The Final Exam: Year One

Whatsoever, after due examination and analysis, you find to be kind,
 conducive to the good, the benefit, the welfare of all beings that
 doctrine believe and cling to, and take it as your guide.

The look back; it’s crucial to enlightened and introspective living. The look back helps us internalize and value our product and our process. The look back can be painful. The look back should be mixed with reward and critique. Anything worth doing well is worth a moment of reflection, to improve upon future endeavors and to note what was done well for future repetition.

When I began this website on May 13, 2010 I had a vision of a place where people could come to find something meaningful—if playful—to aid, enrich or at least distract from, their lives. I wanted to incorporate my love of conversation, family, writing and therapy. I wanted to provide content that was current, researched and engaging. As always, I set my sights high. Though I’ve done my own critique, I’ve also asked three people to help me with this process. Each one embodies a facet of what I’m hoping to bring to the site.

Accentuate the Positive

Dr. Rod Hoevet is a clinical psychologist “providing evaluation and therapeutic services to the inmates” of a large county jail He also teaches graduate and undergraduate classes at a local university and enjoys writing. He said that the “engaging, easy to read style” that the articles maintain while “tackling complex topics” brought him to the site and keeps him coming back. I can say that Rod has been the source of great conversation—aside from adding the air of clinical credibility!—and that his input here and in the comment box is a welcome addition.

Rod’s favorite article was “I Hate Cookies” which was the first step in my effort to define what I disliked about reward-based behavioral modification so that I could revamp a current system in favor of a more character-driven model. This article struck Rod enough to comment “because it cut to the core of what I have found to be a massive problem amongst most of the patients I see: changing how you think and act is not the same as actually changing.” I’m sure that’s as huge an issue with doing therapy in a jail, as it is in a Residential Treatment Facility. My battle with it continues, and you will see an update in the months to come.

Then there’s Chuck Wendig. Did you ever have that friend? The crazy one? Read his writing advice site, Terrible Minds. He’s crazy. I’m a psychotherapist. I know. Actually, he’s not crazy and his site is awesome. He’s as profane as a gin-soaked moonbat and employs it with a keen wit and an eye toward self-deprecation. So, I can relate. I have been truly blessed to have Chuck among my tight circle of friends since we were knee-high to our Daddies, and now he’s more published than money, which makes him perfect for a critique from a writer’s perspective.

Sadly, he’s a little confused. Chuck was certain that what drew him to the site was “porn. Also: I know you, so that’s what drew me there.” He’s correct on one of those points, as I mentioned. But there is no porn here. Yet he persisted. Knowing me apparently keeps him coming back, “and also, porn.”

Aside from the lush jungle of porn to be found here at, Chuck also liked “I Hate Cookies” and “all the flash fiction.” Some of tales like “Deep,” “Dicky Did Laser,” and “She” were prompted by challenges from Terrible Minds. Others like “Me and the Dame” and “Just One Cut” were prompted by other contests. I love flash fiction. It is a 1000 words or less exercise in writing, brevity and focus. It is a creative monkey wrench that I am ever interested in wielding. From a reader’s perspective, it is perfect for the internet era. You can read a flash fiction story in a few minutes without your boss ever knowing your surfing the net. Do so. Now.

We’ve heard from the psychology side. We’ve heard from the writing side. What’s left? The reading. Andrew Conti is a man of many gifts. He is a gifted artist; the work of he and his wife can be found here at Chaku Chaku. It’s awesome. He is a gifted colorist, and has done work for DC Comics. He is a gifted writer. He has recently been gifted with a darling daughter. He has also regularly gifted this site with his kind attention.

Andrew first saw the Twitter and Facebook links to these articles, thought “Hey, Keith wrote this. I would like to go and check it out,” and did so. Andrew is drawn back to the site as a bit of a safe haven for introspective thought.

“And, also the porn.”

Chuck we’ve moved on. We’re talking with Andrew now.

“But the p—”

Continue Andrew.

“I find the psychology subject matter interesting. It’s something I always have found interesting…I don’t keep up with it at all though as there are just other things that hold my interest. I like going to your site to catch up on those things, or at least have a bit of a space where I can read about such things and give them a little thought.” Two articles which simmered Andrew’s thinking were “Gratitude Doesn’t Suck” and “Stress and Taxes.

“Gratitude Doesn’t Suck” was written around Thanksgiving and focused on the mental, emotional and physical health benefits of gratitude. Andrew liked that “it wasn’t focusing on how to correct problems, or improve negative situations – rather it was about enhancing an already positive place.” Gratitude can always be enhanced, and one is never worse for it. April’s “Stress and Taxes” struck Andrew as “topical, relatable and still came at the subject with a perspective and voice that made it far more interesting to me than the standard ‘tax-time-tips’ articles on a mainstream news site.” As a writer, I must say that I’m grateful for that notice. I was quite interested in how tax season stressed everyone from the tax payer to the IRS clerk and was glad that the article hung together well in the end.

On the Flip Side

Change is inevitable – except from a vending machine.
-Robert C. Gallagher

I had also asked these three fine gents for some feedback on things that I can improve around here. Praise for a job well done is a crucial piece of the cycle of effort, but need for change or improvement is what sets the cycle in motion.

However, Dr. Hoevet said that I should change “Nada. You do a great job.” Who am I to argue with a credentialed psychiatrist? That settles that then. Whew, and thank you, kindly, Rod.

More seriously, Andrew had a critique of content which runs counter to the stereotypical belief that blogs which get noticed are only the ones who complain, cause conflict or make hot-headed claims. “I generally enjoy articles that have a more positive focus,” he said. Thus he would prefer, “an article about gratitude or your recent life with cane story” over the “take on Jared Loughner or an analysis of depression. It’s not so much how good/bad those articles might be, it’s that they don’t appeal to me and I spend less time with them.” Andrew’s point is worth consideration, especially when he clarified that “a more positive article [on] building, strengthening and conditioning” is more personally relevant than an article about “healing or resolving an issue.”

Picture me chin scratching, just like in the banner icon. It may be that articles which talk shop will have a lesser appeal because they are directed at those have mental illness or are in the direct care field. I may be able to broaden the scope at least to those who have family members with issues, or find a way to make them more relevant to those outside of the mental health bubble. Good point, Andrew. It also makes me glad that I didn’t attempt the Media Mental Evaluation of Charlie Sheen which I had considered.

Chuck lent me the eye of a published writer. Where he got it, I’ll never know. Maybe it came from one of the zombies in his new book about a vampire struggling to stay fed in a zombie apocalypse because all his food is, well, rotting now. Such a neat idea. I’ve already reserved my copy of Double Dead (click it!)

I was heartened to hear that, according to Chuck “the site looks good and reads well.” His critique that the fonts are “a little small” is a fair one and one I’m working to tweak. The WordPress template I have here is dandy, but sometimes things take longer to adjust or I have to mess with code. I’m no Neo. I shouldn’t mess with code.

He also earns a chin scratch. “I’m not sure that your ratings/rankings (fun, family, fellowship) are doing much for me in terms of functionality or providing meaningful data.” Y’know, internet, I’ve been pondering that off and on over the last year. I used those three terms as a way to get my focus strait in my mind when I began this blog hut. I’m a fan of three point alliteration—maybe it goes back to my training in teaching and preaching—and Fellowship, Family and Fun fit the bill. I even devoted a whole page to the definition of each of those terms and how I use them here. Then, as the shine faded off the apple, I began to wonder if terms which required a whole page to define were actually functional in the fast paced world of the internet. Frankly, I began to wonder if I had better usages for a page in the website, and no, not for porn.

The Future is…Later!

At some point, I’m going to put a gag order on myself
 in terms of talking about the past. I’ve got to slam the door
 and deal with the present and the future.
-Charlie Sheen

It looks like, at the end tally of Year One, the site is very much in the plus column. That is a great thing. I owe very much of it to you out there, bi-weekly readers. Every hit which graces this site makes me excited to write the next post. Thank you. Please use the comment box below just to say “Hi.” I’d love to thank you more personally. Also, please use the comment box to share your own critique of Year One. Do you agree with Andrew’s desire for positivity? Or that the font is too small? Or that the rating system is confusing and should be altered?

After all this feedback about the site, and totally without offense meant to my three reviewers, the best response which I received was about mid-way through the year and sent via Facebook. “I love your posts. They help me a lot.” That’s the point more than anything else.

Thank you, Chuck, Andrew and Rod. Thank you, bi-weekly readers. Thank you, anonymous reader who found help here.

Now let’s kick it for Year Two.


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