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I still write.

   I read a post by  Kathryn McCullough called Fear and Trembling in the New Year: a Writer’s Confession , and my wordy-self was left with no words and only one thought:

“Yup, what she said.”

She put into words an issue for writers I have yet to know how to discuss:

What do you do when something that normally comes naturally (writing for most of us in the Blog World) feels foreign and scary?

 The basic concern for many writers is having something new and of value to say. Just as a runner would train to beat his best time, a writer may have one success and feel the constant burden of needing to improve upon it. What if there is no better? What if your style or whit all but dries up and you are left tapping the keyboard with a blank brain? What then?

    I was fascinated with Kathy’s (Why thank you! I will make myself at home and call you Kathy) admission of her fear in this department because I find her blog fascinating. She is a globe-trotting, aid-working, knowledge-sharing powerhouse. Of course, in my response to her post I shed light on an interesting fact. I love following her blog because her life is so far from my own.  She and her partner manage to go places, snap memories in pictures,and capture the distinct feeling  of a wandering traveler in artwork and poetry. But even more than that, she can write a post about being at home in Kentucky that’ll darn near make you cry. It is part exotic and intoxicating, part down-home and organic. And regardless of  the parts, her writing is captivating.How could this woman, fibers composed of adventure, think she has nothing of interest to say? Which leads me to another thought: Why in the world would a person care to read about a scatter-brained, Tennessee mama with possibly undiagnosed behavioral disorders?

Kathy’s post made me reflect on why people choose to follow some blogs over others. Why do I religiously read some authors’ words, but feel much less passionately about the rest?  I have read blogs with cult followings and thought, “This isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”.  At the same time, I am constantly befuddled when I find a great blog that seems to get little reader reaction. The more I thought about her question, I realized it is all a matter of everyone else being wrong (I’ve been told this is a character flaw, but what do therapists know?).  I read blogs that seem honest and thoughtful, so I practice those values in my personal writing. I put a little extra effort into the words I choose. I tell a story or share a feeling just as closely as words can come to the real grit of life. Sometimes I say exactly the wrong thing and feel the bite of failing to really paint the picture I set out to. It is in those scattered posts that I look at Topic Bloggers with envy. Even though “scattered” seems to be the most honest way to portray myself, wouldn’t it be a little simpler to be The Girl Who Blogs About One Thing Always.

   I very quickly found myself in her very same funk. I do not offer a one-stop shop, a site specializing in one topic: Mommy Blog, Tech Blog, Photography Blog, Politics Blog, Knitting Blog, or Dress Your Dog In Sweaters Blog.

Would I be better off leaving out the other parts of me and carving my writing down to one central topic?  I realized to be fair, my answer to myself should probably go along the lines of what I shared with Kathy (Do you like to go by Kat? Should I have never stopped calling you Kathryn to begin with?).

    As her reader, I would be so, so disappointed if she excluded her artwork, her pictures, or even stories of her personal relationships because she decided her blog was centered solely on one thing, and the rest of her didn’t seem to fit that mold. In the same way, readers who choose to visit my site (God Bless your little souls!) like to know about my life in all its poop-covered glory. Far be it for me to decide what The People want to know. I write. You read or you don’t . But I still write.

          And finally, her most loaded question yet: What is your biggest fear as a writer?

  Doo-to-the- zyyy! Thankfully, I found that my answer was not so unlike many others.

My biggest fear is that  genius comes like a stroke of luck, but “lackluster” could last forever.

  I started this blog for the simple purpose of having a hobby. I found myself sitting still mentally, from a fast-paced interactive job to snail’s paced routine with a newborn. I desperately needed a creative outlet, and this blog was it. I could write, vent, and feel like I’d accomplished something. Never did I think of blogging as a career, a means to notoriety, or even cause for a friendly Facebook compliment. In those early months I was satisfied just to write because it felt good.

      I shocked and, frankly, disappointed myself  the first time I was featured on Freshly Pressed. This blog, meant to keep my brain functioning in a sea of diapers, suddenly got a lot more attention. Complimentary comments spread like wildfire. The number of readers went from a couple a day to over 3,000 on a single Friday. Without making the conscious decision to do so, I suddenly treated my writing differently. I had people to impress. I had readers to please. I had stats to maintain! THIS. IS. BUSINESS.

 {I would like to note that I didn’t even understand what stats were until I was Freshly Pressed. This is a testament to how quickly one’s priorities can go to shit.}

The very next week, I was Freshly Pressed again. Normally the first to critique myself, I had morphed into  Cocky-fied Tori 2.0, ready to brag about my semi-famous blog at every turn. My casual writing became more stressful as I felt the need to alter my words, choose the right tags and titles to keep the readers coming. My hobby started to feel like an impending heart attack. The joy was gone, and in its place was the daunting task of people pleasing.

Freshly Pressed circa 1892. Girlfriend is STILL talking about it.

    The next Friday I geared up for my third installment of Freshly Pressed. I had convinced myself by then that everyone loves me and surely WordPress would give The People what they want. Thank Jesus for my writing’s sake, I have yet to be Freshly Pressed again. The 3,000 readers a day dwindled. Comments in the hundreds withered down to a modest couple here and there. The immediate panic that I was so close to recognition and had suddenly failed gave way to a feeling of relief that I could get back to just writing.

    I watched an interview with Queen Oprah and Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling that brought this notion home. When asked if she was worried about ever regaining the same level of success after the Harry Potter series was done, she laughed and explained that she was not chasing the “phenomenon” of Harry Potter. She did not start writing with the intention of becoming wildly successful, so why would she change her mind now? In other words, it was fun while it lasted but…who cares?

By biggest goal as a writer had been contorted from “Write well, write often” to “WIN ALL THE BLOGGINGGGG!”.  So, with fresh beginnings in 2011, I am getting back to basics. My fear is no longer so outwardly seeking. Instead, my fear as a writer is of the more elementary type,  a worry that I will sometimes feel inadequate in writing in my own voice. I will sometimes feel like I have a lot to say and no clue as to how I can even begin to say it. The only way I know to remedy this type of funk is to write right through it. Still write. Still write. Still write.

{So, a big thanks to Kathryn for her super honest look at the insecurities of a writer. I am feeling so certain now that consolidating my blog to fit into the All-Cats-All-The-Time niche is way less important than simply writing!}

   

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28 thoughts on “I still write.

  1. Thanks for this. I’ve already abandoned 3 blogs because of internal pressure to follow a certain mold (what’s your “message”?). This one seems destined to fail for a different reason – that keep writing thing keeps mucking me up! It’s just so refreshing to hear someone say it’s ok to be different especially for those of us more constitutionally ‘scattered’.

  2. I love the honesty you bring! I haven’t been blogging very long but I can easily see how someone could get caught up in the pressure and people pleasing. If that happens then that person would become fake. Their unique voice makes them who they are. In my opinion, the key is to write what makes you happy both on and off your blog. If other people like it that’s a bonus.

  3. I read your blog because I find it funny and I’m glad to know that I’m not the only person with a no topic blog. Write what makes you happy and to heck with everyone else.

  4. Hi! I started reading your blog after the first Freshly Pressed go-round. (Congratulations, by the way!) Your blog appealed to me precisely because it WASN’T about one thing only, all the time, forever and ever amen! I love the diversity of your topics, and your voice shines through in all of your posts.

    I’ve never understood the blog reader who will only read about one specific topic (especially the ones that leave snarky comments if a blog author ever goes astray from the narrowly-defined subject matter… “I’m not here to read about x, you’ve just lost a subscriber”, etc.) The fact is, our lives cannot be boiled down into discrete ‘topic’ conglomerates, so why should our blogs have to be so confined?

    You do a GREAT job with your blog, and simply sticking to your own voice (no matter what the subject matter) will keep me reading. 🙂 Happy new year!

    1. I am the exact same way. I don’t have ONE interest that is so prominent that I need to read it about it all the time. I am a mom, but I don’t always want to read (or write) about diaper rash. I like eating, obviously, but I a recipe blog isn’t going to cut it for me. I’m glad there are so many “eclectic” bloggers out there!

  5. Love your idea! I recently started blogging because I, like you, am home with a child (10 months) and feel as though I’m losing my mind at times. Trying to figure out a niche isn’t for me. I want to write about what’s on my mind, and I LOVE that you do that, too! Cheers! 🙂

    1. Jesus H. Christ, Lady! Where has your blog been all my life? Isn’t the new mom part a bit of a doozy? I guess I thought going from working full time to just being at home would be a bit of a vacation (and it was… from bras and hairbrushes). But I felt like my brain was shutting down. Having a blog has been a godsend for the sanity!

  6. Gosh, Tori, thanks for this wonderful post! And thanks sooooooo much for addressing your own feelings/fears as a writer–not just as a reader. I can’t tell you how it helps to know other writers experience similar insecurities.

    But the fact of the matter is, what you should be really proud of, is that people (at least people like me) read your blog for the sheer quality of the writing. Do your realize what a big deal it is to be able to make Tennessee interesting! (I know this. I come from the state next door. There’s nothing inherently appealing about either place.)

    But the real deal is that then YOU must be interesting. And that’s a huge gift. Honest writing is not easy to come by, and your honesty as a writer is sooooooo appealing to other writers.

    How’s that for Ramblings! Oh, by the way, please call me Kathy–everyone who knows me does.

    1. Yay, Kathy! You have struck a nerve, missy. A lot of my friends read your post (most of whom have creative jobs/hobbies, not necessarily writing) and the overall response was “Exactly!”. Thanks for putting a topic out there that can be hard to discuss.
      P.S. Several of my proud, native-Tennessean friends would like to point out that Tennessee is interesting for the following reasons: (most of these probably apply to Kentucky, too!)
      1. Country music
      2. Pretty fields
      3. Friendly folks
      4. Cheese Grits.

  7. I have never really worried about my writing .. yeah my blog is a catch all of all the nonsense i do in life, and often has no rhyme or reason, but it is mine. I revisited a couple of older pieces of fiction i wrote a couple years ago. At the time i considered them my best work. I went back and rewrote them last night because I didn’t like how they flowed. As long as you keep writing your writing is always evolving.
    As far as the blog goes… I know nothing about Tennessee, i might possibly know something about undiagnosed behavioral issues… both of these things make your blog interesting to me and I’m sure I will be stopping back in from time to time. Keep true to yourself I think that’s what people really want to see.

    1. I initially didn’t worry about the writing. I think I got off track there for a little bit and got too concerned with overanalyzing my words. I am with you on the “constantly evolving” part. Just committing to write is an instant improvement to your craft!

  8. Great post. I feel your angst. But I think you underestimate yourself. I love your writing and will always come each time it’s posted in “Subscriptions NEW”, a wordpress element which I found just recently.

    1. Well, thank you. What I liked about Kathryn’s post was that it made me feel like if she has these insecurites (despite her blog being cool) then the feeling must be a little universal! Oh, and I just found the new subscription button thingy ma-jig. LOVE it! Saves me from checking a million-and-a-half e-mails to follow my favorite blogs!

  9. Love. This. I’m working on a response in my own blog, too. What I want to say wouldn’t fit in a comment field…well…I guess it would, but it wouldn’t be very fair, lol. (Maybe, like your “winning all blogging,” a comment like that would be “winning all commenting.”) Thanks for continuing the conversation–I am so thrilled that we’re talking about this right now.

    1. I actually thought about you when I first read Kathryn’s post! Since you are a Writing-Everyday-Warrior, I thought this topic would be an interesting one!
      P.S. You DO WIN ALL THE BLOGGINGGGGG!

  10. As always, your writing makes me laugh and think (which is what you were going for right??). I subscribed to your blog a few weeks ago and have enjoyed every post you put out there. I also appreciate that you have reciprocated by checking out my site as well. In fact, you changed your theme to the same as mine (which i can only assume was because you thought mine was uber-awesome!) Anyway, keep writing because I’ll keep reading and thanks for the support as well.

  11. If it’s your party, you can cry if you want to, and if it’s your blog, you can write whatever you want to write – that, to me, is the beauty of owning a blog. If I was a newspaper columnist, I may not be able to write a book review one day, and then rant about long check out lines the next day. It is pure freedom to let your creative license wander where it may.
    The harder thing is to trust it.
    Great to be discussing our deepest writing fears – not in a Schadenfreude way, but rather putting these dilemma’s out in the open. Airing them clears the path for writing. Just write, a wonderful mantra.

  12. Ms. Tori – I have been a faithful reader from damn near the beginning and I have ALWAYS loved your writing. You’re funny, witty and charming in a way that seems almost effortless. Since you and I rarely talk, it sort of seems like we’re having a conversation through your writing. I like hearing your stories and relating. I only have a few people here and there. But even if i were to get a million readers, I just like to write {most intermittently and not that well}. It’s nice to have an “outlet” when the life of being “mom” gets…routine. So keep writing and never worry about pleasing. 🙂

    1. Ew girl, you have been a huge support from the very beginning! I love your blog for the very same reasons, to hear about the life of a mom who is a whole lot more than just a mom. Also? Your writing is awesome 🙂

  13. It is easy to allow yourself to get caught up with the stats! Been there and done that…your post is terrific and your style is contagious.And again, thanks for adding me to your blogroll…Tom

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