Big Lessons: Traffic boosts and content creation

10 months' worth of traffic -- room for improvement

10 months’ worth of traffic — room for improvement

So, here’s a challenge… I have a site where I’m sharing all the lessons I learned about traveling to and from Paris. It’s called Paris – In and Out.

I used to have a job that took me to Paris, France, a couple of times a year. I learned a whole lot about how to get in and out of Paris “with minimum pain and maximum gain”, in the space of a few years. After I left the company, my thought was to get the info out there, so others can benefit, as well. I also didn’t want all that knowledge to just evaporate.

What a waste that would be.

So, I started blogging about it. And then I had some ideas for books. And courses. Life, of course, is always interesting with the spanners it throws in your works, plus I have a ton of interests, so my real-life travels took me in different directions over the past nine months — with the net result being this:

Traffic to my Paris travel blog

Traffic to my Paris travel blog

I started out relatively strong in July of 2014, and I seemed to be picking up steam… then things tailed off in August, for some reason. September through November were slooow months, with things at work getting very hectic. Then traffic picked up in December, for some reason. January was a big month — perhaps because I not only posted a bunch of content, but I also cross-posted to Facebook and LinkedIn.

February I got seriously sidetracked by the constant storms and snow — that mess ate up a bunch of my time and energy and left me pretty wiped out after all the shoveling and roof raking, so I didn’t have much energy left to blog about flying to Paris. Then I got back into the swing of things in March. April is lagging again. The month is half over, and I’ve gotten all of 14 views.  Woo hoo.

I would very much like to jump-start this again. Honestly, I need to bump up my traffic, get the word out there, so on and so forth. 319 visitors in a month as a high point is obviously not stellar — I know better, and I’ve actually done better in other web situations. But that experience is not showing up in my stats here.

So, let the lessons commence. Boosting traffic to your site is not rocket science. It’s really more about consistency, than anything else. That, and knowing where to put your attention and efforts. And my Paris travel site is probably an excellent test case for figuring out the details — finding what works, and what doesn’t.

I do know this: Building a solid web presence takes discipline and consistency, and if you don’t choose the right path, right off the bat, you can end up spending a ton of time and energy on something that doesn’t pan out in the end. The online world is rife with stories of people who chose the wrong path, from the get-go. They decided to make and sell something that nobody actually wanted. They thought in terms of “Field of Dreams” — so long as they built it, people would come.

But they never checked if what they were building actually met a need, to start with.

I’m guilty of the same sort of thinking. I’ve done it myself, a number of times over the past 20 years. And I learned very quickly that if you don’t produce something that people actually want, your efforts aren’t going to pay off nearly as well as you expected them to.

So here’s the reboot of my approach. Targeted content. Informed choices about what to write and publish. Data-driven. A continuous learning experience which I hope benefits others as much as myself. Despite my background in all things web, I’m as human as the next person and I always have a lot to learn.

So let the Paris Travel Site re-boot commence.

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Homeless… and happy

This. Except, it was at night

This. Except, it was at night – and it was a lot less pretty in 1990

Note: This is NOT a commentary on how anyone else should or could feel, when they’re facing adversity, particularly homelessness. Nor is it a “recipe” for how to be less miserable when life flat-out sucks. It’s just a story about my own experience.

Anyway, 25 years ago today, I was just starting to get my act together. As we often will, in my early adult years, I had made a series of unfortunate and ill-informed choices about how I was supposed to live my life. The net result was that in the winter of 1990, I was in a life situation that was completely wrong for me — and was causing a lot of people around me a fair amount of pain.

That tends to happen when you make life-defining decisions based on what everyone else tells you to do, versus what you know you’re supposed to do — and are best at doing.

Anyway, long story short, things came to a head in January, 1990, and by the end of that month, I had removed myself from the home and relationship that everyone around me said was the “right” one for me to be in. I went to stay with a friend who offered her couch for me to crash, should I ever decide to get free. Then things didn’t pan out with that friend (she was too hungry for details that I didn’t care to share), so I took my bag, and at about 11 p.m. on an early February night, I stepped out onto the streets of Center City Philadelphia without any idea what I was going to do next.

I wasn’t sure where I was going to go. I didn’t know who I could stay with. I had one other friend who could possibly offer me shelter, but when I rang her doorbell, there was no answer. And on that bitter cold night, I found myself walking down dark streets with my bag over my shoulder, looking for a doorway to shelter in. It was cold, as I recall, but it wasn’t snowing. All I needed was a place to hole up, until daylight, when I could go to work, wash up and change my clothes, and see what my options were.

Now, at the time, Center City Philadelphia was not the most hospitable place to be after 10 p.m. There were a lot of drugs being sold on street corners, and “wolf packs” of young men were often on prowl looking for folks to rough up. I had no idea where I was going to go, or what I was going to do — beyond getting through the night and going to work the next morning. And in retrospect, maybe my situation wasn’t all that great.

But honestly, none of the realistic concerns weighed me down. Oh, sure, I knew the dangers were there. Absolutely. I had no plan on actually sleeping in a doorway – that would have been crazy and asking for trouble. I knew I was vulnerable, alone, and without any real way to stay completely safe. But that didn’t hold me back. If anything, that awareness just kept my feet on the ground.

And a good thing, too. Because the one emotion I remember feeling so very, very clearly, was elation. Sheer joy. Almost intoxicating levels of happiness.

Because I was free. I was out of that domestic situation, and I was out of that home that felt more like a prison than anything else. I was on my own, making my own choices, taking my own chances, and from that point on, I had only myself to thank for what was going on in my life. I had no one to answer to, other than myself, and it was sheer bliss.

No, things were not perfect. Yes, I could have been in dire danger, had I crossed paths with the wrong folks. No, there was no guarantee that I’d be able to find shelter that night… or the nights to come. But none of that mattered to me. All that mattered, was that I was cut loose from an anchor that was dragging me down, and my fate was squarely in my own hands.

I kept walking the streets, looking for a likely doorway to spend the night. I passed up a bunch of different options, because they either didn’t have a good line of sight, or they just didn’t feel safe for some reason. Eventually, I came around the block again to the front door of the one friend I had, and this time when I tried the doorbell, she answered. And she let me in, with my bag and my giddy elation.

So, I found real shelter for the night — and it lasted for the next month or so, till I found my own room to rent. If I hadn’t been able to hole up with that friend, that night, I would have just kept walking. On the street. Keeping moving so I wouldn’t be an easy target. On my own. I was out of house and home, and I didn’t care.

Because for the first time in a long time, I was happy.

By the end of March, 1990, I had found a room to rent which was in a perfect location to get a real feel for South Philly — right down the street from the two cheese-steak places — Pat’s and Geno’s. The trolley stopped nearby, so I could easily get to and from work, and the house was clean and well-kept.  I only stayed there a few months, till I found another place in Center City, just a few blocks from my job, but it was good while it lasted.

Things were in a bit of a shambles, family-wise, but I had my own life back, which was all I really cared about. And it was really, really good.

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Springing the language traps


On my weekly Sunday morning walk, I thought about language, jargon, and conceptual “containers” we use to wrap up seemingly complex ideas into bite-size bits.

We all have a lot going on, these days, so being able to encapsulate complex ideas into more compact form, can be a time-saver. Provided, of course, everyone has the same understanding of what’s inside the “jar” of the jargon.

In technology, business, science, philosophy, metaphysics, and just about every professional field, there’s an abundance of jargon and discipline-specific terminology that serves several purposes:

  1. To determine who belongs in the group, based on their apparent command and use of the jargon.
  2. To determine who doesn’t belong, based on the glazed-over look in their eyes when jargon gets liberally applied to conversations.

For the record,  I’m not a fan of jargon. It sounds contrived — which it is — and it always makes me wonder if the person saying those things actually understands what they’re saying, or if they’re just putting on a show.

At first, mastering the terminology may make you feel like you know what’s going on, and you’re part of the in crowd. But if used long enough, it can encourage lazy thinking. Rather than discussing the actual contents of that conceptual container and making sure the other person understands you and can do something with the ideas you’re trying to convey, you’re basically tossing that container at someone, expecting them to catch it and do something meaningful with it.

Or, you can dispense with the fancy speak, just sort out your thoughts and give the other person something to work with.

But what does it *mean*?

Of course, if you take that more considered route in certain company, you run the risk of having them think you don’t have mastery of the jargon, so therefore you are not one of them… and how did you get in here again?


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Okay, so what if there were a way to just let others “be”…?

It’s all in there

What if there were a belief system that actually “allowed” others to believe what they do, and completely respect those beliefs as valid for them, regardless of whether or not you agree?

What if there were a way to reconcile both the absence of duality and the pervasive nature of it?

What if there were a way to reconcile the co-existence of good and evil, without negating or watering down the very nature of each?

What if there were away to accommodate, well… everything? (Of course, with the understanding that “accommodating” doesn’t mean declaring the whole lot “super fantastic” and realizing that certain things produce effects that are indeed harmful to others and aren’t the healthiest of choices for humanity, regardless of your world view.)

For some time, now, I’ve had a very different belief in what constitutes Time, Space, and Matter. It’s different from how I used  to conceptualize them, which was standard-issue three-dimensional  height-weight-depth, with time being a fourth dimension.

Plenty of people believe it, plenty of people agree that that’s how things work.

I’ve read a lot of papers and writing and books ‘n’ such over the years — quantum physics, and whatnot. Some of it fringe. Some of it alternative. Some of it mainstream. I’m a huge fan of David Bohm and his concept of the Implicate Order. His work helped set me on the path that got me here.

But I’m not one for only reading. Even more I believe in observing, reflecting, and putting what one reads to the test.

Long story short, I realized about a year and a half ago that I don’t actually believe in time, space, or matter, as they are popularly defined. I don’t believe that we create our lives. I don’t believe that we create anything.

We perceive. We discover. We uncover. We discern. We detect.

I believe that every single experience, phenomenon, material object, and dynamic is resident in the comprehensive Whole, and that the world as we experience it is actually based on what our systems are able to detect from the Whole.

What is that “what” which we detect?

Qualitative Frequency “Signatures” of energy — patterns our systems pick up and order in a way that makes sense to our brains, our bodies, our hearts, and our spirits.

Rather than “attracting” things to us, we actually refine our ability to detect specific patterns from the Whole, and the result is a seeming “manifestation” of what we have “created”.

We haven’t created anything. We haven’t manifested anything.

We simply became capable of detecting the Qualitative Frequency Signatures of the conditions we encounter.

I haven’t the faintest idea if this makes sense to anyone else, but I guess I’ll find out…

For the meantime, I’ll be refining this view and — now and then — writing about it, as it comes clearer for me.

In my view, this approach resolves a truckload of philosophical and logistical issues that have confounded science — and not only does it resolve a ton of conflicts, but it also explains and allows for those conflicts as perfectly fine and valid parts of our collective unfolding process.

More to come. Perhaps.

We’ll see.

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Corporate… and Creative?

Think this can't happen, if you take that real job? Think again...

Think this can’t happen, if you take that real job? Think again…

So, you’re looking for ways to make a living and make your art…

You’re committed to your craft. Your novel. Your poetry. Your painting. Your drawing. Your mixed media. Or your dance. Your deepest desire is to develop your voice and vision, and to give form to the creative drive within you. It’s a gift. You’ve been told that so many, many times, and countless people have encouraged you to make the most of your gifts.

Because the world needs them.

It’s true. We do.

Here’s the thing, though. You don’t become proficient overnight, and even if you spend your college years (and possibly some post-grad time) honing your craft and really focusing on developing your talents, you probably still have a long, long way to go, till you achieve what you and others consider “mastery”.

It’s been said that it takes 10,000 hours of dedicated, focused practice to develop anything close to mastery. Now, that number/assumption has been disputed (and quite vigorously so), but fundamentally I think we can all agree that just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, so talent needs a lot of sustained TLC in order to develop into its most mature form. Even Picasso, who drew amazingly as a boy, continued to work and hone his practice all his life.

You might have no intention of becoming another Picasso (though it’s great if you do), but still. Honing your talent takes time. And while you’re taking the time, you need to eat, keep a roof over your head, and have your basic needs met. So that you can continue to focus on your art and develop it without having all your life force siphoned off worrying about your next meal or hiding from the landlady a-la George Thoroughgood.

So, what to do? That’s the age-old question. Nowadays, you have more options than ever before.

  • Get an Indiegogo or Kickstarter campaign going to get support from your fans and spread the word about your mission.
  • If you’re fresh out of school, move back in with your parents. 21st century parents are a whole lot more tolerant of that sort of behavior, than they were “back in the day” when I was fresh out of school. Er, scratch that — even if my parents had been open to me moving back with them full-time, I wouldn’t have done it. I was too focused on getting on with my life.
  • Take a series of temp jobs that get you enough coin to get by. That’s what I did, for a number of years, and it worked well for me. It was enough to pay for a spacious apartment in Center City Philadelphia with plenty of room for me to spread all my projects around. Then I got married and got a whole lot of extra responsibilities, and guess what? Rent goes up, when you get all respectable.
  • Get a “real job” and balance your job-work, everyday life, and life-work. This has been my approach since, oh, around 1995, when a thing called a “career” showed up in my life.

There are other options, sure. You can probably think of more. And your various choices have a lot of pros and cons. Some get you more freedom, but less money. Some get you exposure, while being short on guarantees. Some can keep you teetering in a fine balance between your regular life and your life’s mission and make you absolutely crazy with uncertainty.

For me, the last option turned out to be the most practical — largely because either none of the others existed for me, or they just weren’t stable enough. Getting a “real job”, if you’re just getting into the workforce, can seem like a real compromise, when your soul’s purpose is at stake. At the same time, how good a chance do you have of truly fulfilling your life’s mission, if you’re constantly struggling to make ends meet, and you’re constantly having to choose between paying your bills or buying art supplies?

Plenty of fantastic artists have done it, over the centuries. But it really does suck.

In any case, what we do for money and what we do for our art, may be very different things, but they don’t need to be mutually exclusive. And believe it or not, once you get into the corporate arena, you’ll find a whole lot of people there, who got a real job and a career, because it’s the best way they can find to live comfortably enough to create freely and without existential concern. That’s what happened with me, when I put in my 10+ years building web technologies for one of the most powerful financial services companies on the planet. I worked each day with people just like me — surrounded by writers, artists, crafters, painters, poets, inventors, actors, musicians, home brewers, and cartoonists.

It wasn’t our first choice for sustaining our art, but it sure as hell beat wondering about our next meal.

Plus, we all kept each other company.

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So many projects, so little time…

Which wave shall I catch next?

Which wave shall I catch next?

Over the past six months or so, I’ve been looking more closely at where I use my time. I changed jobs last May (has it really been almost a year?), which slashed my commute to a fraction of what had been. Spending 45-60 minutes in the car, each way, takes a huge chunk out of your day — and energy — and suddenly having an extra couple of hours a day, was amazing. It also took a lot of getting used to.

It was literally October, before I could start to relax and not be on high alert about GETTING THINGS DONE while I still had the time/energy/will to do them.

So, a few months before the New Year, I started to think about what I was actually doing with my time. I also looked at what I had been doing in the months and years prior, and I looked at the results of what I’d done.

By my last count– which is changing, because I’ve thought of some additional ideas to pursue, and I realize I need to rework some old ideas — I’ve got over 70 projects either completed, in progress, or planned for the future.

Of that number, I’ve published 17 books, most of them in print, and a few eBooks thrown in for good measure. I need to rework at least 6 of those print books into ePub format, so I can distribute them to e-reader folks, and I have about five projects actively in progress, which will be completing at various stages in the coming months.  And I have a bunch of projects planned for the future, which correlate with the in-progress projects.

The partial list

The partial list

It sounds like a lot, and it is. Just keep in mind, I actually have a daily routine and a system for coming up with new ideas and cranking out new “content”. I’ve been following this routine and using my system for over 30 years, by now. I don’t usually have to thrash over my creative process, because I’ve put in the constant work to ingrain it into my “interior ecosystem” so it’s a natural reflex with me. Developing those routines has been a lifelong process, and it’s paid off in a big way.

Also, this is the result of me writing for over 40 years, since I was about 8 years old… and never really stopping writing, along the way. I’ve refreshed a number of projects over the years, re-purposing them for different media, and venturing into podcasting, video production, eBook creation, print, and art. I’ve written way more than what’s in these 70+ projects, too, in the form of journal entries, and reams of poetry I haven’t even begun to collect.

Oh, and there’s the art. I can’t even start with that one. I’ve got so much of what I’ve drawn and painted and assembled over the years, it trips me up when I’m walking around my study.

For me, the thing was always to write… Make art. Create. And especially write. Work on that voice, engage with the language, and enrich my whole life with what I found in the act of writing… creating… looking beyond the surface at what was there. Simply get something on paper and see where it took me. I’ve written plenty of stuff that will never see the light of day, too, which is just as well.

So, my new challenge (and I choose to accept it) is to prioritize and focus in on what needs to happen when. Planning and scheduling and figuring out the timing of these things doesn’t seem like the most inspiring work, but it’s necessary. And that’s how I spent my Saturday, when I wasn’t driving to and from Danvers, MA, in the freezing rain, getting stuck behind various salt trucks (thank you to the salt trucks of the world, by the way).

This can all be done. All 70+ projects. Even while holding down a pretty challenging day job. The main thing is time — not only to do the work, but also to step back, analyze, learn from experience, and adapt to what’s on the horizon.

Maybe I’ll have a sudden realization… like I did yesterday, while driving up to Honda North in Danvers to get my minvan worked on (by the way, Honda North rocks! I highly recommend them — and I have never done that for a car dealership before.)

Maybe it will sink in that the way I’ve been doing things is pretty inefficient and a big time-waster and just old rote habit that’s not producing anything useful.

Maybe I will suddenly see the potential for an idea that’s been right in front of me, this whole time.

Maybe I’ll realize that something I’ve been laser focused on for weeks — like doing a Udemy course — is keeping me from finishing off the low-hanging fruit of a couple of eBooks that are 75% done (and could have been done last week, had I not been wrangling with the technical limitations of my recording/producing equipment).

Having time is so very essential — and not just for the doing. Also for the thinking, the analysis, the realizations, the epiphanies.  Without the thinking, you can end up just Do-ing and Do-ing and Do-ing… not making nearly the progress you were hoping to.

So, it’s Sunday, and it’s actually warm enough to go outside without looking like the younger brother in “A Christmas Story”. Time for a walk.

The projects will all be here when I get back.

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“Poetry doesn’t pay!” At least, not in the old model.

Might as well be flying around on a bat, as far as some are concerned ;)

I’ve been writing since I was about eight years old. My first writing project was a collection of short stories about a pebble and his friends, and their adventures in a stream. I wrote four stories, one for each season. It seemed to me, after I wrote the first story, that the premise worked, so why not write additional ones?

I guess I’ve always thought big, right from the start.

Over the course of my childhood, I knew just what I wanted to be when I grew up — a writer. I wanted to write stories that would transport others, the way I was transported when I read what others wrote. Books were some of my best friends, because I could read what was written on the page and have my own experience. It was mine, all mine, and the problems I had with my hearing (it was difficult for me to distinguish between similar sounds like “b” / “v”, and “f” / “s”/ “th”) … well, they didn’t affect me, when I was reading.

I wrote a lot in the course of my childhood and youth. Short stories. Journals. And poetry. I believe I really discovered poetry, my sophomore year in high school, when a really great English teacher actually taught us to dig in and understand what was there. I still have my beloved Philosophy and Literature book in my active collection — in fact, it’s lying right beside me on my desk right now.

Over the years, I’ve written a lot. Much of it has never seen the light of day — and hopefully never will. I’ve written novels, essays, how-to guides, and a ton of poetry. I’ve had pieces published in “little magazines”, and I’ve put plenty of my words online. Now and then, it seemed like it was going to pay off for me in terms of a publishing contract… but something happened to kill the deals, and I went back to what I’d been doing before. Getting up and going to work each day, and writing when and where I could, in between discharging my daily duties.

Back in 1997, I had a book deal with an independent publisher. The company was in an adventurous mood, and they decided to take on a collection of short stories I’d written that were… shall we say, edgy. Then they relocated to the southwestern US. And then there was a flood at their warehouse, which destroyed 75% of their inventory. Suddenly, their adventurous mood changed, and they decided that maybe my book wasn’t to their liking.  It was too experimental. It was too fringe. They found an editor to help me turn it into something more marketable, which resulted in nothing more than some heated arguments on all sides, a lot of side discussions, and the ultimate scuttling of the deal.

In writing.

Of all the aspects of that extended exchange, the one thing that jumped out at me was the publisher’s exclamation of dismay, when I told her what I was working on, those days, besides an edgy, experimental collection of short stories. To their credit, they didn’t want to give up on me, and they were looking for something else of mine they could publish.

At the time, I was really digging into a collection of poems that were pushing to get out, and I was excited to share the news.

The publisher was less than enthused. “Poetry doesn’t pay!” she exclaimed. I protested to the effect that I was really happy with what was emerging, but she remained unimpressed.  She wanted to know what I was working on that they could sell. To as wide an audience as possible.

I think that was one of the last relatively civil conversations we had.

That whole experience left me with a sour — no, acidic — taste in my mouth for years after that. It was true, “Poetry doesn’t pay”… at least in the sense of it not being the most financially viable art form. And being the sensitive soul that I am, I let it really get to me… and I went pretty much underground with my poetry for quite some time after that.

If I wanted to have my writing matter, it needed to be some other form.

So, I wrote some memoirs. And whittled away at some novels. And penned a bunch of essays. Some of it went public, a lot of it stayed private. I got another book deal to write a historical piece on Eleanor of Aquitaine… but that deal fizzled, as well, because three different publishing houses consolidated into one, and the market dried up for my sort of book.

Through it all, I couldn’t shake that echo in my head that “Poetry doesn’t pay!” I tried to focus on prose, I published memoirs and exposes. And I figured that would do it.

But you know what? The poetry was still there. And one afternoon in 2006, while vacationing in Provincetown, I pulled out my laptop, logged onto, and I published four collections of what I’d written over the years.

And it felt pretty fantastic. Just to have the books done and out there… fabulous.

They were pretty good-looking books, too. Well laid-out and thoughtfully created. Like I’d expect a poetry book to be. It was hugely gratifying, to be able to publish my own book — to see the finished product in my hand, and have it be, well, done. After all the years of hoping that someone else would notice, that someone else would “pick me up” and put my work out there… at last, I could do it myself. And for free.


It’s been over 10 years, since I started self-publishing with Lulu (and now I’m checking out Amazon’s CreateSpace), and it’s been an on-again-off-again affair. Being able to actually create your own books — or any other artistic creation you may need to express — and get them out there, is immensely gratifying. For those of us who grew up stymied by the editorial process and traditionally exclusive publishing models, this new world is a breath of fresh air like nothing else.

And now, it’s getting even better. I recently discovered Gumroad, which lets you publish and earn from your digital creations at rates that frankly kick the ass of mediums like Amazon, iStore, Paypal, even Lulu.  Plus, they integrate with other sites like, so you can both get your work out there, and not be penalized by high participation costs.

All this is pretty amazing and exciting. And it seems the logical progression of technology as a tool to empower individuals in ways that were never possible before. There’s a lot more to say about this, but the bottom line (for this piece, anyway), is that with technology, you can now reach more people than ever, and you can sell at truly accessible prices, earning from exposure, rather than approval of a select few cultural gatekeepers.

Now, like never before, it’s possible to actually make money from doing good things for other people. Because you can create that good and send it out to a vast sea of individuals and make it available for them in ways that let them return the favor in ways that don’t keep them from putting food on the table. $.99 for a song or $1.99 for a book is very doable. You don’t have to weigh the pros and cons and decide between a book and a nice dinner, like you do with a hardback edition. Nobody actually has to suffer in the new equation. Not like before.

And that’s a beautiful thing.

I’m reformatting my print poetry books and putting them out there on Gumroad in various forms, to see what takes and what doesn’t… to see what works and what won’t. It’s all an experiment, and because the cost and barriers to entry are so low, I have plenty of freedom to try new things and see if any of it works.

It’s very cool. Maybe, just maybe, poetry will start to pay, after all.

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