The Happy Consequence of Blogging

A few days ago I stumbled upon an unexpected, but very welcome, consequence of my recent blogging aspirations: I’ve rediscovered my love of writing.

The funny thing is, I hadn’t realized I’d lost it. After all, isn’t writing a blog proof that I was still in love with the craft? But the truth is that besides these blog posts and the occasional email, I hadn’t written much of anything except for a brief writing exercise.

Orchids 005

It was when I responded to my first weekly writing challenge, which was subsequently Freshly Pressed, that I started thinking seriously about writing again. All the positive feedback I received definitely helped reignite my engines. It can be hard to get motivated when you aren’t sure if anyone thinks you’re any good. I even wrote a post about how voice makes for a good writer, which spawned another writing exercise.

But it hasn’t been all internal. I’ve also been watching a thriving writing community toss around ideas, offer each other advice, and put their work out there for the world to see. A brief dialogue between a couple bloggers was a turning point for me. (One of these bloggers was “attending” camp nanowrimo, which I mistakenly believed was a real camp and thought, “what a great idea!”) The conversation went like this:

livingtheredlife says: I have never done nanowrimo, but I have always wanted to try it out. Do you have to work on edits too, or is that something you worry about after?

jodiellewellyn says: Definitely after. It’s all about churning out the 50,000 words. Good or bad.

I’d never heard of such a thing. Writing without editing, what a concept! So the other night I tried it. Just for kicks.

I haven’t been able to stop.

I was totally inspired. Words and ideas and characters just came flying out of nowhere. For the first time in a long time, I’m actually serious about writing to be published again. This is, consequently, why I haven’t been writing any blog posts recently…

But what I find totally awesome about this whole thing is that starting a blog – writing about things I love – has cyclically reignited my love of the things I was writing about. Does this work for others, too? Does blogging about photography and travel re-excite the writer about his picture-taking and his journeying? Based on my own experience, I would imagine so!

What a happy consequence. 🙂

Advertisements

Stop Writing and Find Your Voice

The writing process, like most artistic mediums, is part conceptual and part cathartic. But it’s also largely technical, and writers spend a lot of time talking about outlines, first, second, and third drafts, editing, character development, solid plots, complicated villains, and flawed heroes. But those aren’t writing skills. Those are storytelling skills. And this is a problem.

Book pages 001

Now I know we need drafts, complex characters, and a good plot. But having those things does not make someone a good writer. I guess it’s sort of like saying, you need brushes, a canvas, and beautiful paints, but having those things won’t make you a great artist.

I have a theory I’d like to explore. And that is that a truly great writer is a result of an awesome voice. Our voice is the style, tenor, and soul of our prose, and establishing it and refining it early gives our work identity. On the very first page, before we introduce our characters, our world, our villain, and our plot, we introduce ourselves. And that makes or breaks our books.

I’ve done a bit of research into this idea (cleverly disguised as recreational reading). Here’s a good example: the first couple paragraphs from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by the wonderful Douglas Adams:

Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.

Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

This planet has — or rather had — a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.

And so the problem remained; lots of the people were mean, and most of them were miserable, even the ones with digital watches.”

Boom. Amazing. No hint of a plot. No glimmer of the characters. Nothing new, no revolutionary concepts we haven’t heard before. But we’re already tickled, entertained, and in love with this author, because he has so eloquently introduced himself to us with his fantastic voice.

His voice is witty, and, I find, purposefully dry, so that when his sentences turn long it feels like ramblings. It’s almost the opposite of poetic: very real, and very easy to read. Its straightforward, unadulterated, and wholly unwhimsical style makes for great sardonic and parodic narrative on “normal” things, like the view of the relationship between money and happiness.

Here’s another good one. These are the opening lines of the second book of the (one and only, the awesome, my favorite:) Riddle-Master of Hed trilogy, by my favorite author, Patricia McKillip:

“In spring, three things came invariably to the house of the King of An: the year’s first shipment of Herun wine, the lords of the Three Portions for the spring council, and an argument.

The spring of the year following the strange disappearance of the Prince of Hed, who had, with the High One’s harpist, vanished like a mist in Isig Pass, the great house with its seven gates and seven white towers seemed to be cracking like a seed pod out of a long, bitter winter of silence and grief. The season dusted the air with green, set patterns of light like inlay on the cold stone floors, and roused restlessness like sap in the deep heart of An, until Raederle of An, standing in Cyone’s garden, which no one had entered for the six months since her death, felt that even the dead of An, their bones plaited with grass roots, must be drumming their fingers in the graves.”

Ok, to be fair, she does introduce her characters here, and she did so even more in the introduction to the first book in the trilogy, which is why I chose to quote from the second book, but it’s still fabulous and I’m going to analyze her voice at you anyway.

Hers is the exact opposite of Adams’. It’s poetic, whimsical, magical, and full of fantasy and wonder. Her prose is almost dizzying. It’s beautiful. She could write three paragraphs describing the dimples on a golf ball and still have my rapt attention. “Roused restlessness like sap”? What does that even mean?! Hers is the sort of voice that must be savored. If you try to rush through her work, she’ll punish you by making sure you don’t understand any of it. And I think it’s fantastic.

Another great is, of course, Tolkien. Is it his detailed maps, the elvish runes in the appendix, or the wide array of characters that gives his world depth? Is it the plot, the villains? I argue, No. It’s his voice. He breathes life into his world by the way he writes, not because of his plot points or his villains, but because when you read his voice you believe it’s real.

And would Middle-Earth be as enchanting if it was written in Douglas Adams voice? I wager it wouldn’t, even though his voice is also great, because our voice must suite our genre and world we’ve built and they just wouldn’t mesh. (I actually read a science fiction book by McKillip, who is definitely a fantasy author, and got the distinct impression it was just a fantasy novel stuck in space, screaming to be plopped down in a nice forest somewhere.)

So perhaps I’ve made my point, maybe I haven’t. But we all know that what distinguishes our storytelling from that of a screenwriter or a musician is the use of the written word, so it’s important to develop not just our storytelling skills, but also our writing skills (note the distinction there). So how do we make our own voice?

Write a sentence. Read it. Read it again. How does it sound? How does it make you feel? Is it beautiful? Does it suite your world, your story, your personality? Read works by your favorite authors. How does your voice compare? It couldn’t and shouldn’t be the same as theirs; it must be yours, so it must be unique!

Here’s an exercise: pick an object sitting on your table and write a description of it in 300 words, in your voice. Make it beautiful. Make that description sing. I don’t care if the object is a dry, cracked pen that needs an ink refill and has lint all stuck on the front of it, make those 300 words sound fantastic and showcase your voice to the world!

I’d love to read your attempts. 🙂

  1. Unleashing Me | 300 Word Exercise: Describing the Mundane
  2. Stressing Out College | The Cure for Literary Laryngitis in 300 Words

The Amazing Secret of EMDR

Years ago, when I was going through my rocky teenage years, my mom and I were having an enormously difficult time getting along. This isn’t a terribly unique phenomenon, but my anger with my circumstances was escalating to the point of self-injury. So we decided I should try therapy.

Wall Hangings 004

My therapist suggested EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. In brief, the therapy utilizes one of various forms of bilateral sensory input to help suffers of PTSD or other traumatic experiences reprocess their inadequately processed memories.

“But I don’t have any traumatic memories,” I remember saying. “I had a normal childhood.”

But what I discovered was that I didn’t think I had any traumatic experiences because I was viewing my life through the lens of an adult. The eyes of a child process the world very differently. This revelation not only helped me through this tough time with my mom but also changed the way I view my emotions in general. Here’s a brief recap:

When I was a girl we moved across the country. Separation from family and other distresses caused my mother to slip into depression. There was lots of crying at home and some arguments, but nothing that I would have ever called traumatic. It was a situation outside of my control, and as an adult I fully recognized and embraced that.

But a child sees the world much more black and white. Something is wrong with mom. She’s sad. Dad isn’t fixing the problem, so I must step in. Every day I tried to fix my mom and make her happy. And every day I failed.

This was the core issue. As I child I took it upon myself to fix a situation that was well beyond the realm of an 8-year-old to fix. The result was anger, frustration, confusion, self-doubt, and, most of all, resentment.

But I didn’t recognize any of that! I was a grown-up now, I understood the difference between being a failure and being in a no-win situation. What’s there to go back and reprocess? Well. That 8-year-old was still inside me somewhere, frustrated and unresolved.

So I tried the EMDR technique over two separate hour and a half sessions. My therapist employed bilateral auditory tones on a pair of headphones, which has some sort of effect on the brain that I don’t understand in the slightest. We went through vivid memories I had of my mom crying or having an argument with my dad. I was able to shed bodily tension I didn’t realize I was feeling at the recollection and let my brain process them to the point of apathy. I came out feeling amazing. I came out feeling like a new person.

In a final exercise I spoke to the 8-year-old. I let her relax and let go. I let her play video games without concern or worry. I remember asking her if I could play with her and she said “No thanks.” It made me laugh. I used my right hand to write a letter to her and my left hand to write her responses. She said she felt like she had waited a long time to meet me. It was fantastic and freeing.

But what I learned from the experience had much longer lasting effects than helping me through one issue. It helped me realize that, in one way or another, we are all traumatized. Not in the horrific way we associate with the word traumatic. But in such a way that we don’t realize we need to go back and retrain our brains.

The effects carry over into our adult lives. We are angry, resentful, sad, and afraid and we don’t stop and ask why. We just assume that our surroundings make us this way and it’s our circumstances, not something on the inside, that needs fixing.

But we all need fixing on the inside. Whether we saw sickness, divorce, unhappiness, or disappointment as a child, somewhere deep inside we carry a part of that.

Now I’m not saying everyone can or even should try EMDR or other similar therapies. But we should all acknowledge that when we have a deep emotional response to something, it’s not someone else’s fault. I touched on this briefly in the “Daddy Issues” post. It comes from within. Happiness is not a circumstance. It’s a perception.

Stop and ask yourself why you’re feeling this way. Why do I feel angry, sad, or afraid? Does the situation really warrant this reaction? Or is there something deep inside me that is agitated by these circumstances?

The next time I’m about to yell or cry or run, I want to have this tool at my disposal. The ability to retrain my brain to look for the reasons and deal with them analytically, rather than let my feelings control me indefinitely. And I still may yell or cry or run! But I want to be a happier, healthier me. And I think it really starts with acknowledging that we’re all broken a little on the inside, so that we can aim to fix ourselves.

My Blog is Having an Identity Crisis

I read some advice from a seasoned blogger today:

“Step away from your computer and really consider what describes you and your writing. Be you in your blog name; be you in your blog.”

It really got me thinking about why I’m writing. I’m not writing for commercial purposes. I’m not writing for a particular person or audience. At the risk of sounding selfish, I’m writing for me. I’m trying to discover myself, organize my thoughts, and put myself out there for the world to see.

I think it boils down to half social rebellion and half self-administered therapy.

So “Be an Amazing Wife” has become “Unleashing Me.” Because while I do want to become an amazing wife, I think what I’m writing about – and the reason I’m writing – is really less about my identity as a wife and more about my identity as… well, me. The human. And the more I wrote the less that name seems to move with me.

Unleashing Me, on the other hand, was the pen name I chose for myself. So whether I continue to write posts about vegan recipes, or happiness, or fiction, the identity of the blog will be deeply tied with my identity. So whatever changes I go through and whatever changes the blog goes through, the name can stay. I’ll be me in my blog name, and me in my blog. 🙂

The URL will change eventually. But I haven’t decided if I want my own domain yet, so. Stay tuned I guess.

The Nature of Misunderstandings

As my father-in-law used to say, there’s always three sides to the story: your side, my side, and the truth.

I really appreciate the universal truth in that little aphorism. In the event of a misunderstanding, no single perspective is ever absolutely correct. And we all believe that. Until we’re involved in one, right? 😉

I was involved in a misunderstanding last week in which I was the offending party, and it really got me mulling on the construct of misunderstandings. No matter how much we try to avoid them, how considerate we try to be, or how thick we try to make our skin, misunderstandings happen.

I’ve pretty much decided that they’re unavoidable, since no one’s perfect. But I was thinking about what sort of practical things we can do in those situations to make the entire event smoother and less unpleasant. Last week I was the offender, but I’ve also been the offended – I think everyone has been on both sides of that fence – and regardless of which side we happen to be on, there are proactive steps we can take to minimize the repercussions.

For the Offender:

  • Acknowledge and apologize.

This is important, and I think it’s often overlooked. By definition, a misunderstanding is a situation in which the offending party didn’t mean harm. So we mistakenly believe that if we just explain ourselves, they won’t be offended anymore! Well, maybe, but we still need to acknowledge the hurt feelings involved. Even if it’s a mere, “Oh no, I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean it that way at all. Can we sit and talk about it?” that can make a big difference.

  • Ask why instead of looking at what.

If we only look at the words or actions that caused offense, we might be inclined to try to defend ourselves. In and of itself, the offense might not seem worth getting upset over. This can cause a cascading effect where, rather than making an effort to apologize, we actually get angry that the offended person “got upset over nothing.” So instead ask why. Could what you said or did be interpreted in an offensive way, even if that isn’t how you meant it? Are they personally sensitive in a way that you are not? Try putting yourself in their shoes.

  • Above all, be kind.

If the offended person confronted you when upset, they could potentially say some things that upset you. Just breathe, and remember that they are upset. Don’t react rashly. If you need to, take some time before composing a response. Remember that as far as they’re concerned, you drew first blood. Remember how you felt the last time you were offended, and how you acted. We’ve all been there!

For the Offended:

  • Examine the evidence.

Before throwing ourselves into a fury, a moment of reflection might help settle things. Consider the source. Do we generally think of this person as rude and inconsiderate, or are they typically kind to us, and have they been a true friend in the past? Do we have good reason to suspect that they’re being malicious, or is there reasonable evidence based on past experience to suggest that maybe they didn’t mean it that way? If the latter is the case, we might be able to let the whole thing go. If we’re still bothered, simply approaching them and saying, “I was really bothered by something you said (or did), but it doesn’t sound like you. Can we talk about it?” will open the door for calm communication. And maybe the answer is simpler than we thought!

  • Breathe and wait.

If we’re really riled up, it might be in everyone’s best interest if we take a few days before saying anything about it. Sometimes a good night’s rest (or two!) can help us approach the subject much more calmly. Especially in the era of the internet, where messages can be typed and sent with such ease, we tend to write when we’re angry and send it before we read it over. So take some time to think, digest, and compose a message with care.

  • Remember that they will hurt too.

Remember that this person is likely completely unaware that you’re upset, and when you tell them, they may be in for a roller-coaster, too. Remember the last time you offended someone unintentionally. It’s a pretty horrible feeling, as I can recall so vividly. I couldn’t eat dinner the first night and cried for days about it. So while we may have hurt feelings and feel like the only ones who are saddened or insulted by the situation, we should remember that once the person realizes they’ve offended us, they’ll be upset that it happened too. And it will probably hurt them more than we realize, since we’ll be caught up in our own feelings (we’re human, we can’t help it!).

I plan on carrying this around in a note in my phone for a while! Because I know sooner or later I’ll be on one side of this sort of situation, and I’ll probably need a reminder that my side nor their side is the right side. The truth lies somewhere in the middle.

5 Ways to be Happier Right Now

I’m a big advocate of the idea that little things make a big difference. People spend their lives trying to find the perfect mate, raise the perfect family, and get the perfect job in an effort to achieve happiness. But what I’m discovering is that happiness isn’t something that you can achieve so much as it is something you must create. The difference between people who are happy and those that aren’t has almost nothing to do with circumstances. It’s about attitude.

Here are five little things you can do today, starting right now, that will make you feel happier and breathe easier:

Love yourself. This is the catalyst for happiness, connection, and productivity. Tell yourself at least three reasons you are worthwhile, and work hard to banish doubt and feelings of inadequacy. Believe in yourself. If you’re having a hard time, post a status update on your social media account asking your friends to leave one thing they really appreciate about you in the comments. Train yourself to think positively and practice openness.

Smile at strangers. Social media, commercial airlines, the internet, and television have made the world more connected than it has ever been. Yet people have never been so disconnected. Every day we’re surrounded by hundreds of human beings with personalities, struggles, families, and dreams, but we all feel lonely. Reconnect with humanity. Smile at the strangers you see today. You’ll be surprised how good it feels to be smiled at when they return the favor. You’ll also have the satisfaction of knowing you helped them feel less disconnected.

Tell someone how much you care. Call a friend or send them an email, just to tell them you were thinking about them. Honestly tell them why you appreciate them. You don’t have to gush, just say something nice. You will have really done a kind deed for someone else, and you will feel reconnected and open.

Set an attainable goal and accomplish it now. Accomplishing something is a great feeling. Unfortunately, we tend to dream too big. Reaching a quarterly goal or getting a promotion or losing 20 pounds only happens once in a while, and a bigger accomplishment does not produce proportionate happiness. Set a more simple goal that you can accomplish more quickly. Clean the kitchen until it sparkles. Go for a 30 minute walk. Plan a surprise night out for your spouse and make the arrangements. Anything that would make you feel better about yourself but that you think isn’t worth the effort. This week, I learned to do a pull up.

Slow down and be grateful. Are the birds singing outside right now? Is the sun shining? Is your child doing something extra cute or sweet? Is your spouse happy about something? Can you hear someone laughing nearby? Stop what you’re doing and enjoy it. The world is a busy place that’s constantly on the move, but it will still be there in five minutes. Find a reason to be grateful. If you’re in a place where that’s difficult, take a pen and paper and write something down that you’re grateful for. Repeat until you feel better.

Of course, if all else fails, you can always just take a day to recharge.

Nothing a Cup of Tea and a Little Picard Won’t Fix

On those rainy days when all I want is to curl up in a blanket and shut out the world, I find that some English Breakfast and Star Trek solves just about everything.

Don't you feel ten times happier just looking at them?! :D

Don’t you feel ten times happier just looking at them?! 😀

But I guess the point is that, regardless of how we deal with them, we will always have those days. Days where we just wake up on the wrong side of the bed. Days when it’s cold and rainy outside, and we can’t pull ourselves out from under the covers. Days when we look in the mirror and feel uglier than usual. Days when someone says or does something that makes us feel bad about ourselves.

I had one of those days recently. A series of events left me wanting to crawl into a hole and not come out. But my husband said something great. He said, “When this happens, what matters is how you deal with it.”

Now let’s rewind several weeks. I had one of those mornings. Didn’t want to get out of bed. Didn’t want to face the world. I have a tendency to feel like a failure on days like that. I think, I don’t want to do it, I don’t want to smile, I don’t want to function. Therefore, I’m failing, and the people around me think I’m failing too.

So naturally I got angry at my husband for thinking I was a failure! 🙂 But he said to me, “If you need a day off, you should take one. I trust your judgment.”

Talk about relief. Talk about feeling understood. Talk about feeling loved. Isn’t he great?

So I did. I stayed in. I drank a cup of English Breakfast tea and watched four episodes of Star Trek. On the couch, in a blanket, in my pajamas.

I didn’t let the day ruin me. I didn’t let the day crush me. I just took that day to energize myself and the next day was great. Having bad days where we don’t function ideally doesn’t make us failures. It doesn’t even make us less amazing. It just means we need to curl up and recharge.

So when I had this most recent bad day, it got me down. I cried, I couldn’t eat dinner. But I knew I wasn’t a failure. I knew I wasn’t less amazing. I knew I would come out of it just fine. Because I treated it like what it was: a bad day.

Sometimes we have a series of bad days. Maybe we have a bad week. Maybe it seems like a bad foreseeable future. But my husband’s advice rings true: “What matters is how we deal with it.” So if we have to curl up and watch Star Trek for a little while, that’s ok. The important thing is that we analyze what we’re feeling and realize that we won’t stay feeling that way forever.

The Inescapable Nature of Self-Expression

You write about yourself, whether you want to or not. And that’s enlightening. But it’s also inconvenient.

Of course in the context of blogging that’s not really a surprise. But it was when I recently finished a fictional 500 word exercise that I was blown away by this seemingly benign discovery.

We all know that when we write, glimmers of ourselves appear in our characters. Maybe it’s a physical feature, a habit, a passion of theirs, a mannerism, a flaw. But in general we mostly believe that these characters are unique and when we write we create by pulling from many places, not just from within. I don’t think that’s as true as we like to think.

Here’s the enlightening part:

My 500 word exercise was on loneliness. I didn’t think I particularly identified with the character, her world, or her predicament. But reading the finished product triggered a deep introspective response. A veil had been lifted.

I was lonely.

The number of parallels I instantly drew to my own circumstances was shocking. I had subconsciously put so many of my own feelings into the story; feelings I didn’t even know I had been feeling. It was as though a very quiet, forgotten piece of myself was trying to express itself to me.

I hadn’t realized I was lonely, much like the pilot in the story doesn’t fully appreciate how sad and isolated her situation is. And yet I was able to encapsulate an expression of loneliness so effortlessly through a part of me I had suppressed. I was reminded of common introspective tools, such as writing letters to yourself or keeping a diary, in which you try to express your feelings, and which are often very revealing. But this blew me away. Instead of trying to write about what was bothering me, to help sort it out or make sense of it, my mind had used my creative outlet to let me know what I wasn’t acknowledging. And I imagine the same is true of pretty much any creative outlet.

When I read what I write, now, I don’t want to just read to edit. I don’t want to just look for bad grammar, spelling, and tense. I want to look for messages I’ve secretly written to myself, messages that offer a little more insight into the “me” I’ve been ignoring.

Which brings me to the slightly inconvenient part:

Sometimes we’re sharing a part of ourselves with the outside world we weren’t even aware existed. And sometimes sharing ourselves that openly can be uncomfortable. But I say we should embrace that discomfort, that vulnerability. That inconvenience. Because while it can be unsettling to be open and visible, it’s also how we endear ourselves to others, and where true relationships transcend acquaintance.

I write so that my inner voice can speak. But from now on I’m also going to listen to it.

That Moment When You Realize You Have to Turn Your Back on Where You Came From

No one loves my family more than I do. But it’s time we all accepted an uncomfortable truth: I’ve outgrown it.

Dew Drops

It sounds drastic but I think it’s actually quite universal. And more than that, I think it’s necessary for true growth. Before you hyperventilate (especially if you’re a family member of mine), let’s pull apart exactly what sort of betrayal I’m advocating.

I grew up in New England and moved to the Seattle area when my dad got a job at Microsoft. My mom and I traveled back east frequently to visit our wonderful patriarch, my grandpa, and the grandma, aunts, uncles, and various degrees of cousins in the area. In the past I would’ve said that they nurtured me into the person that I am today. But that’s where the whole betrayal thing happens.

It’s dawned on me that they haven’t. Certainly they nurtured me into the person I was, the young adult who most strongly identified with her extended family. And there are many core attributes and facets of her that I retain. But I’ve shrugged off so much of that person, molted so many times now, that in order to be me, I can’t be them. In order to be true to myself, I have to turn my back on where I came from and embrace who I’ve become.

This was an uncomfortable realization. Suddenly my goals and priorities were different from theirs. I was the outlier. I had changed. I had evolved. When I went back home they were all still the same – same routine, same house, same street, same family, same rituals. And I think they expected me to be the same.

Now let’s be clear before the masses start chanting “Traitor!” I still adore them. I still miss them. We all have the same sense of humor, enjoy the same pastimes, and have years of kinship that bind us strongly together.

But in the interim I had traveled overseas, gotten married, and broken out of some of the boundaries my family had laid for itself. Like the inability to cross the SR-520 bridge, for example. Sorry Mom. 😉

I had become adventurous, ambitious, and more optimistic. I found these changes a bit at odds with my family, which likes to stay within 20 miles of home, not put too much on the proverbial plate or aim too high, and enjoys commiserating. And none of those things are bad. But they aren’t me anymore.

So I had to make a choice. Do I embrace the newfound me, turning my back on my past? Or do I maintain this important connection in every possible way I can, including rejecting these new attributes? Well the answer was clear. Growth requires change. Sometimes change requires discomfort.

And besides, I like the new me.

Embrace change. Embrace broadening your horizons. Embrace the person you discover, even if she isn’t who you expected.

I’ll leave you with a TED Talk, because you know how I love those! It’s by Derek Sivers, and in two minutes he encourages us to shrug off our preconceptions and embrace a whole new way of looking at the world. Which, I think, is the springboard of change, and, if you’re having trouble embracing a “you” that’s in conflict with your family, this should ease your anxiety.

I love that sometimes we need to go to the opposite side of the world to realize assumptions we didn’t even know we had, and realize that the opposite of them may also be true.”

Why Comments From Celebrities and Improved Stats are Bad for Your Blog

I’ve only been blogging for nine days, and I’ve already been infected. So I’m going to take a step back for a second. Have a reflective moment.

Writing 02

I started a blog because I was discovering things about myself. I also love to write, and I thought organizing all these discoveries in writing might help me stay focused, maintain perspective, and maybe, just maybe, help someone else who is going through something similar, if they happen to stumble upon it while surfing the vast expanse of the internet. I wrote my little About blurb and my First Post, and I was happy.

It was fun. It felt fulfilling, having something I wrote sitting there for the world to gaze upon in its completed form. (Like so many other aspiring writers, I have about four thousand incomplete novels in my hard-drive somewhere.) So then I made my first mistake. I decided to Google how to write a successful blog. Just out of curiosity, of course.

Find a niche. That was what it said. Immediately, I started to criticize the little blog I had built. What kind of niche was this? And now I was stuck writing inside it? I didn’t like the name. By now I had written my fourth post and I thought, this information is good for more than just women aspiring to be great wives. Is leaving a title like “Be An Amazing Wife” going to isolate other readers who don’t have that goal? So I changed the subtext to, “And Other Worthwhile Goals,” which was actually probably for the better.

But the infection had already started. It got worse when I wrote a post about my ugly quiche. I linked to a TED Talk by Shawn Achor, who does amazing, fantastic, inspiring work. I was surprised, elated, and a little bouncy when I saw he had actually commented on my post.

This started a horrible cascade. I was so excited that someone had read my blog – and not just any someone, but a famous, celebrity-type someone that I admired! So of course I had to share the link on Facebook. I went from having zero readers to having over 40. And then a funny thing happened. The number of readers dropped off – which was to be expected; they weren’t devoted readers, they had just clicked a link. But the funny thing was how I missed those big, nameless, faceless numbers.

It happened again when I wrote about vegan food in the Tofurky post. I garnered a few likes and follows from it and was pleased. I guess that makes sense, it meant that people appreciated my work. Or that they were trying to artificially boost their own traffic. But either way I liked getting the notifications in my inbox that someone thought my post was pretty awesome. So I published another post on a different topic. But the same thing didn’t happen. There was no attention. So I made the next post about eating less meat as well.

Is the problem evident?

Teapot 012

It started with a teapot and happiness, but it was turning into a wild goose chase for likes and follows. It started with me expressing myself and writing about my journey, but now I was out to write what I thought might get attention. I felt like Nintendo when they abandoned the goodness of the N64 and the Gamecube and came out with the Wii and DS games like Brain Age. I wasn’t true to me, I was looking for a wider audience no matter who it was or what they wanted. Apparently, this is not an uncommon phenomenon.

And seriously, why do I care? I thought this was a personal project, about growth, about discovery, about sharing. When did it change?

I think somewhere around day two or three.

But happily I was able to diagnose the issue early, and my prognosis is good. I’m already using more I’s and me’s and less you’s and we’s. Because who is you? Who is we? Is anyone reading this? Well if so, I hope you can enjoy this the way it is, because trying to change it to suite the tastes of others is, apparently, making me sick.