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Sunday, January 1, 2006

A New Beginning

It’s that time of year when many take stock of their lives, evaluating what they’ve accomplished over the last 12 months. Some will tinker with their daily routine to make sure they lose those pesky pounds, write the novel they’ve always known was in them, or just find more “me” time, while others will resolve to make major changes in their lives.

As usual, one of my goals will be to write more. I failed miserably with my resolution in 2005 to have a rough draft of a new novel by the end of the summer. Having switched gears not once but twice, ultimately reverting back to my original story idea, I plan to make good on the resolution no more than a year late. Before you laugh too hard, I’ve actually made good on similar resolutions in the past.

Not all my resolutions came up short in 2005. Ironically enough, I reached every goal I had at the gym. I say ironically because as a guy with Cerebral Palsy, I’m fairly certain it would have been more productive to reach the “new novel” goal instead of fitness goals.

Alas, my goals as a writer didn’t go completely unfulfilled. Though I sought out a few short pieces to help me along the way, I reached my goal of doubling the number of books I read in 2004 for the year — 26. Squeezing in number 13 last year, oops, I mean a year ago December, made things a bit tougher than I had planned, but I made it.

You may be wondering why I consider reading a part of my writing goals, unless of course you’ve ever intimidated to anyone even once that you want to be a writer. Then, no doubt, you’ve been told ad nauseam that you need to read, read, read, and read some more. Now that the excuses of “I have to read too much as an English major” or “I read all day in my job as an editor” have faded away, I’ve finally become a guy who reads.

It’s likely the number of books I read will decrease as I want to read more longer pieces, but I actually enjoy reading for the first time in my life. And while I’ve always comprehended the need for a writer to read – seeing how the experts ply the trade – I hope that I’ve actually begun enjoying the benefits in my writing.

Then there was the goal to do whatever I could to make Royal Steele Books a success. If you’ve been a semi-regular visitor to the home page – I’m pretty sure there are no regular visitors – you’ve seen more than a few face-lifts. The latest fairly bare-bones format of links to savings will hopefully be the one that lasts. You may have also noticed a few of the larger sites disappeared from our links.

Like anything else on the web, affiliate sites have plenty of company. I was prepared to be one of millions, play the search engine games, and be patient. I even got past the whole Norton blocking Google ads thing. But when I learned that stealware . . . not just on my computer but those on my costumers’ . . . can steal my rare sale, I almost threw in the towel. Instead, I made some changes, ousted the sites that made it too easy for the stealware parasites (I hope), and decided to stay with it a bit longer. Hopefully, I will be spending less time with the Help Staff of the larger sites in 2006, and more time writing.

That brings me to my baby — The Casual Critic. I started the blog to have my say on anything and everything. The one thing I’ve always wanted to be was a writer. There’s still nothing like the idea of sitting down in front of a keyboard and creating anything in the world (or beyond) through words. As a young man with a speech disability traversing college life, and later the professional maze, neither of which had the patience for the minimal effort that understanding my speech requires (if you’re trying, that is), I found comfort in writing.

The advent of blogging seemed like a dream come true. A chance to write about anything I wanted, and be published. Combined with Google AdSense and affiliate programs, I thought I might even make some cash! After having been let go a year prior, and endured a year of folks who love my resume right up until they learn I’m disabled, I was in heaven.

Well, as my man Phil Collins says, something happened on the way to heaven. My anal side kicked in. I decided to write reviews almost exclusively. In fact, I decided to write a review once a week. A new product review on my site every week, plus the affiliate links, searches, and Google ads, would help establish RSB as the place to start when shopping online for books, CDs, DVDs, and more.

Besides, it was a safe way to avoid the pitfalls of self-publishing. I planned to create a professional, yet easily understood and hopefully fun, voice. I even had visions of being picked up by a paper.

The problem became that my original intent got lost. I enjoyed writing the reviews, and the weekly goal kept me reading. (Somehow spending money on books was ok, while I put off CDs and DVDs unless I was desperate for a review.) But I started picking shorter books just to have something to write each week. I wrote at least five paragraphs on books that didn’t really move me to write two. And I only dipped my toes in the pool of the type of free-form writing I wanted to do if I could tie it to a book or movie.

I even started a whole new blog — Philly Sports Review (formerly Beyond the Rants: A Philly Sports Blog) — to write about sports, because The Casual Critic’s real purpose had become a weekly review. Sports commentary just didn’t fit. As the Eagles’ season got swallowed by the mouth of Terrell Owens, so too did some of my energy for the blog.

Since I own for another year whether I want to or not, I’ve decided to give The Casual Critic a “do over.” Philly Sports Review will stay around for now, and so too will the reviews. I’ll even keep posting links to the best deals our affiliates have to offer. But there will be some changes.

My scope is going to widen to include everything from the TV show that really struck a chord, a night out, or a website I stumbled upon, to anything else that crosses my path worth writing about. I might post a paragraph on a movie theater that’s less than inviting to wheelchair users, or three pages on the events of the day. I might post seven days in a row, and then not post for a couple weeks. I might even throw some fiction out there now and then.

Of course, engaging YOU is still a priority. I switched to a blog format for the soul purpose of making it easier to offer your comments. The message board still works. And, you can always e-mail me. If I’ve gone too far off the deep end, or missed something that has you revved up, feel free to reign me in or point me in a new direction.

In one of my favorite lines on The West Wing, the potential poet laurite says, “I write poetry, Toby. That’s how I enter the world.” I can’t say it any better.

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