Out of Ideas?

I was complimented the other day on my dedication and consistency in posting my blogs. Honestly it’s not easy. Especially when you write every day. You dry up and start digging for ideas.

Sure, I could write responses to every crazy person on the internet. But that gets old for both readers and me alike. We only have so many words in our life and they can’t all be spent arguing with idiots.

So what does one write about if he isn’t going to address every hot topic of the day?

Thankfully I didn’t lock myself into a niche blog when I started this whole thing. I have left everything open for discussion. I can write about politics, religion, sex, marriage, travel, life, all the hot button issues, all the boring things, and all the stuff that matters to me.

There are many people who can produce original ideas day in and day out. But even those people go through writer’s block. Perhaps that is where a niche topic comes in handy. When you have a crowd of like minded followers you can harp on the same subject day in and day out and they lap it up.

That’s easy! Those of us who write about all kinds of things have a problem of choices. When you have such a large selection of subjects it can be overwhelming. Even if you manage to select one you probably don’t have enough to make a full post of it.

Maybe this block is a perfect time to learn focus. I can hone in on one thing and exhaust it. But what one thing? What dead horse can I beat?

Maybe this is just showing me that I can’t lock myself away from the outside world for four days at a time. I am not one of those people who needs to hide up in a cabin for months to “find themself”. My mind atrophies without interaction, and not simply the interaction of a text message either. A physical human being’s presence is what really gives it life.

Now is a good time to start. I’m going to hone in and hang out this weekend.

We’ll see what turns up Monday.

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Niche Markets Are Such a Bore

Because I can…

I read a post the other week which purported to tell the reader how to be a super successful blogger. I may or may not be a super successful blogger, I am not entirely positive how to judge such a thing. This person’s advice was to pick a niche and stick with it. Not a narrow niche mind you. But a niche just the same.

To me however, a niche is narrow by definition. A niche boxes you into a corner and tells you that when you just aren’t in the mood to write about the same topic “too bad, your audience wants consistency.”

Consistency is the key to success when it comes to blogging, so they say. Write every post about cooking or travel and you will get 10,000 followers. Write frou frou sentimental platitudes and people will read you every day. I agree with these assertions. I have seen them in action. The most successful bloggers are the ones who day in and day out write about the same crap ad nauseum.

Personally though, I couldn’t care less about a niche. To me, variety is the spice of life. If I bore you one day with history I may interest you the next with money making tips. One day you might snooze at my art opinions but after a few posts you might just fall in love with my frou frou sentimentality.

Why limit yourself to one topic, fellow bloggers? Why put yourself into a box of predictability? Does your niche really gain you a lot of satisfaction? Or are you writing just for the paycheck? Is writing for a paycheck allowing you to do what you love or have you given up what you love just for the paycheck?

The author made a point about goals. He said you can’t attain goals without consistency. Do you make it a goal to stay passionate about your niche? What happens when you lose that passion? Is your goal to have a million fans or is it to do what you’re passionate about? I realize those are not mutually exclusive, but I feel for some people, passion about a subject doesn’t necessarily draw a crowd. Maybe they have a waning passion, maybe the subject at hand is frankly boring.

Someone has to write the boring stuff. Someone has to write about the not-so-popular subjects. Someone has to write about history, or make suggestions about music, or long treatises about government, interspersed with sappy love stuff and poetry. We can’t all write about amazing foods we have tried in far off exotic places. Some of us just like to write randomly about whatever we want.

And some of us consider that ability to be a success.

Why Do I Write?

I wish I had a full sized Matisse… And a desk… And a quill pen….

Why write?

Why write when you are pretty sure no one is reading?

Why write when it gets stressful to keep pumping out posts?

I ask myself those questions sometimes. It can get crazy trying to manage real life and keep up with a blog (or two or three). Sometimes it’s a strain to come up with ideas about what to write. Sometimes I write a complete dud. I had a friend once who wanted to do a podcast with me, like I have time or energy for that! No, blogging is enough.

But why do I do it?

Once upon a time I wrote poetry. Loads of it. I had enough teenage angst to fuel all kinds of creative output. I was published a few times in some random youth anthologies and school lit mags. It was fun, but with age came a dwindling of talent.

In those days I even wrote songs. A few were recorded by my wife’s (then girlfriend) guitar instructor. He hated me. At least the recordings were okay.

Growing up, I was fairly political. I had tons of opinions. I made bumper stickers for my car, some of which I am now greatly ashamed of. My university had a well-read paper and I put my political thoughts and writing skills into innumerable letters to the editor. Some were published, most were not.

After college I went into a bit of a writing hibernation. I had written so many papers and reports that I was spent. It took several years before I started to write randomly again. It was mostly political, but after some prodding I started my first blog about my exploits as a homesteading parent. It was a short lived blog.

Giving up on the blog, I holed up in writing commentaries on social and political subjects. All of them were saved as Word documents, pointlessly hidden on my hard drive.

Knowing how much I enjoy writing, my wife encouraged me to start a new blog. Thus was born Drip Torch Press. It has not always been an easy thing, but I have tried to stay fairly consistent in posting at least once a week. It’s certainly helpful to have the ability to schedule posts out weeks ahead of time. If you ever notice that the posts have stopped, just know that I died weeks ago.

So why do I do it? The big reason: catharsis. As someone who struggles with anxiety it is imperative that I have an outlet for my jumbled brain. The benefit of having a place to dump my thoughts and collect them into little piles is immeasurable.

Having this project is also a perfect way to increase focus. With anxiety comes a frequently scattered brain. It is healthy to have a place that distracts the mind and focuses it on one thing at a time. Learning how to focus here translates into learning focus elsewhere.

Writing to an audience, big or small, is also an ego boost. If I didn’t have a blog my narcissistic tendencies would probably channel themselves into destructive and annoying habits. At least here the recognition is deserved, not just expected.

And last but not least (until I think of another reason) I write for money. I try to impress people into buying my photos and paintings (it hasn’t worked). I post all of these posts on Steemit, which over the course of a year and a half has allowed me to buy into the cryptocurrency markets. It’s a slow trickle, but a trickle nonetheless.

One day I will be able to buy a cup of coffee and say “I earned this from doing something I love!”

That is the goal…

What I Use to Climb Up The Steemit Ladder

Again, a post which might not be much use to exclusive WordPress users. But hey, if you’re having success here, maybe you will have success on Steemit.

Here is a list of things I have recently found useful on Steemit, as well as a few old ones.

SmartSteem: I used SmartSteem for a while without knowing it’s full potential, I even wrote a post about it a little while back. Smartsteem is great for increasing your Steem Power as well as getting a few more SBD’s out of your posts. But it’s good for more than just that. You can delegate some of your SP to the bot and share in the profits from it. You can also sell your votes and not only will SmartSteem pay you, you will get curation awards as well. It’s not a ton of money but a steady trickle is better than nothing.

Minnowbooster: again this is one I have used for awhile. They also provide a delegation service and a place to sell your votes. I’ve never been disappointed with them.

@bubblebee: this is one of those services that sends you a transfer saying “use my service!” and promises a bunch of great things. In this case it promises 50+ upvotes in exchange for 0.5 SBD. I was skeptical about it but after using it a few times it has definitely delivered. You won’t get 0.5 SBD worth of votes, but you definitely will get 50. I reserve this one for times when I want to get somewhere close to the trending pages.

@haji: another one of the spammy kinda users. I got way more votes out of it than @bubblebee as well as some resteems, but not the 1 SBD I sent to it. Again, great for trending.

Steembulls discord channel: this channel offers an upvote exchange. Vote for the post above you then post your link. Pretty simple way to get at least one vote. Plus you get to meet some other people, and networking is key on Steemit. @Steembulls is a great community for meeting other Steemians. I do warn you though, don’t get too post happy. I posted more than the limit of one per 12 hours and got cut off. They were gracious enough to let me back in when I groveled a bit.

Busy.org: How do I describe busy? Well, like the name it is a bit busier than steemit.com in terms of layout. But it gives the advantage of allowing you to create a footer to go on all your posts and allows you to auto-upvote your post when you post it. I haven’t found much more of an advantage than that honestly. It’s still worth checking out.

Steepshot: Steepshot is a great place to post photos and art. There is a great community there and since it displays just photos it’s great for visibility. Even though it limits your description to a short paragraph, it gives you the ability to use up to 20 tags instead of just 5. I highly recommend this if you are a photographer or artist.

I hope these are useful to you. Keep checking back for my disclaimer on vote buying. It’s going to be a douzy.

Stop Fearing Your Own Voice

Kids aren’t afraid of their own voice.

I got an email the other day about writing in your own voice. We grow up being told in school how to write, and writing in your own voice is a big no no. You must write through a filter, just like good speakers talk through a filter. I can’t tell you how many “great” speakers truly grate on me with their speech patterns (Hillary Clinton and Obama both have a cadence that runs me up a wall).

It’s much the same with writers, there are some bloggers who I read once and think “never again.” Sometimes it is because they are too long winded. Sometimes it is because they are too stiff and formal, sometimes they are just trying to sound too fluffy for my tastes.

That article really got me thinking though. I filter a lot. (My 12th grade English teacher would kill me for using “a lot.”) I hold back so much out of fear. Mostly fear of the audience and what they might think, but also just fear of really being myself. (And “really”… she really hated that one.)

Whether it is writing or painting or picking a picture to post (don’t get me started on my guitar playing) I hold back. I don’t put my all into anything, I am afraid of it. I am afraid you will see me for what I am. You will see my flaws, my lack of talent, my lack of ability, or my ignorance. I fear that you will chuckle at me or walk away confused by me. I fear you will think I am a fool or a dork or any number of other pejoratives.

Perhaps I am all too aware of my flaws. Knowing them makes it all the more difficult to show my best. I am not the aloof kindergartner who actually believes his recorder playing sounds good (it never sounds good), I am a grown man who knows what he is trying for and exactly how far off the mark he is.

But just because I am not quite on the mark does not mean that I can’t show off my progress. I am getting ever closer to the mark, when I put in the effort. Whether it be in painting, in writing, in taking pictures, in playing music (that one’s in a holding pattern) or any of the dozen or so things I attempt to do in life, I am progressing.

Not sure if better…
Or just a change in style.

I need not fear my own voice or my own hand, for both are bound to improve with exercise.

And neither should you.

Just How Smart Is “SmartSteem”?

SmartSteem logo used by permission.

This may not be of interest to my WordPress followers, but anyone who is on Steemit should find this valuable.

A few weeks ago I realized I had not won a @photocontests contest in awhile. I thought maybe it was due to my use of SmartSteem to promote my posts. Then I noticed that @juliank, the sponsor of the contests, also uses it on occasion.

It turns out my photography is just crappy.

But it got me wondering, if someone as huge as @juliank uses it, it must be profitable, right?

I never actually did any calculating, I just took @smartsteem ‘s word for it that if you send them any amount you will earn 180%-216% (15% ROI) of that amount (after 25% curation).

So I decided to do an experiment. I decided to keep track of a week’s worth of my posts. I would spend various amounts on each post and see what the payouts ultimately were.

I made a spreadsheet for all the info and calculations and entered in the data once the votes stopped rolling in. Then I reran the numbers once the payouts occured. Most of the time they changed because of the fluctuating value of Steem Backed Dollars (SBD).

Method:

As soon as I made a post I upvoted it. Then I visited SteemBotTracker.com and used the SmartMarket bot to purchase votes.

I then waited for the votes to stop rolling in, or for the refund to come back. SmartSteem returns whatever it can’t spend on votes. I would then subtract the refunds from the amount spent to calculate how much I actually spent.

I did have to re-enter my bid on a few occasions. I only did this if the returned amount was 80% or more of the total amount allocated.

I then recorded the reward in SBD, subtracting my upvote amount from the total, since that would be there ordinarily.

I didn’t break down the votes by whether they were from SmartSteem voters (you can find out from your SmartSteem profile) or organic votes. I assumed the organic votes were harvested from the exposure from the SmartSteem votes. This may not always be the case, but for this experiment I made that assumption.

I also recorded the Steem Power rewards. It was not possible to calculate a rate of return for these since I only spent SBD and not STEEM in this experiment. I converted the amount of SP into SBD at the end just to see what difference it made and it made quite a bit of difference.

Overall I spent $39.203 SBD with an initial return of $38.914 SBD and 11.37 SP.

Results:

Actual return in SBD was $29.934. This was a 23.64% loss.

SP return was 10.246. I converted this to SBD (1.39 SP/SBD) and found the equivalent return to be $14.27 SBD.

Adding the total return of SP and SBD gave an ROI of 12.77% ($14.21 SBD). Given that SmartSteem has a flexible ROI I would call this close enough to the 15% usually quoted.

Pros of SmartSteem:

Easy to use, just go to https://smartsteem.com or https://steembottracker.com/ or send Steem or SBD through a transfer.

Gains user post exposure by getting posts into “trending” or “hot” categories.

Gains user followers.

It’s easy to keep track of votes and their total value on the SmartSteem site.

Great customer service through their Discord Channel. The few times I have had issues with refunds, @TheRealWolf has been more than willing to help.

You can buy upvotes for any post, even if they are not yours. This allows you to do a little undercover charity work for smaller minnows or people working for a cause.

Cons:

If you are hoping for a positive return just in SBD you will be disappointed (unless SBD value is on the rise). I think this very thing is the reason SmartSteem has had some negative press lately. The guy spreading the slams doesn’t understand how the returns work.

Sometimes you have to send your bid a couple times to get it through. This is more of an inconvenience than anything else.

Conclusion:

While my SBD return was a loss, overall return was a gain when one considers SP as well.

SBD dropped in value 24% from the first post to the last payout. This definitely had a negative impact on the results. In fact it lines up exactly with the difference between initial returns and actual returns.

SmartSteem is definitely not a get rich quick scheme. Like anything on Steemit it takes patience and time. It does however offer an easy way to snowball returns for quicker results. You don’t have to buddy up to some whale anymore for decent payouts on your posts.

Overall, SmartSteem is an easy to use tool to gain Steem Power, SBD, and followers. It is a great way for minnows to grow into dolphins and whales quicker than simply waiting for the system that is Steemit to find them.

If you want to get in on the action and give me a little bit of credit, use my link to join: https://smartsteem.com?r=driptorchpress

Thanks for reading!

Quantity and Quality

Have you ever met one of those people who just seem to always churn out perfection? There are people out there who produce not just a quantity of good, but a quality good, every. single. time…

I’m not going to come on here and say that I despise those people. I honestly don’t. Different people are gifted in different ways and it does no good to begrudge them.

If I had to describe my productivity model it would probably be best described as a crap shoot. Sometimes there is quantity. Sometimes there is quality. Occasionally there are both.

When life is slow I might shoot off a few random thought posts about nothing in particular. When life is busy I might post nothing at all. Quantity lacks when there is no time to devote to quality.

I participate in a daily photo contest on my Steemit blog. Each day I have to post from two categories of subject. This is one way to keep yourself on your toes. I have to constantly search my archives for not just quantity (two a day is a lot) but quality as well.

I know people who do writing contests which are similar. I doubt that I could ever keep up! People who can are a truly special lot. More power to them.

As for me, I will just keep playing my craps. Maybe I will post a bunch. Maybe I won’t. Maybe it will be hard hitting and high quality. Maybe it won’t. You’ll just have to keep tuned in to find out.