Saturday, February 12, 2005


A few days ago, I posted a question. "What type of site is this?" The question formed in my head as I noticed the blogosphere being categorized by the media. I've heard different terms thrown around. There are your "mommie blogs", "political blogs", "infertility blogs", "craft blogs", "religious blogs" and "weight loss blogs." I've run into "celebrity blogs" and "dating blogs". I've found blogs about a specific family or even blogs about someone's medical condition. I've even found blogs, as I'm sure we all have, that seem to vomit Anime on the reader. What type of blogs are these? Teenage angst? Cutesy-wootsey crap overload?

Well, the different types of blogs got me thinking, "What type of message am I portraying? What am I trying to communicate?"

I found no easy, one-word answer. I couldn't say, "I talk about politics only," or "I write exclusively about work." What I did find is that I write about a variety of subjects and there is no hard consistency to the topics. Yes, I've done many posts about my family, past dating disasters, work, or music, but not one of those categories encompass my life.

But that's true for everyone's life. No one person's life out there in this vast world can be summed up in one genre or one word. Life throws many situations at people, so how do people get classified into one category, or better wording for this subject, how do blogs become genre specific?

It's all about choice. People choose what to talk about. People choose to fit a mold or restrict themselves to define something in their life. There is nothing wrong with this. If someone wants to be known for one subject or join a community that speaks specifically of one thing, that's perfectly fine.

Am I saying I don't do this? Heavens, no. I actually have many different blogs and those are more genre specific. (Customer service stories, scrapbooking, poems, Internet quizzes, and photography.) I also have my archives for this site.

Why do I feel the need to organize my site and classify my writings? In actuality, there are many reasons.

Reason #1: My personality type is one that likes order. I think logically more often than impulsively. There is a reason DM has compared herself to Captain Kirk and compared me to Spock. It's not because we're Trekkies, but because it's an easy, good, and clear comparison. Am I Spock? No. I have qualities in my personality that are similar to the character, but I am not Spock. I know that neither of my parents are from another planet, no matter how much I wonder where my mom came from.

Reason #2: Having categories helps me reference previous writings and makes it easier for me to write in a forward direction. It's like having the back story. I know when I read a book, I don't start in the middle. In reading a series, it is helpful, if not required, to know what happened before to bring the characters to where they are in the story. I tend to think of this blog as the stories of my life. They are all related, but not all relevant to each topic. The relation of the stories is evident only through one common thread. They involve me. They are my experiences in this thing we call life.

Reason #3: Why the need for a back story, besides for my own reference? Do I need to point out previous posts while trying to explain something that happened recently? I think I do. Sometimes, there is a story that I want to share and it has roots in a previous experience. No one reading blogs have had the exact same experiences as the writers and sometimes it seems redundant to retell the base story over and over. It's good to have a quick reference.

Reason #4: If I tell a story that someone liked, I like being able to have a way to share related stories. That sounds a bit strange. It's more if someone likes scary stories about dating, then they can read the posts I've done about them. If someone wants to know what I think of going to school, they can read the vants I've done about it.

When I posed the question, I did get a few responses. DM mentioned three one word topics: friend, funny, and thinking. srmc mentioned that it was a personal journal blog. Carol also stated it was a journal-style blog. I appreciate the comments and they helped me reinforce what I was coming to believe. It's a life stories blog.

I had been reviewing my categories (aka Recurring Themes*) and found I had 19 different categories. The fact it was 19 struck me as amusing and for frequent readers, Matt may be the only one to see the significance of the number 19 (for those who don't know, it's a key number in the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. I've also written about my obsession for those books in this category.) Up through February 6th (the last time I updated the categories, I tend to do it once a month), the largest category is the one titled, "The Sheepsheadian Files" because it's full of the posts I couldn't reference into one single, recurring theme. There are 83 posts in this category.

What absolutely stunned me when I was looking at the remaining 18 categories is the fact the one titled "Dating 101" has 50 posts in it. This stunned me because I am someone who just doesn't date. I'm completely inept at flirting (ask my best friend from high school if I am an idiot when it comes to showing a guy I like him and she'll answer, "Duh!"). How did I end up with 50 posts in this category? I looked at it again. Then I found the answer.

The reason I have so many posts in this category is because it's something about myself that I don't necessarily want to change, but I want to open myself up to the possibility of dating someone. I feel like I've spent much of my life avoiding the dating scene because it scares the hell out of me. I've written about this before in this category. I started writing dating posts because I found them funny. They were also pretty universal topics. Everyone has probably had a crush in their life. There are those lucky enough to say they've fallen in love and shared love with another. Most humans look for companionship, whether it be with a love, with a friend or two, or with a family. Dating is topic many can get behind. I'm still not at a point in my life where I feel the need to be in a serious relationship, but I'm getting to a point where I don't want to avoid one anymore.

Another reason for this category being so large has to do with the ongoing saga of my life right now. If I had started this blog two years ago, there would have been only about 20 posts about dating, if that. And those posts would have covered most of my entire dating life. But because the saga is going on in real time, I am reminded of it more often and have more to share. It's like comparing a newspaper from the past to a history book. A newspaper is going to have more details about what was happening, but a history book is going to cover the information that made a difference or is more relevant. It's a big picture. Since I am writing posts while the saga is taking place, there are more details still fresh in my head when it comes to sit down at the computer to type away.

Regarding the saga, it is nearing an end. I'm pretty sure that my interest has been about depleted regarding The Boy and that I'm going to be going back to my days of concentrating on school, work, and my friends. I'm making a goal with myself to not shut the doors of possibility because the only person that hurts is me. I just don't see The Boy situation being an area I want to explore anymore. I'm not completely determined about this yet, but I feel the conclusion to that chapter of my life nearing. I could be wrong and I could be right.

The next largest category or theme was music. Many of the posts about music include lyrics to songs. Some of the posts are related to different topics and many of them are actually referenced in the dating section or even duplicated. I like music and I like to share songs that moved me or related to something going on in my life. As I sit here typing tonight, I have iTunes playing on my computer**.

Yes, I realize this post is getting long. I don't care. These things have been on my mind this past week and I've been wanting to write this. I finally have the time and energy to devote to doing it right (at least in my mind it's right), so I'm writing. If you're still reading, I appreciate it. Thank you for listening. I also like comments about my writing and I like discussions. Feel free to comment.

The next two largest categories are family and work. Work does not surprise me as a large category, mainly because it is something I do many days of the week. The posts in this category are not overly exciting, but they are moments, snapshots if you like, of what makes up my life. Family surprised me a little, but not so much. I have a larger category about family because my mom is crazy. I love her, but she's absolutely nuts. Stories about her adventures crack me up and tend to make others smile or laugh. I don't spend a ton of time with my family, but when I do, I tend to find it somewhat worthwhile to share. Sometimes I get mad at my family (who doesn't, right?) and I share that too. Even though the category is large, I have not even written half of the surface image of my family, let alone anything too deep about them.

Now, for the small categories, yet the categories that also each make up a part of my life. I have a category about bugs. There are only three posts there. I have a category about the pool hall I used to frequent. There are only 4 posts about the pool hall. That surprises me greatly. I spent eight hours a day in that pool hall for 4 solid years. I reference the pool hall in real life and I love to play pool still. But I've only written about that period of my life four times. I guess I know that when I have writer's block in the future, all I need to do is pick a story from those days and tell it. There's a ton of them in my memory.

It does not surprise me that t.v. is a small category. (See footnote** below.) It did surprise me to see that I've only written five posts about movies. I love going to movies and I have an extensive DVD collection. But I don't write about movies all that often. I don't do in depth discussions of movies on my site because I feel it's redundant. When I do write about movies, the movies in discussion are usually random, rarely viewed movies. You may see some more movie reviews from me in the future. But then, watching movies is something I enjoy, but movies are not actually a part of my life experiences. Movies are a two hour escape from my life (good or bad).

Maybe the categories that surprised me the much in their size were the categories about karaoke and my friends. It surprised me to think that I only had 11 posts dedicated solely to karaoke, especially since DM and I go to The Chalet every single Sunday night. Then I thought about it. Many of the karaoke related posts are actually in the dating section and I just didn't duplicate them all.

The fact my category about my friends is not the largest surprised me the most. Then I thought about it. I realized why this category seems smaller than it is. And DM pegged it perfectly in her comment to the "What type of site is this?" post. She said that my site is a "friend blog." There may only be 14 posts dedicated specifically to friendship, yet my friends are an underlying theme to the majority of my posts. My friends are the Sheepsheadians, the ones that this site is dedicated to. They are my support group and the supporting characters in this story of my life. My friends are the utmost important part of my life. Without my friends, I am not the person I want to be. I am not whole.

So why are there so few posts in this category? It's because the posts with my friends end up in other categories, like dating, like karaoke, or like work.

I think back to why I started this site, back in June of last year. It's amazing to look at my early posts and think how little I had discovered about myself at that time. I think dedicating myself to writing each day has helped me find out more about myself, even if it's just that I forced myself to look at who I was and what I wanted to share with others. Why did I start this site originally? It's because DM called me one day to say that she had a "blog". I had heard the term in passing before, but I didn't truly understand what it was. I had never read a blog before and I didn't even surf the Internet all that much. My cable modem was for school and playing games on MSN. I never looked at it as a tool to help me communicate with my friends and to make new friends. Or as a way to find stories that I enjoy.

When DM told me about her blog, I asked her what it was. She explained and gave me her web address. She wrote a post that I wanted to comment on. So I set up an account with Blogger to be able to comment. While I was setting up the account, I was forced to decide on a title for my site. I thought, "What is the most important thing in my life?" The answer was clear. It was my friends. It still is. That's how I came up with the title, "Sheepshead and Other Stories." Sheepshead is the card game that I play with my friends and we tell stories when we're together. We share our lives with each other. My friends are my reason to smile, my reason to laugh, and my reason to cry. The strong friendships I have in my life make me feel fulfilled. My friendships are the reason I am a happy person. I don't battle depression and I attribute it all to the support of my friends. I try to be there for them as well. I hope each realizes that I will be there anytime they need me. No matter what.

Once I had a title, I was faced with the question, "What am I going to write about?" I had written previous poems and short stories in high school (and truly enjoyed my creative writing class). I had worked on the school newspaper for a short time and had actually put together a family newsletter once a month (usually 8-12 pages) that went out to 30 different homes. That lasted for four years. Sometime I'll tell stories about the newsletter, how it kept me close to my parents, and if I can find the old issues, I may just post a few of the articles here. They're fun (especially the advice column from my dog).

When it came to write on the blog, I had to choose what to write about. I figured the best times of my life were when I was sitting with my friends, telling LIFE stories and making new memories. With that in mind, I started telling tales about the adventures from my past and the current adventures I'm experiencing. Those stories and adventures were what started to define recurring themes and categories.

One of the major discoveries about myself I found from keeping this blog was that I like to write. I feel the need to write. If I am away from my computer for an extended period of time, I keep thinking about how I'm going to write about the adventure later. It's become an addiction, but a healthy addiction. It's an addiction to finding what struck me as interesting and seeing why I want to share that information with my friends.

In high school, I did have a dream to become a newspaper reporter. Becoming a world famous author or even an unrecongized author was not something I ever desired to be. I still don't have aspirations to become an author for a living. I write about what strikes me. There are many categories or themes to my life I have not touched upon because I either haven't been reminded of them by something going on or I just don't have an interest in them yet. Someday I'll probably have more categories. Maybe I'll end up with a category devoted to my high school bowling team days. That was four years of my life. Who knows? I'm just not interested in those stories right now.

Back to my need to write. I mentioned, very early in this post, that I have multiple blogs. This is the only one I contribute to every day. This is the one that I feel the need to post something every night. This one also has by far the most posts. Heck, one of the other sites is just an archive for this blog.

I've put more work into this site than any of the others. I taught myself (with help from DM - thanks!) how to change the template. I play with different things in my sidebar all the time. Why do I put so much into this site? I don't really know, other than the fact I really enjoy blogging. I have found I love writing stories. The stories are non-fiction, but I hope they are touching on life topics. And sometimes they are just messages for those I know IRL.

In writing here, I have tried to be as open and honest about my deepest thoughts and feelings as I could. I have occasionally changed names to protect the guilty (dating 101 and pool hall stories). Have I succeeded in being truthful?

I would say yes, at least in reference to the posts I have already written. There are aspects of my life I just haven't gotten around to sharing yet. It's not that they are hidden, they just haven't come up and I haven't thought to share them. There is only really one area of my life that I have guarded from here and have written a bit about, but none of it is public. And I don't really even think about it anymore. I wrote bits and pieces, glimmers really, about a time of my life that I struggled. My life has changed from that and maybe someday, when the pain from that time has faded even more than it already has, I will write a bit more. (For the glimmers, see this category.)

I mentioned before that I do not have a dream of being a published author. That's very true. I am writing a couple of stories (fiction) on the side and they are not even close to ready for viewing, but that's just more of a challenge to myself. I am happy with my career choice and I will continue to stay in the banking world. Writing is something I do in my freetime because it's something I enjoy. I couldn't imagine the stress of writing stories as a career and having to remain in one genre or subject matter. That would bore me to death.

But this is the site where I do my daily writing. And it's available for others to see. Does that ever change what I want to write? No. Not really. I may use different techniques in writing to appeal to readers, but the words are still mine and still what I was thinking. If something is too painful to share, I may keep it hidden for a little while. I may share it. But I know that I have the need to write something every day. Sometimes I'll be looking for a topic or a memory to share and I'll tell a story from the past. I've been able to revisit some areas of my life this way and find closure to certain things. (This post comes to mind. Before I wrote it, I was holding some aggression inside and by writing it out and sharing it, I found that I could still find the memory of this person as a happy one, not one clouded with resentment.)

I enjoy blogging because I am able to communicate with those friends IRL that I don't see everyday. I enjoy blogging because I've been able to "meet" new people and hear different stories. My sidebar is full of links to blogs I have to check out every day.

When genres were listed for different blogs, I had the fear that this blog had turned into a dating blog. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with dating blogs, just that I was afraid that I had spent so much time discussing such a minor portion of my life. I felt a little like a fraud. The dating posts had started because I thought the stories were amusing. And then I got caught up in The Boy saga. It took me a solid week of thinking this site over in my head to realize that the saga is just a piece of my life, but not the whole pie. It's a small piece.

It took looking at my favorite posts to realize that I have many pieces to the pie. Many of the posts I've written I consider just spewing information and not solid writing. But then the toughest critic is always oneself. My favorite posts are not even those I consider great writing, but the ones that I enjoyed writing the most. One is about friendship. One is about giving blood. One is about my old car. Two are related and about stupid people.

Only one of my favorites is about dating. That helped me realize the greater picture. It helped me see that I write about life, my life.

If you've made it this far, I thank you. It's not an exciting subject matter to read. It was just something that I kept coming back to in my mind all week long, trying to discover a little more about myself.


*I even have a cute little drop-down menu for my categories. I wanted to clean up my sidebar and did the searching and taught myself the code. If you are interested in the code, let me know. I'd be happy to email it to anyone who wants it. It's fun!

**One thing I have discovered about myself while living alone is how much more I enjoy music than television. I enjoy movies quite a bit, but I about abhor t.v. It's not that there is not good t.v. on or that I dislike those who like t.v., it's just that I prefer listening to music over having the t.v. on in the background. I think it has to do with my logical thought pattern. I enjoy the constant beat of music and t.v. is a bit too random for me. Being able to listen to music instead of trying to do my homework with my former roommate channel surfing behind me helps my concentration greatly. I've also found it easier to write on a consistent basis if music is playing. It's almost like I find the groove of the song and flow with the tempo.