The Three F’s

The Day 2 challenge for Blogging 101 is about editing your blog title and tag line. To me, it’s an additive exercise to yesterday’s “who am I and why am I writing” meditation — now just taken that one next step of distilling that mission statement to its essence in order to create a title and tagline that, to quote the assignment, “give visitors context and help them decide to stick around.”

Obviously, being as I am already 5 years and/or 6 months into the game, I have a well-established blog title,* and it’s one I’m not eager to change. The question of tagline, though, is wide open for consideration, and I’m happy to talk about both these elements after the jump.

Continue reading “The Three F’s”

In Medias Manifesto

Because I have decided that 5 hours of sleep per weeknight is just too much of a luxury, I have decided to enroll in another challenge over at WordPress’s Blogging U. Blogging 101 is intended for individuals right in the start-up phases of bloggy creation. This invitation to register articulates the deliverables in this fashion:

On Day 30, you’ll have six (or more!) published posts and a handful of drafts, a customized theme that reflects your personality, a small but growing audience, a good grasp of blogging etiquette — and a bunch of new online friends.

So, considering that I first founded JALC some 5 years ago, and revived it more than 6 months ago, I am either well behind the times or way ahead of the game on this one. Still, I think it’ll be a good exercise for me.

I’ve been in recent conversations about the value of design thinking, and the ways that taking the time to step back and question your automatic habits and questions can be a good way to unlock a more intentional creativity. I see the Blogging 101 container as a way for me to foster that sort of intentionality here on JALC.

So, here we go…

Continue reading “In Medias Manifesto”

Going (Semi-)Viral

A funny thing happened this past week. A friend of mine shared an upsetting incident on Facebook where she experienced public prejudice against breast-feeding. Her story then went viral, earning (well-deserved) media coverage and public outrage.

That’s not the funny part. The funny thing is what happened next: I wrote a blog post about the event, and then I went viral, too.

See exhibit A, WordPress’s visitor stats summary for JALC during the last couple weeks:

stats copy

The August 12-19 stretch shows me with my customary rate of site visitors — usually somewhere in the 15-25 range, with slight upticks and down-drops depending on factors like weekday vs. weekend, if I skipped a day, etc.

August 20 is when I posted about Ingrid’s experience: you can already see the uptick to 60 site visitors in those hours between hitting “Publish” and midnight, as a few folks started sharing my post within their own networks.

The next day, August 21st was when things hit big (relatively speaking). Yeah, that’s more than 400 hits — and from there, things have dropped off until yesterday and today I seem to have re-equalized back where I started.

So, all told, this is a very mild flavor of “going viral,” as compared to Youtube videos that get hundreds of thousands, or even millions of hits. Still, it was such a disproportionate spike in attention that it feels like the junior baby blogger version of “going viral.” And the sorts of study and self-examination the experience has invited for me — well, I wonder how different these reflections would be if I were talking about 4,000 hits rather than 400. I’m thinking: perhaps not that different at all.

First: Who woulda thunk it? For the most part, my writing here on JALC has been divorced from expectations about achieving any particular readership level on any timetable. The practice for me has been a practice of showing up, of experimenting with regular, focused writing. Finding my voice again. Yes, at some level there’s the prayer of my words being read and having positive impact — otherwise I’d just be writing in my diary rather than in a blog. But I’ve maintained a pretty decent level of non-attachment from any expectations about how many readers I want to have and how quickly I want them to appear.

And if you asked child-free me what sort of post I’d predict might be the first one to get public traction, there’s no way on this earth I would have predicted it be something about breast-feeding and the mommy wars. Talk about a subject that’s completely outside of my field of knowledge! (Okay, not completely, since I do have breasts as an anatomical feature of my body. But still.)  You never know what’s going to hit a nerve and garner that flash of attention. Like catching lightning in a bottle, that is. Write something true and honest and authentic, and I guess sometimes it’ll hit a nerve, fall in with a moment of zeitgeist. But to predict what’s going to hit that zeitgeist energy? Not within my current powers, as so clearly evidenced by the disconnect between my expectations and the actual happening of which JALC post first topped 550 views.

SecondYou never know what’s going to hit a nerve and garner that flash of attention. I’ll admit, however well I’ve maintained a state of non-attachment around my readership numbers where they were at a low and steady pace, that there was something sincerely exciting about seeing the bar graph keep climbing during the 21st. And when I sat down the evening of the 21st to write my first post-viral post, I could absolutely feel myself on a precipice. Feeling the demand that I “measure up” to this new level I’d achieved, feeling the temptation towards finding some other juicy topic that’d be “click bait” and that could build some kind of popularity for myself.

I walked myself back from that precipice, reminding myself: it’s like catching lightning in a bottle, that is. All I can do is continue showing up at the screen, writing as true and authentically as I can, taking on the topics that grab me and won’t let go until I say what I have to say. That’s why I wrote my post to begin with — even though I’ve spent years trying not to comment on parenting choices or the mommy wars. Something about Ingrid’s story just grabbed me, and I couldn’t rest until I wrote about it. That’s the feeling I need to keep following: I can’t rest until I write about this, rather than I think this will get good traffic.

So who knows? Maybe another post of mine will hit a zeitgeist moment a few weeks from now. Or a few years from now. Or never again. It’s all in service, however it unfolds.

I just need to keep in the practice of it. Say it plain, say it true. Stay as authentic as I can be.

“Showing Up” In Virtual Space

Okay, I’ll admit: I am not feeling flush with inspiration tonight. I’ve looked at some of the go-to feminist sources on my Facebook feed for something to pontificate about. I’ve been thinking about what’s going on in my life to see if there’s something insightful or reflective that I want to say. And I got nuthin’.

However, I’m quite aware that I skipped posting Friday and Saturday night (though I did try and compensate with a split-the-difference Saturday afternoon post), so I’d like to turn that trajectory around by getting something up.

secret-to-bestseller

Especially since I’ll be off-the-grid at the end of this coming week and through the weekend — meaning, inevitably, more silence — and it’s another crazy deadlines week starting tomorrow — which may mean yet still more silence.

So what’s a young girl middle-aged blogger to do?

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I’m sure we’ve all heard, at one time or another, the notion that the most important ingredient to any learning/mastery/creative process is to “just show up!”

For example, this quote from an interview with Isabel Allende:

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about writing?

Show up. Show up in front of the computer or the typewriter. And if I show up long enough – it happens.

Or this post from a blogger who cautions against advice that makes writing seem too “difficult” — an excuse for us to continue procrastinating, he says — and who insists on the simple necessity of the “just show up” message:

I am not about to tell you that writing is easy. Writing is hard. Writers never stop fearing that what they write isn’t good enough. They can’t come up with good ideas. They come up with brilliant ideas that don’t work. They write terrible things and good things. And they try to make sure that people never see the terrible things, and that as many as possible see the good things.

No writer I know thinks writing is easy.

But no writer I know thinks writing is complicated.

If you’ve been waiting to write because you think that one day someone will give you the advice that makes writing easy, stop waiting. No one can make it easy.

All we can do is make it simple.

Show up. Write.

Or there’s any number of similar sentiments in this collection of bits of writing advice from actual real writers.*

And I get this approach. I do. I believe in this approach. Even though I eventually decided not to finish my dissertation or my Ph.D., I will tell you that my most productive months on that project were once I was able to shift from a place of full-on “frozen by depression and writer’s block” to embracing the idea of daily writing on the project. Every day, putting my inner critic into her lockbox for at least a tiny little bit and putting fresh words on the page. (I know the recommendation of a Ph.D. dropout may not mean much in this context, but this was one of my productivity bibles. I can’t speak highly enough for how it benefitted my life and my work.)

So, yes, I’m a believer in “just” showing up at the page.** It’s why I strive for a daily journal-writing practice. It’s why I am often the one at work most willing to send out that “sacrificial first draft” to get a project moving. (‘Cos this much I know for sure: if we don’t get started, we ain’t never getting to the finish line.)

Mucha-MuseIn short: I am not the kind of writer who sits waiting for my muse to waft in looking like an Alphonse Mucha engraving, with her artful Art Nouveau tresses and dresses wafting on an unseen breeze. But I’m not yet sure I’ve figured out the finer points of bringing this insight into my blogging practice.

Because everything I know about “showing up at the page” is predicated on the notion of there being a first draft — whether you call it “sacrificial” or, following Anne Lamott, “shitty” — and then an editing process by which the first draft becomes something more polished, worthy of publication. But when the draft-to-publish cycle is as truncated as it is in the blogosphere, what does it look like to have the practice of showing up at the (web)page? Does it mean publishing things that are half-formed, rougher? (In short, publishing shittier things?) Does it mean cultivating more of a practice of drafting, revising, and editing for blogposts? (Which, I’ll admit, feels a touch daunting for my life’s schedule. Maybe I should cut back on even more TV…)

I don’t have this conundrum worked out yet. But, with the willingness to navel-gaze and write about the writing process, I at least found something to reflect on that justifies a post for tonight.

I’ll take care of tomorrow’s post — if there is one — tomorrow.

* ‘Scuse the snark — the post’s title, although clear as clear could be just hit a nerve tonight. D’you think maybe we’d be expecting writing advice form fry-cooks or makeup artists?

** Had to use the scare quote, ‘cos the word “just” in “just show up” kind of cheapens how essential showing up at the page is. It obscures the raw, radical courage of showing up.

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Image credits:

Secret to a bestseller: http://elizparker.wordpress.com/2014/04/30/writers-show-up-by-getting-a-writing-buddy/

Mucha, “Muse”: http://www.alfonsmucha.org/Muse.html

J is for Jetlag

Okay, so there have been a few glitches here in JALC-land.

First off was a certain irregularity in the pace of scheduled posts. This has nothing to do with WordPress and was purely operator error: I had time before we left for the airport to tag and schedule the first 4 of the 6 posts I had “in the bank.” I chose an every-other-day pace, because I assumed it’d be easy to find little bits of time during travel and evenings to quickly tag & schedule the remaining 2 posts, and also to take my Game of Thrones idea and lay some quick text down.

Except then I got swept up in vacation mode, and the pace of travel and excursions was so intense, that the blog pretty much completely left my head until I sat down on our last at-sea day (21 July) to lay down that Game of Thrones text and realized — much to my chagrin — that nothing new had ben posted since the 16th. ‘Cos I’d never actually tagged and scheduled songs number 5 and 6, you see. Whoops.

jet-lag-is-comingSecondly, I know I’ve been a touch delayed in getting back to writing since returning home. Chalk this up, as well, to a touch of over-optimism on my part about my available time and energy. We landed early evening Wednesday, and although I was wise enough to know I wouldn’t have any writing in me that night, I did expect to be ready to type something quick come Thursday. Friday, at the latest.

Reality check. I am not as young as I used to be, and it turns out I was sufficiently tired-out and jet-lagged that I was in bed at around 8:30 both Thursday and Friday night. (Yup, partying like a rock star.) So, obviously, no blogging either of those evenings.

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first-world-problems-shampooNow, Im hoping that none of this is coming off as whining. Because a few missed blog posts and a little bit of jet lag are a tiny price to pay for a once-in-a-lifetime European trip.

So please understand: I am not complaining about any of this. (Were I to do so, it would really be the obnoxious epitome of first world problems. To the extreme.) I am filled with gratitude for where I have travelled, what I saw, what I was able to learn. What I am sure I will continue to learn as I reflect on these weeks, and as the unwinding of my life’s journey brings new layers of meaning and insight to these events and sights.

Instead, I’m simply reporting out on the various bits of foolishness that have led to JALC being in a bit more of a gone fishin’ mode than I’d expected or hoped might occur.

Now that I am (mostly) caught up on my rest and feeling (mostly) human again, I expect to be catching up on the news, which will likely inspire the occasional feminist screed. And yes, there will be some reflections on the trip and what I learned, and my usual hodgepodge of ongoing learning, reading and introspection.

TL;DR: I’m back at the keyboard.

It’s good to be home.

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Image credit:

Jet Lag: http://www.fitacrosscultures.com/jet-lag/

First world problems: http://moneyramblings.com/first-world-problems/

 

On Modulations and Tone

(Quick hit: another proposal due tomorrow, and also much in the way of packing/preparing for the house-sitter. Still, since these grounds will be semi-fallow for a stretch of time, I am compelled to put something up, even if it’s more quotes from others’ writing than words of my own.)

tone_police_sheriffAs I’ve been expressing my outrage over various current issues during the last several weeks, I’ve been aware of a delicate push-pull within my system around the issue of tone: how to speak strongly without “going overboard.” In short, being just a little tiny bit invested in tone policing myself.

Obviously, that investment has only been a few pences’ worth — I know what bullshit tone policing is:

The tone argument is a form of derailment, or a red herring, because the tone of a statement is independent of the content of the statement in question, and calling attention to it distracts from the issue at hand. Drawing attention to the tone rather than content of a statement can allow other parties to avoid engaging with sound arguments presented in that statement, thus undermining the original party’s attempt to communicate and effectively shutting them down.

And, therefore, I don’t do a whole lot of policing myself. But I do a little.

For example, I know I’ve said the phrase “morally repugnant” a few times in the last week as I’ve been responding to SCOTUS’ shenanigans. Plenty strong of a description, I suppose. But a step or two shy of the word I hear in my head to label these decisions and the misogynist world-view they embody: evil. (Yeah, I went there.)

I’ve been lucky thus far not to have anyone outside of myself pull the tone policing card on my writing. If that had occurred, I’d probably have responded with an explanation of the ways that anger is justifiable, appropriate, and even inevitable in situations that reveal the many injustices of the kyriarchy. To quote Do or Die:

Living in a world that reminds you daily of your lesser worth as a human being can make a person very tired and emotional. When someone says something oppressive . . . it feels like being slapped in the face, to the person on the receiving end. The automatic response is emotion and pain. It’s quite exhausting and difficult to restrain the resulting anger. And, frankly, it’s cruel and ridiculous to expect a person to be calm and polite in response to an act of oppression. Marginalized people often do not have the luxury of emotionally distancing themselves from discussions on their rights and experiences. 

[. . .] Now, I’m not saying it’s okay to be abusive, or oppressive in response to a person who fucks up. But anger is valid. Anger is valid, anger is important, anger brings social change, anger makes people listen, anger is threatening, and anger is passion. Anger is NOT counterproductive; being “nice” is counterproductive. Nobody was ever given rights by politely asking for them. Politeness is nothing but a set of behavioral expectations that is enforced upon marginalized people.

And this is all true to my understanding of the world and of human psychology, and of activism and social justice work.

But a day or two ago, I happened across something that puts even another lens on the occasional necessity of outrage and outraged speech.

If you speak about injustice and privileged people get offended, people will condescendingly explain to you that things are easier to hear if you are nice, and that you are more likely to convince people if you speak to them respectfully.

This is true, and often important to keep in mind – but people who say that to you in a conversation about injustice are usually missing the point.

They’re ignoring something fundamentally important about addressing injustice: Sometimes, the goal is not to convince privileged people to treat others better. Sometimes, the goal is to convince marginalized people that the way they are being treated is unjust and that it’s possible to resist.

Now, I’ll admit to the smallest bit of discomfort about the phraseology around “convincing marginalized people . . . that it’s possible to resist.” Something about it rings a bit too close to “white savior” territory for my liking.

Nonetheless, there’s a piece of this that’s really opening my perspective. What are the ways my writing is for the public (it is in a public forum after all), and what are the ways I am the primary beneficiary of my words? How does my writing help me overcome the habits of self-silencing?  Are there times I’m hoping to change minds and hearts, and other times where I have no expectation to “convert” disbelievers but simply need to sound a rallying cry for myself, my friends, my allies? Or sometimes a paradoxical mixture of both those strands?

What my purpose for writing isn’t an either/or but instead is a plurality, a yes/and?

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Image credit: http://thetonepolice.tumblr.com