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Blog Struggles: Surviving the When Blogging Goes Bad Blues

Blog Struggles Article SeriesIt’s been a hell of a day. I’m sure you’ve had them. When every other word out of your mouth should have started with F or S but didn’t because you “grinned and bared it” for the grace of others.

Okay, let’s be honest, you didn’t grin, you bit the bullet.

We all have these days in our lives and our work. You would think that working for myself, away from others, would avoid the things I left behind in the corporate world. Ah, but alas, no. Today was a day spent dealing with office politics, whiners, bitchers, moaners, and time wasters.

I got yelled at for leaving a factual, informational comment on a blog, accused of being defensive and over-protective of WordPress. I was accused of not using my influence with WordPress to force them to fix something. I was slammed for having no experience as a WordPress Theme designer by someone who knows me not but seems to like making up accusations. I got four phone calls from other bloggers concerned about another blogger and wanting to know what I was going to do about it. I got six emails from other bloggers also wanting to know what I was going to do about a blogger out of control. Two emails and one phone call blamed WordPress for a security flaw that was in a WordPress Plugin and had nothing to do with WordPress, or me, at all. A flood of comment spam attacked my blog. I had to comment on four auto-scraping blogs stealing my content. My web browser crashed twice. And my cat peed bloody pee on the floor of the bathroom, and I stepped in it.

My cat, Holiday, in his travel bag - photograph by Lorelle VanFossenOh, that’s just the start of my day. It went downhill from there.

I called the vet and raced the two cats to the vet, not knowing which was the culprit. During a discussion about how to get a urine sample from the sick cat, debating whether to leave him there over night or set up some system to collect his urine back home, the cat squatted and peed next to my foot on the floor. I looked at the vet and said, “There’s your urine sample.”

At least that much went right.

Getting back into the motor home – the car is in the shop so I had to haul the cats in the 21 foot motor home – I noticed the gas tank was almost empty. The cheapest gas is out of the way, but I drive it. I tell the attendant (they fill it for you in Oregon) not to overfill the tank. He did. I lost about two gallons as it overflowed, siphoning out onto the pavement. So much for saving money on gas.

I get back home with the cats and there is no Internet connection. A storm has moved in and is interfering with the satellite. So I drop off the cats, lay down towels on the floor of the bathroom, crawl back in the motor home and drive back into town, a 20-30 minute haul, to park outside the local hotel which has free high speed WIFI. As I write this, I’m standing in the freezing motor home at the table, laptop open, trying to get my head clear to work.

Then it hails and snows.

I don’t have the right clothing for extreme temperatures in the motor home, since we use it mostly in the summer, so I layered on two t-shirts and a sweatshirt under my micro-fleece pull-over, and then put on my winter coat. I put on a pair of leggings I use for working out under my pants and added an additional pair of socks. I could barely bend my arms to work the keyboard and mouse. My nose was frozen.

It was about one in the afternoon and my bad day was still getting started.

I’ve had worse days, but I was angry and pissed, frustrated and furious. And I had three articles due.

Articles that required calm, collected thinking. Articles that require my technical expertise to prune down instructions into digestible chunks. Articles that required concentration. Articles I just couldn’t get in the mood to write, let alone edit and publish.

Calming the Writer’s Brain

I made a cup of tea, trying to calm my spirit. The hail and the snow made it dangerous to take a walk outside along the narrow sidewalk along the busy streets. Cars were slipping all over the place.

Staring at the tea wasn’t working, so I jumped around and danced within the narrow confines of the tiny motor home trying to warm up my body and toes, rocking it from side to side. If anyone was paying attention through the thick rain, snow, and sleet, I’m sure they thought there was some fun going on in there.

I flipped on the radio but it was whining on about the candidates for the US election – something too far in the future for me to think about – so I flipped to a music station and tried to dance to the songs of the 80s. It was better than nothing.

The hot water was ready and I tried to relax and meditate over my green tea. No good. I still wanted to hit something. I wanted to inflict pain. I wanted to scream. I couldn’t shake off the crap of the morning.

Is it essential that a writer must have a calm mind before beginning writing? I used to think that. I know know otherwise.

There is no “writer’s peace of mind” or “centered” place for a writer to go when they write for a living. We have to write on demand, no matter how nasty people have been to us or around us, no matter how sick we feel, frustrated, or angry we are. No matter if the kids are sick, the weather sucks, or any other excuses. The income must come in, and when writing is your business, the writer must write.

Funneling the Energy Into the Writing

I’ve done a variety of things to get past these “bad day” moments over the years.

I’ve sat down and just wrote out all my aggressions, which does wonders for getting it all out on paper and out of your head. That usually does the trick when I’m really pissed off. I’ve rarely published these, and sometimes I don’t even save them. They are just a way of venting.

Occasionally, I will publish some brilliant rants. There is something magical about how the experienced writer’s mind can use the BS of their day to really sharpen their pen (or keyboard) to slice right to the point of an issue. Some of these I’ve published, and gloried over their brilliance even years later. There are times when I wished my muse and a crappy day produced more of those – or at least my muse produced more of those without the crap. I have enough fertilizer in my life.

I’ve shut up my thoughts in the back room of my head and totally focused on what is most important right now, and just gone to work. This tends to leave me with indigestion and farts that last for two days, along with some other even nastier side effects to my digestive system. I try to avoid that option.

I’ve also used the energy and funneled it into my writing. Just because I write on boring technical topics, it doesn’t mean the writing has to be boring. I work hard not to put glitz and glam on my technical articles, but I can in the drafts. During the edits, I can streamline and edit out all those smart ass comments. Some, though, are brilliant so I weave those in, which keeps a little of the sparkle in the prose.

Within a short time, the fury dissipates and I’m back to my normal calm, collected, geeky self. The writer takes over and I pour out the babble that people seem to enjoy and the bank account is serviced again.

How do you clear your head and keep on writing when the demand for the work is there, but the mood isn’t? It’s not easy. Sometimes trying to force it back only makes it worse. Do you find that?

Blog Struggles Article Series



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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, the author of Blogging Tips, What Bloggers Won't Tell You About Blogging.

54 Comments

  1. Posted February 6, 2008 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    I enjoyed your post. It will help me when I start my blog. Thank you!

    Jim

  2. Posted February 6, 2008 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    When things go bad, I tend to procrastinate and not get the stuff done that I need to — or I overeat. Now that I’m back to work, though, procrastination is not an option when I have a class to be ready for on Monday morning at 7:30 and four more classes later in the week. I’ve been lucky in the past at getting very creative at the very last minute. That’s not an option this time. I need to be very creative well in advance. Unfortunately, that means that the blog is going to have be a bit of an afterthought for a while, though I will be posting on a semi-regular frequency.

  3. Posted February 6, 2008 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Girl you have had a day! When things go bad for me, I tend to knit instead of write. Great for my peace of mind, not so great for my income. Today is one of those days and nothing has even gone wrong. I woke up edgy and cranky and can’t concentrate and so I’m listening to podcasts, knitting, and not working (and not getting paid). I tend to hope these days pay off down the road in bursts of creativity and/or high quality technical writing, but it rarely works out that way.

    Warm up and I’ll pray for your kitties (hate it when the animals & the kids get sick).

  4. Posted February 6, 2008 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    If I find I can’t write what I want to, I catch up on all that neglected reading. I don’t have any set deadlines, though… just the inner voice saying – get that post done!
    Hope your kitties are OK…

  5. Posted February 6, 2008 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    I’m thankful I blog for fun. It’s hard enough doing that sometimes.

    I hope things look up for you soon and you can enjoy your vacation.

  6. Posted February 6, 2008 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    Wow Lorelle, fortunately I haven’t had a day like yours in awhile. Whew!

    When things happen that really upset me, I stay away from the computer and don’t even try to put words together into a post, because my temperament will show through (unless it’s a rant post, then I want it to show through)

    I just remind myself that I can’t do a good job on my posts, or be good to others if I’m not being good to myself. Taking a nice long break helps me immensely.

  7. Posted February 6, 2008 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    Lorrele,
    Please look at the date stamps appearin on your posts. Something is b0rked! The date under the title of the is post says: February 20, 2008 – 4:37 am

    Also note that it’s not the only post with a b0rked date stamp.

    Setting that aside, you sure sound like you’re describing a day that I has about 2 weeks ago. In reply to your question what I do is walk. I get dressed up warm and I walk away from where I began for 25 minutes then I turn and walk back. The walk frequently gives observations that initiate some creative flow.

    I hope this works for you too. :-)

  8. Posted February 6, 2008 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    Why are you in Oregon in February in a motor home with cats? You aren’t in witness protection are you?

  9. Jersey
    Posted February 6, 2008 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    Hehehe, I was just blogging about my blues right before I saw this post. :)

  10. Posted February 7, 2008 at 2:38 am | Permalink

    Lorelle, this is a brilliant piece of writing. I love it when ‘you’ shows through, and you’ve done a great job of showing your frustration without making it a rant that would turn us off.

    I don’t think I could pretend to that level of skill, so when I get the blues I either walk it off or write in a private space – because of course those words still do want to come out.

    I hope your cat’s okay

    Joanna

  11. Posted February 7, 2008 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    hufff, it’s a long article… but I’m enjoy Ur post.. :-)

    “How do you clear your head and keep on writing when the demand for the work is there, but the mood isn’t? ”
    sometimes I focused on my long asset which for my job after I’m graduated.
    and, back to my top motivated on why I want to be blogger..

    It’s not easy. Sometimes trying to force it back only makes it worse. Do you find that?
    yup, I find that. so I just checking my emails and find a job at Paid review program.. , if that’s not working on me. Just try to play my favor game.. Football Manager :-)

    Arham |young Blogpreneur

  12. Posted February 7, 2008 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    Lorelle, I don’t know if it’s just me but your blogs seem to have a date stamp that are post-dated on the main-page. Like this post is showing Feb 20, 2008. I don’t know if I’m on a different planet now, but I know it’s Chinese New Year.

  13. Posted February 7, 2008 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Kewl: I can see into the future! (your posts are post-dated) :-)

  14. Posted February 7, 2008 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    @ George Manlangit:

    Yes, a glitch in WordPress.com released all my future posts. See Apologies: Future Posts Released Again. Thanks for noticing. :D

  15. Posted February 7, 2008 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    @ timethief:

    Thanks for the kind words, and yes, I’ve mentioned that WordPress.com had a glitch and released all the posts prematurely. Welcome to my world. :D

    As I described, normally, I could walk it off, which many of you recommend. It was freezing with hail, snow, and ice storm outside. The blues would have been my body if I’d gone outside. :D

    I do most of the things that you all have recommended – if I have the room and weather to cooperate with my intent. Stuck in a tiny motor home (Class C) with horrible winter conditions outside, I was left with dancing and doing jumping jacks for physical release. You do what you can.

    Also, my cat is still on medication but much improved. He’ll be fine and appreciates all the inquiries on his behalf as he sprawls across my desk and keyboard. I’m trying to type around his left foot.

    David: Living on the road and traveling all the time, I could be anywhere – have you looked outside your back window lately? :D My truck was in the shop and all I had to drive was the motor home.

  16. Posted February 7, 2008 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    What an enjoyable piece you wrote today. Unlike you, I don’t write for a living, per sey, but I do expect myself to cater to my readers and write something of value or interest. But sometimes I don’t want to write or when I get started, nothing seem to come out right. Many of my articles have been edited and re-edited a million times before I finally publish it. Only once in a while do I get a great spurt of creative energy where the words just flow like a rapid river onto the keyboard. When that happens, I’m literally in heaven!

    You certainly had a BAD day my friend. But tomorrow’s another day, right? :)

  17. Posted February 7, 2008 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Hope the weekend only brings you relaxation! Love the post, despite the pain in the ass. It’s talent to be able to channel it.

  18. Posted February 7, 2008 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    Wow Lorelle: As a person relatively new to blogging (I am an internet dinosaur in certain respects I guess) I have been banging my head against the wall for weeks over learning this or that piece of technical stuff to make my blog more efficient, bla bla bla. And have had lots of other challenges to deal with lately, too. So thanks for being honest in your post because it made me chuckle (sorry–not at your expense, but at the general crapiness of your day).

    I hope kittie gets better ASAP.

    Oh, FWIW, Mercury is retrograde so yes, anything pertaining to “communications” can be skewed & it sounds like you are definitely being affected in a few areas. Hang in there. :-)

  19. Posted February 7, 2008 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    When I don’t feel like working but theres work to be done, I usually up the sugar intake. Chocolate.

    That, or a 20 minute nap.

    Wow that really was a tough day…

  20. Robert
    Posted February 7, 2008 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    Nice post :)

  21. Posted February 7, 2008 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    Yikes! Great writing, awful day. hope the kitty continues to improve. And I figured this would be a good time to let you know how much I appreciate your writing and your resources. I’m struggling today trying to learn WP-CMS from scratch in order to fix some problems and figure out SEO, and, I have to say, knowing you’re here is a big part of why I chose WP…

    deep breaths help, sometimes…

  22. sansoucy
    Posted February 8, 2008 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Lorelle,
    Oh my, you really have had a bad day. . . you have made me feel better about mine, lol. Hang in there. I haven’t been paying as much attention in the last week or so, so really I don’t know exactly what’s going on, but I can imagine it’s bad. :-( I believe blogs are for posting your opinions and no, you don’t have to be in a happy go lucky mood to get on and write. Heck, half of the time I blog just to vent out my day’s nightmares and to take a breather. It helps!!! Well I say that people who have problems with your blog or opinions either need to stay off of it, or get a life!
    Sincerely,
    Martine

  23. Posted February 8, 2008 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    Oh my, I hope the rest of your week went better. At this point, I only blog when something annoys me or makes me laugh (frequently at myself, for better or worse) but I’ve never tried to write ANYTHING with a frozen nose and a sick cat. More power to you. I’m sure the spoiled rotten little calico cat climbing all over me would say the same if she could actually type instead of just interfering.

    Cheers!

  24. Posted February 10, 2008 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    Hi Lorelle: Am a bit puzzled by the date stamp on your recent posts… Feb 14? Feb 18 etc Do u live by a different calendar? While the dates for the comments are fine…

    Cheers,
    Lucy

  25. Posted February 10, 2008 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    @ lucy:

    I do. Kind of you to notice. I live in a whole different time dimension. So few notice. :D

    See Apologies: Future Posts Released Again.

  26. Posted February 10, 2008 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like you need a hug!
    here is a cyber one!
    I come to your sight when I need inspiration.
    As a fellow artist/photographer, I very much appreciate your work.
    I am sorry you have to deal with ungrateful people who have attitudes. You deserve better.

  27. girlgriot
    Posted February 10, 2008 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for explaining the future dates, I was mightily confused! (Got an email a few months ago that was dated 1969! Still trying to figure out that one. My friend guesses he was having a flashback to Woodstock when he was writing me, but I’d love to understand how his email clued into that!) Glad to hear your cat’s on the mend.

  28. grannyreta
    Posted February 10, 2008 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    Newbie me loved your blog, laughing while sympathizing with all your challenges. Very good info on the difficulties of getting focused–it’s always a circus around this house–3 dogs, 4 cats, someone is always causing a problems of some kind. Anyway, I know you will get over it all and move on If you aren’t doing it already, put the cats on food that is low in magnesium (called “Special Diet” or “Urinary Tract Health”–for some reasons vets frequently forget to mention that it helps. We’ll be talking about such things in my blog “AniVegiMini” Granny Reta

  29. Posted February 11, 2008 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful post. It somehow reminded me of about:Schmitt, a movie of a retiree driving around in his motor home. It also reminded me of an average day at my home.
    Good tips on how to get through it !

  30. Posted February 13, 2008 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    How are the cats doing??

  31. Posted February 13, 2008 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    @ Shannon:

    Fine, thank you. I’ll be posting an update by the end of the week. (She says as one big fuzzy tabby sprawls across the keyboard…)

  32. Posted February 13, 2008 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    I love a hot cup of herbal tea, too. Fresh juices feed the mind and body as well. Sometimes we just need a few minutes to regroup. I agree, these are excellent tips on how to get through the hard times. :-)

  33. Posted February 13, 2008 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

    @ Michele:

    Hard time? This is just a typical day in the life of a blogger. :D

  34. Posted February 14, 2008 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Hi Lorelle,
    I’ve been thinking about you and the cats and sending you as much positive energy as I can muster.

    A day in the life of a blogger can range from being wonderfully creative to miserable. Often the best we can say about those miserable days is that they only lasted for 24 hours. However, even when you are having a bad day your writing stimulates the rest of us and spurs us on to write from our heads and our hearts no matter what.

    You have done so much good writing that has educated, informed and entertained me for almost 2 years now and, I’m looking forward to many more like them. Thank you so much for the sharing you do.

    Namaste

  35. Posted February 14, 2008 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    @ timethief:

    Thanks, timethief.

    Lasts 24 hours, huh? :D

    My morning was spent writing a blog article I didn’t want to write, but it’s money – only to be interrupted with the news that four of the miniature donkeys escaped last night from the farm/ranch where we are staying. So I slogged through the mud and muck to find the broken part of the fence line, hundreds of feet down, fixed it, slogged back and then helped round up and bring the bigger fuzzy children on the farm back home.

    I’m sweaty, covered with mud, donkey, and horse bits, and it’s two hours before deadline.

    If it ain’t children, fuzzy children, family, work, or life in general, we’d have no good stories to tell. :D

  36. The Editor
    Posted February 14, 2008 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like that really sucked, why were all those people sending you angry messages about WordPress thought?

  37. Posted February 14, 2008 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    @ The Editor:

    Some people assume that I’m a pathway to the top brass at WordPress and Automattic. You know the old adage about what happens when you “assume”. :D Ah, the price of fame and reputation. People think my door is open to complaints.

  38. Posted February 14, 2008 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    Geez it sounds like you have been through hell and back. When I feel like that I take a break. Get away from the computer. It will be there when you return. Wish you lived closer, I would take you out for tea and cookies. :)

  39. Posted February 15, 2008 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Wow! I hope your worst days were only slightly worse! You are a real trooper.

    P.S. I came across this post on Feb 15th 2008, but I noticed it was dated Feb 20, 2008. Are you a time traveller or are you just living in the future?

  40. Posted February 16, 2008 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    And I’m just starting, so many things to learn and so much to do (WordPress! Are you really user friendly or is it just me) and just now, stuck and wingeing to my oh so patient wife that I ‘…can’t find the inner peace… it’s not my day…’ When presto! All days are hard, thank you for sharing yours (I think I said that elsewhere). I’ve subscribed to this blog on my RSS feed and will come back to it, with a cup of tea, when the going … won’t go.

    Peter

  41. JD
    Posted February 17, 2008 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    Thank you. My finger has hovered over the delete button many times lately. Your posts have helped me sort things through, and perhaps verify what I already suspected.
    ~JD

  42. Liam Hodder
    Posted February 17, 2008 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    ***because you “grinned and bared it” for the grace of others***

    the correct phrase is ‘grinned and bore it’ from ‘grin and bear’ i.e ‘bear’ = tolerate, put up with, carry etc. ‘Bared’ is past tense of ‘bare’ = show, reveal etc.

    Sorry to be picky, pedantic and pernickety.

  43. The Editor
    Posted February 17, 2008 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    @ Lorelle:

    You should shove the door back in their face. However in that situation it’s more like “When you assume you make an ass out of you and yourself.”

  44. Posted February 17, 2008 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    @ Liam Hodder:

    Actually, I meant it that way as it was a total play on words. Bared as in “showed my teeth.” Picky is picky but fun with words is a joy.

  45. hikolapola
    Posted February 18, 2008 at 5:15 am | Permalink

    thanks for such interesting post!

  46. Posted February 18, 2008 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    How’s the kitty doing?

    And remember, if you bite the bullet hard enough, everyone around you will *think* it’s a grin: XD

  47. Posted February 19, 2008 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    oh my gosh…you are frickin’ funny. I feel the worst for your poor cat. But I totally get the blogging explosion of icky-ness. I got sick in january and had to take the last month off of blogging and our computer keeps breaking and getting virus’s…blogging is great but it is hard work…but you have to keep up the good work…you have tons of fans and I know from personal experience that I would not know alot of what I do know about blogging or wordpress if you had not told me about it. Maybe you just need to take a little vacation. You and your cat deserve a drink!

  48. Posted February 19, 2008 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    Lorelle, thanks for the comment on bloggingnormsandethics, the reasons for the big font was that we were using the website as a presentation to be projected on the screen and hence blew it up for visibility. Rest assured it’ll be back to normal! thanks for checking us out =)

  49. Posted February 20, 2008 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    Hi

    I really like your post. Sometimes i feel that my blog isn’t noticed by people and start wondering if I should keep it going or not. I also know that i must prevent throwing the house out of the window literally. Take 2 breaths, walk around and chill out.

    Even if i cant find something solid to write about, i prefer to not write at all to avoid stupid anger posts. Better to find some new thing to learn or lay back and listen to some music.

    Inspiring it is, may say Yoda.

    Cheers and have a nice day.

    SillA!

  50. Posted February 21, 2008 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    hieeeeeeeeee

    Thankz for the feedback lorelle..

    Can you be more clear with the possibilities from which i can improve my blog. Don’t think that i am bothering you.. my only intension is to improve my blog in all the possible ways i have..
    please don’t mind to send those information to me….

    Thankz in advance….

    Have a Nice Day…

  51. Posted February 21, 2008 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    @ bharathreddypunuru:

    Before paying me for web consultation, consider checking out the articles on my blog, starting with the list in the sidebar and The Art of the Artist Web Design Collaboration. That will give you more than enough information for free. :D

  52. Posted February 21, 2008 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    Lorelle-I love when bloggers provide stories about themselves. You are an adept story teller. Keep showing us part of you. Although I felt bad for your day (did any Madonna 80s song help?), your story was intriguing. I hope your kitties are better. I was wondering if this post is the most comments you ever had, and if it is why do you figure?

    Here is to another better day.

  53. Posted February 21, 2008 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    @ Anna:

    Thank you for the kind words. And no, this post is not the winner of the most posts. :D But it is the one that has generated a lot of personal interest, as have all the posts within this Blog Struggles series. The picture and story of the cat helps. :D

    To Everyone: My cat, Holiday, is doing very well, though not happy with his new diet options. He beats on Kohav, our other cat, chasing her all around the place, and stands and watches the birds come to the window feeder. I swear he just sighs and rolls his eyes as Kohav throws herself at the window to try to attack the birds. Unfortunately, my desk is under that window and everything goes skidding off as she jettisons herself against the glass. There are kitty paw marks all over the window, but why bother cleaning them off when it’s 30 bashes a day. :D

  54. Posted February 23, 2008 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Hope the cats are all right? I am guessing it is a male?
    They can get this from too much ash in their diet and too much seafood and too much dry good and not enough water. They don’t always drink as much as they should.

    I know it can be very alarming. Clumping litter is good for keeping tabs on them, and for future reference, to get a urine sample, clean out the box, dry it, and put shredded paper towel in the box.

    As for the gas prices, I do feel for you! Not to mention the weather you all have been getting in the NW this year.

    Many blessings to you and the cats!


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  12. […] Blog Struggles: Surviving the When Blogging Goes Bad Blues look at how to keep on writing when life gets in the way. […]

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