Taking this Show on the Road

The next ten days or so are going to be a true acid test for this new “write every day” pledge. We’ve got a quick weekend trip to see the Harry Potter Exhibit in NYC, and then the exact next day after getting home from that, I’m off for a six-day business trip.*

Ages ago, when I had a long vacation planned, I wrote a short series of things to auto-post while I was abroad. (Admittedly, the execution of that idea was a touch shaky, but hey: points for trying?) I’m sure the almost-daily ritual of me whining about not having a surplus of blogging ideas will give you a solid read on the current situation.

No, Virginia, I do not have any extra posts in the bank.

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Reading My Will(ingness)

Okay, I hadn’t quite expected to roll up the sidewalks here for an entire month while doing my Shakespearian NaBloPoMo experiment.*

In retrospect, perhaps I should have seen that coming. After all, my November schedule–full-time job, 2 “college courses”** (one of which is still ongoing), choir, regular Shakespeare blogging, and all the ephemera of embodied life (cooking, laundry, sleep, etc.)–was pretty rich.

With 20/20 hindsight, it’s not terrifically surprising I didn’t have a lot of extra time to keep the momentum going here at JALC.

But here’s the dirty little confession about it all: I didn’t exactly try that hard to keep the wheels turning here. And when I say “I didn’t try that hard,” what I really mean is I didn’t try at all.

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NaMo: Yes, No, Maybe So?

Mr. Mezzo has been spending the last week making preparations for his imminent descent in NaNoWriMo. For anyone unfamiliar with the concept, NaNoWriMo is a (mostly) virtual event in which a bunch of writers band together and pledge to write a 50,000 word novel during the course of November. (Hence the name: NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth.* This will be the second time he’s done it, and I’m wondering if I should maybe do something of my own in solidarity.

Now, I’m not crazy enough to do NaNoWriMo. For starters, there’s the fact that I live in a Newtonian universe where time and energy are finite resources. I still have those two classes I’m finishing up, plus choir, plus the fact that I’m just now beginning to pull myself out of the black hole I recently fell into. More importantly than those practicalities is the fact that I don’t currently have a strong idea for a book. I know I’ll write one someday — but this day is not that day. (Or “this month is not that month.” Something like that.)

But NaBloPoMo? That’s a entirely different kettle of tea.

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A Hurricane of Textuality

I guess I have some super-secret MezzoSherri playbook, where the private definition of “I’m going to post a couple times a week” means, instead:

I’m going to take two weeks off where I don’t write a damn thing at all.

I guess radio silence is sometimes unavoidable.

In part, this has been the result of living in a fortnight-long perfect storm. The last 16 days have brought me the following waves, in sequential yet overlapping order: deadlines, travel, more deadlines, illness, more travel. (Whee!!!)

Take a system already on the low slope of one’s personal energy curve and put her through that precise sequence of events and you pretty much have a textbook case of “something’s gotta give.”

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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.

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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…

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“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