Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Publish or Perish


There are moments that I wonder if the whole blog thing is worth it.
I don’t do it for a living like some of my favorite bloggesses.
I don’t have some fancy shmancy template.
I don't have advertisements or regular giveaways.
I don’t spend hours crafting my words.
I don't remain consistent with my text line adjustment.
Or typeface.

But even in Ditto's obscurity, there is always an underlying tension between:
don’t post unless you have something good to post
versus
post at regular intervals so that this thing still breathes.

It's about finding that "sweet spot" of volume. Well, popularity, professional templating, mad photography skillz, and good writing don’t hurt, either. (I know, it's "doesn't". That's just an example of how I am lacking the other ingredient: humor.)
But that tension arises from an obligation to readers as opposed to an obligation to yourself.
And that gets me thinking.

Many times I ask myself : what if everyone stopped reading your blog, even your MOM, would you still keep it?

The answer is yes. I dare say I might even post more. You know, inside jokes with myself. No need to worry about sweet spots, themes, or center adjusting photos. But at the same time, there is something satisfying about being publicly vulnerable in my text in a way that I organize with broad whip stitches. (I opted for the sewing analogy because I am awful at sewing, but can get by. That's how I feel about my blog. It's like the sunflower pair of boxers I made in middle school Home Economcs: my effort is commendable, and I am proud of my work, but no one is comparing me to Betsy Ross.)

Sure, I envy all of those ladies getting free swag and making lifelong friends at Blogher. (Full disclosure, I don't even know what Blogher is!) And there is part of me that is waiting for Babble to serendipitously stumble upon me and think, “let’s hire her!” Another full disclosure, I actually submitted one of my old posts for consideration. You can't win the lottery if you don't play, right? 
***
My undergraduate thesis advisor gave me unsolicited advice about becoming a writer. You know, because all English majors are either writers or teachers, thankyouverymuch. She was in the process of getting her latest book published, so I think our conversations were as much about tauting her own pending accomplishments as much as they were providing me with substantive thesis guidance.

She told me, “you know, writing boils down to publish or perish. If you don’t produce, you won’t make a living.” That’s actually a paraphrase. The “publish or perish” bit is accurate, but all the other words I don’t remember. I am a terrible “quoter”, and still fumble on The Lord's Prayer. But some things stick: like the 50 Nifty You-Nited States song and random lines from The Princess Bride.

Professor Debbie Downer's words have always stuck with me. For professional bloggers, the pressure to publish is salient--or so I hear. I don't envy that. But even in my obscurity, pressure to publish seeps into my veins. 

And for the more autobiographical "Mommy" blogs, who write about things like tampon drumsticks, pool defecations, and old beard hair and poop, content cannot be predicted. It's like if you don't have a regularly scheduled crazy-life, you may be  forced to write about getting an oil change while your kids took a 3 hour nap in the car, for which the mechanic thought was so cute, he waived the charge. I mean, no one wants to read about that!

This is not a foray into martyrdom, just an acknowledgement that life can be hard to contextualize, write about, and keep interesting.

My celebrity friend Kate, from This Is Now a Home, put it best here.

Yup. She’s a celebrity. First, 3 of my friends who do not know each other, nor do they know Kate, pinned her popcorn costume on Pinterest. I told you-the day I get a random post on Pinterest, I'm demanding a reserved spot at work and will only wipe my bottom with hun-gee dollah bills. Oh, that's if I needed to wipe my bottom. I mean, girls don't poop.

I met Kate through a long-time friend... (who traveled with me through childhood, the awkward middle school period defined by braces, perms, and obsessing over zits, and the years of angst-ridden high school peppered with moments of us dressing up in Madrigal garb, singing concerts while still obsessing over zits and AP Bio tests. In fact, we are still friends now, and she just happened to marry my brother's best friend)...whose name is Kate, too.

So, maybe celebrity Kate and I have never met in the flesh, but we did get married at the same place, the same year, and got rained out of the outdoor ceremony, and we have had some great e-mail conversations.
Kate now holds court with:
  • Ruben Studdard, who I saw in the security line at the Atlanta airport.
  • Meg Ryan, who was apparently shopping in the same area of Camden, Maine while our family was on vacation.
  • And a bleach blond Tom Hanks at Disney World, who my brother Seth spotted. (Who later told us he lied about the entire thing.)
  • Oh, and the local weather guy who moonlights as a shot putter and came to a bunch of track meets at which I was working.

See? This is my problem, my mind veers off.
When life is relatively calm, it’s harder to write about. This is complete conjecture, but I would guess that many autobiographical bloggers feel this way. And kudos to them for thinking of adopting the 3 ring circus and posting other things like giveaways, recipes, and then posts that merely ask the readers their opinion on a matter. (Why I haven't figured out how to do this more regularly is beyond me.) 
But--I still contend that the harder, more ridiculous, the easier to write. For me, it's like posts write themselves; my body becomes possessed by this woman who creates insane vignettes at 3am under the covers. (I call her Zool; and she is not responsible for the current post.)
When things are really awful, hard, embarrassing [insert whatever emotion makes your hair gray], I think writing serves as an escape. You are acknowledging the incident, but in some strange way, allowing yourself to be more objective and distant from the difficult emotions. I'm sure a therapist could pick that apart and let you know if it's healthy or not. And I'm sure modern psychiatry has some sort of disorder explaining this (is there a disorder for making too many aspects of life a disorder?).

And then there is that whole issue of actually being in the moment as opposed to documenting the moment. It hasn't been a conscious effort, but over the years, I find myself putting down the camera and not logging into blogger in order to be a part of the memories rather than documenting them. (I know, ending in a preposition.)

I'm not giving up on this thing; not yet. There are still wonderful things coming down the road over the years. And I eventually want to turn this whole rodeo into a book for the boys. You know, for their wives (or husbands--whateves), to pull out and laugh at them.

But I am absolving myself of all guilt related to being able to find that blogging sweet spot.


Because the sweet spot is reading at night with Eric while the boys fight over who can sit on my lap. Right?


4 comments:

  1. Found you through Kate's blog and loved your post. I particular, I think this is so, so true: "When things are really awful, hard, embarrassing [insert whatever emotion makes your hair gray], I think writing serves as an escape. You are acknowledging the incident, but in some strange way, allowing yourself to be more objective and distant from the difficult emotions."

    I tend to write sarcastically about the things that often bother me the most. It's a way for me to force myself to lighten up and not take life so seriously.

    Anyway, I look forward to reading more!

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  2. I love your blog:)
    Also, I have a book idea I want to talk to you about...
    LGM
    Ps- loving the latest hand-me-downs!

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  3. Isn't "them" a pronoun and not a preposition? Then again, you are the English major. At least you can't say tht I don't read this!

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  4. I believe your writing is probably therapeutic. People have done it for eons, but now there is the ability to put it out there for the public (as much of it as read your entries) consumption. Others may write songs or poems, paint pictures to express their lives' issues, and times of turmoil seem to provide the most inspiration, don't you think? As you note, those who can find inspiration in the mundane and express it with humor and insight, are to be lauded!
    Its all made me think about writing my musings on what it's like to age and be me. The only thing is that I wouldn't have the courage to share it with anyone! Good for you, honey!
    Oh. I think writing the way you do with fluidity, mistakes and all, is key in getting important things expressed. When you choose to publish, then you would need to pay more attention to grammar, spelling and word usage.

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