Note: I ran across the following bit this evening, parked in a folder named (sadly so) “Incomplete or Never Posted”. (I can’t swear that it’s never been posted, because there have been so many years and so many posts.) I’ve been having some sidebar conversations with new bloggers recently, and a recurring theme is the concern they have with the content of their posts. What should they write and how much of themselves should they share?
This piece, written seven years ago, addresses some of that. I was at my own turning point, struggling to balance what I wanted to write with what I thought others wanted me to write. I haven’t changed a word from the original, hoping to capture in amber a pivotal moment when my writing shifted, albeit slowly. I’m also hoping it helps some folks realize that once you speak with your true voice, the right people will hear you. Enjoy.
So here’s the deal: A friend of mine, Daniel, was musing online, wondering if there are any “real” blogs out there anymore. I was perplexed. I have several. Why did he not consider them real? No offense, begged his commentary, but what about the original blogging days, when the intention was to capture your daily thoughts, online, in journal form?
Oh. Well, to excuse myself a wee bit, I wasn’t around in those original days. I was slow to the plate, probably off playing XBOX or watching obscure Japanese films where people didn’t say much but a lot of them died. Such was my thing. I was a late-bloomer in regards to the whole blogging thing. Mainly because I had been scorned in my earlier attempts at writing, back when you actually had to engage a publisher before the masses could see your words in print.
So I didn’t do anything for a couple of decades. Or so. Burn me enough, I’ll go do something else for a while. Human nature. Or at least gay-boy raised in Oklahoma nature. Some such. Whatever the case, eons passed.
Then, a few years ago, my friend Tiffany convinced me to start blogging, because that’s what the cool people were doing. Well, had been doing, cool people are always running off to do something else before you can really figure out what they were doing before they ran. It’s the nature of cool people. They want to touch it first and then they don’t care anymore.
Anyway, when Last-Call Me finally got around to blogging, I encountered something of a flux. Randomly clicking on various blogs, I found a whole mess of stuff going on out there. Geeky tech things, recipes for people who apparently had only two dollars in their food budget, political ranting based on circumstance and nothing, pretty pictures of fruit, you name it.
I didn’t know what to make of this. What was I supposed to do?
Well, I decided to tell stories. Some real, some not, but stories. I like stories. When I go to a blog, I want depth. I want to spend some time with the writer, let him or her take me somewhere, and at least stay for a little bit. I’m not good with the sound bites. Some are fun, yes, but let’s be real. Nearly anybody can throw out a good one-liner from time to time. It’s often a matter of luck and timing. Happenstance.
Side note: This explains why I’m not so good with the Twitter thing. I’m not built for working with compact, limited characters, slapping on a hash tag that will hopefully propel my brevity to one and all. Tiffany thinks I can do so. (Typical conversation wherein I send a rogue comment via IM at work: Tiffany – “OMG, you have got to tweet that!” Me – “But why? Will people get it? Are you sure?” Tiffany – “Just do it.”)
I don’t know. It just bugs me, that character-limitation thing. If I have to edit my words just to conform to a protocol, it can change the meaning, completely. I’m really not down with that. I like the whole arc of writing… introduction, development, conclusion. And most importantly, follow-through. Regardless of how whimsical or off-the-wall the journey may be, make it real and make it work.
Honest writing is not necessarily about truth. Honest writing is about making the reader believe that where you are taking them is worth it.
So with my various blogs, birthed as they were as I discovered certain niches that felt pretty good and tempted me back, I tried to remain true to my conviction. Tell a story, make it flow realistically, beginning, middle, end, with no sense that you’re just trying to amass a certain amount of words and then stop. Even the tawdry music video reviews that I post on my Backup Dancers From Hell blog have a story to them. Admittedly, they are often wee anecdotes, two pages or less, but the construction is there.
Which brings us to an analysis of how this method has worked for me, the telling of stories in an age where people click, want two words, and then want to move on. Well, it’s been a very mixed bag, and sadly, to me, it’s an uneven mix.
Yes, I have a few faithful readers who will persevere through anything I throw their way. (And this can be a challenge. The Paris Chronicles series runs a hefty 250+ pages, when you add up all the posts.) I love these people, really do, because they get it. They want a story, well-thought and plotted (at least in my imagination), and they understand that reading the missives might take some time. Make a pot of coffee and settle in.
But most folks who visit my blogs (and I do appreciate the act, not saying I don’t) fall into two categories. First, we have the folks who think the posts are too long. Really? You can’t spare ten minutes of your day? Then why are you even looking for something to read? Sounds like all you need is the back of a cereal box. (Harsh, I know, but that argument grates with me. You can spend two hours playing a Facebook game or watching Golden Girls reruns, but you can’t stay on a blog post longer than two seconds? This explains a lot about the current state of American society.)
The second batch of nay-sayers involves people who can’t relate to the subject matter. Which would be fine if I was talking about my pro-choice views on abortion. I get that. But you don’t want to read about a crazed family trip to Charleston because you weren’t there? What’s the deal? Just because you didn’t participate doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate. There’s a story I’d like to tell, folks. A story. That’s what you’re here for, right?
So now I fumble my way back to Daniel’s original query. Does anybody really blog anymore in the original intent, wherein you share your direct thoughts of the day? Couple this with my muse, Tiffany, always trying to keep me on my literary path, and reminding me that some of the blog followers actually enjoy it when I’m totally real, talking about just me and what I think.
Well, this is what I thought about today. This is where my mind went.
I kind of like it. Free-flow dialogue, albeit one-sided. It’s a bit slippery and uneasy for me, just typing what comes to mind, no careful construct or plotline. But I thought I should try it. Just to see. I’ll never give up my stories, those will always be spewing forth, and that’s my focus. But maybe I can also do these posts where I just talk, from time to time. Me, capturing me.
So, Daniel, my brother, you are younger than me, but I still feel the pain. Of the scars you hint at, and my own scars that make me carefully choose my words, each and every day. But I think I can pry the filters off, in tiny, hesitant layers. Thanks for the gentle shove, even if you didn’t realize you were doing that. We’ll see if this actually achieves lift off.
And Tiffany, did I make Momma proud? Hope so.
Final notes: Originally written on 07/20/11, and theoretically never posted anywhere, although it does feel like I have at least used the “honest writing” quote in some format, somewhere. (And perhaps the whole piece has been shared. Memory plays cruel tricks as one ages.) I should point out that my thoughts concerning followers are based on my followers at the time, not the current crop of mostly delightful people. The opening title is a play on words with the Sinead O’Connor album title. And the opening image is a perspective view of the Cathedral of Malaga. I like the concept of the imposing tower to climb, the sun at the summit, and the seagull flying free…
Categories: The Journey