Writer and teacher Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew started 2017 with her blog post Six Ways Blogging Helps You Be a Better Writer – And Person. She described precisely the unexpected benefits of blogging that I’ve found since I was convinced to blog nearly seven years ago.
Here’s Elizabeth’s top-six list, with my reflections on how it matches my own blogging experience.
- Blogs put a writer in conversation with real people. Not many readers comment on my posts, but it’s a medium that easily allows for an exchange between writer and audience.
- I have more patience for the slow work of writing. I agree with Elizabeth’s suggestion that, “This might seem like a paradox.” My three book-length projects required three to twenty years to complete, and I typically spend weeks to months crafting essays. Those are long stretches to remain in the “not-yet-finished” state; creating two or three posts monthly helps me persist with the longer works.
- Deadlines are great. My deadlines are soft; no one chastises me if I don’t meet my goal to post mid-month, end-of-the-month, and an Afterthought the last day of each month. But they’re strong enough to keep me thinking, reflecting, and writing, even when I resist.
- Regularity means major productivity! Nothing, not even my MFA program, has helped me generate as much new work in addition to my major writing projects.
- Frequency teaches us about listening. Again, Elizabeth speaks my mind. “The writing leads the way. Over the years I’ve come to have great faith in this process.”
- Blogs are a bellwether of what works. When readers convey in some way that my post has made them think, or that they agree—or disagree, that’s useful feedback about themes and topics I’m writing about.
Now, 257 posts later (258 counting this one), I can add three more ways that blogging has bettered me as a writer and a person.
7. My blog is a way to promote the work of other writers I admire. Re-blogs of others’ blog posts or links to authors’ writing (like Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew) can lead my readers to discovery of someone they might not have read before.
8. I can combine photos (such as this one of the wintry wind on the bay near my home) and other visuals with my writing.
9. Blogging allows me to experiment with different writing forms— interviews, book reviews, and poetry. I still struggle with the trial-and-error nature of any creative pursuit, including writing. But I know that risking “failure” helps me challenge the notion of perfection, strengthens me to rack up the hours of practice, and usually results in the thrill of “aha” moments.
That brings me to nine ways that blogging makes me, and my writing, better. Thanks, Elizabeth, for the boost to keep me at it throughout 2017.
Earlier this month I reviewed Spry Literary Magazine’s ABCs of Creative Nonfiction series. Now I’m sharing a thought-provoking post by writer and teacher Debbie Hagan about essay-writing. Hagan is also book reviews editor for Brevity Magazine, and she skillfully discussed a new essay anthology I might need to add to my library: I’ll Tell You Mine: Thirty Years of Essays from the Iowa Nonfiction Writing Program (University of Chicago Press, 2016) and how it motivated her to create a class for art students on revision and to think of writing as art. Whether you’re a writer, artist, or reader, I think you’ll find Hagan’s post interesting (just click on the link below).
via Today’s Lesson: Writing Is Art — BREVITY’s Nonfiction Blog
Last December, I posted an entry about the daily writing practice I learned from poet Kim Stafford. As a prose writer, I tend to think in sentences and paragraphs. I find that Kim’s instructions—“write something like a poem… or notes toward a poem… or sets of lines that never become a poem”—are especially freeing for me. Most of the time this practice results in words and sets of lines that never become a poem, or an essay, or anything more than, as Kim describes, “the open sesame” move that helps me get my pen (or keyboard) moving.
There are plenty of days I note frustrations or questions like these that I scribbled one morning:
I want to write about passion for work, even when my own passion for writing feels like watered-down coffee, like a cocktail that is mostly melted ice, like the rock-hard heel of bread. How can I cherish those times, as well as the days the yeast bubbles, the steam rises?
Those notes (and metaphors) then led to more words (and more mixed metaphors) that only resemble a poem to the extent that I wrote them in sets of lines:
Some days, the flowers
droop, the cake
falls flat, the ink
clings inside the cartridge
instead of flowing onto
the page. And still…
But, I like where I ended up—still writing.
A couple of times on this blog, I’ve posted about new learning that changed my behavior (I’m Not a Birthright Blogger and Convinced to Tweet). While those titles were written tongue-in-cheek, both essays touched on one of the beliefs in Quakerism that I value most—being “convinced.”
Quakers view convincement as a transformation that goes much deeper than intellectual consent. For me, it’s the result of a clear sense of being led by the Divine to an action or a new understanding. Even in my light-hearted posts about being convinced to blog and tweet, there was an element of my coming to new awareness. I was “convinced” that these and other technological tools can be used well to nurture and connect with the next generation of Quakers (as well as some of the old-timers).
Quakers also use the term convincement to identify Friends who weren’t born into the Society of Friends (“birthright Friends”) but who came to this religious community later, typically in adulthood. Walter Hjelt Sullivan describes his experience of being convinced in a recent QuakerYouTube video.
My journey to become a Convinced Friend is similar to Walter’s. After attending University Friends Meeting (Seattle, WA) for a few years, I recognized that, to paraphrase Walter, the Quaker Way had come into my heart and nested there. While I had studied Quakerism and attended education sessions, I came to the conviction that I was a Quaker through the experience of worship, decision-making, and service. It was at that point that I requested membership in the Religious Society of Friends, believing that I was merely acknowledging a religious identity that already existed for me.
I agree with Walter that the Quaker Way isn’t the only way. For over thirty years, though, Quakerism has been the spiritual home, or nest, that sustains and nurtures the presence of God in my life. It’s the community that keeps me grounded in the Presence within as well as outside of me that guides my actions. I’m grateful to have been convinced. And as Walter describes, to keep being convinced through new leadings and “a deeper connection to Spirit.”