Tag Archive | "blogging"

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Blog, blog, blog: thoughts on growing in public

To be honest, I had barely read a blog before I got ready to start blogging myself. I was perhaps a bit suspicious of the medium. It’s true that ever since I was a child, with my first Hello, Kitty journal, I could not keep a diary without imagining a future reader. In fairness to the vanity of my young self, the diaries I was most familiar with were those that had been published–Anne Frank, for example. In any case, the blog circumvents the necessity of pretending you are writing for reasons of personal growth, even as you become most aware of your desire to grow, personally.

I have admired writers who are willing to grow in public. Michelle Tea is a wonderful example. She is prolific and talented and has written with a work ethic I envy and then gotten her work out to a growing public (via spoken word tours–the infamous Sister Spit–and publication) since she (and I) was quite young. This means that she’s gotten better, and broader, in front of that public.

Yesterday in the car, Angie played a part of a podcast for me in which the speaker made an important distinction between the natural, healthy dissatisfaction a writer or creator feels towards the work he or she has done and contempt for that work. There is slippage between the two, and contempt does no good, since it casts doubt on the worthiness of everything you do or might do. Dissatisfaction, on the other hand, will push you to stretch, to grow. To try something different. (Although the boys were not interested in (their or my) listening to the entire podcast, Angie tells me that it was from Accidental Creative, which seems like a great group.)

I considered publishing my daily writing of this NaNoWriMo novel that I’ve been working on for the past twelve days (not including today, yet) and which I will be writing for at least the next eighteen days. My idea was to post a sort of blog-style rough draft of this fictional story in installments, much as Dickens published Great Expectations and other of his novels. Then I remembered that I am not Dickens. Actually, I just thought that the pressure of writing a novel in thirty days might not withstand the additional pressure that the novel be readable.

Another part of me, though, longed for the tension, excitement and sheer storytelling demand an audience would create. Shahrazad had no time to erase her efforts and throw up her pages in despair. Shakespeare purportedly scribbled lines on some Elizabethan index cards and handed them to his actors. The ur-storyteller caveman had to create some serious questions in his listeners or risk being tossed out of the cave. And not just Plato’s cave.

In general, I have been guilty of revising for too long, if there is such a thing. I have let dissatisfaction slip into contempt. The problem is, of course, that with each new book (or draft), one learns more, one grows as a writer, and so that book inevitably becomes the product of a younger, less experienced (if also less despairing) writer. I think I made the same mistakes with having children–I waited nearly until the deadline had passed, wanting to get it right instead of merely to get it done. But with writing and children, I have learned that there is much to be said for getting it done as a path to getting it right.

Then, too, watching little people grow in public, it becomes clear to me that nothing can eclipse the brilliance of embracing wherever you are in the moment. I think of Charlie clapping his little hands together in self-approval when he shoots a basket or puts away a toy. I think of Leo’s pleasure in learning to say the “O” in E I E I ____. We delight in them when they can hold their heads up and then when they can play peek-a-boo and then when they can feed themselves a bite and then when they can walk and then when they can say an animal sound and then when they can make a joke and then when they can read a book . . . and they learn to delight in themselves, too. At one-and-a-half (or -quarter), no one is looking back and saying, “Hmmm, I didn’t used to be able to walk. What a loser. I should have stayed in until I knew more.”

Whatever its flaws, reality writing has a lot going for it over its fellows in television. I used to worry that people would stop leaving the kinds of informal, intimate written records that our parents and grandparents left–letters and diaries. Blogs are not the same, of course. But this is what I started out to say: I have become a convert. I read blogs now. At the end of the night, for instance, I check in on the progress of the cutest, bravest little guy and his amazing moms at Simon Lev, and I always read Amy Wilensky’s amazing entry at Seven Hundred Fifty Words. I am learning about organization and Serenity for the Self-Employed from Heather Boerner, about How Not to Write from Jamie Grove, and on and on . . . Words have always been my medium, and it is a great pleasure to find this living stream of them at this time when I am most house-bound.

I would love to know: what blogs do you read?

Posted in Blogs, Mastery, Models, Momentum, Writers and Other PeopleComments (3)

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Live from Sonoma, It’s National Coming Out Evening

I am in my mother-in-law’s kitchen, typing on the computer, while my mother-in-law cooks dinner and Angie kisses the boys’ little feet. This sentence, I suppose, is what strikes fear in the hearts of the out-of-state Mormons who are flooding the supporters of Proposition 8 with funds–25 million dollars so far, to be exact. Somehow, my having a mother-in-law (cooking dinner) and a father-in-law (out hunting!) and a spouse (female and monitoring two boys opening kitchen cabinets) and two sons (exploring Grandpa and Nana’s house) shakes the very foundations of their marriages. All marriages. Except, I guess, my own.

And it is National Coming Out Day.

When I graduated from my M.F.A. program, Ian McKellen (Sir Ian to you) gave the commencement address. (Is that what it is called? Angie and my mother-in-law and I cannot quite agree.) Anyway, he had come out relatively recently, given his age (this was in the mid-nineties and he’s sixty-nine now. You do the math; this is a blog about writing). And he said, Come out, in every way that you can. And support your gay and lesbian family members so that they can come out. There I was, with my whole New York family–cousins of my father who, like my father, were born in the 1920s–and they were being extolled by a world-famous, brilliant actor to come out and to support me in coming out. It was splendid.

If I was worth my salt as a blogger, I would find and scan the photograph of Sir Ian and me (and my partner at the time) on the steps of the School of the Arts. But I am a writer, so I will just tell you that I wore a blue flowered dress, and Sir Ian and my former partner wore suits, and behind us bricks lead up to the stone steps and huge glass doors, and my lipstick is a bit overly bright red, but I am twenty-five and the world owes me a living.

Well, no. That was my father: when, at twenty-one, he graduated from medical school, he sat back at his commencement ceremony and thought, “Now the world owes me a living.” When I earned my M.F.A. in writing, I had no such illusions. But I will venture to say that the world owes me some civil rights.

Here are a couple of things I want to say to people who oppose my right to marry on the basis that it somehow threatens their own marriages or notion of marriage: if homosexuality cannot be stamped out by death, the threat of death, ostracization, beatings, derision, exclusion, legal and religious persecution, an absence of representation, and so forth, I really don’t think heterosexuality is in grave danger from gay marriage. And if your kid sees my family and learns something new is possible, the life saved may be your kid’s.

Meanwhile, if you are a writer (or a reader or, really, anyone): come out, in any way necessary for you. Be vivid. Be quirky. Be honest. Be strange. Admit that you want to write. Admit that you love this particular book or that particular song. Confess your joy at sitting in the park with someone who makes you laugh. You know that your capacity for love, like mine, extends beyond the bounds of what you’ve been taught or offered, that it is an enormous force that can create sonnets and children and some very awkward voice mail messages. Say so.

Happy Coming Out Day!

To donate to NO on PROP 8 — and counter those out-of-state Mormons, click here. Spread the word!

Posted in Mayhem, MotheringComments (0)

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Blogging on Blogging

This is a blog about the craft of writing, so it was bound to get meta one of these days. Writing about writing in a relatively new genre–the blog–and a genre that’s brand new for me, both as a writer and, more or less, as a reader, would sooner or later require some reflection on the form itself. So, it’s sooner. It’s tonight.

I’ve read blogs by friends. Well, I had a first friend who blogged. She was the first of my friends to blog, that is, and also, she was probably my first friend. We met when I was 2.5. But anyway, she started writing a blog when she was traveling around the world, and so I would read it to keep up with her, and I kept reading it, even when she got back. I thought she wrote well and had interesting ideas about . . . whatever crossed her path. And that was the blog I read, until we stopped being friends.

That story would probably be more engaging than my thoughts about blogs, but one of the lines one has to walk in writing a blog is, how much should be confessed? What should be left out altogether, what referenced obliquely, what detailed? I’m afraid this is going to be referenced obliquely for now. I haven’t looked–maybe my friend wrote about our falling out. I sort of doubt it, though.

Recently, some acquaintances have fallen on hard times: their son is in the hospital with heart problems. I don’t know them well enough to know what’s going on any other way, so I read their blog. It makes me cry very often–something I didn’t used to do much, but which, since giving birth, I am now prone to doing. Their blog is moving and inspiring. We are bringing them lasagna on Thursday. Actually, we are hoping to make loads of lasagna for a variety of people with new babies.

I read Ericka Lutz’s blog on Red Room while she was trying to win a contest by getting the most hits. It was fun to read, but I also enjoyed having a sense of purpose and a feeling I was part of a team rooting for Ericka.

I met a woman at Totland who has a baby a few months older than Leo and I read a lot of the archives of her blog, some of which has to do with her struggles with infertility. I cried at one of those entries, too.

The thing is, I do not have a job where I go somewhere, sit at a desk, and try to look busy. In fact, at this very moment–8:48 p.m. on a Tuesday–I am avoiding the important writing that I must do. I have a commitment to do a certain number of pages a day, and then to email a writer friend about my accomplishments. There is an affirmation, even, that I type to her each time. I’m behind on that right now. There just is no such thing as a moment when I have nothing to do. And the truth is, I still have to read books. What I mean is, I survive and thrive by lying around in bed reading books, and in order to do this and raise two toddlers, I have given up sleep and the house is a mess and also, I do not read a lot of blogs.

But now I have been poking around the internet, checking out the blogging terrain. Finding the punk mommy who died of cancer, and the asexual person on the autistic spectrum, and the guy reading through the Booker Prize long list before the short list is announced. And I realize something that I tell my clients all the time, whether they write memoir, novels, or something else: I want scene. I want to be dropped into a world.

And, folks, I have a world. Last year, I wanted to find a topic so that I could write one of those books about The Year I Did ______. Beth Lisick wrote one about self-help adventures, called Helping Me Help Myself, which is a great title. Someone named Julia worked her way through Julia Child’s very thick cookbook, and someone else lived according to Biblical rules for a year (The Year of Living Biblically). I heard on the radio about a woman trying to live as Oprah would advise–trying to do everything suggested on the show and in the magazine. (From the interview with her, I gathered that this project is factious, though she wouldn’t criticize Ms. O directly–because what if her blog gets made into a book . . .)

So I cast about for my own activity that I could do for a year and write about. Everyone kept saying to me, “Elizabeth, you have two babies four months apart in age. Write about that.” But, due to the fact that I was raising two babies four months apart in age, I did not. (However, I did write an article for Curve magazine about being pregnant at the same time.) Meanwhile, I’d moved into the house I inherited from my father, filled with nearly everything he’d kept through the years, and thought perhaps I could do something on the subject of Going Home Again.

The trouble with personal writing is that life is already so painfully personal. I read to escape my life, and I write because what else can a reader do for a living if she doesn’t want to tear other writers apart? So I don’t really want to write about my life. But–and here’s the rub–I suspect the blog requires it. The best blogs, like novels, purport to take you where life cannot: into the insides of someone not yourself.

Posted in Misc.Comments (2)

Related Sites

  • 1st Books: Stories of How Writers Get Started See my blog about the wonderful Meg Clayton. The blog is guest authors’ tales of their tales
  • A Bit of This, A Bit of That Prolific, intelligent and quirky blogger and lover of all things bicycle . . .
  • Jamie Ford: Bittersweet Blog The author of The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (2009) shares the journey; lots of fun.
  • Koreanish A wonderful, helpful blog by the great writer Alexander Chee
  • ReadingWritingLiving Susan’s Ito’s wonderful blog on “trying to do it all: reading writing momming daughtering spousing working living” plus great insights into adoption and other stuff
  • SethFleisher.com Seth is a very good writer–and he’s got content: international politics, being a dad, and, of course, writing . . .
  • Sports Race Politics America Gretchen Atwood is working on an exciting book about the integration of pro-football. Here’s one to watch.
  • Towers of Gold Frances Dinkelspiel’s engaging web site about California history, economics and other important ideas.