Creating Wider-Than-WordPress Community: Facebook Pages & Blog Awards

At first, I was very excited about my blog’s associated Facebook page. I have recently been trying to make it a better place for people who like the blog. Something about the constantly-displayed statistics seems to just make me want to keep improving. I considered making it a home for my blog awards.

Now I notice I’m having lots of questions about the point of the page to begin with. Maybe you guys feel similar things with your Facebook blog pages, or maybe you have some useful feedback for these questions.

Feelings About Blog Awards:

I love blog awards in some ways, especially when I get them from someone that I admire, or when they show me that someone really did appreciate our connection.

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Drinking the Juice of Coincidence: David Byrne, Anne Lamott, and God.

Read the book “Bird by Bird.” Go see David Byrne. Let amazing things happen.

Something rather amazing happened the other day.

I saw David Byrne and St. Vincent. But that wasn’t all.

When I got home from the show, I picked up my copy of “Bird by Bird” written by Anne Lamott. I have been reading it for a few weeks now, very slowly, savoring each page. I had probably read the last page of the third chapter about 20 times in the past week

 

 

 

I picked up the book after the show because the feeling of the music was still so palpable, I wanted to do something great with that energy;  like absorb some of Anne Lamott’s wisdom. I decided it was finally time to move on to the next page rather than re-read the last one again.

Here is an excerpt of what I read next, and it spans pages 28-31, so I apologize for not fully replicating the original flow of the text:

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people…Perfectionism is one way our muscles cramp. In some cases, we don’t even know that the wounds and the cramping are there, but both limit us. They keep us moving and writing in tight, worried ways. They keep us standing back or backing away from life… So how do we break through them and get on? It’s easier if you believe in God, but not impossible if you don’t…Now, it might be that your God is an uptight, judgmental perfectionist…but a priest friend of mine has cautioned me away from the standard God of our childhoods, who loves and guides you and then, if you are bad, roasts you: God as high school principal in a gray suit who never remembered your name…If this is your God, maybe you need to blend in the influence of someone who is ever so slightly more amused by you, someone less anal. David Byrne is good, for instance. Gracie Allan is good. Mr. Rogers will work.”

There is no way to explain how it felt to see that. My eyes triple-checked it in a flash, his name sat there like lead, like it was the only word I had ever truly read in my life. Like it was the only word that ever was and would ever be real. How could it be? And in that one word, Byrne, my whole universe collapsed and sprang forth. I was thunderstruck.

It was like things all came together, it was the solid center, the thing I’d been looking for, it was God!

Then Vicki Winslow made a post called “Something is Happening Around Me…” that further solidified what I felt. That there is always this magic, always this infusion of “wow” in what is around us. My book was supposed to be about that, and somewhere along the way the true feeling of those ridiculous coincidences slipped into the past. I am thankful for the refreshment.

For me, that feeling of seeing David Byrne’s name on the page right after the concert had the quality of a Zen koan; it helped me to wake up. I can look at any leaf of the tree across the street, and allow it to have a similar breathy magic to it; it’s not quite the same of course, but it does help remind me that in each little thing there is the same “wow” that was in those letters when I read them. For that one moment, I was just able to see it more clearly.

It’s like after you look at the night sky through a telescope, you never quite see it the same way. You know there are little smoky donuts and dust storms and things that are not visible with the naked eye..but you have seen them, so you know the depth that is possible. No longer will you see it as a one-dimensional sheet of black with some stars, even on a cloudy night.

I am simply grateful this week for such a coincidence, especially because now as I try to let go of perfectionism, I really do feel like God-mixed-with-David-Byrne is looking over my shoulder and patting me on the back when I do a good job.

 

Have you had any really cool coincidences lately, or in the past?

Do you think it means something when there is a coincidence like that, or do you think it’s just simply some events lining up in a way at random?

And what are those clouds in your sky doing right now? The ones in mine are long and bloated, moving with a quickness that seems to be happening despite their best efforts to take a nap.

Food for Thought: Are Bite-Sized Writing Tips Leaving You Hungry?

I like to think of myself as an adult in many ways; I especially love thinking of myself as Sam Elliott. One of my favorite parts of being an adult is that I like to cut up my own food. I even like to chew it.

We’ve all seen these blog entries:  “The Top 10 Ways to Get More Readers From Twitter” or “The 5 Traffic-Building Tips You NEED to Know!!!” and the like.

These lists have been bugging me for some time, and I think I’ve finally put my finger on why. It’s like I ordered a Portobello sandwich and the server decides to cut it into bite-size pieces for me. Not only that, but they’ve taken the liberty of pre-chewing it a little as well.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I do feel like those lists have a place and that some of them are genuinely useful, as the authors are far more experienced writers than I am. It’s just that the bulk of them feel like a strange shadow of heartfelt or even truly informative writing.

No matter how promising and informative they appear while I read or before I click on the title, the stuff doesn’t seem to stick.

It leaves me wondering- was I just fooled in some way? Did they get my click without giving me something in return? Perhaps there is another explanation.

Why Doesn’t The Stuff Stick?

Maybe it is that these “4 Big Ways to Make Your Blog Burst With Flavor!” articles don’t let me creatively organize and process the points that matter to me.

Reading Stephen King’s On Writing and Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing have given me kernels of knowledge and wisdom that roll around and around in my head, sticking with me long after the fact.

Neither of these books is organized in list-fashion.

Neither of them even attempt to slice up the ideas neatly into bite-size pieces. They let me cut, let me chew, let me sort it all out like an intelligent adult.

Little chunks of those books will pop up as I sit to write or as I walk around outside. That has never happened with Item #4 of “5 Reasons You Aren’t Getting More Traffic on Your Blog.”

Maybe It’s a Learning Style?

I’m wondering if perhaps this has something to do with learning style. Perhaps some people learn more effectively when the main points are all laid out, and others learn though the experience of figuring it out and learning what works for them.

Maybe I would retain more items if I wrote them down. Maybe if I put more energy into finding good posts or articles, more of them would stick. Maybe I am already learning from them and it is just such a smooth and flawless process that it slide right by my awareness.

I’m not sure. But at least I put my finger on my annoyance and have a direction to go in- which is towards more non-listy inspirations, books, and blog posts. These are more useful, memorable, inspirational and informative to my particular mind.

Do you like articles like that, have you written any that you are proud of?

What types of information seem to stay inspiring to you, and which kinds seem fun at first but then quickly fade, never to be thought of again?

And, what’s the sky look like right now?

Editing as an Act of Compassion

From Ray Bradbury’s book “Zen in the Art of Writing”.

Up until recently, editing for me was a process tinged with a feeling of “losing something” or of being a “bad writer,” especially when it came to cutting out more than half of my book.

I started thinking about how I feel while reading different books, blog posts, and articles.

There are some pieces of writing that make me want to run out and buy every book the author wrote, read or recommended. There are other pieces that lead me to feel foggy and confused, perhaps even before I’ve gotten all the way through them.

Which Writers Keep You Coming Back For More?

For me, it is not about genre or even content. It is about the writer’s ability to seamlessly take over my world. Their sentences go down smooth and easy. There is nothing out of place, nothing that demands extra effort. I am reading a finished product and yet I feel that I am just breathing, or walking into a room of my home that I never noticed. The hours of editing are invisible because they were successful.

The desirable writer is using more of their time in order to respect mine.

Every useless sentence that I cut from my book is another moment of someone’s life that I am refusing to waste. The reader is trusting me to distill the good stuff, and my goal is to not let them down.

From Tom Waits’ song called “Time.” Tori Amos does a great cover of it.

Coming To Terms

This is the hard part. If I want to make editing decisions based on the integrity of my writing and my reader’s time and energy, then there are a lot of mistaken notions to let go of. Some of them include:

  • I wasted my time writing this whole draft.
  • I am a crappy writer because, well, look at all this stuff I have to cut out!
  • This is nuts and I should keep it all because every sentence is valuable and the editing is making it worse.
  • At this rate, I will actually just never finish. Ever.

I know that these things are not true. In fact, it may even become easier to move forward with my book because now I have in my hand the knife that can chisel away at those useless sentences and cut the brilliant designs into the ones I do choose to keep.

My readers are important. I intend to respect their time just as much as I am respecting my words and experiences.

Is Editing Harder For Me Than For Others?

Maybe one part of the underlying cause for this issue is the fact that reading good writing feels like reading easy writing. “You make it look so easy!” is the phrase often said to those who have actually put thousands of hours of effort into their craft; whether it is writing, biking, running, spinning fire poi, or anything else.

We spend our lives reading good writing, thinking that the authors just spilled it out on the first try. It seems logical that our writing should be just as easy to create; just as effortless as we perceive theirs to be. In doing this, we are attempting to live in a fantasy world. Of course, we are writers, and living in our fantasy world is precisely what we are good at! But in this case, perhaps we are best off fessing up to reality. We can extract the most powerful components from our work and leave the rest behind so that we may inspire other potential writers to think it is easy and join us in this world where magic tricks are performed in the shadows of every paragraph.

All arts, big and small, are the elimination of waste motion in favor of the concise declaration.” – Ray Bradbury

What kind of writing keeps you coming back for more?

Do you have mistaken notions to let go of concerning editing for your blog or book?

How has your idea of editing changed throughout the course of working on your writing?

I am curious!

How Far is Too Far to Go For Your Readers?

Lately I have been tossing around ideas for my book, short stories, blog posts, and various other uses of the written word. I imagine that those of you who are writers, which is most of you, have been in this situation as well. I invite you to share your experiences and opinions.

To start with, I am not an NVC (Nonviolent Communication) expert. In all actuality, I have only used it minimally in my life. So if anyone knows more about it than me and wants to shine light on this situation with their knowledge, please, feel free. The language of “needs” is one that I am going to use here.

The Deal:

The way I see it, there are multiple purposes for each thing I write.

1. It is some kind of release for me (my emotional needs).

2. It may also have a financial component (my financial needs).

3. It is serving some purpose for others (the needs of others)

4. It is serving the purpose I want it to serve for others (my desire to meet their needs)

All of these things matter as I think about what to write, how to write it, and how to pitch it to the world in a way that meets my needs and theirs.

What if there is a giant gap between your emotional needs (what you want to release) and other people’s needs or desires? This is where I get confused.

Keeping It Simple & Meeting The Needs

Do you make your brilliant idea into a “Seven Great Reasons To Use Lists” blog post or article? Does that feel like turning a garden of your slowly grown wheat into a packet of Easy Mac for some spoiled fifteen-year-old that watches it bubble in the microwave?

Or do you let it become a wordy book hardly anyone will read? Turning your precious wheat into some type of fancy fermented tabouli salad that nobody wants to eat because it is only sold in elitist stores and takes too long to digest?

To listen well, is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well, and is as essential to all true conversation — Chinese Proverb

One of my supportive proof-reading friends had a response when I first told her that I might publish my book, The Blessings of a Meandering Misfit, as a series of short stories instead of one continuous story. Her immediate reaction was that such a choice was taking the easy way out. (She also happens to be a fabulous singer, you can even listen to her here).

I had to ask myself if that was true. Was it the easy way out, or was it transforming the story into a form that was easier to digest for my readers while still meeting my needs of sharing my experience?

Ultimately, if sharing my experience is what I want to be doing in order to help people find inspiration, see the crazy coincidences, and learn about other ways of life than their own, then my ideal situation is one in which people are reading my book, regardless of how it is presented. As long as the main point comes across and I feel good while writing it.

The Conversation You Have With The World

Whether you are writing, singing, dancing, or working at a retail store or telemarketing office, you are having a conversation with the world. You are inviting a response, even if you never get to hear it. People seek you out, avoid you, or pay excessive amounts of cash for you because of the response you elicit from them with your ability to listen and share.

You have to realize this. I have to realize this. There are several components at work- My feelings, my needs, your feelings, your needs. They all come together and sometimes create a win-win situation for everyone. Other times, there are rejection letters and scowled eyes, confused at the words on the screen.

When is it Too Much for Blogging?

If I have a fabulous idea for a post about what triggers our inner defenses to ignore certain blog posts while soaking in every word of others, and I want to combine that with statistics about book sales, ad sales and nonviolent communication and the psychology of defense mechanisms, how many people are going to stomach it? How many people will even give it a chance, based on my perhaps-poorer-than-ideal skills at presenting such a complex topic skillfully?

If I can write it as “The Top 3 Ways To Snag A Reader With A Simple Title,” well, you can imagine how much easier it will be to attract people.

When Is Too Much Lost?

My question is: How far is too far? At what point is your writing being made too reader-friendly and losing some of the spice that made it what it was to begin with? And how can you measure your needs compared with your hopes for how your writing is received?

Is the writing still making you feel good and satiated if you write it with the reader in mind more than your own emotional process? Do you perhaps feel even better if you write it in an easily-digestible way because you can get more feedback, even if you can’t get the instantly-relieving feeling of just spouting out your feelings, unedited?

These are the things I wonder about, and I would love to know how others work with them.