900 Words or less…REALLY???

900 words or less

 

by Kenneth Justice

~ “So what now?” asked my friend sitting with me at coffee the other day. We were talking about the fact that the upcoming New Year will mark the one year anniversary of my blog, “So where do you go with the blog from here?” he asked.

I hate New Year’s resolutions…..so last year in a moment of utter hypocrisy I made the resolution to start a blog….I was worn out from counseling, human service work and taking college classes; after seven straight years of a non-stop obsession with the field of psychology I was feeling burned out.

I had worked in so many different facets of human service yet at every turn I kept seeing so many problems and very few solutions;

—) massive amounts of people being given prescription drugs (70% of all Americans)

—) too many people struggling with depression and loneliness….and a medical community that has no answers

—) a total failure in the psychological community at combating chemical addiction dependency (no psychological theory or program is very effective)

I kept coming back to the same realization; the problem in Western Culture is not that we need a new psychological theory, better schooling or a new type of prescription drug. The problem in Western Culture…..is Western Culture itself.

So in January of 2013 I created a blog account…..but I didn’t know what to write about. For an entire month the blog sat vacant……

On February 1st, I finally came up with a simple outline for my blog;

—) Articles should be 900 words or less

—) Topics should relate to some element of Western Culture

—) I will be transparent but not personal (something I was taught by one of my professors)

—) I will precede each article with a photo I’ve taken (an article I wrote about blogging encouraged this)

When I finally began writing and publishing articles I didn’t really know what the hell I was doing. For the first few months I felt that the blog lacked coherency; everything was too disconnected and I spent countless hours trying to ‘find my voice’.

In February, my first full month of blogging, I had a whopping 620 total hits to my Website….March was a bit better at around 2000….but many of those people were friends of mine in real life who were kind enough to check out what I was doing. I was a bit discouraged. Had I really made the right decision to put aside my lifelong desire to earn a PhD in psychology for the whim of a blog that seemed to lack coherency and was barely noticeable in the world of the Internet?

Then in April I wrote a series of articles related to my frustrations with the way the subject of sexuality is treated in the Western World……I also wrote a couple articles about some of the difficulties I’ve been having with Western Christianity……….apparently people noticed the articles.

stats

By August the blog was going pretty well but I was starting to feel a bit concerned. From the very beginning of the blog it was never my goal to write opinion articles as much as I merely wanted to share some of the things I think about….

—) things that I am wrestling with

—) issues that I haven’t made up my mind about

—) topics that perplex me

And in August I was concerned that the blog was moving in the wrong direction; I felt that I was walking along a slippery slope of becoming a blog where people came for ‘answers’……yet merely being in my thirties I didn’t want to presume that I have all the answers.

And then one day in late September I noticed that traffic to my blog increased whenever I wrote about the people I meet at coffee; the strangers, acquaintances, and friends who sit with me at coffee each day were apparently something that interested a great many people. This was quite shocking to me because I never knew or had any inkling that the random daily conversations I have; were something that people would want to read about.

By October I finally felt that my blog had become something…….it seemed like I finally knew who I was as a blogger; I’m that dude who writes about the people I meet at coffee. Am I proud of that distinction? I’m not really sure….but I’m okay with it……because finding out who we are can help give us a sense of meaning , identity…and purpose.

Most of all….I’m glad I found this direction for the blog because it allows my readers to supply the opinions. By merely conveying the conversations and topics I’m thinking about….the blog has become an opportunity for others to give the final word in the comment section. I’ve never thought I was the smartest person…..I’ve never thought I had all the answers….so I’m thankful that I have a little place in the world to share what I’ve experienced.

So Kenneth, what are you going to do with the blog in 2014?” my friend at the café kept asking me

Well actually” I said, “I’ve been putting a lot of thought into this and I really want to do something a bit different. I want to do something that only a few bloggers out there have ever done or have ever even considered doing…..so that’s why in 2014 I’m going to…..” but at that point a stranger asked if he could sit down at our table and I didn’t get to finish what I was saying…….fortunately, we had a really nice conversation with the guy. Turns out he used to be part of a hardcore religious cult and a few years ago finally found the courage to leave. It’s a really good story and perhaps I will write about it some day.

For now, I think I will have another cup of coffee

Kenneth

BTW) If you got a few minutes to spare on New Years Day swing by www.culturemonk.com for my big announcement.



Categories: Culture & Society

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

93 replies

  1. You are a flirt and a tease! But a good one! And an interesting look back at how you have seen your words develop. Never really put that much observation into mine. Just hit the keyboard and then get on with the day! Well done you! 🙂

    • Paul, perhaps my curse in life is my obsession to psychoanalyze myself….always questioning what I’m doing, the value of it, purpose, etc….sometimes I get a headache from thinking too much! lol

      I’ve always been very concerned with ‘meaning’, ‘purpose’, and ‘identity’. Those three issues are also topics that came up all the time when I was working as a counselor as it seems people who are going through tough times think about those things a lot.

    • We all get headaches from time to time. I look on it as my grey cells saying “We don’t need sleep … REALLY???”. One bit of analysis for you: whatever your church did to you when you were younger, it had forged both a strength and gentleness. I reckon He is still chuckling at your doubts as he strokes your words.

    • ” One bit of analysis for you: whatever your church did to you when you were younger, it had forged both a strength and gentleness. I reckon He is still chuckling at your doubts as he strokes your words.”

      I should say that it wasn’t ‘one church’ in particular…but rather the evangelical church in general. Evangelicalism has spent much of the past generation going in the wrong direction (in my humble opinion) and until more Christian stand up and speak out against it I feel that it will continue to suffer a death of irrelevance.

    • And I also use “church” in the species sense. Pebbles, Kenneth, pebbles. You might never know where your ripples go/build. But you keep dropping them with your words. I like pebbles and ripples. Not only are they gentle, they are inclusive. Gives everyone the chance to build some god-rippling muscles.

    • He is such a flirt and a tease! It’s horrible. Shame on him! 🙂 I’m glad I’m not the only one frustrated by his teasing us with his so called announcement. Oh well. It’s almost time. Happy New Year!

    • “so called announcement” is that your attitude missy! See if Santa brings u any gifts next year…I think not! Lol….actually, I think I will tell Santa to send u tickets to see Britney spears in Vegas 😉

    • LOL oh you’re mean! Cruel even! Tsk tsk. It was just a joke geez. You know I’ll be back to read about it because I’m just as curious as the next. I’m excited to know what big adventure you’ll be taking because it will surely bring us readers along also. 🙂 So don’t be going and getting a ‘tude lol.

    • Lol luv ya 🙂 wouldn’t it be a hoot if I bought u tickets to see Britney now that she’s playing in Vegas…OMG I wouldn’t be able to stop laughing if I saw u in the seats at a Britney concert ha ha

    • LOL won’t happen – well you could buy the tickets but I wouldn’t go – I’d give them away or re-sell hahah. 🙂 I might even be nice enough to give you the money back for them.

    • Didn’t your mama ever teach you that not accepting gifts is rude!

    • LOL I would just be spreading the joy Kenneth 😉 and I see nothing wrong with that.

    • Ha ha whatever…I’m telling your mom that u didn’t heed her advice about receiving gifts

    • lol whatever brat 🙂 If it were a gift I’d like there’d be no problem with accepting and using it for myself 🙂

    • Britney Spears concert tickets…..the gift that keeps on giving and giving and giving…..cuz sometimes her voice over gets stuck on repeat….lol I don’t even think she really sings live at concerts, lmao, I think she only lip syncs…

    • lol wasn’t that what happened to Milli Vanilli? Actually, that’s a sad story. but yeah. no that’s okay, I’ll pass on crazy Brit. She just doesn’t do it for me haha. Soccer tickets though… I could do that. 🙂

    • In the voice of homer Simpson…mmmmmm, soccer tickets 😉

  2. Happy New Year 🙂 Kenneth 🙂

    >

  3. Talk about obsessive thinking…I have to make a guess…just for fun. What you are NOT going to do in the New Year.You are not going to set up a cam at the coffee shop and have a new reality show. You are not going to do that because readers love the story telling from your perspective. Readers love the little voice in your head that acts out but you are kind and polite. Readers love your moods and your frustrations because we have similar little voices in our heads. Do Better it says. Let people be who they are. Enjoy and learn from them.

    • lol yea…I don’t think any of the coffee shops I hang out at would look too kindly on me doing a reality show at their establishment……..thanks for the kind words 🙂

  4. Kenneth – I recently found your blog; I think perhaps you had liked one of my posts (thank you!) and I wandered over to see what a “culturemonk” was… The answer was intriguing.

    I am a survivor of an evangelical upbringing as well; the aftermath is puzzling, disquieting, at times encouraging, at times stultifying. I feel there is a form of understanding/peace out there somewhere, if only I stay open, earnest, and well, open.

    I will assure you now that I have not visited your posts in search of “answers.” It’s simply good to know that there are many who seek, and realize that this process takes time and that is fine – it’s not an end in itself, are happy to share and not judge, and every day brings more light and shadow. I congratulate you on your past year and offer my best wishes for the next. Cheers!

    I now turn my attention back to my empty coffee cup and head toward the still-hot pot…

  5. A big announcement on New Years Day? What can I say? I love to read your blog and to me it seems you found what you were looking for. If you’d ask me I would advise you not to change anything. Keep writing about the people you meet, about their misfortune, their fears, worries and troubles. Because one of the most important things our society and culture needs is compassion. I salute you from The Netherlands and wish you and all the people out here that read your blog a happy new year.

  6. May our years to come be filled with laughter and understanding. years filled with an every day smile.
    Enjoying to read peoples and your opinion about subjects we sometimes to ashamed to talk about ourselves.
    It is a pleasure to be part of this. Thank you. See you in 2014 dude.

  7. My like button doesn’t load, no matter how long I wait. Something is terribly wrong! Hope that doesn’t spoil your stats! 😉 Man, wishes for health and enlightenment this coming year. The rest will come. And even if they don;t at least you will have health and a new perspective to see things!

    • Same to you 🙂 and I don’t worry much about the like button….I haven’t looked at it for a few months; figure it’s not worth thinking about how many people click like or not 🙂

    • This seems to be a problem for everyone’s blogs– that the Like button doesn’t work. I think I’ll look into this, see what’s going on.

  8. Maybe we come back because you are that guy sitting at the coffee shop with “Us” and having those conversations with “Us” that are just so Human.

  9. What the heck, Kenneth! The build up is fierce…you’ve figured out how to create anticipation inside your readers, as well.

    Stop it. LOL

    With that being said…I couldn’t be more impressed with that jump in views. You truly have something to say that resonates with others. My one year blog anniversary is in April. I’m thrilled with my 50 views and 200ish followers. Maybe by my 2nd anniversary I can say I have reached the masses. 🙂

  10. You are such a tease, Kenneth. I assume you are going to change the whole of your life. I suspect you are going to move house and end up working in a totally different environment (to that where you are working today). In fact I suspect you are even going to write a book about your conversations in the coffee shop and where they have taken you in understanding your own life.

    As to asking whether you are going in the right direction. Well, surely the stats will answer that one. People want to hear about reality. People want to hear about people (doing everyday things).

    Reality TV is big in Australia, but i usually only watch the gardening reality shows.

    I notice when I write a slightly longer story (to go with my photography), I get lots more views. People seem to be interested in my everyday walks, be they in nature OR in the city with street photography. They want to hear what I am thinking when I take a photo. They want to hear how I see (especially since I have very poor vision – even with prescription glasses).

    I think it was C. S. Lewis that wrote “we read to know we are not alone” (or something like that). It’s true. People read blogs to find whatever it is (they are looking for). They seek friendship. They want to hear that other people experience similar things to themselves. They want to know they are not strange or weird or eccentric. They want to know someone feels the way they do. They want to know what to do, or how to answer ‘age old’ questions.

    But mostly, they read to know they are not alone.

    My blog is supposed to be about my Photography learning journey since I bought a camera in retirement. But somehow, words creep into some posts and I end up writing more than I intended. I was contacted a few months ago by a reader of my blog. Turns out we went to school 50 years ago and when my family moved, we lost touch. She somehow recognised me through my writing (despite no surname or correct Christian name at the time). She said that she had learned so many tips about taking photos from me. I had never realised that I was actually ‘teaching’ in my blog, but there you have it. One lady who has become a friend finds great wisdom in my comments on her own blog and they have helped her deal with some difficult situations and her emotional worries.

    Like I said in your last post. Every one makes a difference (in the lives of others). I go along with the Buddhist thought that we are all interdependent. No man is an island. And I’m sure you will go on to make a difference in many more lives through your writing.

    • Vicki, I wish I had an award to hand u for best comment of the week….the Lewis quote is awesome, you’ve given me a ton to the about today 🙂

    • You’re welcome, Kenneth.
      (I hope I’ve got the name of the ‘quote’ author right, but it doesn’t really matter, does it. It’s the meaning behind the quote that counts).
      I think we all need to hear praise when we do something positive in the community.

  11. So how’d you get so good in just one year? Any tips?

    • Well, I don’t think I’m all that good…so I couldn’t really say…..my favorite blogger Andrew Sullivan gets one million hits per month; now there’s a guy you should get advice from on blogging!

    • Well you said you’ve only been in the circle for one year yet you have so many hits per month. You must have some tips.

    • Yes, he must. I’ve been blogging since 2003 and I’ve not had anywhere near the hits, comments, etc.

    • Really? I guess it depends on the quality of writing, dedication, etc. I’ve been in the circle since August and I’m trying to find tips and more tips. My stats are fine based on what I do. It’s sad that only so many make it big. Culture Monk has good posts though.

    • Really.

      I think some of this depends on how well you get the word out. Kenneth has had his professional associations; I don’t really have any to speak of. He’s linked this blog to Facebook; I’m still reluctant to go back after destroying a FB account.

      I’ve just recently started getting connected into some of the WordPress community, and that is bringing a little more attention to what I write. Some blogs I follow– I’ve seen bloggers featured on them and their readership just skyrockets afterwards.

    • So Facebook is the trick?

    • Oh, whatever it takes to get blogger’s attention– not just Facebook.

      There are some bloggers that are just rock stars, and I’ve seen some bloggers really take off after being featured on their blogs. Blogs like Le Clown’s A Clown on Fire, or Black Box Warnings. Rarasaur. Other blogs I can’t think of right at the moment.

      Or being Freshly Pressed.

    • What is to be freshly pressed?

    • It’s the WordPress spotlight on blogging posts.

      WordPress DOT com SLASH fresh.
      I’d type the URL normally except then I’d have to wait for Kenneth to approve it.

    • So only specific bloggers get to be featured on this?

    • Yeah, whomever the WordPress staff picks, I guess.

    • Ok great.

    • Jaklumen,

      I asked Santa to give me the power to always make your links approved but alas…he somehow didn’t get my telegram. Perhaps WordPress will make that feature available in the coming year.

  12. I am only half-way through my first cup of tea, so unlike all these people ready with witty/wordy comments, all I can say is…Kudos Kevin. I am so blessed to have found your blog here, and look forward to our mornings together. 🙂

  13. I think I’ve said it before here: the best blogs notice what I’d interesting about ordinary life. I think people like reading about those you meet over coffee because you point out what is interesting about their ordinary lives. You’ve done a great job. I look forward to seeing what 2014 holds for you.

  14. I’ve only recently discovered your blog, and have found it consistently interesting, sincere and insightful. Looking forward to discovering the direction it will take in the new year, and this post has piqued my interest to go back through the archives. Thank you for all your hard work this year, all the best for 2014

  15. What can I say, it’s up to you on which road you will walk. From my side, I will follow you as I did since September. Whatever you’ll choose, respect and common sense will be always between your lines. It’s a delight to read you. Happy New Year, Kenneth!

  16. Well, Kenneth, because I am so self-centered, I could not help but notice similarities and differences between our blog posts today. Those included: (1) I also started blogging a year ago on New Year’s Day and (2) I can’t keep secrets as well as you do. No matter what the similarities and differences, I’m so glad we met here. I look forward to your Big Announcement tomorrow and your thoughts into the future. Happy New Year, Fellow Blogger.

  17. Your blog is pretty awesome. I wish that I could have more random conversations with people like you do but in my daily life I am isolated.

  18. Very clever. I am intrigued. I wish I could figure out what blogging dude I am (or dudette, as it may be). Nice job!

  19. So nice to learn more of the story about how this blog began.

    For the first few months I felt that the blog lacked coherency; everything was too disconnected and I spent countless hours trying to ‘find my voice’.

    I’m still not totally comfortable with this newer trend in blogging, that blogs must have a “voice”. I started in the years that blogs tended to be more journals or diaries; indeed, the first site I started with is called “LiveJournal”. But maybe that’s part of the process– remember in the middle to late ’90s, when everyone having a website was a thing?

    • I do remember that era…..I was one of the few who didn’t have a website lol….for me; I’ve never looked at blogging as being “my journal”. I understand those who view it that way and that’s okay…. I’ve kept a private journal since I was eight years old and have an entire shelf in my library of all my journals, so for me blogging has been more about expressing my thoughts to a wider audience. Ive read a ton of books, spent many years in college, and so I came to a point in life where I felt ‘I had something to say’ to the world; but I wanted to find the right “voice” or “way” to say it….does that make sense? Ive never wanted an “advice” column, I’ve never wanted a “news” column either…..so this past year has been an experience in me learning without what my particular style or “voice” would be

    • You have a message. If I understand you right, it’s not built on an aggregate total of day-to-day experiences– it’s a message on *specific* observances, many of them that you’ve had in the coffee shop, talking to people.

      I should have clarified that some bloggers criticized me for taking a more eccentric and eclectic approach, especially the one that said I hadn’t found my “voice” yet. I guess they thought my focus was very diluted, and so my posts must have been lacking substance to them.

      Complex PTSD wrecks a lot of havoc, Kenneth, or rather, the years of abuse that manifests itself as such now does. I felt safer writing about things I thought didn’t threaten anyone. When I started, the posts about real pain and suffering were locked tightly away. When I started letting some of it out at VOX, I was stalked, harrassed, and I lost some readers.

      Incidentally, it’s only been within the last two months that I’ve felt okay with letting them out again. Here at WordPress, I finally started finding blogs where it was safe to talk about certain topics that were important, but sometimes very painful to me.

    • Jaklumen, I definitley understand the feeling your expressing about people treating you unkindly when you shared some of your more “open” thoughts on tough subjects. For me, it’s a double edged sword because I’m not a big fan of having to deal with the “haters” but I know for a fact that when I’ve written about more controversial subjects and mentioned my honest opinion about them; the traffic to my blog increases….but the haters increase as well…..

      And you are correct; I’m choosy about which experiences at the coffee shop I share and I like your term “aggregate” which is spot on. The reality is that I sift through all of the conversations a pick those which seem to convey certain themes and concepts…..

  20. 900 words for one purpose. You have a passion for days of our life and a mission to invent for something better (creative & compassionate) each of us has something to give that no one else has. You have a gift that might not give you the money you need but the difference you make is priceless.
    Happy 2014!! Enjoy your champagne and don’t miss the midnight Kiss 😀

  21. Ken I just wanted to say you rock!! thank you for reading!!!! I love your blog too. happy new year
    ~michelle

  22. Cliffhanger!!!! I can’t help hearing Kronk doing his own theme music in my head… – the wifey

  23. It’s funny to read this about keeping your posts to 900 words or less because I distinctly remember having a conversation with you about one of my posts and how long it was and trying to decide if the length of my posts was a problem or not, etc. Then in recent weeks your posts have been longer also (not by a whole lot usually but still) and I find that interesting. Anyway, I am definitely one of those that loves the whole coffeehouse thing you have going on now. Little places like that are a wonderful way to observe people, therefore, observe our culture. Coffeehouses may be a little bit more of a specific group as it may not include other subcultures worth observing, but it’s a great start. The conversations you have are also incredibly interesting (though a few have been super frustrating and I kind of want to reach through the screen and slap those folks lol). I guess I’ll be back tomorrow to see what’s happening for the new year. It better be good for all the teasing you’ve been doing lol. 🙂

    • I don’t remember the conversation but I believe ya….my memory aint all that good. Ya, my goal has always been between 800-900 words but in recent weeks I’ve been going over by an average of 45 words……I read somewhere along time ago that 900 words is about how long the average person will stay connected to a blog article…….

  24. Nice to get some backdrop on the development an guidelines used in your blog…very analytical! Well, I’ve hung out here mostly because I like the topics. I also like your honesty about the influence your religion had on you and your attempts to be a better man. Always loved the intro photos…good to know they were your pics.

    I have wanted to know how you color one person and leave the rest black and white…photoshop, I suppose.

    Congratulations on your success in blogging…you have made an impact on the lives of the people who visit you and that is something to be proud of. If nothing else, you have made people think about the cause and effect of their actions. Through that, things can change for the better.

    Only a few more hours before we hear the BIG news! Can’t wait. Have a great New Years…and even better 2014!

    • Yea, u can use photoshop or any number of programs to do it…..it’s not too tricky once ya get the hang of it.

      Mrs. p, I wish I could hand out a dozen awards to my favorite commenters becauseive really appreciated so much of the insight you’ve brought to my site in my first year…..your own experiences coming out of the religion u left are every bit as remarkable, if not more, than my own.

      Happy new year 🙂

  25. Your blog readers sound like they like gossip. That seems consistent. I think this is the reason why “reality” TV shows are so popular. People like drama and adventure. I too notice that I get the most “Likes” not on blog posts that make some profound philosophical insight (which is the main purpose of my blog) but instead when I simply tell a story about something that happened in my life. Frankly, I think it’s because most people are shallow idiots.

  26. Thanks for this one. Helped to clarify some things that I wrestle with as well–all the best–JIm

    PS. Not sure that I quite agree with Matthew C that most people are shallow idiots though. I would agree that many people don’t see the world as I do but I’m not sure that qualifies them as idiots

  27. Wow! Great read, thanks for the nice walk through of the life of your blog. I was in SHOCK that you have so many followers at only just a year! Congrats to you! I’m looking forward to spending more time on your page. Happy New Year! 🙂

  28. Thanks for following me! Looking forward to reading your thoughts on Western Culture and Sexuality. Been thinking about that one for a long time, but haven’t decided on how to frame my thoughts yet.

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