“Sometimes it is the smallest thing that saves us: the weather growing cold, a child’s smile, and a cup of excellent coffee.” ~ Jonathan Carroll
Wednesday early evening. Sunny and mild, 59 degrees.
I must admit that I was shocked to receive the notice from the WordPress people that my blog is five years old. I really had no idea. That first year, my posting was erratic, with a total of only 135 posts, with just two in that first February of 2008. By the end of the year I was posting almost regularly and beginning to hit my stride. In fact, I’m not even ashamed of most of that first year’s posts, which is saying something.
Blogging was a new beast for me, and I only got into it because of a professor who gave us the assignment to create a website of some sort for his class. It was a very open-ended assignment, and several people in the class opted for WordPress blogs. Not being familiar with WordPress, I went the difficult route of purchasing a domain name and paying for hosting. I remember those initial attempts at coding my own site not at all fondly. It was painful, and the end result was . . . pitiful.
After noticing the WordPress address in other people’s assignments, I finally got a clue and moved to a platform that did the coding for me, provided me with options for layouts and widgets and all of that good stuff, and I have had no desire to move since. It’s a good fit for me: ridiculously easy at the best price of all—free. I am forever thankful that there are people out there who like to code and even more, who like to share that coding with those of us who can’t.
“Make voyages. Attempt them. There’s nothing else.” ~ Tennessee Williams from Camino Real
So when I began this blog, what did I hope for, what did I expect? I don’t know. I remember being excited beyond belief the first time that someone actually commented on a post. This is wonderful, I thought. Someone out there found me and read me. How cool is that? And then when that stats counter went past 100 hits, I wanted to break out the champagne. One hundred hits! One hundred!
They like me. They really like me, a la Sally Field.
Okay, then I came back to earth when I realized that people were getting that many hits in one minute, when I saw that there were people with hits in the millions. Ooh, blog envy. It’s not a pretty thing, and that first year I was filled to the brim with envy. Why couldn’t I glam onto a phenomenon like Mudflats, or some such thing, and be propelled into the blog elite? I know, I know. Petty.
Really though, I guess what I wanted was to be able to say anything that I wanted, without fear of repercussion or ridicule, and I wanted people to read me, and okay, I wanted them to like me. It mattered, that whole liking thing. But then something quite unexpected happened: I began to enjoy myself. I found other people to read. I realized that I wasn’t such a strange bird, after all, and I began to care less about being liked and more about having something to say.
Year two (2009) saw me finding a groove, deciding on a format that incorporated quotes and images and trying to have an underlying theme with each post. And then when I began tumblr in June of 2010, I think everything kind of clicked: Here was the companion to my writing blog, a source for quotes and images to complement my words.
“I felt once more how simple and frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. Nothing else.” ~ Nikos Kazantzakis, from Zorba the Greek
And, well, here I am five years later. And here are some of the things that I have learned along the way:
- People can be very supportive, surprisingly so.
- Politics is very polarizing, and even on a personal blog such as mine, haters can be relentless in trying to make you see how very wrong you are about X or Y.
- You can either ignore or engage haters, but be prepared for backlash.
- If you are going to write about your life for all to see, you have to be mindful of the privacy of the other people in your life.
- Not everyone has signed on to make an appearance in your blog, so don’t be surprised if they get upset when they do.
- Cyber-stalking can be very disconcerting, regardless of how lame it might seem.
- The best way to get readers is to be a reader.
- The Golden Rule applies in blogs: If you don’t want people to steal your content, make sure you are just as judicious in attributing other people’s words and images. When in doubt, don’t use it.
- Cite formal sources, or at least provide links to them.
- Spam. Get used to it.
“What the river was showing her now was that she could flow beyond the brokenness, redeem herself, and fuse once more.” ~ Ursula Hegi, from Stones from the River
Blogging has been a lifeline for me in so many ways, helping to keep me sane (somewhat), and grounding me, giving me that tether to the outside world, especially now that I am less in the world than I used to be. A few observations:
- In such an unreal setting, I have made some very real connections, and I have met people through this blog with whom I would love to share a cup of coffee and some cake.
- As the world has become more connected via cyberspace, we have become less connected physically, depending upon computers, tables, and phones to do what we used to do face-to-face.
- I recognize that this shift is actually good for some people, particularly those who stay close to home, for whatever reason.
- There are people out there who I may never ever meet who actually care about my well-being.
- Grief is a subject to which people can relate; this astounds me because the first time I thought about writing about my ongoing battle with grief, I really wondered if to do so was such a good idea.
- Dogs always make for good copy.
- There are still some subjects that I cannot quite bring myself to broach. You may find this surprising.
- I will occasionally self-censor.
“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.” ~ Edward Abbey
The other aspect that I want to address is that of the act of writing itself. I know that I go on and on about not finishing my novel, about not having an agent, about not being a real writer (whatever that is) . . . and all of this is yet another prime example of how I don’t believe in myself enough, how I am my own worst enemy. With that in mind, I thought I’d force myself to do a bit of analysis:
- I spend at least two hours on each real post, i.e., not the Jon Stewart Videos or reposts from other people. Two hours.
- My posts average 1500 words.
- Inevitably, I learn something new with each post, whether it is discovering a new artist, or coming upon a new place, or even reading a new quote by someone I had not heard of before.
- For me, each post poses a tacit agreement with my audience: I will do my best to impart some kind of information, and with any luck, that information will touch you in some way, either making you laugh, or making you pause, or making you want to read more.
- I take great care in ensuring that my writing is grammatically correct because these words reflect me. If I cannot be careful with language, then what is the point?
- Even though it may seem like it sometimes, I don’t believe that there is any such thing as a throw-away post; even if I’m just posting an image, I try to make that image reflect my state of mind.
- The blog is about choices, from the very small (what color to use for the headers) to the very big (what to use for my title), and in between, (does this image reflect what I’m thinking?)
- Good, bad, or indifferent, I put myself out here, over and over again, and I don’t regret it a bit.
By the way, this is post 1200. Thanks for sticking with me through the years. Thank you for commenting, for sending me e-mails and cards, for enabling my chocolate addiction. Thank you for five years. I wonder if there will be five more.
More later. Peace.
(All images are from the 2012 Art of Neuroscience Competition, sponsored by the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience)
Music by Andrew Belle, “In My Veins”
Sometimes, I Am Startled out of Myself,
like this morning, when the wild geese came squawking,
flapping their rusty hinges, and something about their trek
across the sky made me think about my life, the places
of brokenness, the places of sorrow, the places where grief
has strung me out to dry. And then the geese come calling,
the leader falling back when tired, another taking her place.
Hope is borne on wings. Look at the trees. They turn to gold
for a brief while, then lose it all each November.
Through the cold months, they stand, take the worst
weather has to offer. And still, they put out shy green leaves
come April, come May. The geese glide over the cornfields,
land on the pond with its sedges and reeds.
You do not have to be wise. Even a goose knows how to find
shelter, where the corn still lies in the stubble and dried stalks.
All we do is pass through here, the best way we can.
They stitch up the sky, and it is whole again.
~ Barbara Crooker
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