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Hi Reader Friend,
First of all, Happy Thanksgiving. Even if you’re not American, I hope you’ve got a lot to be thankful for. Negative times are plenty, but the positive times make the rest bearable, if we allow it, that is. As a naturally “realistic” person (meaning I’m neither positive nor negative, just “realistic”), I have to look at both sides to determine whether the situation is fine (the fire’s burning, but I’m outside and the sirens are wailing), or the situation is troublesome (the door is locked and the key is on the other side…and I just want OUT!!!). Until I know the problem, I’m reluctant to jump to a conclusion. Unless I’ve got a headache or a leg cramp. Then everything sucks.
Thanksgiving is a time for me to remember that not everything sucks. As a realistic person, I know that some things suck. But some things are cool. For example, in America, we have an event called the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Every year (pre-COVID, at least—no idea what they’re doing nowadays), Macy’s would host a parade full of giant balloons and floats and other stuff (I really only care about the balloons) and march it all down midtown New York to celebrate the coming holidays and shopping season (Macy’s is a retail business, after all). It’s quite the spectacle.
So, one of my favorite things to do on Thanksgiving as a child was to get up early and watch the parade. In the eighties, we had Garfield balloons, Woodstock balloons (from Peanuts, if you’re too young to know what I’m talking about), and Spider-man balloons. Then as pop culture roared on, we saw the introduction of Mario, Sonic, and the cast of Friends (possibly that last one, but I’m just guessing). Watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was just a fun thing to do every Thanksgiving morning.
Then I got older. And I started to care about it less. And I started to sleep in more. On average until noon or later.
It’s been years now since I’ve seen the parade.
The good news is that today, I’m up early enough to watch it. For the first time in years, I haven’t slept past noon on Thanksgiving Day.
But let’s be realistic, I have the day off. So, I’m going to take advantage of having nowhere to be by working on the things I don’t often have time for.
I decided to write this newsletter instead.
Honestly, is the parade even on this year? I haven’t checked on it.
Now, if there’s a moral to this story, I suppose it’s this: There comes a point when we have to grow up, even if we’re in our forties. Not everything has to be about parades or the lack thereof. Growing up means developing new attitudes to cope with survival and foster well-being. We can’t all be negative. It makes us sick. Of course, being nothing but positive is also unhealthy because it ignores a coming disaster. But we can strike a balance.
For example, I could go and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade if it’s on right now. Or, I could just sit at my computer and play videogames all day. It is a holiday, after all!
But I’m probably going to do some work instead, at least until the Thanksgiving turkey sucks what’s left of my energy out of me. Then I’ll probably play videogames. Or sleep.
Anyway, that’s Thanksgiving. On to the point of this month’s newsletter.
A Year Later: Going from No Website to a Full-Fledged Author Site (Part 1)
Have you ever tried to throw a basketball into a golf cup and expected it to go in? No? Of course not. That would be crazy! (No judgment if you actually have tried, by the way…)
What about throwing a basketball into a basketball hoop? Probably, right? It’s what you expect to do with a basketball. Nothing crazy about that.
What about throwing a basketball into what you thought was a hoop, but it turned out to be a golf cup?
Now, the obvious answer should be, “No, that’s something only people on drugs do,” but hear me out. How many times have you set out to achieve a simple task, only to have it prove far more complicated than the instructions had led you to believe?
This describes my journey in building my author site.
Long before I bought the tools to put a site together, I kept hearing the banging drums of platform experts claiming that I needed a website with my name on it if I wanted to look like a serious author. They’d point to successful examples of authors who have put together a professional showcase of their best works, complete with author headshots and Amazon store links (that are affiliated most likely). “With a template, you can be up and running in a weekend!” they’d say.
Last year, on Black Friday, I finally took their advice. I bought hosting (Hostinger), a theme (Divi), and a mailing list provider (SendFox, the service that makes it possible for me to send you this email). Then I downloaded the WordPress installer and got to work. By the morning of Black Friday, my site existed, but it looked raw and empty. If you’ve ever started your own site using the WordPress backend, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Hello World!
Now, I’d spent the better part of 2020 researching hosts, themes, and the costs of everything, so I had a realistic expectation of what I could do for my author site now that I was ready to build it. And I honestly thought I’d have everything up and running quickly. Maybe not in a weekend, but certainly within a few weeks.
But as I started building pages and experienced the joys of slooooow theme-building, I realized that my idea for my site was not at all simple, nor would I be able to construct it quickly.
December came. Then January. Then February. My pages were coming along, but the frustration was starting to mount. Three months later and I still wasn’t ready to open my site. It was starting to look nice, and I was eager enough to show it off that I started recording devlog videos for it. But I was more and more coming to realize that my “simple” idea was not simple at all.
Then came March.
In March, I discovered my theme builder’s limitations. I discovered them when I tried to save a page update, but the compiler couldn’t handle the load from trying to save all the site’s pages. Not only did it fail to save the page I’d just updated, but it lost all the work I’d done in the last month.
Just like that, a third of my site’s content disappeared. On a bad save.
I spent the next two weeks sleeping off the frustration I’d felt.
Understand that by this point, I’d begun questioning my journey. Much of my life has been about chasing after good ideas, using good methods, but being the exception to the success that should naturally follow good practices. In this case, I built a page and saved it. The result should’ve been that I’d get to keep my work so far and spend more time on it the next day. What actually happened was that I built a page, saved it, and watched as more than twenty previous pages vanished without a trace.
My “realistic” side was starting to join forces with my “conspiratorial” side. Maybe I’m not supposed to succeed. Maybe that explains my financial and relational situations as well. Maybe I’m not the guy who’s supposed to find the “stuff that works.” Maybe I’m the guy who’s supposed to find the “crap that should work but doesn’t.”
That was my thinking in March.
But my ambitious side wouldn’t have anything to do with this. Having much of my work vanish was a rough moment in my life (and it wasn’t even 2020 anymore!), but it wasn’t enough to defeat me. So, once I got my head together, I looked at the problem, tried to tackle it another way, and watched as another third of my site deleted itself.
This time I laughed.
I didn’t give up, though. I’m too stubborn for that. And I liked my site ideas too much to see them drown. If there was a way to make it work, I’d find it.
Then came April.
(Oh, would you look at the time? It’s noon, and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is officially over, if it ever started.)
So with that, I’ll tell you more of the story of the ups and downs of building an author site in Part 2, coming near the end of the month. There I’ll talk about my ideas for the site and which ones made it to the final version, and how I combatted the “page deletion” problem. Keep watch for it.
Once again, Happy Thanksgiving!
Cover Image: Tomchill (Pixabay)