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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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