Big thoughts on a tiny screen

It took me days to collect fragments and half-thoughts for a recent blog post. Stringing words together was, as usual, incredibly difficult. I usually promote new blog posts on Instagram, and when I typed up a caption about the post and how I’d had a hard time expressing my thoughts last week, those 206 words came so much easier there.

I think the tiny caption field on Instagram makes the process of writing less intimidating. I type deep thoughts on that small screen without any pressure, while here — on my laptop screen and WordPress editor — it often feels like my thoughts must be worthy of this big blank page.

The cursor

The cursor is many things:
a megaphone,
a friend who listens,
that space deep inside you.

It meets the blank page:
where you ignite,
and change,
and feel your power.

A tool to share your joy:
your highs displayed for all to see,
your lows swept off the screen.

Through it your selves appear:
the enlightened,
the wistful,
the proud,
the vain.

Such a slender thing
through which we are born
over and over again.

Ready for spring

After going on trip after trip after trip, my husband and I always say we’ll stop traveling for a time, so as we entered 2017, we had clear, travel-free calendars through the spring. And then somehow, I agreed to go on a work trip to Salt Lake City last week. And in a few days, we’re driving up to Lake Tahoe for the holiday. Then I’m off to Nashville for a team meetup in April and then a bachelorette weekend for a dear friend in May. That takes us into early summer, when we’ll be off to the Mediterranean.

This is what a travel-free 2017 looks like. And I’m not complaining, but it’s just funny how traveling just happens. There is no need to plan.

* * *

I’m looking forward to spring — these Northern California storms and atmospheric rivers from the Pacific have been surprisingly severe, and while it’s great we’ve gotten so much rain in the past few months, Mother Nature has dumped it on us all at once. Part of a tree fell on our house during one of the first big storms in January so we had to fix a hole in our roof, and we also dug a temporary trench in our yard to divert floodwater from our neighbor’s property. Fortunately, though, our little lot has held up relatively OK compared to all the damage we’ve seen throughout Sonoma County, caused by massive flooding, downed trees, and mudslides.

I’ve started a few posts here and there over the past month that I’d abandoned — mainly about how we adopted two adorable cats last month, or anxiety over the state of the US and the world, or the familiar feeling of apathy in my “professional” life, and whatnot. It’s gotten harder to string sentences together for a blog post, and I’ve noticed I don’t feel that urge to share my thoughts — or my life — online, with both people I know and don’t know. When I sit down at my laptop to post something, whether on a blog or Facebook, it increasingly feels like I’m in a phony, forced moment — like I’m siphoning what’s left of my thoughts, and the words that appear on paper are residual.

I have never really felt this way with Instagram, where I post regularly, which — I suppose — is a testament to its instantness. But even there I find my habits evolving — growing bored with pretty travel and tiny house snapshots and opening up to sharing simple moments around the house and during my week. Perhaps those more frequent mundane shots are a way to fill in the holes created by my thinned blogging presence, I don’t know.

Shorter

From Elizabeth Spiers:

One of my resolutions is to get in the habit of writing more frequently, and part of that is learning to write shorter. When I first started blogging in 2000, this was not a problem. A paragraph-long post felt like enough, if that was what was warranted. Now I feel like I have to write a complete 1500 word essay every time I sit down to write something, and it’s not good for my writing . . .

Yes. This. Exactly.

Recently, I’ve found little ways to trick me into “writing” — whatever that entails. Sometimes it’s crafting mediocre haikus on my blog about my new home or publishing tiny poems in Instagram captions. Other times, I’ll start a blog post and then abandon it, which I realize is just another way to free-write — and totally fine. And while I’m not a goal-setting enthusiast each January, I do like Elizabeth’s idea from her blogging resolution post: no posts over 300 words. She states a concrete, firm goal. But it’s totally reachable, even for someone as currently apathetic about writing as me.

As I’ve mentioned before, sometimes I think the writer’s block is due to something as simple as my theme on my main blog; how can a lapsed writer motivate herself to write if her blog is set up as a magazine-style site that best showcases longform writing? Perhaps I set myself up to fail, each time. And I think this is why this theme, on the site you’re on now, has been working somewhat well. It’s a blog, plain and simple. No bells and whistles, no photos, no time ever spent pruning and customizing it. A digital piece of blank paper that doesn’t care — doesn’t judge — when I scribble unformed, unfinished crap on it.

For a moment, I’d considered changing things up here, or migrating all of my followers from my other site, but I think both would be a mistake.

So for now, it’s just me and (the very few of) you. Hello and happy new year.

 

Advice

  1. I’m a new blogger, give me advice
  2. Read my blog and give me advice
  3. I like your blog, tell me what do to make my blog like yours
  4. Feature me, I deserve it
  5. Come to my blog and leave comments
  6. Read my essay and give me notes
  7. Mentor me and show me step-by-step what to do
  8. That post was cool, now read mine and like it

A piece of advice: when you reach out to someone online, especially via email, think about how you’d expect or want to be treated, how you’d like the conversation to go, in person. Would you go up to someone on the street and demand something from them if you didn’t know them? Wouldn’t you try to introduce yourself first? Tell them where you’re coming from? Offer some context?

I’ve stopped responding to emails that lack any thought or consideration. In the past, I’ve offered feedback to people because they’ve reached out as new bloggers — which is totally fine — but sometimes I’ve spent five minutes, fifteen minutes, sometimes over an hour offering feedback to someone. And I never hear from them again. Not even a “hey, thanks.” Yet, even when I respond to messages that are focused and somewhat thoughtful, the majority of the time I’ll never receive a reply either. I’m trying to understand why. Do people think I’m not actually a person? That I can magically generate blogging advice with the click of a button? That I’m somehow required to give you feedback?

Another piece of advice (and one I need to take from myself): Aim for less connections — and make those ones meaningful. It’s such a waste of everyone’s time — including yours — when you make blind and thoughtless requests.