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blogging

Turning Ten

Turning Ten Border

Ten years ago this week, I posted for the first time to this blog. Ten years. That’s like high school plus college plus graduate school.

It was the start of a new semester, and I’d had the revolutionary idea to ask one of my composition classes to try out this new thing — “blogging” — in the hopes that writing assignments would feel more authentic when actually published where other human eyes could clap onto them.

Then the semester ended, the students roared off into their respective futures, and I kept writing little stories and snippets and nonsensicals, putting them on my blog, and feeling simultaneously motivated and lonely.

One day, a person I didn’t know — a person not a student in my class — left a comment. Her name was Kristin, and she lived in Scandanavia. Then Kristin told one of her blog friends, Lilian, that she should come check out my writing; so then Lilian, in Quebec, started leaving comments on my posts. I couldn’t believe such an amazing and glamorous thing was happening.

After that, I visited their blogs and left comments, and then I left comments on the blogs of people who read their blogs, and then those people visited my blog, and out of nowhere, a beautiful momentum had taken hold, and I had A New Tribe, one that felt more close and caring than many “real” people in my life.

A few years after that, a lot of bloggers started nailing CLOSED signs onto their blogs, for a variety of reasons, and the comments and interplay started tapering off. Still, though, I felt the stories and snippets and nonsensicals burbling up inside of me, and the blog still felt like the right repository, meeting my needs and purposes. At the same time, other forms of social media kicked up, and I discovered that nearly all of my favorite current and former bloggers and I could connect on Facebook.

Sometimes, people would share links to my blog on Facebook, and eventually, I got a message from someone, Alexandra, who waxed enthusiastic about my writing, who told me I should try to reach a larger audience, who showed me channels for submitting my work to sites Not My Own.

The years passed, and still I wrote on my blog, to suit myself, and I wrote other pieces — stuff that challenged me with word counts and editorial expectations and forced me to sculpt my skills — and between the two, I learned. I made connections. I realized a whole lot of things. I found my people. I pissed off people. I got sick of people. I loved people.

The key to continuing to write, to not shutting down, to posting again and again, even when no one really cares or when I know what I’m turning out isn’t so good or when someone is giving me a deliberate and mean squint-eye, is simple: I like to write. Sure, it’s a powerful experience to have an audience, but even if no one’s looking: I like to write. With a blog, I have a place to experiment and make mistakes and throw sand in the air and be really dumb and occasionally stumble across something meaningful. Even when I make mistakes, I like to write.

At the same time I’ve been engaged in this surprising and transformative journey, I’ve made a heap of bloggy friends, meeting a few face-to-face, and we’ve exchanged gifts, private chats, and support in tough times. I had no idea when I started the engine in this rig back in 2006, but the blog world is a compassionate, generous-hearted community.

Now, a decade later, I’m still blogging; I still love this space. It’s the start of a new semester, and although I’m not having my composition students blog, I am teaching Writing for Social Media, a class I was able to envision and propose, thanks to all I learned here. Students in the course tweet and Facebook and blog — and, as of this semester, because I’m all about pretending I’m having a new revolutionary idea, they are also each in charge of doing a “takeover” of a class Instagram account for a day.

Social media math: Blogging in 2006 = Instagram Takeover in 2016.

No matter how you splice it, I’m grateful for the connectivity of a modern technological world. It’s, to be boring and cliche (after ten years of yammering, I’ve run out of original words), made me better.

In case you are reading this now and aren’t named Kristin or Lilian — in case you haven’t been here since the beginning — I’d love to direct your attention to a few of my favorite posts from the past ten years. Many times in my posts, I’ve been too “try hard” or have been an out-and-out idiot. Unintentionally, I’ve gotten things wrong. Occasionally, I’ve gotten things too painfully right. I acknowledge these difficulties.

At the same time, I’ve been someone who created a space for herself and then showed up in it, again and again, fiercely, dumbly, enthusiastically, wistfully, angrily, joyfully.

Ten years of stabbing repeatedly at a blank, white, yawning expanse, filling it with font and doubt and flourishes.

I click on “All Posts,” and 733 entries pop up. Without blogging, there would be zero.

I’ll take it.

And to all of you who have visited, read, left comments, and supported this space: thank you.


Below is a sampler of some of favorite posts from the past ten years. Each post takes me back to a specific moment where I had something I needed to get out of me. Maybe, if you have a minute, you’ll click on one or two that you haven’t yet read.

Here, then are posts:

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On My Mind

Quick Favor

We’re packing up before heading out tomorrow on our three-week road trip to the East Coast. First stop will be three nights in Chicago. My hope is to put up some Picture of the Day posts along the way,

but first:

I’ve got scaffolding in place for the Writing for Social Media class that I’ll be teaching online this Fall semester; now I’m at the point where I’m writing up weekly announcements and assignments, and I’m struggling as I try to explain what makes for a “good” blog post versus a, um, “crap” blog post.

Since most of you who leave comments are bloggers (or, clearly, blog readers) yourselves, I wonder if I could ask you to reflect back on your own experience with writing and reading blogs. Are there posts you’ve encountered that stand out to you as something superior? If so, why? What is it about a post that makes it memorable? Can you give me any specific examples, from actual posts?

On the flip side, when you’ve come across blogs that are painful to read, that perhaps feel like a waste of your time, what is it that turns you off? What leaves you shuddering or vowing never to return? Again, the more specific, the better.

Thanks in advance! The success or failure of a blog post is a hard thing to articulate to students, I tell you…

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Categories
why do we write?

How Do You Wander In To That Room of Your Own?

Can we make this one more about the comments than the post?

I know many of you post something every day, and I know many of you simply post whenever you feel so moved. You post when and how you do, and you have your reasons for that.

So:

1) Why do you write blog posts? If you are reading this but aren’t a blogger, why do you sometimes write something and then share it with an audience, even if it’s just one other person?

2) When do you write? Is there a set time in your day? Also, is there a set place or ritual that surrounds your writing?

3) How do you find the time to write, either blog posts or any other kind of “words out of your head”? Is it scheduled in? Do you refuse other options so you can write?

4) Do you choose not to write about certain subjects–because you know who’s reading or because you have a sense of privacy that wants to keep certain things mum? What’s the riskiest subject you’ve ever shared with others? Do you wish you could share more than you do? Perhaps most importantly, if you choose not to write about certain subjects on your own blog, could you give us a sense here of who/what it is since–mwahahahaahahahaha–the people in question are more than likely nowhere near the comment page on the O Mighty Crisis blog?

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Personally, I know I did better with twice-a-week posts and leaving comments on others’ blogs back when I taught classes on campus and held office hours in a room with a door that closed. I could finish grading student work and then take a little blogging time for myself before heading home. However, now that I am teaching completely online and have given up my office space on campus, I find that I have to tuck blogging in around the edges.

I write usually because I feel an internal compulsion, a pounding sense of ideas wanting to get out. Most often, these pounding ideas have to do with my love of chocolate chip cookies and my belief that Jessica Simpson has GOT to be at least eighty-eleventy weeks pregnant by now. For me, the blog is a sandbox where I can play; in particular, I like doing mash-ups, where I take random junk and try to make it connect. Linear has its place, but nutty juxtaposition can reap its own rewards.

Most of my posts wriggle out over hours and hours of stolen minutes, usually when the kids are at school. When they’re on break, it’ s a rare day when I have any attention to give to a post or the blogosphere. I used to write late at night, but these days, I’m playing Scrabble and Words with Friends instead of pecking away. There’s also my exercise, piano playing, and puzzling that eat up the hours. Most of the time, I type up in our master bedroom on a desktop PC. Other times, I’m sitting in a rocking chair in front of the tv, trying to figure out what I want to say with my work laptop teetering on my fleece-clad legs. Every now and then, I type on my laptop while we drive the three hours down to the Twin Cities; the battery dies an hour in, but it’s better than no time at all.

Lastly, I do choose not to write about certain things simply because I do have some sense who’s reading. Sometimes I think about doing password-protected posts or starting up another blog all together, just so I can share all my innermosts with strangers only. It could happen. It might not. If only so I could blog more freely about the insanity of some students without fear of lawsuit reprisal, I consider the options.

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Anyhow, I’m curious. Many times, I visit blogs, and I wonder about the writing habits of the author. Some of us use this venue as a kind of daily diary, yet others of us use it as an outlet for storytelling. One thing is always true, though: when the writing is flowing–even in fits and starts–there is nothing that makes my spirit more zingy.

Well, maybe one or two things do, but I can’t blog about them here.

I know who’s reading, and the details would be too much for half of you.

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