Wednesday 26 July 2023

*UPDATED* Secrets of a Successful Blogging Workflow

It’s been a couple of years since I shared my secrets of a successful blogging workflow. The essentials haven’t changed but I’ve streamlined and improved the process since then. I thought it would be useful to provide an update.

What’s Changed?

I’ve moved away from needing to use my desktop computer. Instead of phone plus PC, I now complete the entire workflow on my Android phone and tablet (Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy A8, respectively).

I still have my Maplin N87EN Bluetooth keyboard, but now work primarily on a Logitech K380. Its hot key function allows me to swap between my phone and tablet at the press of a button. I continue to use Microsoft Word as a formatting tool, but now use the cloud-based Word app rather than Office Professional on my PC.

The most significant change is the introduction of Quick Edit Text Editor Pro. This allows me to easily add HTML tags, links, and perform live link testing before I move the article into Blogger for publication.

Here’s my current workflow, with the applications I use at each stage.

1. Google Keep

Every article starts as a new Google Keep document on my phone. The app’s simplicity appeals to me. It synchs perfectly and quickly between my phone and tablet, meaning I can capture ideas or continue working on my latest post at a moment’s notice, wherever I might be. It’s text only with no fancy formatting features (no styles, italic, bold etc). This could be seen as a disadvantage (a word count feature would be helpful) but I find its simplicity helps me focus on what I’m writing. Formatting comes later, although I do mark key divisions in the text as I’m going. For example, I mark a new section with “==” and use “--” to bracket content that will be formatted as blockquotes.

I capture web links (URLs) as I go, pasting them immediately after the paragraph to which they belong. This means they are to hand when I add the anchor links later.

I usually begin my search for an accompanying image at this stage, and add it to the Keep document so I can gauge how well it suits the article as I’m working on it. For more on images check out my article How to Choose the Perfect Image for Your Blog Post.

I do a lot of the writing and editing on my phone using the on screen keyboard (SwiftKey) but if I’m settling in for a longer session — for example, at one my favourite writing cafés — I prefer to work on my tablet with my Logitech K380 keyboard. The larger screen and keyboard are better for my eyes, and it’s useful to have my phone if I want to quickly look something up or check for content to include. I can easily add URLs and such into the document on my phone, synch it back to the tablet, and continue writing.

2. Word

Once the article is written and edited, I paste it into a new Word document. This is the simplest way I’ve found to convert quotation marks, double quotation marks, and apostrophes to their “smart” equivalents. I also scan for and correct any spelling mistakes and accidental double spaces, and check the word count. The process normally takes no more than a couple of minutes, after which I paste the content into a new Quick Edit document.

3. Quick Edit

Quick Edit is what was missing from my original workflow: a dedicated HTML editor with live preview. It highlights HTML tags, making it very easy to confirm I’m entering them correctly. I like to keep my code as simple and clean as possible. I use one or two levels of headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, bold, and italic. (I’m aware that I ought to employ strong and emphasis tags rather than bold and italic.) I add the links (anchor tags) next, using the URLs I captured earlier.

One of the key features of Quick Edit is the preview option. The links in the preview are active (clickable) so I can test they all work correctly. This is particularly useful because links in Blogger previews are not clickable and so can’t be tested until the post is published. Pretesting in Quick Edit means I can publish with confidence that all the links are working as they should.

4. Blogger

Once everything is tested in Quick Edit, I copy the entire document and paste it into a new post in Blogger. At this stage, everything is complete apart from adding images. These need to be uploaded to Blogger, so it’s simpler to leave this until last. I perform a final proof-read using the Blogger preview function, add labels, and then schedule the post for publication. I publish one new article each week on a Wednesday, with any additional pieces going up on a Saturday.

I don’t currently use any tools to schedule my social media posts, so I share the new blog posts manually on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Over to You

In this article I’ve shared my current blogging workflow. If you’re a blogger I’d love to hear your process, as I’m sure we all have lots we can learn from each other! Feel free to share your thoughts and experience, either in the comments below or via our contact page. In the meantime, check out my Curated List of Blog Posts about Blogging for more inspiration and ideas.


Image by Kiyun Lee at Unsplash.


Saturday 22 July 2023

All The Currency I See in Martin Through Our Friendship

By his blogging bestie, Aimee Wilson

As soon as Martin told me he was writing a blog post about what a person can “bring” to a friendship; I thought it might be nice to talk about all the reasons why he’s one of my best-friends, my inspiration in so many ways, and genuinely the kindest and most supportive man I know!

Immediately after I first recognised that I was making real progress in my mental health recovery, I felt the need to think about who and what had helped or made it happen. This meant that I’ve grown to really believe in the importance and significance of showing gratitude and appreciation for the people and the things that have really shaped your life in so many different ways. It is that which has encouraged me to tell you all that Martin is actually as lovely in real life as he is on Gum On My Shoe!

The part of my life he is probably the most important for is in everything to do with blogging — and I don’t want that to sound superficial or insignificant — my blog (I’m NOT Disordered) has been absolutely monumental and fundamental in my mental health journey and has gone on to help my career life too; so it’s incredibly important to me that there is someone in my life who truly understands that. Who understands how much thought, time, and effort can go into writing a blog post – and really, into creating content in general!

The reason understanding and empathy goes a long way with me, is because I spent years hallucinating — years being told that I was seeing and hearing things that weren’t real. Things that no one else was experiencing and so, how could they ever really grasp anything about me? How could they ever truly support me when they had no real clue of why I needed to be supported?

So, when blogging began to turn into something really serious and important, I was so worried by the instant notion that there was literally no one in my life who had a blog. It actually left me a little unsure as to whether to continue blogging — and that’s why I thank Martin; for swooping in and providing me with one of the greatest supports I’ve ever experienced.

My gratitude for his entire existence doesn’t just relate to blogging though; over the years since we first met in 2016 I’ve seen him to have so many incredible qualities and skills. He’s massively loyal — once he supports someone then he’s all in. He’s thoughtful and kind — he’ll give me the best and most amazing gifts at Christmasses, birthdays and the odd random time throughout the year and they’re always just what I wanted/needed! He’s funny too — in the way where we both even end up saying the same thing at the same time because I found it funny too! And, most important of ALL of this ... he’s a BIG fan of my local pizza takeaway!

I’d honestly be lost without Martin and I can’t imagine my life without this bestie of mine in it.

About the Author

Aimee Wilson is a mental health blogger who has used her personal experiences to develop a popular online profile. She has guested here at Gum on My Shoe on several occasions. You can follow Aimee on her blog I’m NOT Disordered and on Twitter (@aimes_wilson).


Wednesday 19 July 2023

The Currency of Friendship

Fran and I were on one of our daily calls when she said something that gave me pause for thought.

“Friendship is my only currency.”

We were discussing friendship in general, and a few issues we were each having with friends at the time. I asked what she meant. Fran explained that she has only her friendship to offer people. She has no car for rides, day trips, or excursions. No spare money to lavish on expensive meals or treats. She has a nice apartment, and a timeshare, but no second homes in exotic locations for friends to visit. Her only coin is herself. Who she is. It was clear she was wondering if it was enough.

I understood, precisely because I do have more to offer than just myself. I have a driving licence which means I can supervise learner drivers. I don’t own a car but I rent sometimes. When I do, I can take friends to appointments, visit them at home or in hospital, or go out for trips. I have money to lend or gift when it’s needed, to treat friends to gifts or meals or drinks out when we meet. My friends don’t expect to be paid for all the time, but I can afford to pay my share and maybe a little more. I have skills and experience I’m happy to put to use to help others. I’m able and willing to make time for friends when they need me. I have coin — literally and figuratively — other than just myself.

But what if I didn’t? Would anyone still want to be my friend? What would I have to offer? Who am I, in fact, without these coins in my pocket? Fran may question if what she has is enough, but she has good friends who want to spend time with her, people she cares about and who love and care about her. She may doubt herself at times but it’s hard to dismiss the evidence that she’s a valuable and valued friend. What about me?

Friendship as Exchange

Whatever their nature, relationships are transactional. You offer something and I offer something in return. The currency might be practical help, money, companionship, a listening ear, shared activities, support of various kinds, space, or simply time spent together. This might seem odd to you, a little mercenary perhaps, or wrong in principle.

Hearing that I was writing this article on the “currency of friendship” my friend Erik Anderson of Maine observed that, for him, “Friendship is priceless, BUT, like money, it has to be earned, and just as easily can be spent and lost.” This is something I’d not considered, but I like Erik’s take on the subject. Another friend, Paul Saunders-Priem, got into the spirit, declaring with characteristic humour, “Buy me coffee and cake and I’ll be friends with anyone for life!”

Joking aside, there’s nothing unusual or unhealthy about the idea of friends coming together to meet each other’s needs. Eleanor Roosevelt asserted that “[u]sefulness, whatever form it may take, is the price we should pay for the air we breathe and the food we eat and the privilege of being alive.” I’ve explored this previously in Please Wait Here Until You Are Useful. It’s natural and healthy, as long as you don’t lose sight of your needs in the process.

The [danger] comes from placing too high a regard on how others see us, and imagining that we’ll only have value to other people if we’re useful to them. “No one will like me just for me,” the voice of insecurity asserts. “But if I’m useful they will like me, and need me.”

I found a great example while I was researching this article. In response to an Instagram post about self-esteem and being “low maintenance,” someone commented, “You don’t believe you can be liked so you settle for being useful.”

What Do I Bring to the Party?

I’ve found myself in this situation at times, doubting what I have to offer beyond the role of resourceful and steadfast friend. “You truly are someone I can rely on in an emergency and at all other times” remains one of the most genuine, heart-felt, and valued tributes I’ve ever received from anyone, but what else is there?

My world seems small in many ways. I tend to live through the lives and experiences of others. I have a few close friends, my work, my writing. Occasional day trips. Vacations once or twice a year. I rarely have much in the way of exciting news to relate — or even boring news! Why would someone stay friends with me if they don’t need or want the other stuff? This isn’t a pity party. These are genuine questions grounded in experience. I’ve had friendships falter, drift, and ultimately end, when what I had to offer — my currency of friendship — was no longer wanted, or was provided elsewhere. That’s okay, but it leaves the fundamental questions unanswered.

What do you do if you feel you have little to offer, or doubt the transactional value — the exchange rate, if you like — of the coins you hold? If you feel able to, ask your friends and loved ones why they want you in their lives. In our book High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder there are a few examples of me asking Fran what I contributed most to our friendship.

[One time] she gave me the image of an oak tree, standing strong and tall. On other occasions, she has likened me to a rock or anchor, a still point of reference amid the uncertain tides of illness. I act as a buffer between her and the world, and balance her thinking, which tends to be mercurial, dogmatic, and strongly polarised.

I discussed this again with Fran recently, in relation to this blog post. “What’s my currency?” I asked. “What do I bring to the party?” After jokingly (I hope!) saying she couldn’t think of anything, she said talking with me helps her navigate her relationships with other people, which is an area she struggles with at times. She also values my “simple talk” where I share my walks and food and blogging, because they help ground and stabilise her. That meant a lot. It helped me recognise that the very mundanity of my life has value to Fran. It gives her something to hold on to when her life feels changeable and uncertain.

Another close friend, fellow blogger Aimee Wilson, offered to write something about what I bring to our friendship, which I could include in this article. I hoped for a couple of sentences, but she came back with a full blog post, which I’ll publish separately. I’ll highlight a few things here, not to “big myself up” but because it helps me recognise what I bring to the people in my life.

The part of my life [Martin] is probably the most important for is in everything to do with blogging [...] My blog (I’m NOT Disordered) has been absolutely monumental and fundamental in my mental health journey and has gone on to help my career life too; so it’s incredibly important to me that there is someone in my life who truly understands that. [...] He’s massively loyal — once he supports someone then he’s all in. He’s thoughtful and kind [...] He’s funny too — in the way where we both even end up saying the same thing at the same time because I found it funny too! And, most important of ALL of this ... he’s a BIG fan of my local pizza takeaway!

I’ve focused on the things I have to offer, but what do I look for in others? What am I happy to trade for my coins of friendship?

What Currency Do I Value?

It would be nice to have friends with transport who want to take me out places, or with money to treat me extravagantly! But really, those things count for little. What counts is feeling safe to share openly and honestly what I need to, no matter what it might be. I don’t always have a lot to talk about, and my issues often seem mild or modest compared to what my friends are dealing with. When I do want to talk, though, I need to feel my thoughts and feelings will be treated seriously and that I’ll be heard. The confidence that issues that might arise between us will be addressed promptly and directly is also important. Friendships are tempered by misunderstandings, disagreements, and problems that have been navigated successfully.

What Aimee said about me supporting her blogging resonates strongly. It’s part of why her friendship is so important to me. I publish a blog post every week, so whatever I’m writing about is on my mind almost all the time. It’s important that I have people I can share my thoughts and ideas with. It’s no accident that many of my posts are inspired by conversations I’ve had with friends. The contributions I’ve included here from Fran, Aimee, and Erik, are testament to that.

On that note, I’ll close with another of Fran’s insights about the currency of friendship.

“Presence is the most important thing.”

“Presents? Like gifts?”

“No. Presence. Being present.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Over to You

In this post I’ve shared my thoughts and ideas about what I call the currency of friendship. What is your currency with the people in your life? What is their currency with you? Do you feel friendship is or should be transactional? If not, what are your relationships based on? Fran and I would love to hear from you, either in the comments below or via our contact page.


Image by NFT gallery at Unsplash.


Wednesday 12 July 2023

It's Not Enough / Never Enough

I think everybody should get rich and famous and everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that that’s not the answer. (Jim Carrey)

At certain moments, I find myself asking some of life’s great unanswerable questions. What is my purpose? Is this all there is? Is it enough? And, come to that, what does “enough” mean, anyway? Two songs offer contradictory insights: “Alone Tonight” by English rock band Genesis, and “Never Enough” from the musical drama film The Greatest Showman.

Alone Tonight

It’s not enough, it’s not enough
This feeling I’m feeling inside

I’ve known the Genesis track most of my adult life. Its cry of not enough echoes from a place of almost existential emptiness. There’s an emotional paralysis too; an inability or unwillingness to imagine things will change or improve. It’s the archetypal cry of the lonely, and I know it well. I included it in a post on loneliness for Mental Health Awareness Week 2022.

My earliest memory of loneliness goes back to my first year at university. I would stand night after night at the window of my halls of residence looking out across the lights of the city, extravagantly empty and alone. I ached for something I had yet to experience. Genuine connection. There’s a Genesis track I remember from those days. It contains the lines, “It’s not enough, it’s not enough. This feeling I’m feeling inside. Oh, I know it, I know tonight that I’ll be on my own again.” Forty years on, that track (“Alone Tonight”) can bring me to tears. Ironically, back then, I would not have cried. I had yet to learn how.

As well as sorrow and loss, there’s more than a hint of self-indulgence in the lyrics. Even the reaching out for help is less a healthy attempt to move forward than a cry for the attention of someone who undoubtedly has already done so.

Say that you’ll, say that you’ll
Help me reach the other
Help me please cos I know I’m gonna be
On my own again alone again tonight

Looking back, I have compassion for the young man standing at the window all those years ago. He had no idea how to address the aching emptiness. At eighteen, that’s understandable. More than four decades later, I’m still trying to figure it out.

Never Enough

Towers of gold are still too little
These hands could hold the world but it’ll
Never be enough

This is one of my favourite songs from The Greatest Showman. Performed in the movie by actress Rebecca Ferguson, but actually sung by Loren Allred, it’s the proclamation of someone (Swedish opera singer Johanna Maria “Jenny” Lind) who knows great success and can look to more. She nevertheless declares that no matter its breadth and depth, public acclaim can bring no lasting reward, no ultimate satiation. Why is that? What would make it “enough”? In the movie, it’s love.

Take my hand
Will you share this with me?
’Cause darling without you [all of this]
Will never be enough

More generally, though, it’s whatever we most need. A key relationship, perhaps. Understanding who we are. Identifying our life purpose. This message is fundamental to the movie; most notably the central figure of P.T. Barnum, played by Hugh Jackman, but also many of the secondary characters. It comes through powerfully in two more of my favourite songs, “This Is Me” and “Rewrite the Stars.” Whatever it is for us, without it there will always be something missing. There’s an echo here in the words of actor Jim Carrey in a 2005 interview published in “The Ottawa Citizen.”

[Carrey] says that earlier in his career, he believed that making just one more film, getting one more hit, would be enough, but he got tired of being emotionally disappointed.

“You just go like, ‘Yeah, it was a fantastic hit, but what now?’” Carrey’s advice: “I think everybody should get rich and famous and everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that that’s not the answer.”

When Do I Feel This Way?

I mentioned there are times I ask myself these questions. What are those times? It’s perhaps easier to say when I don’t feel that way. I don’t feel that way when I’m occupied with work, with writing or other creative pursuits, or in conversation with friends. It’s good to be actively and creatively engaged, but I wonder if I do these things as much to distract myself as for more laudable reasons.

Distraction is fine as a management technique to get us through difficult times. It helps when I’m feeling flat or the kind of low I’ve described previously in Return to Down. Coping strategies are meant to help us handle things when living is hard, but if we rely on them too much we can lose sight of what they were helping us cope with.

If we never set them aside and address what’s wrong in our lives, we’re likely to keep distracting ourselves, confusing its temporary relief from emptiness for satisfaction. Many of us will recognise, in ourselves or others, the insatiable urge to move house every few years, to constantly redecorate or rearrange aspects of our lives, or begin a new relationship that’s likely to be no longer lasting than the one before. For all our attempts, the not enoughness will still there, until we face it properly.

How Do These Ideas Help?

I said these lyrics help me address these questions of meaning and enoughness. In what way? What have I learned from them? The Genesis track reminds me that the ache of bereavement or lack (including the lack of something we’ve not yet known or achieved) is a commonplace of human existence. It always feels like we’re suffering as no one in history has ever suffered, but we’re far from alone in our emptiness, our sadness, our excuisite and elaborate pain.

I broke up with a friend several years ago. The pain was real but one unexpected blessing was the realisation that there was nothing unique about my experience. Friendships and relationships break up all the time. Most people learn this early on, in their teens if not younger. For me, the insight came late but was no less meaningful for being tardy. It helped me accept and explore what the loss of this friend — and this friendship — meant for me. What needs had been opened? What had I learned?

Several times in my life someone has appeared and filled a gap I had no idea was there, because I’d never looked at myself deeply enough to see it. I remember explaining this to one friend a number of years ago. I’d had no idea there was a space, a gap, a not-enoughness that she — that our friendship — could fill, until she appeared in my life. When in time we separated, that space was still there, but I knew its name now and what it represented for me. No breakup or parting could take that away.

If Genesis taught me to recognise people-shaped spaces in my life, “Never Enough” reminds me it’s not all about people. I have people aplenty in my world. Family. Close friends. People I trust, love, and value. People who meet the vast majority of my emotional and relationship needs. I have a job that (recently at least) motivates me. I have my writing. I have no specific health or money stresses. And yet there are still those never enough moments when I feel some fundamental need is going unmet. It reminds me to treasure life’s successes, but never to mistake them for the real thing — whatever that might be.

When Did it Last Feel Like it Was Enough?

I don’t always feel unfulfilled. There are times, mostly when I’m sitting in a café or coffee shop writing (as I am right now, at JAVA in the centre of Keswick) when I lose myself in the immediacy of what I’m doing. A few days ago on social media I posted a photo taken in the garden of the vacation cottage I’m staying in this week.

On holiday, blogging about enoughness in the garden, surrounded by hills and trees, twenty yards from the river. If ever there was a moment when what is, is enough, this is it.

At such moments, I am content. It’s interesting that the word content suggests the content-of-the-moment, what our world contains in that moment. It’s a word and a state of being that is overlooked and underappreciated. Being content loses out to being happy, or excited, or passionate, or joyful. But it can hold — can contain — all those and more.

Enough Is Enough

This leads me to another aspect of enoughness. That’s the idea that whatever is, whatever you’re doing or have in the moment, with all its incompleteness and inadequacies, failings and not-quite-perfect-ness — exists. And if it exists, how can it be less than enough?

“Perfection is the enemy of the good,” so the saying goes, and the endless pursuit of having everything we want, desire, or need, can be the enemy of contentment. Of appreciation. Of living in the here and now rather than in some imagined perfection we can never quite achieve. Known as the Nirvana fallacy, this is something I recognise as a writer and blogger. I explored how the desire for ideal conditions can get in the way of writing a few years ago in I Was Going to Write Today. After listing all the ways my situation was less than perfect, I recognised the fallacy for what it was — an excuse to keep me stifled.

And in the meantime the world goes on. And other people write. And they are not necessarily “inspired.” And they probably don’t have the right pen or the perfect notebook. Maybe they found the back of an envelope to scribble on when their laptop crashed so they didn’t lose what was bursting to get out. And maybe the cat just spewed up or the baby did. Or they feel sick today or depressed or despair of ever making a difference or even getting through another day fuck even another hour but you know what they dare anyway they dare to care and write and scream sigh vomit breathe craft something from the guts of them because sometimes that’s all you have and all you can offer to the world and sometimes it is enough you are enough YOU ARE ENOUGH.

Ultimately, I feel there’s value in both enough and not enough, as long as neither is taken to extreme. The dynamic balance between the two is what drives us on, creatively at least. I was discussing this recently with my friend and fellow mental health blogger Aimee Wilson of I’m NOT Disordered. Aimee appreciates and celebrates her wins, but is driven by a sense that she can always do better, bigger, or differently. It’s a strategy that’s brought her considerable success to date, and one I find inspiring.

Over to You

In this post I’ve explored some of my thoughts about enoughness, inspired by two songs which deal with the idea of “not enough” from very different perspectives. What do these concepts mean to you? How do you handle feeling that whatever your life contains right now, it’s not enough for you? It’s still something I’m working with, and I’d value your thoughts and ideas, whether in the comments below or via our contact page.


Image by Felicia Buitenwerf at Unsplash.