No (New) WordPress for Old Men

Fox writing with a quill pen, from the NPYL archive

I’ve always been a fan of the written word. That passion for English influenced many of my life choices, from deciding what to study in college to gravitating to Twitter as my go-to social media service (crafting a message in under 140/280 characters was always a fun challenge, though Elon has recently made me question whether I should remain on the platform). Writing comes naturally to me, and while I spend most of my time these days telling folks what they did wrong with their copy, over the last few years I’ve still managed to refine my own voice.

While in the past I’d dedicated more time to writing projects like blogging here or working on a novel, lately those projects have fallen by the wayside. I’m not terribly upset that I’ve been spending more of my precious free time on other endeavors like Jacob Walks Over A Bridge or bingeing anime, but I would like to make sure I don’t fall too far out of practice in writing. There may come a point where I’d like to retire my red editor’s pen and take my own stab at writing professionally. With that in mind, it’s high time that I get back in the saddle and return to the habit of writing more consistently. Given how many times I’ve procrastinated writing this post by playing game after game of Minesweeper, I really do need to reacclimate myself with sitting down and focussing on writing.

It’s that mindset that’s led me back to this site, which is built on WordPress. It should really come as no surprise to me that, after a long absence away from the blogosphere, WordPress has become a totally different beast than the website I grew to know and love. What was once a simple blogging and website creation tool has ballooned into a robust content creation platform, or at least that’s what the folks behind the scenes would like users to think. Where there was once just one blank space to pen one’s thoughts there is now the option to add “blocks,” or sections intended for specific content only. A page may be built with several different blocks, including text, images, or other media, or just one block of text, depending on the content of a post. What’s now deemed the “classic” editor would cram all of that content into its one white space, and users would have to deal with it whether they liked it or not. I, as one who eschewed more visual mediums in the past, liked it.

Ain't she a beaut?
The “Classic” editor, but also what writing a post would have looked like in 2013.

My introduction to the block system actually came earlier in 2022 while I was revising my novel. In an effort to add extra Easter eggs to the story, I wanted to create a website for a fictional organization. I was able to create a new URL for the site easily enough, and picked a theme to make the site look pretty without trouble, but that’s where my string of successes ended. At some point between 2019 and 2022 (the last time I’d written a blog post) the block system went live on WordPress. I like to think I’m fairly tech savvy, but trying to arrange blocks on my new site made me feel like a Boomer in the worst way. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get everything to flow the way that I wanted to. Content appeared all over the site in varying sizes, leaving me frustrated. After searching I found several plug-ins that supposedly mimicked the old editor, but all required paying money that I wasn’t willing to part with. In lieu of tracking down helpful articles or instructional videos to learn how to work with the blocks, I resolved to write a complaint on Twitter and (temporarily) give up.

As I returned to WordPress again to revive this Writing section I feared that the time had come to finally sit down and figure out how the blocks work. Imagine my surprise then when, when checking to see if there were any new free plug-ins to switch back to classic mode, I discovered that due to the nature of how I set up this site I was eligible to download any of the plug-ins I desired at no cost. Since my goal here is to practice being more consistent at writing and not necessarily brushing up on my WordPress skills, I was quick to install the most popular classic editor plug-in. Being greeted by the basic text box was like coming home again.

It’s likely I will eventually have to figure out how the maneuver around the new WordPress. I know I’m smart enough to figure it out if I reaaaaally put my mind to it, but since page editing isn’t something I plan on doing on a regular basis I’m not rushing to YouTube to make that happen. If I ever do try to publish my novel, creating that website will be a priority…unless the publishing house has people for that, in which case I’ll be granted a reprieve until I get married and don’t want to pay a company to make a website for me (finding someone to marry will have to come first). At the very least, it’s possible that mastering the block system would allow greater freedom to customize how a page looks, which would allow for, among other things, the centering of Tweets (I can’t figure out how to make the above tweet centered, and despite how much it’s annoying me I will leave it as is).

Thus, my new writing adventure has commenced. Posts hopefully will come with some semblance of frequency. Over the next couple weeks at least I’ll be returning to my blogging roots, recording my adventures abroad in Europe. As time goes on I’ll probably chime in on all sorts of topics, especially since my main outlet for random thoughts, the podcast, is being sunset after four seasons. Perhaps I may even write a whole series on learning how to use WordPress for a second time. Have to milk that creative writing degree for all it’s worth somehow.

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