Anything but/blog

It’s day 28 of NaBloPoMo, and so far I’ve blogged every day. Two more posts to go (and tomorrow’s is already written) and I will be done this little experiment in daily posting. And now I’m doing a little cost/benefit analysis of the whole process. I do some form of personal writing pretty much daily. But the most I’ve ever posted here is twice or three times a week. My posting schedule has ebbed and flowed along with life’s other demands and challenges. As my kids get older, and as I have branched out to blog for other venues, the writing has become slightly more sporadic and the subjects continue to evolve.

I liked a lot of things about blogging daily.

For one, it made me realize that I always have material. So often, I don’t blog because I feel as though I don’t have anything to write about — but clearly that’s a myth. There’s always something to write about, if I choose to write it. Of course, that’s both heartening and a bit intimidating — yet another reminder that the only thing standing in between me and most creative goals is, well, me.

For another, blogging daily kept the flow going. So often, I have felt overwhelmed by the sheer weight of all the things I have yet to write about that I haven’t written anything. But posting every day cut down on the backlog, kept me fresh. Or fresher. Related, NaBloPoMo was where I finally got around to writing several of the post (Greg, the stalker stuff, the Fuck-it Lists (to which I am adding Zumba)) that had been floating around my head for ages.

Blogging daily meant that I took more pictures.

Blogging daily also meant that my site got more traffic — not itself enough of a justification to do it every day, but for the handful of new readers that showed up, and the comments from friends and acquaintances who had never commented before, were heartening. Write more, and it turns out that more people read and more connections are built. If you build it, they will come.

And, finally, blogging every day reminded me that I can in fact blog every day — that I can commit to a process and do it and that it’s not even that earth-shatteringly difficult.

At the same time, though, I’m still struggling with what the point of all this is. I started this blog nearly seven years ago as a way to have a regular writing practice, and to be somehow publicly accountable for that practice. And even without daily posting, I feel as though I’ve achieved that goal. Back then, I had no real sense of what blogging could mean and how it would affect my life. Which it has, profoundly: the new and reestablished friendships and relationships, the career and financial opportunities, the connections, the honing of the craft, the travel, the creative development, the sense of community. In short, the direct and indirect results of blogging have been astonishing. Without this medium, my life today would be very different than it is, and likely less enjoyable.

But do I need to post daily? I don’t think so — even though I can, and without any apparent great cost to other aspects of my life. That said, I didn’t do much else in terms of creative projects this month, so perhaps daily blogging does take up the lion’s share of my creative life.

There’s something attractive, though, about writing here every day, and that is the way in which it helps me automate productivity. Instead of debating about whether or not I felt like blogging or had the time, I simply did, with measurable results. And once I revert to a “blogging by choice” model (not that NaBloPoMo wasn’t a choice, but you know what I mean), I imagine that I’ll have to work hard to overcome the nagging voices in my head that tell me I don’t really need to do it, that I can wait until tomorrow. I wonder if there’s a way to automate the process without having it be daily. I imagine there is, but I also imagine might be more difficult. If you don’t have to do it today, there’s always tomorrow – you know?

And then there are the larger questions of the relevance of this medium. What does blogging do for me, these days? Do we live in a post-blog era? Does anybody read these things any more? (Does anybody besides me still insist on spelling it as “any more” and not “anymore”?) Why am I still doing it?

I’m still doing it for all the above reasons, chief of which is that it helps me keep in shape as a writer. My best writing here is my most honest, where I’m not trying to impress you, where I’m not going for the easy laugh or falling to the temptation to be cute or snarky for its own sake. My best writing here is me willing to be vulnerable (and yet not exhibitionist), where I tease through the subject to get at its centre, where I don’t let fear or other people’s opinions get in the way. Every time I write in here, I challenge myself to Keep it real, Ponyboy. But there are days where I have just thrown something up, where I may have let the chorus of eighth-grade girls in my subconscious dictate my tone more than I would care to admit. Perhaps daily writing would be the best way to keep honest; but I wonder if the pressure to get something up every day might have me taking emotional shortcuts. It’s difficult to know.

For now, I think I will leave NaBloPoMo behind, and go back to posting weekly or biweekly as the spirit moves me. I am adding a December creative project — I’ve had the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain for close to a decade now, and I am determined to work my way through it this month. Oh, and there are creative projects that I must finish (including a spoken word performance) and a glimmer of new collaborations to begin — including one that has its source in one of my NaBloPoMo posts.

So there you go. Nothing was harmed in the practice of posting daily, and plenty gained. For the time being, I’m not interested so much in blogging daily as I am in the reminder of everything I can do if I just sit down and put in the time. Humbling, and exciting.



Creative writing

Isaac has set up a laboratory in his closet. Since he doesn’t really have many clothes that require hanging, we’ve mostly used his closet as a repository for stuff we don’t know what else to do with, but in the last few months he’s been claiming the space, with its half-size door and sloping ceilings, as his own, digging through the debris of old couch pillows and my juvenilia and arranging little vials and boxes and treasures in its further reaches. A couple of weeks ago, he and his friend Ben created a complex, booby-trapped, locking mechanism to keep his treasures safe.

Closet booby-trap Closet booby-trap3 Closet booby-trap2

And now, every so often, if you ask him where something is, he will look at you all shifty-eyed and whisper, “IT’S IN MY LAB.”

(I love little kids, or at least this little kid, for precisely this reason — the dedication to detail, to the illusion, the need to decorate. I brought a new backpack for him yesterday to replace his current one with the busted zipper. And he went through the entire bag very carefully, asking what each compartment was for, then filling all the slots for pens and pencils with every pen and pencil he could find. I so love his capacity to delight in pencil slots.)

Anyway, as much as things are disappearing into his lab, occasionally something emerges from it. I found this on his bedroom floor a few days ago:

Creative writing4

My creative writing folder from either sixth or seventh grade. Actually, it seems to be more of a literary criticism folder, full of book reviews and character analyses. The book confirms — not that I, or, likely, you, need confirmation of this — that I was a total keener, what with all my pristine penmanship and underlined titles and carefully lettered cover pages.

Creative writing5 Creative writing2 Creative writing1 Creative writing

I had the same teacher — Ms. Davies — for both grades and I credit her for cultivating my budding feminist tendencies. We were a class of nine and ten girls those two years, writing letters to the publishers of our readers to complain about the lack of active female characters and their stories, performing an all-girl version of Free to Be, You and Me. She was the first woman I ever met who didn’t shave her armpits, which I found, then, simultaneously thrilling and embarrassing. The notebook also confirms Ms. Davies’s dedication as a teacher, and her commitment to pushing me as a writer: pointing out strengths, suggesting places to improve, always reading carefully. “Maybe you’ll be a reporter, Susan – this shows promise!”

Maybe I will.

And you, Isaac: what will you be?