This year, marks my sixth year of blogging, with my original blog, Musings, still online, although I’ve moved it a few times. Lately, however, it hasn’t had much activity, with my focus shifting to my other blogs.
Over the years, Musings has had various taglines; here are the ones I remember:
“Peter DeHaan’s Musings.”
“The Musings of Peter DeHaan, covering nothing special and everything under the sun.”
“The Musings of a Meandering Mind.”
“The Musings of Peter DeHaan.”
“Peter DeHaan’s Blog.”
“The Musings of Peter DeHaan: Sharing a Slice of Life”
Musings have over 500 posts and 100,000 words: enough to fill a book or two. In my spare time, I’m working on a project to take the best of the posts and compile them into a book. When I finish, I’ll let you know.
Today, I’m still blogging as evidenced here in Byline, but Spiritually Speaking is my main blog. Altogether, they account for more than 1,400 posts and a quarter of a million words. That’s a lot of blogging.
René Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am.”
With respect to him, I’d like to update that to “I blog, therefore I am.”
I recently blogged about my first article ever published; this post is about my second article. But don’t worry, this isn’t going to turn into a series—I have no idea what my third article was or where it was published.
Although I promised myself I’d never ever write again after my first agonizing piece, once I saw my work in print, I quickly forgot the painful birthing experience. A few short weeks later, I was again writing.
At the time, computers were emerging as accessible, viable tools. I took a computer class to learn Fortran. (A few years later, I worked briefly as a programmer using polyForth, but I digress.)
Without going into boring detail, I ended up using the College’s computer lab to write a program to do some number crunching to track down a radio station interference problem at work; it was an intense program. This was in the days of mainframes; the computer lab assistant observed my program sucking up all the computer resources allocated to me—so he gave me more! Still it took a couple hours to run.
Eventually, I wrote an article about it called, “Computers Track Down Intermodulation Interference,” published in Mobile Radio Technology magazine. The editors even sent a photographer to snap some pictures. Here is the photo they used (circa 1983). This was all heady stuff for a wet-behind-the-ears techno-geek.
By the way, in case you’re wondering, the program worked great, but the reams of output brought us no closer to figuring out the cause of the interference.
I’ve been a writer for most of my life and a published author for thirty. My first article appeared three decades ago. The title was “All About Pagers”; it appeared in the now-defunct tech magazine, Radio Electronics.
Here’s a link to a scanned image of the cover and article. If you open the link, you’ll notice a plug for my article on the cover, in the upper-right corner. At that time, I went by Pete DeHaan, which is what my wife still calls me, along with a few others who haven’t yet been retrained.
Most people who I show this to are duly impressed, but their eyes quickly glazed over as they start to read it. The most common question is, “Did you draw the cartoon at the end?” That was what they’re most impressed with, but the answer is “No.”
I agonized immensely over the writing of this piece. Even though I repaired pagers for a living, once I tried writing about them, I quickly realized how much I didn’t know. Working on this brought me to the verge of tears on multiple occasions and swore I would never write another article – which is now ironic, since I make my living wielding words. It was only my personal promise of submitting an article and the lure of a paycheck that kept me going. As I recall, the payout was $300 – and a significant sum for a young whippersnapper.
All these years, I have dutifully saved a copy of this issue, never thinking I would have any use for it. But now I scanned and posted it online to share it with you.
Do you remember the first piece you wrote or published?
My dissertation was finished and approved and my website was completely overhauled. I did complete the draft of one book (though not the one I intended) and started book two. Though I have had some informal interaction with agents, I have not queried any. I intentionally put this on hold, per the recommendation to wait until I finished writing the books.
There were also some other key developments that weren’t annual goals, having been started midyear:
I’m part of multiple critique groups (yeah, they’re that important) and receive all manner of feedback, from good to bad, helpful to hurtful. They fall into five general categories:
1) Unhelpful: Let’s start with this one and get it out of the way. Some critique partners don’t provide useful information. The reasons are numerous, but it includes people who don’t know how to give a critique, people who aren’t qualified (such as someone who only reads nonfiction, attempting to critique fiction), people who try to make their writing look better by criticizing others, and people who simply like to talk. We must discern and then dismiss this type of feedback.
2) Encouraging: Some readers gush with praise. They may not know what else to say, not want to criticize, or hope if they’re nice to you, you’ll reciprocate with them. We all need encouragement, but a steady diet of accolades will skew our self-perception.
3) The Big Picture: Some people look at overall structure; they address confusing passages, awkward flow, and unneeded passages. They may also suggest you reorder your piece, delete sections, or insert new content. Following their advice is time-consuming, but each suggestion warrants careful consideration.
4) Line Edits: Some folks are detail people. They provide copious comments on punctuation, word choice, sentence structure, and so forth. Their feedback is tedious to process. It is also most valuable, assuming they know what they’re talking about.
5) Less is More: These critique partners challenge you with one major item to address. Their words are concise and profound. One trusted reviewer simply smiled at me and said, “I want to see you bleed.” I immediately knew I needed to pour more of myself into my piece and not play it safe.
When we share our work, we’ll receive all five types of feedback. Knowing how to receive and respond to each one is critical to improving our writing.
Author Peter DeHaan spoke at the Breathe Christian Writers Conference on October 12, in Dutton Michigan. This year’s conference enjoyed a record attendance and attendees flocked to Peter DeHaan’s workshop, “Writing 101: Getting Started in Your Writing Career.”
Although billed as an introductory session, it was attended by both new and experienced writers. “I was honored by the high turnout at my workshop,” said Peter DeHaan. “I printed three times as many handouts as I thought I’d need — and I still ran out.” After the session, DeHaan conducted one-on-one meetings with several attendees and had a follow-up lunch session with others.
“The response was great to what I shared,” added DeHaan. “The attendees were eager to learn and I was honored by their presence and feedback.”
Attendees were excited about what Peter shared. “This was an excellent workshop,” stated Cathy Rueter. “This was my third year at Breathe and [Peter’s] was one of the most informative workshops I’ve attended.”
Tom Zook, another attendee, enthusiastically added, “Excellent content; wonderful presentation.”
DeHaan will be providing follow-up information and free writing services to those who attended his workshop and signed up to receive his monthly newsletter.
Peter DeHaan announced the unveiling of his new website, PeterDeHaan.com, which addresses his writing life and career. The site highlights his current and future writing projects provides a hub for his blogs and details his writing services. It includes a Twitter feed and two blog feeds. It also allows for site search, as well as to simultaneously search all of Peter’s dozen-plus websites using Google Custom Search.
“I’ve wanted this site for a long time,” said Peter DeHaan, Ph.D. “Some people know me as a blogger, others as a columnist, many know me as a magazine publisher, and a few know me for my academic research. I also do freelance work and enjoy assisting other writers. This site pulls all that information together, serving as a hub for my writing career.”
Peter DeHaan has been writing for over three decades, publishing his first article in 1983. Since then, much of his writing has focused on the general business market and telecommunications. He has published hundreds of articles and written four academic research papers, including two Ph.D. dissertations. An active blogger, Peter currently publishes five blogs, all of which are available from his new website. He is currently working on two memoir-style books about spirituality.