided you can find things to write about and also providing you have the time to write.

My problem is that I frequently struggle to find the time to write, but more importantly I find this compounded by not knowing what to write about at any given time.

This doesn’t mean that I can’t think of anything to write about, far from it, but it does mean that I might have a potentially great article to write, but to do it requires some research, and I just don’t have the time to do it, and therefore I skip it in favour of something that is simpler.

I also struggle when I have too many tasks to complete, not knowing where to start, and in the last year not one but two web sites where I have published many articles have closed down, leaving me with close to 1,000 articles to edit and to find new homes for, in addition to wanting to write fresh content.

Over the last six months work at my day job has become more complex, requiring me to work longer hours and to use more of my remaining grey cells, so I am finding little time to write articles during my lunch break, and I find myself fairly brain dead by the time I get home.

So where to begin in order to give this site and my others a new lease of life…

Thanks to my good friend Nancy Carol Brown Hardin who is also a former lensmaster on the now defunct Squidoo site, I feel the time has come to begin writing again here.

I plan to create some new articles, as well as to revamp as many older ones as I can.

The older articles fall into two main categories. Firstly there are those where I have written about events or my opinions on something that is topical, and secondly there are articles about travel and places that I have visited. It’s this second category that I really would like to expand upon, in particular places in the UK where I have lots of photographs and many good memories of my visits there.

Finally, there is the new Wildlife category, which focuses on the creatures that visit our garden, and which is why we purchased a trail camera. Sadly the camera is not living up expectations so far, being buggy and not triggering when it ought to, so we have had events when animals have obviously visited us during the night, but no video recorded. We have however been able to capture some video of foxes and badgers in our garden, and with luck and lighter nights we will get more and better video in the coming months.

So there is “hopefully” lots to look forward to here, provided I can get myself into writing mode and begin to make progress.

Have You Lost Your Writing Mojo?

It’s been six months now since I lost my writing Mojo, and so far I haven’t had any luck in getting it back.

It’s not that I have any shortage of ideas on what to write about, but I do have only short time periods in the morning and lunchtime in which to write, plus a longer spell in the evening, and I know that if I don’t complete an article in one session, the impetus will disappear and it’s always a struggle to finish it.

I have lost count of the number of great articles that I have written in my head, and which I haven’t had time to write down, and so they have been consigned to the virtual scrapheap for eternity.

One big problem is that I need to earn more online, since my full time day job just provides for us to live, but not for us to be able to take a vacation, like seeing my daughters once a year (they live in Florida and we live in the UK).  So it’s not enough to just spend time writing what comes into my head, I need to try and focus on writing about topics where I might be able to earn a few pennies, which makes it harder.

One place where I have written consistently for the last 5 years is Squidoo, and in 2012 my traffic and earnings there were growing nicely over previous years.  However, changes at both Squidoo and on Google resulted in huge traffic drops in November, and since then it’s just been a downhill slide, with traffic stalling, sales and earnings declining, and no signs that anything is going to change at any time soon.

Once popular pages on Google still seem to be popular if I do a search, but the number of visitors has lowered, and there doesn’t seem to be a magic solution for trying to get that traffic back.

Squidoo have also been trying to combat those members who have been cheating to try and gain more than their rightful portion of the shared revenue, and while they have had some success here, they are relying on automated filters to check pages, rather than using the human eye, which can spot spam or plagiarised work easily, and as a result not only have many poor quality pages slipped through, many high quality ones have been flagged, and it’s often taken the creator hours of editing to try and find out what has tripped the filters and how to get a page to re-publish.

This has resulted in a lot of stress for those who write on Squidoo, and when you go to make a change to a page and don’t know whether you will be able to re-publish it or not, you lose a lot of the enthusiasm that comes with writing.  We all know that stress is a killer, and right now the Squidoo stress has pretty much killed my writing mojo!.

So what do I do about it?

One solution is to do like a number of other lensmasters (authors on Squidoo) have done, and that is to stop writing on Squidoo, and to write elsewhere, maybe on their own sites where they have more control.

I did try this last week, writing 5 articles and trying to ve-vitalise my Blogger site, but this resulted in very little traffic, which is one reason I abandoned writing there in the first place.

Focusing on one site and trying to get visitors/subscribers is a good solution, and this is what I think I am going to try.

The problem is…

The problem is that when people started blogging they used to have a single blog where they would write about anything and everything.  The current approach is to have multiple blogs instead, where each one has a set focus.   Since my blogs are self hosted registered domains, and they already have many articles that are on a wide variety of topics, it’s not easy to change over without starting afresh, which I am rather reluctant to do.

Why is my traffic so low?

There are multiple reasons, such as writing on topics that are already well covered, so your content gets buried.  Not using the right keywords or keyword density is another.  Lack of promotion to social media sites can make a difference, as can over promotion (spamming).  It’s also important to write regularly on a site, so that visitors/subscribers know to keep coming back to it.

I therefore made my decision to try and revitalise this site, which I originally created for Debbie and I to write on, however she lost her mojo ages ago, and now it’s just up to me to try and make a success of it.  I think a new layout, and definitely new regular fresh content ought to count for something.

So wish me luck, and if you do like what you read here, please help by sharing posts, as this will help enormously in helping me to feel good about writing once more.

A Rather Amazing Story Unravelled

If you haven’t yet read my article A Rather Amazing Story yet, I highly recommend that you do, so that this article makes sense. Without reading the original story, this article will really be meaningless. You should see the previous part of the story in the list of Recent Articles on the right hand side of the page.

Ok, I assume if you are reading this then you have read the original article, A Rather Amazing Story. If not, then I guess you might after reading this one, but it really won’t have the same effect.

I really thought when I wrote this story for the First Of April that people would understand it, but it seems from the comments I received that so many didn’t, in fact it looks like maybe 4 out of 5 people who read it missed the point.

So as to not disappoint everyone, I will let you in on some secrets.

Are you ready?

Right. If you remember, A Rather Amazing Story sees me taking my dog for a walk on the common, and having a strange adventure.

Here are some facts…

I took my dog for a walk on the common

My dog was a German Shepherd / Border Collie cross

Common land is where the common people could graze their animals

There is a site of a Roman camp on the common

My Stepmother was a well known medium

She could see figures at the Roman camp

There is a stream that flows out of the ground

My dog loved to chase birds and animals

We came across a rabbit and my dog just stared at it

The dog and rabbit starred at each other

They wandered off into the woods together

I followed them and heard strange noises

The noises sounded like “Genoa deh-itis”

Well how many of you thought that this was all true and went “WOW”?

More than a few of you from the comments…

I will tell you now, that not everything I told you was true, but do you know which facts were real and which were not?

To let you out of your misery…

I used to take my dog for a walk on the common, and he was indeed a German Shepherd / Border Collie cross.

Common land was allocated in medieval times for common people to graze their animals, now it’s parkland.

This common does have the site of a Roman camp, as well as the source of a spring that flows across the common.

My stepmother was a well known medium, and could see figures at ancient sites in England. She did see Roman soldiers at this camp.

My dog loved to chase birds and animals, but we never saw any animal that he just stayed and starred at.

At this point the facts come to an end, and the fiction begins…

We never did see a rabbit that my dog made friends with.

They didn’t wander off into the woods together.

And finally, I didn’t hear those mysterious words whispered in the woods.

Oh yes, those mysterious whispered words, “Genoa deh-itis”…

Try saying them out loud, and put the emphasis on the first syllable of the second word. “Genoa deh-itis”, “Genoa deh-itis”…

A handful of people got close, and I let them in on the secret, but for the rest of you…

“Genoa deh-itis”, “Genoa deh-itis”, “Ja know what day it is?”, “Do you know what day it is?”

Does it make sense now?

If you think about the date that this article was published, it was the first of April, otherwise known as April Fools Day!

Do you know what day it is?

April Fool!

I hope you enjoyed the story, and I hope you are now suitably enlightened.

I would love to hear what you thought of the story and my trickery, and maybe some ideas for future stories or ways to make this even better.

Happy Easter, and Thank You so much for making this story one of the most commented on Associated Content for April Fools Day.

Oh yes, I almost forgot. The common does in fact exist, it’s Wimbledon Common, only about a mile from the famous Wimbledon Tennis Club that everyone has heard of. It has the site of a Roman Camp, a spring, and also a working Windmill. It’s a great place to walk the dog or take the children for a walk and a picnic.

This story in two parts was written by me and originally published on Yahoo Voices. I hope you enjoyed it.

A Rather Amazing Story

This is something strange that happened to me a few years ago and that I would like to share with you. I think you will agree that it is a rather amazing story.

I used to regularly take my dog out for a walk, and there was a large common close to where I lived, where I could let him off the lead and he used to really enjoy being able to run free.

For those of you who don’t live in the UK, “Common Land” was originally land set aside for the “Common People” or Peasants to farm or to graze their animals. Today the Commons that remain are open spaces, more like parks, where you can take walks in the woods, or down by the lakes and rivers, depending on where you are.

My dog was a German Shepherd crossed with a Border Collie, and he used to love to chase birds and squirrels, and when he had the chance the occasional rabbit too. If we went by a lake or river, he loved to jump in and chase the ducks, and they used to swim just far ahead of him, leading him on further and further, until he was worn out.

This particular common where I used to go walking was fairly large, and at one end had the remains of what had once been a Roman camp, although you couldn’t see anything these days, not unless you knew it was there. My step-mother had been there years ago, and had been able to see some figures though. She had clairvoyant powers, and was actually a fairly well known medium in the UK at one time.

At another point on the common was the start of an ancient spring, where the water comes out of the ground, and as long as there hasn’t been a dry summer, the water still flows out from the source, and the spring winds it’s way through the woods and across the common.

But I digress from the story that I was going to tell you, however I wanted to give you a bit of a background to this magical place where I enjoyed many dog walking sessions, which allowed me to clear my head, watching my faithful friend sniff around and just enjoy doing what dogs do when they are given the opportunity.

On this particular day, it was around Easter time if I remember right, we had walked into the common from where I parked the car, and were headed into the woods beyond where the stream begins to flow, when my dog stopped and cocked up his head.

I stopped too, wondering what he had seen, and there about 20 feet in front of us, to the side of the path that we were taking, was a rabbit.

The rabbit was just sitting there, not afraid, and what was really amazing was that my dog, who normally would have been off in a shot, just stood there, and it was almost as if the two of them were communicating with each other and had some sort of empathy. It was really odd.

Then my dog actually walked slowly up the the rabbit and sniffed around it, wagging it’s tail, and I couldn’t believe it, but the rabbit just sat there, unafraid and didn’t move. I couldn’t believe that this was happening.

We stood like this for what must have been a few minutes, with my dog stiffing at the rabbit and wagging it’s tail like crazy, and then the rabbit turned it’s head as if to say “follow me”, and loll-oped off into the woods. My dog followed, walking behind it, and I just followed on behind the two of them, wishing I had my camera with me, as nobody would believe what had just happened.

The rabbit didn’t take a well trodden path of course, it bobbed through ferns and gorse bushes, followed by my dog, trotting behind, while I had to take a slightly different route in places where I would have just got my clothes snagged up on the prickles.

I could keep track of them though thankfully, because I could hear the rustling of the leaves from my dog.

They kept on going for a few hundred yards, heading deeper into the wooded section, somewhere that I hadn’t ventured before, because there were no paths through that section, so it was truly off the beaten path.

I lost track of them for a moment, as they had got ahead of me, and I could no longer hear the rustling of my dog moving through the brush, so I stopped to see if I could hear where they were.

All I heard was complete silence, except for the light breeze blowing through the trees above, and making a few leaves move, but I thought I heard voices, just quiet whispering voices, rather like the leaves were making the sound of words. It was something like “Genoa deh-itis” or that’s how I remember it. It was really weird.

This strange whispering sound went on for a few minutes, and I thought, this can’t be just the noise of the wind, as it sounded so odd, “Genoa deh-itis” it sounded like.

The silence was then suddenly broken as my dog trotted out of the bushes, wagging it’s tail, and really excited to be back with me. He let me know as he often did that he wanted to go, and so the two of us went off through the woods, found our way back to a section of the woods where we sometimes walked, and continued on.

With it being April already and with Easter coming up this weekend, I suddenly thought back to this amazing day, and even now I will never forget the sounds that I heard from deep in the woods… “Genoa deh-itis”, “Genoa deh-itis”.

I couldn’t figure out what the whispering voices were saying, but maybe, just maybe, if you say these words aloud to yourself, you can figure it out… “Genoa deh-itis”, “Genoa deh-itis”.

This story was originally published by me on Yahoo Voices.

Another Writing Milestone Is Imminent

Just over 2 years ago on 12th January 2010 I joined the many other writers on a site called Associated Content where I hoped to find new friends and to expand my writing exposure to new eyes, as well as to boost my earnings.

Today, if all goes well, I should reach the covetted level of Clout 10, which means that I have had over 330,000 page views on 707 articles, and reached the top of the ladder.

Since joining Associated Content the site has undergone a lot of changes, being taken over by Yahoo!, and finally after a year of changes and countless problems if looks like they are heading in the right direction again.

In the last two years I have written about many topics, including my favorite Travel and Humor ones, but also Religion and Politics, which have never really interested me much in the past, but which in the last few years have prompted me to write more about them.

I hope that you have time to browse through my articles, which you can find on the now renamed Yahoo Contributor Network, and I have to commemorate reaching this goal I have created a page on Squidoo about Tony Payne On Yahoo Voices, which lists all my articles as well as giving some good writing tips and ways in which writing on Yahoo has helped me with ideas for creating lenses on Squidoo.