Frodo: I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times. But it is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.
Lord of the Rings.
There have been times in the past year when I was ready to toss in the towel of this entire writing “thing”; indeed I was more than ready to start my own specialized nursery again and had I had property with decent soil instead of the shallow, clay crap I do own, I may indeed be back propagating interesting plants instead of tapping on a keyboard.
Some of you may know that Google looks at links coming to your site as a measure of the value of your site. If good sites link to you, those are good brownie points but when bad sites link then you are penalized.
I used to give away ebooks to readers – one on perennial growing and one on beginner tips – and they had some links in the book to my site for further information. Some spammers decided they would give it away as well, added their links and left mine. And then some enterprising Polish spammer took one or more of my sites as “redirect” sites to a multitude of porn sites. (Technically, my stolen site was only seen by Google and visitors were immediately redirected to porn pages) They then got inbound links to those from their other porn sites so my gardening sites were under all these but part of a porn network. As it turns out 11.5% of all incoming links to my sites were from these porn sites and this was enough to finally get the Big G’s attention. If you can say, “screwed” you have the sense of what happened to me.
Technically, the only recourse now is to use Google’s disavow tool where you say, “I don’t know that link” and this is now part of my ongoing weekly work. I also added G+ author verification (recently available) to all sites and I’ve rebuilt almost all of my sites (and will finish this up this year) to upgrade the code, pictures, headlines etc across all sites. I gave up one of my sites (the worst hacked) and rebuilt the entire site on a new URL because there was little chance it would ever be rehabilitated given the extent of the damage.
So yes, it’s not my fault. And yes, it’s only a mechanical process used by Google. And no, it’s not fair to have five years of work wrecked by a spammer. But, to paraphrase Gandalf, it was up to me to decide what to do with such times.
I was involved in a bitter conversation the other day that involved several individuals acting as Frodo, complaining about the changes that had swept across their industry to change the landscape under their feet. I did my best to explain what was going on but they weren’t as understanding as Frodo and I fear they’ll fall to their industry-Orcs chasing close behind.
I also had the pleasure of meeting some publishing folks who had decided there were two demographics that were purchasing gardening magazines and they were working hard to meet the needs of these two groups. The fact they were still in business after 5 years speaks loudly.
Between these two extremes sits a vast wasteland of writers struggling to figure out a way out of their own cave, trying to find a road around the curve. “Afraid to move forward and afraid to stay where they are” pretty much sums it all up given the uncertain route and future we all face.
Your choice is simple. Every day for the rest of your life, you get to make a decision about what to do with the time left to you.
And not to decide is to decide.
I decided not to open that nursery but to stick with a creative life I love. And I decided this freed me up to do other creative things as well and those are well into the planning and working-on stage.
As I write this, 9 months after the crash, some of my sites have started showing signs of stability. I’m happily planning spring in the garden, looking forward to non-freezing weather so I can get back into my unheated garage/shop/studio for some creative work, and working on expanding my reading and writing range. I’m almost back to writing full time instead of being a repair-guy and this feels very good as well with increasing output and enjoyment of life.
I may not be fully out of that cave, but I can see the light around the corner of this pathway and it’s a clear bright one.