Random Thoughts On Starting (And Ending) Another Year

Looking Back

Most people would say my blogging efforts over the past two months or so have been pretty pathetic.   And I totally agree.   Fact is, sometimes life has a way of getting in the way of your fun.   It seems the older I get—and yes, I am getting old—the more demands and responsibilities I have in life that totally consume my available time.   Unfortunately, blogging IS NOT the way I pay my bills and feed the family.

Let me explain.   About 20 years ago I started a business called Outside Connections, LLC that predominantly manufactures and sells calendars.   And while the business is active year-round, it doesn’t take an intellect to figure out my busiest time of the year falls during the months of September thru December for sales.   Yeah, during the months of the year I most want to be outdoors it just so happens to be my “busy season.”   Oh well, be that as it may…taking care of the business can mean 12 – 16 hour days at times and becomes a priority.

Another priority AND blessing in my life is my 30–month old toddler named Elsie.   From the very day she was born she has never known what “day care” is because her mother (who works full-time as a nurse) and me do all the care-providing she has ever known.   Indeed, watching over an active toddler and working full-time from home is not an easy task…but it’s one I have chosen because, again, it is a priority in my life to help raise my child.

Finally, and just so you can see I do have a full-plate when it comes to life responsibilities, on the other end of the life spectrum I also care for my elderly mother in my home who has been experiencing declining health over the last several months.   In my book, end-of-life does not equate to being in a nursing home…it means being close to the ones who love you.   I’ll admit, there are those times when getting up every two to three hours during the night to assist a loved one to get out of bed (and to the bathroom) takes its toll on you—both physically and mentally.   Still, as long as I can provide the day-to-day care she requires I will continue attempting to do it.

Okay, enough with the excuses.   Truth is there are certain times I just don’t have the energy to blog…but now that the new year is beginning and my business activity should lighten up just a bit, I will most definitely find more time to make regular postings.

It’s been a good year for the Sportsmansblog.   I migrated from the Typepad platform over to WordPress several months ago and this has been a great move.   I can tell just making the move has increased my stats considerably.   It has also enabled me to be much more creative with the design and layout for the site.

Changing gears just a bit…long-time readers of this blog will likely note that I used to also regularly blog for the www.StarTribune.com Club Outdoors section.   Quite honestly, that effort turned out to be a major disappointment.   Two years ago I was first contacted to blog for the Strib by a very gung-ho digital editor who made lots of promises.   I was to be among a small handful of fellow outdoor bloggers chosen to make postings on a wide variety of happenings in Minnesota.

The main benefit was exposure.   While none of us were paid (yet we were under contract), the expectation was blogging for a top 20 digital newspaper in the country would increase traffic to our other websites that we got to list in our profile.   Furthermore, our postings—if the topic and quality warranted—would get exposure on the front page of the online newspaper and possibly get printed in the hard copy newspaper at times.   This all worked great…then the digital community manager got replaced by a new person…and then a few months later that person got replaced by someone else.   Bottom line is, in my opinion, the outdoors is no longer a priority for promotion in the Club Outdoors online section.

During the first six months after it was launched I would regularly get stories posted on the front page of the newspaper.   During one single month I had three stories showcased in the scrolling feature section.   All of our stories used to get featured on links to Facebook, etc.   Well, during the last 15 months since it was launched NONE of us outdoor bloggers get front-page or Facebook page links any longer.   Essentially, our main incentive of “exposure” for blogging has disappeared.   All one needs to do is look at the various blog postings and you will see a pathetic showing of comments—even when the topic is controversial.

Suffice it to say, it has been time to move on to more legitimate outdoor blogging efforts which has brought my sole focus for my blogging back to this site where perhaps it should have been all along.

Looking Forward

Enough on the past…time to move ahead.   One of the benefits of being absent from blogging lately has been doing lots of thinking about various topics.   Yes, I have many outdoorsy topics bouncing around inside my head.   Some I guarantee will entertain, others will surely step on toes.   Quite frankly, as this new year kicks off I can almost predict my blogging will be a bit more controversial in nature.   This is partly by design as I truly believe a blog should make a splash to get noticed and build popularity.

On the other hand, this blog is not just a platform for my opinion.   Instead, I also have plans to share more tips and outdoor trade secrets.   Bottom line is I want people to visit this blog for a variety of reasons whether it be for entertainment, education or some other form of enlightenment.   We’ll see if that happens.

I suppose what would a New Year’s Day post be without making some resolutions?   Here’s just a few quick and simple ones:

  1. Expect to see more video content displayed on this blog.   Words are great, but visuals and action are even better.
  2. Expect to see more pictures posted.   I’ve neglected my cameras lately and that needs to change in 2011.
  3. More regular blog postings.
  4. Expect to see some humor on my Friday postings.   Heck, I figure by Friday most of us need a good laugh.
  5. Another idea I want to try is occasionally talk to a mover and shaker in the outdoors world.   This could be video, or simply just a podcast format.   Not sure…but there are a lot of unsung heroes in the outdoors who deserve a little more recognition.   I’m going to find a few of them and showcase their efforts.
  6. Considering hosting a rendezvous of upper Midwest outdoor bloggers.  More details will surely follow…but considering a long weekend this summer at a Minnesota/Wisconsin resort where there would be plenty of time for fishing, networking and even perhaps sharing a few outdoors writing/blogging tips with others.
  7. Expect more on-the-scene reporting as I take my office to the outdoors.   Recently I purchased an iPad with a Verizon global hot-spot device that allows me access to the Internet wherever I get a phone signal.   Sure, I’ve tried mobile blogging before using my BlackBerry…but honestly it is not fun typing on a keyboard that measures 1.5” x 2.5”.   I find my mind works way faster than my finger tips and it just doesn’t work out.
  8. Better integration of this blog on Twitter and Facebook.   Even though I currently have a presence, I know I need to still do a better job of self-promotion to bring it all together maximizing potential.
  9. Do more product reviews.   Yes, I still have the www.OutdoorGearTester.com website and I plan to better integrate that site with this one.   Again, up until now it has been a lack-of-time time factor turning good intentions into poor results.
  10. And finally, not that I am any great master of outdoors writing, etc…but I feel I need to do a better job helping out those who might aspire to be in this field and need some guidance.   That said, my e-mail (see link under profile pic) is always open to anyone seeking assistance no matter what the outdoor topic might be.   It might be a few days before I respond, but I’ll eventually get back to you.

There you have it…a bunch of random, rambling thoughts to start off the New Year.   I would be remiss if I didn’t end by saying I hope each and every one of you have a HAPPY NEW YEAR during 2011.   Make the best of the opportunities that are provided to you and always be safe in each of your outdoor adventures.

©2011 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction without Prior Permission.