By the way, I’m participating in WordPress’s Writing 101 challenge this month. It runs weekdays through June, although to preserve my sanity, keep up my other blogs, go to work, get some sleep, and even do some knitting, I won’t be posting daily. But, yes, some posts will make it into print, (Maybe even today, but let’s not be rash about this.)
Okay, I’ve remembered why writing/blog prompts leave me feeling like my writing has become more artificial. It’s the bit where you quote the prompt, indicating that it is, indeed, a prompt.
My last few posts (on the other blogs) were inspired by quotes from books I’d been reading. In those posts, I included the quote and credited it. Without the credit, it would have been plagiarism. But without the quote, the quality of the posts would have suffered. See, the strength of a quoted passage is both in its meaning and the exact words used to convey that meaning. With a prompt, though, I suspect I could write an entire post without directly quoting it, and the post would be just fine. (If I wrote 300+ words on “what the color ocher means to me,” and didn’t include that sentence, I’d like to think you’d figure out what I was saying. Although you might reasonably wonder why I was bothering to say it.) So, quote the prompt, and feel like I’m posting an exercise from a composition class instead of “real” writing; don’t quote it, and wonder if I’m taking undue credit for something that isn’t quite mine.
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I don’t participate in NaNoWriMo, NaBloPoMo, or anything else of that sort. Imagine what kind of inessential problems I could find to fret about if I was under real pressure to write something.
As National Blog Posting Month gets going, collections of blog prompts are springing up on the Internet. While I’m not participating in NaBloPoMo myself (you’ll note I didn’t post anything on November 1 or 2), it has occurred to me to bookmark these little sources of inspiration and use them throughout the year—if I can just convince myself to use them.
Writing has its challenges, and coming up with things to write about is one of the best-known. So if someone has gone to the trouble of thinking up writing ideas—and is generous enough to share these ideas with others—it would be smart to take advantage of that resource. And because it’s other people who are coming up with these ideas, there’s going to be all sorts of prompts about things that I would never have come up with on my own. This is good, because they could keep me from getting too focused on my few favorite subjects, but I think that’s also part of my reluctance. They’re not the kind of thing I think of, so they’re alien. Not me, not mine. To which the logical response is probably that if I write about something, no matter how far removed from my normal subject matter, the fact that I’ve written about it makes it mine.
Using prompts feels like cheating. Never mind that blogging isn’t a sport in which a prompt would be an unfair advantage. (Apparently I need to hang a sign reading “Prompts Are Not Steroids” over my monitor.) But even though I’m the one writing the post, and I’m the one wrestling with the sentences and worrying that no one will like it, that the undeveloped seed of the post came from someone else somehow makes it feel less honest. Although I don’t have an explanation as to why snippets of words meant to generate inspiration would be more morally suspect than, say, quotes from books.
I also find blog prompts difficult to pull together thematically. This is the most general of my blogs, even if it’s been heavy on books and reading lately, but most blog prompt collections are more general still. I figure using blog prompts means that I’ll be all over the map subject-wise and I really would like to come across as less scattered than that. Not that that’s much of a personal failing as these things go.
So really, there aren’t any solid reasons not to try a few. Especially if the alternative is struggling so hard to be Completely Original and Creative that I end up never writing. Which sounds all good and resolved and reasonable in writing. Still have to convince myself internally, though!
And bang! Vox—the previous home of my blog—announced that they were shutting down at the end of the month. I’m not surprised. I hadn’t read anything, but I just had a sense that things weren’t going well. I’ll miss them—if nothing else, I liked being able to have a LibraryThing widget on my blog that showed my books.
Anyway, drastic measures were needed to save the blog. I’d opened a WordPress account several months ago, but hadn’t gotten around to doing anything with it beyond choosing a theme. I got to go from zero to testing a major feature: importing another platform’s blog. I’m delighted to say that the process was painless. Oh, some of the formatting looks a bit funky and many images didn’t come over (they came from a Vox feature that used Amazon.com book covers, so I doubt it was WordPress’s fault they didn’t transfer), but I can fix that when I make the time. The comments came over unscathed—yay!
So here I am, moving into a new home so to speak. Late last year, I moved in real life, and I suspect some of the issues are the same. Notifying friends of my change of address, for one thing! Plus wondering if everything moved over all right, fixing the stuff that got a bit dinged, trying to decide how to decorate the place (haven’t managed that in the new home yet, either), and learning the little differences between the old place and the new (the equivalent of now where is the light switch in the kitchen?). Must learn the difference between a “category” and a “tag.” Can you throw a housewarming party in a blog?
A bit of blogging experience under my belt, and I’m working a few changes. First off, I’m splitting off the knitting and crocheting parts of Fine Print (what little of them there were) to another blog altogether. If you wish to keep up with my occasional musings on the minutiae of yarn projects, come see me at Silver Threads.* It’s still under construction, but I suppose I could keep adding words to it, even if it doesn’t look quite like I want it to yet.
The reason for the change? Self-consciousness. In a blog-of-all-topics, I feel like I should try to make any knitting posts as accessible as possible. If I keep them on a knitting blog, I can use knitting lingo without reservation—after all, the audience has been warned. I can wail about the reduced availability of yarn that knits up to 4 sts/1″, knowing that the audience should be sympathetic. Or at least that they’ll know what I’m wailing about. And those who just can’t muster a lot of interest about knitting beyond wanting to see photos of finished projects will not have to do so. Win, win!
*No membership required. Just come by and view the blog.
November 3, 2012: edited to update link to Silver Threads.
I may have finally found a use for Twitter. It’s taken me a while. I started out in the same state of bewilderment with Facebook, but I’d managed to integrate it into my life fairly quickly. With Twitter, though, not only could I not figure out why I should bother with it, but most people I knew were equally puzzled. I’d read several articles about it, but they left me uninspired. Oh, the whole thing about it being an outlet for pro-democracy forces in Iran was great, but I couldn’t really see that as being part of my daily life.
It doesn’t help that there just isn’t much there to work with. Twitter’s defining feature is that 140 character limit, about a sentence or two, and everything else springs from that. Not surprisingly, I decided it was a variant of the Facebook status feed, only shorter, and as long as Twitter came across as being Facebook minus most of Facebook, why bother?
I’d been asked to join Twitter as part of the More 23 Things on a Stick program. It didn’t make a good first impression on me. I will spare you my grumblings about it here; the curious may visit my other blog 23 Distractions (naturally, all relevant entries are tagged “Twitter”). However, in the spirit of learning about Web 2.0, I promised I’d hang on until the end of the program and see what happened. It’s only now as I debate deleting my Twitter account altogether that I’m beginning to think of things to do with it besides copy my Facebook statuses.
Twitter is often categorized as microblogging. I’d heard that term from the beginning, but I hadn’t stopped to consider what that actually meant. I mentally labeled the site “Facebook Lite” and focused my energies elsewhere. I’m thinking, though, that microblogging isn’t just a fancy term for writing status updates. After all, my “macroblogging” isn’t a series of extended status updates. They’re journal entries made presentable and if I’d been willing to cut them down, I could’ve made tweets out of them. For example, Fine Print to date:
- I’ve started a blog because I’m not satisfied with Facebook Notes
- I hate my cursive
- If I’m impressed by Samara O’Shea and she’s impressed by Anne Frank, what would I think of Anne Frank?
- I’m addicted to knitting alpaca neckwarmers!
- It was meant to be: I just found a copy of Anne Frank’s diary
- What this name generator does to my real name and pseudonym is coincidentally significant
- The female character was the star of Monsters vs. Aliens. Why is that sort of thing still unusual?
William Zinsser* would be so proud of me. Now with all of these, I had more I wanted to say or show. But even with Mercury in Sagittarius, I have observations for which 140 characters will be sufficient. So slowly, carefully–and while reserving the right to dump the whole matter at a moment’s notice–I’ve decided to retry Twitter as my third blog. I will reserve the status updates for Facebook and think of each tweet as the concentrated essence of a blog post. Perhaps I’ll even get confident enough to reveal my Twitter account to a general audience. (Okay, okay, baby steps here!)
- Revisiting Twitter as a microblog and not just another status feed
*Author of On Writing Well and advocate of minimalist writing.
Technically, this is my second blog. The first blog is alive and kicking, if somewhat neglected at the moment, but it’s work-related and limited in scope. But it taught me that I wanted to do a bit more with blogging; after that, the question was merely how to go about it. For a while, I figured the Facebook Notes app would suffice. I was already on Facebook, so I didn’t have to shop around for a different service. Plus, I didn’t have to worry about the world at large reading my posts, because I could set the privacy settings to keep out all but my friends. And what it lacked in aesthetics, it made up for in simplicity: type here, click there, and you’ve got a post.
But things have changed. I have a lot more friends on Facebook than when I started. Many of them aren’t close friends–some of them aren’t friends, period (acquaintances: yes, colleagues: yes, friends: no)–and I’m not comfortable sharing all my writing with them. I could change the privacy, but the more people I friend, the more complicated this gets. I also have friends who aren’t on Facebook. I can send them the Notes links, but that’s inconvenient as all get-out as well as pushy (“I insist you read my posts. Now. Here’s a link.”). Furthermore, everyone’s using the Notes app for memes nowadays–I don’t want my blog posts being mistaken for the latest meme!
There are other reasons I’m starting this blog. Recently, I was reminded of a book I’d read years ago called Wrestling with Your Angels: A Spiritual Journey to Great Writing by Janet O. Hagberg. Much of what Hagberg said wasn’t different from what you can read in any writing book, but she did have an interesting take on writing forms and genres. From that, I concluded I had a preference for “personal” writing, which included journaling and letter-writing. Wrestling with Your Angels was written long before blogging came around, but I bet blogging meets Hagberg’s definition of personal writing.
So why don’t I just journal? I am journaling, but I’ve found I like discussion too. I like how on Facebook, you can post something and slowly people you know will come together and talk about it, even if they don’t know each other. Blogging seems to be the best way at present to bring together journaling and social networking.
And so I blog. Welcome to my experiment.