Lucky

Do you remember Google’s “I’m Feeling Lucky” button? When Google launched in 1998, below the search bar there were two buttons. Both equally prominent, unless you think the right side is more prominent than the left, which I do because I’m right-handed, and then the Lucky button ruled the screen. The other button simply read “Google Search.” Dull.  

By hitting the I’m Feeling Lucky button, you took the pressure off Google to scan the entire web looking for all eighty-million hits to your search string. Google only returned the top result. Tonight, I checked my browser to see if the button is still there. I didn’t think it was, but I honestly couldn’t remember. It’s not, Google discontinued that service in 2010.

That research took about twenty minutes. Our internet is crawling. Susan and Eli are both streaming shows and using up all of our broadband. My searches are pushed to the back burner, grasping for gaps between the steady stream of Schitt’s Creek and How it’s Really Made (the comedic and intentionally inaccurate knockoff of How it’s Made). My 139,000,000 results took fourteen seconds to load.

I used to watch Schitt’s Creek with Susan, but half the episodes left me feeling depressed. The characters are so sad. None of them are remotely in touch with their needs and feelings, or anyone else’s needs and feelings, and many episodes play off awkward misunderstandings. The comedy simply mimics the worst part of my day-to-day interactions. I suppose it’s funny, but it hits too close to home.

The Lucky button isn’t really what I needed anyway. What I want is a button that pulls up a completely random web page. Well, not completely random because I want it to be in English, but beyond that, random. I wanted a writer’s prompt.

I went to a writers’ workshop a few years back. One of the instructors, Leslie Pietrzyk, explained to the group that she wrote much of her recent novel, Silver Girl, at her weekly writers’ group responding to assigned prompts. A prompt was given, Leslie thought about how it pertained to her story and characters and just dashed off in that direction. The result is a completely unpredictable book, that I think falls in my top ten list, and not just because the author inscribed it to me.

Here’s how I met Leslie:

My brother Dana: “Hey Jeff, my friend Leslie Pietrzyk is going to be one of the instructors at your writers’ conference.”

Me: “I’ll be sure to say hi.”

The next day: “Hi, you must be Leslie, I’m Dana Cann’s brother Jeff.”

Leslie: “Oh, hi Jeff, what sort of writing do you do?”

Me: “Mostly blogging.”

We were only a few of feet apart. I swear I could watch her eyes glaze over with disinterest. I wound up liking her anyway, and plus, that’s a cool story about writing prompts. I used to fool around with writing prompts a few years ago, and I always enjoyed the result. So why can’t Google feed them to me.

Blogging is an up and down hobby for me. Sometimes I feel great about it, sometimes I want to throw in the towel. I’ve been very much in towel mode over the past couple months. My readership is way down and less than twenty percent of my page views result in “Likes.” I’m left wondering if the people who pop by even read my post at all, or worse, they didn’t finish it.

Last week, I wrote a story about the rock band Iron Butterfly. After I posted it, I mentioned to Susan that I may have just hammered in a coffin nail. No one wanted to read that post. It made no sense to drive away readers with such an esoteric topic. “No Jeff, you’ve got your crowd. You won’t lose any readers.”

I got this all wrong, and Susan got it all right. My Iron Butterfly post turned into a fun and fantastic experience. I didn’t get any more likes than normal, but the conversation was amazing. Susan’s right. I have a crowd, and I’m eternally grateful you come by and comment no matter what I write. If my writer prompt plan pans out, my subject matter may get a bit quirkier.

Today, after I commented on a post, a writer asked me what I blog about. I listed a variety of topics, but that the posts were really just all about me—she didn’t click through to read anything. But that got me thinking, these prompts may send me in odd directions, cicadas, sewer drains, bank vaults, but every story will dive deeply into me. I’m thankful that you care.

Photo by JC Gellidon on Unsplash

28 thoughts on “Lucky

  1. I find it interesting how we writers are compelled/inspired to write. For me it’s usually a voice in my head that spouts off something outrageous and I am forced to put it down on virtual paper.
    I am not bragging but I have never yet experienced any sort of block. Instead I have succumbed to writers laziness which may be worse than a block. I have attended, over the years, several writers conferences but found myself busily observing the body language of presenters rather than the words they were saying. As to blog comments… it is rare I get any. Perhaps few are reading, which is okay because like you I write for myself first.
    Oh yeah Schitt’s creek is a major downer. I prefer Zoe’s Extraordinary Playlist.

    Liked by 1 person

      • No. There are at the very least two of us. For me particularly, it’s so mean spirited. I tried watching at least five episodes, looking for redeeming qualities…and was sorely disappointed. I don’t take pleasure in watching stupidity or greed or lack of consideration. It never makes me laugh.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I’d like to keep being part of your crowd. I don’t have a zillion readers, and I’m not sure what my “niche” really is, but I write for myself first and foremost. I follow blogs that spark my own thinking and not to generate more traffic for my blog. I’m grateful to have found interesting people, and count you as one. Stay quirky !

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Sometimes I look at the suggested search words at the top of the WP reader and the three words make interesting combinations sometimes. I think to myself it’s too bad that fiction just isnt my thing, cuz there’s a great story with those words.
    I follow other blogger who host prompts … WP has a gazillion.
    Quirky is the best way to be IMO!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I totally get your love-hate relationship with blogging, Jeff. It often feels like that for me. There are only a handful of bloggers I read regularly, and you are one of them. I like the raw honesty and passion you deliver each time, even if I don’t always agree with your perspective. (Btw, I absolutely adore Schitts Creek. )

    Liked by 1 person

  5. At the gym last week my instructor asked what kind of work do I do. I told her I don’t do anything and that I had three kids. I felt like such a loser. I’ve never been one to say I blogged for the same reason and I am just not writing much these days. I feel so disconnected lately and have thought about throwing in the blogging towel. I still read others and try to stay connected, but I am so out of sync right now. Running, reading and writing were my favorite things and I feel so distant from them and from how I defined myself. I really liked it when WP had the daily prompts. I could usually take the word and apply it to something. And I liked seeing how others used the word – I met a lot of different bloggers that way. I saw that a lot of different bloggers tried to keep the daily prompt going – some may still be doing it – I just never got into them. I just keep thinking when the world returns to normal, I will find myself again. Until then, I don’t plan on making any drastic decisions. I think it is good to stay connected somewhere even if my posts are few and far between.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Have I ever bored you with the story of “Play the ball where the monkey drops it”? The first two paragraphs of this article explain it well: https://www.dailyom.com/cgi-bin/display/librarydisplay.cgi?lid=442. You aren’t living the life you envisioned and it’s easy to look at others and think – wow, they have it so easy, but I think each of us has a principal job of living the life we’re in. It’s scary how many people refuse to do that. The idea that you don’t do anything is completely untrue. You’re the parent of a special needs child. It’s a full time job (all the time) and much more difficult than the 9-5 most of us endure. There is a lot of honor in how you and Bob have embraced that and made it your life. I think if you had said that to the woman who asked you what you do, she would have loads of respect for you.

      Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve struggled with reading and running. I might have the reading a bit back on track now and I just don’t know what to do with running. My strategy to restart reading was to reread some books that I knew I loved (or though I loved, the Hobbit seemed pretty stupid this time around).

      Don’t quit WP, I’d miss you.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Very good advice, Jeff – thank you! I will be thinking about the monkey story a lot and try to be more mindful about today.

        That is really funny you said that about The Hobbit. I was just having this conversation with my friend – about how some books I really adored but wondered if it was because of something positive I was experiencing in life. Other books have fallen into the “I’m sorry. It’s me, not you” category. I am sure I would have enjoyed them, but because of the sh** going on in my daily life I projected it onto the story and felt the story was like, “whatever.” I’ve wondered how many books that I loved, would I love them as much as I did before, and how many I would like that annoyed me before. I haven’t reread any lately, but I will be thinking about this.

        Thanks, Jeff. I won’t. You don’t quit either.

        Like

  6. I feel the same way about Schittvs Creek!
    And the prompts… This is exciting and fun! I’m really enjoying writing with random prompts…
    Also, I never quite knew what the I’m Feeling Lucky button was for, thanks for clarifying!

    Like

  7. I enjoyed the short stories you shared with me, so I’m sure anything you do with the writing prompts is going to be good too.

    I ‘follow’ many blogs, most of which were regular posters at some point, but maybe only ten at most ever post anymore. I admit I have unfollowed a few as well. I think it was trendy some years ago and now all that’s left are those of us for whom it meant something. (I’m projecting, obviously I can’t speak for anyone else!) Anyway please keep writing, you’re too good to stop and I would miss your posts!

    If you want a TV show that’s funny in a sweet way (not a depressing way), and also extremely clever, I recommend The Good Place. You do have to get through the first 2-3 episodes but then it really starts to pay off.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for all that, CJ. I doubt I’ll ever quit, because I get so much mentally out of writing. I loved the good place (until the last few episodes). You’re right, the characters were all so nice, even the evil ones.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh great you’ve seen it! How come you didn’t like the last few episodes? They made me bawl, and I liked the point about how death gives meaning to life. (There’s a great book about that as well, called Death by Todd May. It was even referenced in one episode.) I suppose it did lose a little of the lightheartedness but I thought it was the perfect ending. Tied up with a bow.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Don’t go! Keep the towel!

    Whether or not people hit the like button has always mystified me, both on my WP blog and on my Facebook pages. I think there is a small set of people who know how meaningful positive reinforcement is, and recognizing how easily that can be conveyed with a like, hit the button regularly. Others, for whatever reason, don’t ever hit it, or only sparingly, even though they stop by regularly to read and enjoy your posts. That has been more obvious on my FB page, where every now and again someone will send me a note via Messenger and tell me how much they enjoy seeing my photos there every day. Yet they never, ever hit the “like” button to those photos. I had no idea they even saw them.

    So, I think it boils down to personality quirks. The number of likes is probably a small percentage of the people who are actually enjoying your writing, they just don’t understand the value in the simple gesture of a like, or aren’t comfortable being “seen” giving a like.

    Keep writing, please!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, if I read a post, and it doesn’t offend me I’m going to hit like. And if it does offend me I’m probably going to let you know I read it anyway. It’s such a simple thing to do and with out the like, my assumption is they got bored and didn’t finish. Clearly some insecurity there,

      Like

    • Thanks Rosaliene, that was my plan too. Unfortunately I get too caught up in the amount of engagement. I definitely write about ‘the things that matter to me’ but then I get bummed out when they don’t matter to anyone else 🙂

      Like

  9. “I’m feeling lucky” isn’t there anymore and hasn’t been for a decade??? I never clicked it because I never felt lucky! Jeff, I never look at my watch while I’m running a race and I never look at my blog stats. I’m happier that way. Maybe ignorance is bliss but I want to run the way I want to run and I want to write what I want to write. You seem to get lots of comments. Please don’t throw in the towel. That’s a completely selfish request! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sure I’d be happier if I never looked at my stats. Back when I started I was on google’s blogger platform. I’d get about three views per post. I’d go absolutely insane. I’m not sure I could quit anyway. But I’m definitely feeling the roller coaster of emotions around it. I vwry much appreciate that you read and comment regularly.

      Like

  10. Remember me, I haven’t blogged since September and have barely read blog posts? I was hanging on your every word. I so relate. I started a website named after my autism book and found myself writing about everything but autism over the last nine months. Then more than doubled my followers when I started writing about everything but autism!! I’m up to 72 followers I believe. I don’t know what to write about anymore. Maybe just try every topic and can think of and see how many new followers I can gather. Just kidding – I think.

    Then there’s the reading piece. I used to consume at least three or four books a month. I can’t seem to get into a book. While you tried rereading familiar books, I went back to familiar authors of cozy mysteries I’ve enjoyed in the past. Those are the kind of books I could knock out in a few hours. Now, I renew and renew them at the library and never finish them. That didn’t work.

    Here’s something I read about writing prompts. Find strange headlines, the kind from iffy news sources, and create a story. Here’s some I found, wrote down, and forgot about until just now:
    Chinese food delivery guy throws food to avoid Coronavirus; thieves return statue, leave flowers and a card; students left pineapple in exhibition and people mistook it for art: police: don’t call us for Facebook outages. Maybe we should have a contest to see who could actually create a story from one of these. I’ve never done much with fiction writing.

    But… at the top of the list I found something my husband said to me one day that was pretty funny. Hmm.

    Keep writing Jeff.

    Like

  11. I like the returned statue one. I may give that a shot. I wish it was a week ago, I’d write it about a nativity scene and post it on Christmas Day. Today, I’ve been collecting thought in a word document called this and that. I may use those as a writing prompt later. I’m in my second book in a row – the first two that I just took out of the library and read. I’m guessing it has to do with the presence of a vaccine. I’ll be really happy to be a reader again. I hope it sticks.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s