Back

Here are some things that happened while I was gone:

1.  When you don’t write in your blog, but you keep your feedreader open, you have a lot more time to listen to what other people have to say.

2.  This makes you remember something you really value about being part of a community of people who write and read blogs:  People other than you have a lot to say — sometimes what they say is incredibly funny, or inspiring, or thought-provoking.

3.  There’s real joy out there.  Nova, whose blog I’ve been reading for a long time, and who thought at one time that no one would ever want her books, has written and sold a second book.  It came out today.  It sounds wonderful.

4.  There’s unimaginable sorrow.  Elizabeth, whose blog I’ve also been reading for a long time, is very sick and in hospice care.  She’s such a talented writer, and a wonderfully loving person.  Here is a story she wrote.  If you read one thing today, this should be it.

5.  Although it’s true that I learned a lot of other things while I was away, tonight these seem like enough to illustrate my point.  The people I’ve met while blogging aren’t virtual people.  They’re real, as real as flesh and bone, and as important.

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Words and Pictures

frogI love blogs that tell stories AND make pictures. 

Like Maira Kalman and this guy. (You really must go and look at these blogs — Maira Kalman is a genius.  And the ode to coffee on the second link is really terrific.  It is an inspiration to see what truly creative people can do with a blog post.) 

Sometimes I wonder why I can’t draw.  About five years ago, in an effort to overcome that deficiency, I decided that, at the very least, I could at least learn to draw things that could best be described as symbols of objects, rather than representations of the objects.  I did it with the help of Ed Emberley.  In no time, following carefully his directions, I was producing very attractive, sketchy things that could definitely be identified as:  Lawn Mowers!  Barns!  Typewriters!  It was wonderful.   

The only trouble is that I can never remember how to draw these things unless I have an Ed Emberley book with me.  I learned this when I was visiting my friend Debbie, who is a fabulous artist, and I discovered I couldn’t produce an umbrella in a game of Pictionary.  It was deeply embarrassing.

I think I will go back to Ed Emberly and try again.  Isn’t that what summer is for — learning new skills?

Slow Blogging (or, My Google Feed Reader has Taken Over My Life)

My GAWD!  Slow down the blogging!  I got  home from a weekend of cross-country skiing (okay:  confession:  we only skied one day.  I had to get home.  My google feed reader was shouting at me to come and see what it had waiting for me) and there were hundreds of new posts waiting to be read.  Wonderful posts.    Posts I am so happy to read.

It’s spring out there in blogland — all that snow is melting and the blog posts are pushing their heads up like mad, reviewing books, commenting on politics, talking about writing, taking photos of the throw pillows they’ve put on their couch, showing me ways to combine tough jeans with girly tops, reminding me that there are a million ways to go green save the earth stop wasting gas raise my children listen to music watch movies  ….. aaaagh.

Still, even though there is a lot of wonderfulness out there right now, it’s also a little overwhelming.  I’m thinking there needs to be a  Slow Blogging movement, some kind of pact among those who feel like it’s required that they post every day — a pact that it’s okay to  post less often and spend more time sitting around and chatting with our families, and making slow pots of soup, and watching stuff bloom.   Unless, of course, you post every day because you love it.  And if that’s the case, I will always be here to read it.    But I think it would be acceptable to many if the posting is less frequent.   I don’t want to read fewer blogs, you see.  I’d like to read every blog on my blogroll, and new ones besides.  But if there were fewer posts, then I’d have more time to leave longer and better comments.  More time to read the things people talk about.  More time to cook the soup someone’s just described.  

SO — Slow Bloggers of the World, maybe sometime we could unite and slow down.  I’m not in a hurry for that to happen.  I’m here for the duration — but it seems like things will last longer if they don’t move quite so fast.  I know that’s not physically true, but it’s sort of metaphysically true, don’t you think?

White Space

The other day, through means and for reasons utterly unknown to me, WordPress wiped out every single paragraph space in one of the pages up there in my header thing.  That meant that the rambling, obsessive tale of my submission efforts was now one impenetrable block of information.  Even I — who actually LIKE the stuff I write up there — found it impossible, after a little while, to go through it and restore the paragraph breaks, so badly did my head hurt from trying to read through the textual equivalent of a granite slab.   

So, today, I want to praise white space.  

White space is the stuff between paragraphs that lets you rest for a minute and think about how much you really like what you’ve just read.  White space is like the friend who speaks clearly and then gives you a minute to say something back — or catch your breath.  Big blocks of text, on the other hand, can feel like the person who assaults you with a story that goes on forever and makes you feel like maybe it would be better just to end your life now rather than wait for the story to do you in.  

White space is particularly important when you’re writing text that’s read almost exclusively on the computer monitor, such as a blog post or an e-mail.  I don’t always do this, but after being trapped in my own block of run-on-forever text, I’m going to pay more attention to it from now on.

Rejuvenating the Blog

It’s been a wonderful weekend, mainly because I’ve been spending a lot of it figuring out why I’ve slowed down in my posting, why I seem to avoid my blog, and what can be done about it.  What I figured out is that quite possibly the reason I’ve become a little alienated by blogging is that I’ve lost touch with the people who READ what I post.  Blogging is a two-way activity.  Or at least, the kind of blogging I’ve enjoyed over the last three years is.  I like people.  I like to hear what they’re doing.  It energizes me to think that maybe Becca or Archie or Emily or Gail or Diana will be coming over here and reading something I’ve written.  I can hear their voices as I try to think up what  might entertain them, amuse them, get them going.  

This year has been a sadly one-way year.  I’d put up posts, and people looking for things like “love is stupid” (I never said that!) would sneak over and then retreat, probably shocked to learn that I mostly think books are wonderful, writing well is hard, and it’s important to be good to people.  For those who stuck with me when I was largely absent in their blogs, I can only say you are incredibly kind people. 

Anyway, I am mostly powered by what’s fun, and I had a lot of fun figuring out how to use the google feed reader, and then feeding it incredibly delicious bits of blogs  — and then I visited all the many people who have come here recently or in the past, not seeking to learn about the idiocy of love, but about whatever thing I happened to have on my mind.  

And it was great!  It used to be that I’d visit people sort of randomly, by clicking on the links on my sidebar, and I’d feel like it was just a huge amount of work, finding where people were in their lives.  But now, all I have to do is check that “feeds” bookmark I created and I can see whatever someone has most recently written.  I feel more connected — and it’s only been a day.    

I was so enthused, I actually posted over at my moribund blog about lunch food, which has  morphed into a blog basically about the stuff I eat.  And I took pictures!  I commented on blogs!  I thought of  how I could compare Brittney Spears to Milan Kundera!    

I’m awake again.  

And now, you should go over to Archie’s blog and give something to help the many people in Australia who are reeling from floods and fires.  Because as  much as we blog to amuse ourselves, we also do it because it we all like being part of a community.  And when some of us are hurting, the rest of us must help.

The Very Tired Blog

I have never, in my entire life, spotted a trend.  Never.  I didn’t invest early in things like Microsoft or Beanie Babies.  I began wearing big hoop earrings about two decades after they became cool.  I was pretty sure, in the seventies, that the whole “jogging” thing would go away because, face it, it hurts to run.  I’ve never picked out a writer who later became famous based on a little piece I saw in Parade Magazine or an actor who had a bit part in a road trip movie.  (Okay, I did know Obama was going to be big and I forced my children to watch his 2004 speech at the democractic convention — but then, so did a million other people.) 

But I think I’m on to something today — a bona fide blogging trend.  I have even given it a name:  Blogertia.  (It is not a good name.  I know that.  I’m not that Faith Popcorn lady.  Obviously.) 

These are its symptoms: 

  • The excitment of getting ten hits a day, or more than ten hits or any hits at all — totally wears off.  You don’t care.  All the hits are from people who got to your blog by mistake anyway, thinking you might be able to tell them about some lascivious topic they’ve idly googled, which is so dispiriting you can’t even admit to yourself that your blog has apparently become a resource for the depraved. 
  • Your technorati rating inexplicably goes from 100 and something to forty something.  You don’t really care.  Why shouldn’t it plummet?  No one reads your blog or links to your blog because you don’t actually exist, except in a shady corner of the internet where weirdos ask weird questions and think you might know the answer. 
  • Your regular daily visits to people you like and respect begin to slow down because you are — admit it — lazy.  After a while, you are too embarrassed  to leave any sort of comment because you don’t want to call attention to the fact that you’ve been MIA and someone you really like has had a fantastic thing happen to them and you weren’t there to say congratulations right when it happened. 
  • Your blog grows cobwebs and you don’t brush them off.  (See my “journal” page above, last updated in June.) 
  • You take a vacation, thinking that might help, but when you come back you think, “I can’t write about anything at all anymore.  I have nothing to say.” 

Etc.

I am not the only person feeling some version of this, I know.  What to do, though is the problem.  In an effort to be helpful to someone other than the guy who wants more specifics about carnal acts between a boss and a secretary (who cares, I say to him!), I offer you the following thoughts on combatting blogertia, at least one of which I might rouse myself out of the stupor into which I’ve fallen and implement.  I will even number these suggestions, because it makes me feel good. 

  1. Do something different.  Beyond spotting a trend that everyone else has already noticed a long time ago, you might try to write something that pushes you in a direction you’ve shied away from.  For example, If you’ve avoided writing about things that are personal, give that a try.  One tip:  Don’t go all confessional all at once.  You might want to dip a toe into the personal narrative.  Write one paragraph about something that you remember about being a child that has stayed with you your whole life.  Or you could do the opposite.  If you spend a lot of time, as I do, writing about your life, try writing about something that has nothing to do with you.  Try writing about a book or a current event.  Keep it short.  You don’t have to be the New York Times Book Review. 
  2. Okay.  I’m on number 2.  Inertia is setting in.  Why isn’t one thing good enough?  Because it is lame and it is not a list.  Let’s see.  Oh.  Learn a New Skill.  For example, it is not actually that hard to post a picture on your blog.  You do need a digital camera and you have to be able to follow directions.  If you have a digital camera, you need to post a picture of some kind.  Your favorite coffee place.  Your dog.  Your cat.  The book you’re writing about.  The mess on your desk.  People love pictures.  I’d be more careful about things that require people to click on a link to see.  I rarely do that.  But then I am lazy.  Others might be more energetic. 
  3. Woot!  Three definitely makes a list.  And that, in fact, is my third piece of advice.  Make a list.  Make a list of your six favorite short stories, piano pieces, weird movies, past bad boyfriends (names changed, of course!), top vacation spots.  Whatever.  A list is fun to compile, and easy to write and read. 

All right, then.  I’m going to see how it feels to write about something or someone other than myself.  And then I might try a couple of other things on my short, somewhat lame list.  But really, what I’m hoping, honestly, is that the people who’re here from someplace other than the corner of the internet inhabited by those who google desperately hopeful, lascivious strings of words will make some suggestions of their own, so when I reach the end of my three ideas I might live to blog another day.  That’s because, in the end, I like this blog, love having people visit, like the regular thinking it requires.  And the pictures, I like having a place to stick my pictures.

You Suck!

That comment — or its functional equivalent — is the kind of thing I delete before it ever shows up on my blog. It’s been a long time since anyone’s left anything even remotely like it here. In fact, I don’t think I’ve used the comments moderation feature — the one that allows you to block comments from people who’ve never visited your blog before — for well over a year. There’s a post here about that last time.

But I wanted to mention today a comment I got a few days ago that was basically a “you suck” sort of missive. It came in response to the post I last wrote about the experience of not writing, and how I think my way through that problem. The comment started off innocuously — a little rambling, not making much sense, really, but then it wound up, sort of like a very small snake, and issued a little dribble of venon, directed at me, and women like me, to basically give up writing because our work is pointless and we should really just take care of our families and, presumably, leave the manly art of writing stories to, well… him.

I mean, honestly, does anyone think I’d stop writing because I’m a woman with a family? Sheesh. A woman who’s gone through labor with twins and then a single, enormous baby, isn’t going to let a little thing like having to drive her kids to school and maybe occasionally do some grocery shopping stop her from the thing she loves most (after the children and the husband, of course.) Still, it made me wonder — why would someone go to the trouble to say something like that to me, someone he doesn’t even know?

To unpack what might motivate someone to be so nasty, I’d begin by saying that anonymity does, in some cases, allow people free reign to express their darkest, bitterest selves, the self that sees anyone who’s even remotely interested in doing the thing they want to do as a competitor to mock and, hopefully, discourage. Anonymity seems to make some people feel as though they have license to ignore ordinary social norms — the ones, for example, that suggest a person like this guy should not give a person he doesn’t know (me) “advice” like that. Obviously, he shouldn’t give it to people he knows either, or he won’t know anyone for very long and he’ll have to stay in his tiny apartment and eat pizza out of a box for the rest of his life, while the people who know how to have real conversations about what it means to write well are all hanging out together somewhere that’s well lit, eating food that’s not cold and doesn’t come in a cardboard box. But that’s his problem, not mine. The thing is, though, this guy wasn’t anonymous — he left his e-mail address and it has a name attached to it.

And that is when I realized exactly what this was about: attention. It surprised me it took so long to understand that, given how often the children in my house do ill-advised things because some kind of attention is better than no attention at all. (It’s called negative attention. My children are growing out of it. Some adults never do.) Anyway, my theory is that this comment was intended to stir up a little controversy so this guy could vent in response to whatever people would naturally say to anyone who seems to feel that women with families shouldn’t waste their time writing.

It’s a little pathetic to see a grown man behave like that. The way for a writer to get attention is to write something interesting and beautiful, something true. The surest way to guarantee that you will have no audience is to be nasty. And that, dear, gentle, good-tempered, beautifully-mannered readers, is all I have to say about this guy, whose just desserts are that his name and his comment won’t ever show up here on bloglily.