A year of challenges and achievements, both professionally and personally
A little late, but it’s still a good time to look back on 2016 and reflect on my hits and misses as a writer. I wrote a similar article recapping 2013, and moving forward I hope I can be sure to do this every single year. For me 2016 was a year of change, both in my writing career and in my personal life.
Continuing with SEATravelZombie, an end to Examiner.com, and exploring other writing venues
My main project, SEATravelZombie, 2016 had some modest successes. I published eight articles in total, three new articles and five of which had previously been published on Examiner.com, the now-defunct experiment in citizenship journalism. The three new pieces written I was very pleased with. In February I wrote Review of POP! by Sam Horn, a book review written as an assignment for a marketing program I was attending at University of Washington. The writer of the book, Sam Horn, enjoyed my review and shared it on her social media. It was nice to get some positive feedback. In May I wrote Cruising to St. Petersburg: a visa primer, an overview of visa requirements needed for visiting St. Petersburg, Russia. This article was inspired by my newest position in the travel industry, which I had started in April. The article did not get a lot of attention, but I did receive a nice comment from a Russian tour operator. Finally, in December I wrote Metalhead: Icelandic film teases black metal, a review that I had been writing for close to two years. I find film reviews a challenge to write, and this one was no exception. Nonetheless, I’m pleased with the results and I feel that the review offers an interesting perspective to the Icelandic film by mostly focusing on the film’s presentation of the black metal sub-genre itself.
And now on to the previously published material, five articles that I re-purposed from Examiner.com. I had quit writing for Examiner.com I believe around July of 2015. For at least a year or longer I was barely keeping my account active there, writing just one article every two months to remain eligible. After I dropped out of Examiner.com I had already begun to move material over SEATravelZombie, I just continued in that process in 2016. As I republished material to SEATravelZombie I would simply contact Examiner.com and request that they remove the material from their site, which they did without fail. Maybe someday I’ll write a full obituary for Examiner.com but I really did love writing for them and they did a fantastic job for the most part. Unfortunately, that format of web writing had a limited shelf life, especially after Google changed its algorithms to punish so-called content sites.
In July of 2016 Examiner.com ceased its existence altogether. For more about Examiner.com’s demise, see Phil Anschutz’s Examiner.com to shut down, ending new media run and The Life and Death of Phil Anschutz’s Examiner.com.Thankfully, everyone had enough time to save their material and either self-publish them or publish them elsewhere. There is not much to say about the republished articles, except that the more time a writer spends on an article the better it gets. Republishing allows you to revise and clarify, and by publishing on my own site I have full control over images, YouTube embeds, affiliate marketing links and more.
In 2016 I also had to do quite a lot of maintenance on my site that did not produce additional writing material. I did extensive editing on older articles, especially as I learned more about SEO techniques from my marketing classes. I did a thorough review of all SEATravelZombie material, with the goal of improving search engine descriptions, keyword optimization, adding and editing affiliate ads, fixing broking links, and more. Also, I did change my WordPress publishing platform from All In One SEO Pack to Yoast SEO. This was a major overhaul and it did require a lot of troubleshooting to get the website completely functional again. For example, some plugins were conflicting and at one point I lost my Google Analytics reporting, among other issues. I feel that the change to Yoast SEO is a good one, though, and I think it will help my website’s exposure over time.
Here, then, is the full list of all 2016 material published for SEATravelZombie.
- Seattle Sister Cities – an overview (republished Jan. 10, 2016, original from Examiner.com)
- Review of POP! by Sam Horn (published Feb. 9, 2016)
- Hostel: Part III: a missed opportunity (republished Feb. 14, 2016, original from Examiner.com)
- Sihanoukville, Cambodia: Seattle sister city (republished Feb. 21, 2016, original from Examiner.com)
- Wes Craven ‘Cursed’ falls short of potential (republished Feb. 23, 2016, original from Examiner.com)
- Cruising to St. Petersburg: a visa primer (published May 2, 1016)
- Metalhead: Icelandic film teases black metal (published Dec. 7, 2016)
- Shocker by Wes Craven is shockingly bad (republished Dec. 11, 2016, original from Examiner.com)
Although I am happy with the SEATravelZombie output, 2016 was also a year of missed opportunities. While unemployed I paid a visit to both the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) and Living Computers: Museum + Labs. I had plenty of great images of both and a good idea of what I wanted to write, but the articles were never completed. There are also several interviews/profiles that I had intended to complete that also fell by the wayside. It’s always disappointing when ideas don’t come to fruition. One outstanding problem, which I still need to figure out, is that I’m not happy with my point-and-shoot digital camera. I don’t think the camera takes high enough quality images. My phone takes better images, but I am still unhappy with the quality. I need to solve the image problem before I can really get back on track with writing new and timely content.
Apart from SEATravelZombie I have continued to write for Reflections of Darkness webzine, where I write mostly reviews of EBM, dark electro and synthpop. I have written for Reflections of Darkness since January of 2015 and it’s been a very rewarding experience. I get free music to listen to and review and I can continue to hone my writing skills. Music reviews I find challenging to begin with, but they are even more difficult when they are all in a similar genre. With each review, it’s a challenge to come up with a unique approach. In 2016 I was also able to meet several musicians in person including Fredrik Djurfeldt of Severe Illusion and Analfabetism and James Mendez of Jihad. Unfortunately, I had a missed connection with Nader Moumneh, the founder of Electro Aggression Records.
Here are the reviews published on Reflections of Darkness in 2016:
- CD Review: kFactor – Ghastly Monolith (published Jan. 11, 2016)
- CD Review: Jihad – Live in Bratislava 28-02-2015 – Dark EBM Souls (published Jan. 14, 2016)
- CD Review: TET – Code Ultimate Control (published Apr. 28, 2016)
- CD Review: Opposer Divine, The – Reverse//Human (published Aug. 17, 2016)
- CD Review: N3VOA – Wasted Memories (published Dec. 7, 2016)
Finally, I experimented with writing an article for LinkedIn Pulse, the publishing platform of LinkedIn. The platform is a great self-publishing tool and I can see how it could be a useful tool for exposure.
- 6 Tips for Becoming a Better Writer (published Feb. 19, 2016)
Professional and Personal Changes in 2016: schooling, a job change and a big move
Although 2016 had some positive progress in my writing avenues, it was also a year of major change both professionally and personally. At the end of January I was laid off from a company I had been with for ten years. I had been unhappy there for several years, but especially the last year. We were given the classic choice of interviewing for our jobs, but I felt like my time at that company had come to an end.
Being unemployed for a couple months was a bit stressful but it gave me an opportunity to update my resume and interview with a variety of companies. I was covered under unemployment and I also used a portion of my severance package from my previous employer. Being without a job also gave me a welcome breather to focus on my Marketing Management certificate program at University of Washington. During our practicum, my group created a comprehensive marketing plan for a local company. It was a great experience. I learned so much from the program and I got to meet and work with so many talented individuals.
In September I purchased a home in Puyallup, Washington with my girlfriend, another major life change. We had been living in Lynnwood and the rent was skyrocketing. The rent was scheduled to increase by $200 per month in 2016, then go up by another $200 the following year. Purchasing a house was a great way for us to secure our financial future. And it was largely possible due to my severance package and a very generous financial gift from family.
All in all, 2016 was a good year. I’m excited to continue my writing goals in 2017 and also to grow in both my professional and personal life.