THE MONTHS OF ‘BER — Why I Write: Getting Back to Basics!

Sometimes you need to clear everything out to find some breathing room.

Things are cluttered in the Life and Times of Casey Palmer right now, constantly busy without feeling like I’m getting anywhere at all.

RIP Canute Martin 1937-2014 #Grandpa

Work’s frenetic, with a haphazard project that rarely affords me time to think, much less work on the deliverables I’m assigned; my grandpa lost his battle against cancer on November 22nd, succumbing to the illness after months spent withering away; and when I wasn’t dealing with these, I practiced my role as a family man, constantly doing whatever I could to make life perfect for my wife and kid.

But there’s always more to do, always somewhere to be. It’s like we say at my job — good work gets rewarded with more work. You’re constantly on the grind, eventually realizing this time you spend being all the right things for all the right people leaves little time, space or energy for you to just do you — for me that meant the #BloggerLife I’d built these past years and the hours of work I usually dedicate to it.

With everything going on, blogging just felt impossible.

THE GREAT SOCIAL MEDIA STORY: Life Beyond Blogging

Right.

It’s been a little while since I’ve sat down by the notepad and laid my soul bare for the blog. I’ve hustled immensely through the summer, but now that we’re closing 2014 out with The Months of Ber, I’m finally able to see the forest from the trees and take stock of my life.

Life Beyond Blogging — This is my life now.

Blogging’s fallen from grace as my preferred activity du jour — I’ve been rediscovering my long-abandoned artistic side and trying to take the mélange of my life and build it into something amazing. I’ve seen so many of my fellow bloggers fade into obscurity as other priorities wrest control — some would argue it’s all part of growing up; you either transform blogging from a hobby to a job, or you eventually just… quit.

I mean, what blogger simply writes words on a screen and calls it a day in 2014? Blogging today involves photography, slaving over edits in post-production to get the look, add the watermarks, tag all the metadata possible. It involves social media strategy, recognizing that no two platforms are alike, so you craft different messages for each of your audiences, all the while looking for opportunities to grow where countless others are trying to do the very same thing. It involves branding and advertising, packaging everything you stand for into something digestible so people get you when they come across your site, and not write you off as just someone who gets free stuff to write.

But a year of fatherhood changed my perspective, my goals and my priorities — where once I strove to take the crown as the best blogger in Toronto, clearly crushing the craft with every piece of content I put out, for me, the free swag and luxury trips don’t gleam the way they used to. You can’t come home roaring drunk from brand-sponsored parties when you have to wake up and take care of your kid the next morning. You can’t run from place to place on a media trip and uproot your child’s routine and expect them to be okay. With major life changes, you adjust to the new challenges. You figure out what makes you tick.

You discover what’s actually important to you.

THE MONTHS OF BER: What Comes Next? Rethinking My Blog!

I’ve written this post more than a dozen times this week, piecing thoughts together from a million directions to figure out what comes next. Fresh from a summer of contests, events and family gathering, I spent a lot of energy killing it these past months, leaving me unsure what’s left in the tank to see this momentum through the year’s end.

Brand development’s a marathon, not a sprint. You might have some hot content one day and trick yourself into thinking you can strike lightning twice with the piece after that, and again with the one after that.

But creating amazing work is seldom so simple, and I don’t care whether you’re writing your first blog post or you’re raking in more than most people’s mortgage payments every time you hit “Publish”, all content creators need reminding that not everything they put out will be mind-blowing… and they need to learn to accept that.

Getting Used to the New Casey Palmer

The Months of Ber — What Comes Next —  My Son's Curious Gaze
Whenever I lose focus, this is the face that comes into view, and then I remember why I do what I do.

At this point in my life, my story’s that of a man who’s trying to raise a family, working entirely too hard, and far too ambitious for his own good, convinced her can do anything if he only uses his mind, time and effort to make it happen.

When I see the trips my fashion blogger friends take, or some food bloggers I know are hanging with chefs like Susur Lee, I catch myself thinking, “I need to step my game up! I need to show these bloggers what I’m really packing and tell ’em what time it is! I need to get my hands on all the opportunities and all the things!”

But come on — let’s be real.

There aren’t too many big-name bloggers I know who haven’t made blogging their full-time gig, or used a blog as a launchpad into doing something full-time that started with the words on their screen. Trying to blog daily’s already admirable — I tried to do it in 2011, and only hit 324 of the year’s posts. But trying to do it while working a full-time job takes a ton of hard work and discipline. And to add parenthood on top of that?

Some days it feels like success isn’t even an option.

But then I take a few deep breaths, look at myself in the mirror, and remember it’s not all about the glitz and glamour.

Free stuff is nice — getting paid to write content is even better — but that’s not what people relate to. People want to hear about the time you went away to a writer’s retreat to get some quality time in with your writing, only realizing after the 3-hour drive that you’d forgotten your laptop’s power cord, and the outdated battery only gives an hour of juice to work with.

People want to hear about the time your brother changed his cell phone number without telling anyone in the family, leading to them scouring the lands to see whether he’s still breathing for fear than an angry ex-girlfriend had exacted their revenge, leaving his corpse in a ditch for us to find.

The Months of Ber — What Comes Next —  Casey Baby Photo
Too many bloggers forget that we all started at this point, and need to write from a point that ALL readers will understand! (*Sailor outfit not included.)

People don’t want to hear about your #BloggerLife and all the stuff you get that you think they should get with a little disclaimer at the bottom of all your posts — they want to hear about your life and maybe even share their experiences with the things going on when you’re not dealing with life in the blogosphere.

Any blogger can write a good story if they try hard enough — use good grammar; be emotionally compelling; and don’t be long-winded when driving your point home.

But it takes truly gifted bloggers to find beauty in the utterly mundane, touching on things we’re all thinking, but too often lack the words to give it voice.

And that’s what I should strive for as a Dad blogger — everything else is just window dressing.

The Path Ahead….

The Months of Ber — What Comes Next  — The Path Ahead

Once upon a time, in an age where tweetups were all the rage and Twitter wasn’t the self-promotional tool it is now, I’d think nothing of going out 4 or 5 times a week, soaking in what Toronto had to offer and never having a shortage of adventure to write about.

Now that my story’s changed, I need to change right along with it and see the world in a different light to find new inspirations for the stores I share — less waiting for the next awesome email to come in, and more appreciating what I already have in all its abundance.

And if that isn’t a life lesson, I don’t know what is.

Until the next time,

–case p.

THE GREAT SOCIAL MEDIA STORY: Don’t Call it a Comeback!!!

Another birthday in the bag and I’m long overdue for a solid blog post. Admittedly, part of my recent absence involved my two-week vacation from work and my choice to spend more time with my family, time stolen away by the 9-5 I work to keep him well.

But though all else seemed secondary for a while, with my gaze transfixed on the small adventures we’d have in Ottawa and Toronto, I’d never stay gone forever, the blog too much a part of me to abandon it without good reason.

Don't Call It A Comeback — Casey and Son at Hanlan's Point
I expected many moments like this in 2014, but maybe didn’t appreciate all the work that comes with ’em.

I entered 2014 thinking I knew exactly where my blog was going next. I’d just had a kid less than two months before, eagerly writing on the brand-new fatherhood experience and everything I was learning from it. I’d written up The 2014 100, my annual list of 100 things I’d like to try doing through the year, looking more optimistic than my list did for The 2013 100 as I better understood who I was and what I wanted. Through either dumb luck or all the years of hard work paying off, I was lining up paid opportunities and access to plenty of product reviews — it felt like the year I could finally say I “made it”, one of Toronto’s bloggers making money for their craft, with the potential of calling blogging a “job”.

But the truth isn’t nearly as simple as that. Six months later, my posts are infrequent, my mind’s tired, and I feel like my #BloggerLife’s more confused now than it was when the year began.

It might be time to take a look at my blogging and figure out what it is I’m trying to accomplish.

DO ALL THE THINGS: The 2013 100 Wrap-Up 91-100: The Last Post of the Year

We made it. Despite a 3-hour outage from my hosting provider, I managed to get this done. Thank you for joining me on the ride, and I’ll just leave this up here so I can go get my party on in these last few hours of the year. Enjoy the post!

THE GREAT SOCIAL MEDIA STORY: Blogging Ain’t Everything!

Like a Jay-Z retirement, I wasn’t stepping away from the social media game, but my relationship with it was definitely changing. When I met someone at Friday’s TacoTweetup who asked how many tweetups I’d been to, his eyes bugged out when I answered “I dunno — 100? 150?”

For a while there, Twitter was my life.

When I get into something, I really go deep. I have a live recording from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon of Drake performing “Too Much” from his upcoming Nothing Was the Same album which is currently playing for the 57th time — and it premiered Saturday night (zoom ahead to 5:15 in the video if you want to check it out). So when I found out about a place back in 2010 where I could be as crazy as I wanted and people were happy for it, there was no way I was looking back.

But it was always a juggling act.

The eldest of three boys, I’ve always been the “model son”. Never got in trouble; always did well in school; got a stable job; and married with kid on the way. In many ways, I’m a traditionalist, building a strong foundation so I can make the best of the life I lead.

But the other side of me wants to hit every event, blog on all the things, and live like life has no limit. He shows up to events, cash in one hand and camera in the other — because there’s no moment other than the one you’re in right now, so why not live it to the fullest?

But the longer you spend immersed in social media, the more you learn a simple truth — social media isn’t reality.

Man Up

What really killed the “social” in social media was just growing the hell up.

Recently, I took a step back from social media to start working on my life away from the computer. It wasn’t a grand exodus, but enough of a change that I could do things like tackle a new job and convert my home office into a nursery. We’ve all got things to do in our lives and choices to make — it was time for me to man up a little and start acting like an adult.

You can only live in Dreamland for so long. Wining and dining in exchange for a few words on social media is a pretty sweet deal, but free meals won’t keep a roof over your head. Many tell themselves that they’re paying their dues — all this face time is merely the path to something better; but it only reminds me of a phrase I was fond of a decade ago:

You need to check yourself before you wreck yourself!

The Cost of Blogging

Everything has a price. Looking at my friend Zach, he’s spent 2013 living A Sponsored Life in a large-scale social experiment, but has to deal with the negative press from those who consider him a freeloader and don’t really get what he’s trying to accomplish.  Or how about the numerous times someone takes a pot shot at someone else’s social media snafu, only to have it bite them in the rear end later on?

There, too, is a cost to blogging.

With my blog, after years of trying to build something meaningful, I finally started feeling like I’d carved something I could call my own — but there’s a constant battle I’m fighting; the one where if I take one step too far in the wrong direction, I’m in danger of selling out everything I believe in. I’ve been blessed to receive so much over the years, and to have access to so many opportunities — but if you forget who you are, all of it can change you.

And not for the better.

But the pitches pile up, the handshakes happen, and for every post you write to chat on something that landed at your doorstep, that’s two you’re writing to show that there’s still a heart beating in your chest. You become your own worst enemy, trying to keep up with an editorial calendar out of control — with you smack in the middle.

Not the most sustainable lifestyle.

So I took a step back to take stock of my life. I took a look at the job I’m fighting the odds to excel at, because I don’t see failure as an option. I look at my wife and the new life that she’s mere months from bringing into this world and the new adventure we’ll be travelling. I look at friendships in need of care and repair, left neglected while I started too hard in the wrong direction.

Blogging ain’t everything and I’d do well to remember that.

Will the Real Casey Palmer Please Stand Up?

So in the meantime, you’ll need to bear with me. I still want to hit all the places and do all the things — but Daddy Casey comes first. White Collar Casey comes first. Husband Casey comes first. There’s so much I need to be other than a blogger — and without these, blogging wouldn’t be everything at all — it’d be nothing without a story to tell.

And no one wants that.

Until the next time,

–case p.

Fighting the Funk — An Exercise in Doing What I Need to Do

A pile of scrap paper used to sketch out a blog post.
I can’t help it — even if you put a scrap of paper next to me, I’ll start scribbling ideas like a madman. It’s like a sickness 😐

Do you ever feel like your life is out of control and you don’t know how to fix it?

If you’re anything like me (and I hope for the good of humankind that there aren’t too many out there like me), you often keep so much on the plate that you don’t know where one item stops and where the next starts on the to-do list! In my case, it wasn’t even until recently that I managed to schedule time in to visit the doctor and the dentist (check ’em off of the list, by the way!) — partly due to dealing with an illness with a very visible effect; but largely due to constantly having so many things on the go and never knowing which one to attack.

It’s enough to drive someone mad.

Finding the Right Solution

Casey Palmer with his Canon 60D, taking some pictures of the fruits of his labours
Me, camera in hand, shooting something interesting. I get that work.

I’d say I know myself pretty well, and so here are some of the things contributing to the issue at hand:

I procrastinate

Unless someone’s lighting a fire under my ass to get things done, I tend to let things fall to the wayside. It isn’t easy to get me angry, but surprisingly, the angrier to get me, the more like I’ll do what I’m supposed to do just to prove you wrong.

I’m weird like that.

I’ll take the path of least resistance

I’m not conflict-averse in that I don’t have the balls to take someone on, but more often than not, it just doesn’t interest me to fight you. I don’t often come across people who actively try to get in the way of my accomplishments, so I don’t waste any energy fighting when I don’t need to.

Just don ‘t keep stepping on my tail, though. It’s like someone once told me — even though a bear might be hibernating, it makes it no less dangerous!!!

I’m a man of action, not planning

On top of the fact that I don’t exactly have a love for planning, with everything that I’m trying to do, I rarely seem to have the time to do it (even if I wanted to)!

I’m a man of action, but when there’re so many things requiring my efforts, it’s almost as if the sheer volume of the things to do cancels out the progress I make on anything else, and sometimes I walk into days feeling like I haven’t gotten much further than the one before.

It’s not all bad, though — I am a hard worker, and once I sink my teeth into a project I like, there’s no deterring me from it until I see it through. Keeping up that drive, the willpower — the momentum — that’s the hard part!

When you have a ton on your plate and you don’t feel like doing any of it, you’ve only got one option — you have to fight the funk.

Fighting the Funk

Source: Uploaded by user via Jared on Pinterest

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately — between job changes, cold weather and the hot mess that is my calendar, things blur more as more things get piled on. While February’s has all sorts of awesome lined up with trips to Buffalo and Vegas, parties and events starting to show up and my ambitions ever-relentless, it doesn’t look like things are going to get any simpler!

But it doesn’t have to last forever — there’s a secret to surviving a funk! The secret to getting past these overwhelming moments and avoiding slipping into a nervous breakdown that’ll tear apart all the stuff you’d been working on — is taking a look behind you and realizing how far you’ve come already.

A Blast from the Past

Who's that boy?

If you asked 20-year old Casey Palmer about where he’d be a decade later, he wouldn’t have imagined getting married. He wouldn’t have imagined working jobs with real responsibilities, using social media as a way of forging real relationships with others, or trying to push the envelope on so many fronts.

It’s taken a long time, but I’m finally starting to see how all the time I spent working on creative pursuits, leading volunteer teams and balancing jobs has helped make me who I am now. And while I’m not yet where I want to be, I’m more confident than ever that I can get there.

February — and the rest of winter altogether — it can definitely get you down… if you let it. Or you can celebrate the successes you’d have so far. You can relish in all those little victories and let them propel you to even greater ones.

So I see you, winter blahs, and I’m telling you to shove it —I’ve got work to do and I’m not about to let you stop me.

One month down, 11 to go.

Let’s get it.

–case p.

The 2K11 24/7 CCCXIII: I Don’t Know Where I’m Supposed to Be in Life, but I Know it’s Not HERE

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Sometimes life leaves me wondering whether it’s already too late. Have I wandered so far down the rabbit hole that I’ve somehow lost who I am? Have I made myself numb from walking around in a daze for now, trying so hard to be different that I’ve wound up like everybody else?
Ever get that feeling that you’re not unite who you’re supposed to be in life? That there’s a destination, and while you don’t know what it is or what it looks like, something in your gut tells you that you’re not there yet?
Sure you have. Very few of us are completely content with our lives — most of us feel that there’s something in our lives that we could change in order to be happier.
Something doesn’t seem right with this picture, though. What’s on the other side of the fence? What’s in that territory that we might catch the odd glimpse of now and again?
While we might not know, it doesn’t make it impossible to find out!

The 2K11 24/7 CCC: 300

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Day 300. 300 posts. What a year.

Originally I was going to come up with a massive list of things we could do to make the world a better place.

And then reality came around to give me a swift kick in the derriere.

I’m under the weather, I’m short on time, and I’m burnt out on blogging. I feel like I’ve posted about everything that’s come to mind, but that’s a problem, since there’s still another 65 posts to come after this.

But then it came to me while I was exercising infinite levels of patience while waiting for my iPod Touch to get looked at in the Apple Store (another story entirely on its own) —

Why not make blogs on all the things that we could do to improve the world one by one?

The 2K11 24/7 CCXCI: Calling it Quits

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Calling it quits is easy. Why commit to something you really don’t want to do? Does it benefit you? Is there anything you’ll gain from being stuck in a situation you don’t want to be in?

That’s a question I face more often than I’d like to admit.