Just Another Brick in the Wall

I hit the wall last week -actually I hit more than one and I can still feel the bruises.

First I hit a blogging wall. I wasn’t adhering to my own self-imposed schedule, thus frustrating me beyond belief. The solution seemed simple: revise the schedule. Turns out it wasn’t simple at all. I started wondering what my long term goals are for my blog and why I blog. It was like reevaluating my life i.e. where am I? Where am I going? How do I get there? It became too much. At this point I am still contemplating a possible schedule and my blogging goals.

Next I hit a writing wall. I’m working on a story about how my mother takes care of my grandmother who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. This is my favorite type of writing. It’s therapeutic. Writing about my family and personal struggles and difficulties helps me to gain a better perspective and find hope for seemingly hopeless situations. However, it is terribly hard to be hopeful when discussing the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. But more frustrating to me was not finding the ‘spark’ that ignites the piece and makes it glow with that special something that may or may not impress the publishers. (Several ‘sparkly’ pieces have not impressed anyone but me.) At this point I have a rough draft, but it needs a ton of polishing. Maybe it’s sparking, but not enough to satisfy me -yet. Wish me luck!

As far as running goes, I feel like I’ve been running against a huge wall of heat all week. Even at 5:30 AM it’s hot and humid. By the time I’ve finished my 7-8 miles, I’m exhausted. Perhaps this is why my mind is having trouble thinking creatively -it’s too tired! A neighbor asked me if I couldn’t just shorten my runs. I could. There’s no law against it, but it’s not going to happen. When I get into a routine, I rarely break it, which is why coming up with a workable blogging schedule is so important to me.

Getting up at 5AM is a struggle for me, even though there is nothing like running as the sun rises. Is there any more beautiful sight? And everyday there is something just a little bit different. No two sunrises are ever the same. It’s incredibly inspiring to witness all that God has created. Running gives me the opportunity to pause and reflect on the simple beauties of nature. Thank you, God!


A Link Back

It’s always great to find new blogs and meet new bloggers. When you visit a blog for the first time, do you read the most recent post and scroll back a few posts to get a feel for the blog like I do? Even though I’d love to read everyone’s blog from the very beginning, there just isn’t enough time and that’s why I think a new post that links to an old post is a good idea for bloggers. And I’m not just saying this because I’m out of town, without reliable internet access and it’s very convenient for me to write a new post that simply directs you to an old post! Well, maybe I am, but I still think it’s a good idea and I hope some of you decide to share something from your blog archives!

If you’ve ever wondered about where the title ‘Pocketful of Playdough’ came from, check out How My Blog Is Like A Pocketful of Playdough.

This Little Piggy

My Number 1 tip to new bloggers is to take part in blogfests and blog challenges. They provide a wonderful opportunity to stretch writing muscles, find inspiration, meet new bloggers, gain new readers, and grow as a blogger.

I mention this because today’s scheduled topic is blogging and my writer’s-group blog, 1st Writes, is now offering our own weekly challenge! (I’ll call it 1st Challenge for now.) Every Monday a new photograph is posted and readers are encouraged to share their response (if they are inspired) in a post on their blog. Everyone is welcome to participate. All we ask is that you leave a link to your response on the 1st Challenge post.

Do you know of a blog or blogger that keeps track of upcoming blogfests and/or challenges? If so, please share in the comments! Having a one-stop blogshop for blogfests and/or challenges would be very handy!

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Speaking of  1st Challenge, here is my response to this week’s photo!

 

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What an interesting little creature!

He’s short and pink just like me!

I wonder if he smells like me too? I move in as close as I can to the wires separating us.

He must have the same idea because he’s also right up against the fence.

We’re nose to nose now. He smells a lot different. I’m not sure I like it.

As I contemplate his smell, shifting and sorting the different scents, he suddenly sticks his tongue out and licks my snout!

What a daring little human!

I’m not sure how to deal with this. Is it rude if I don’t lick him back?

Playdough is versatile!

Kelli at The Unexpected Education, Murees at Daily Drama of an Aspiring Writer, and Lucy at Lucy Adams have all awarded me:

 

VersatileBloggerAward-Tekkaus[1]

Thank you Kelli, Murees and Lucy!

As a recipient of this award, the rules suggest I thank the person (in this case persons) who gave me the award and link back to them in my post, as well as do the following:

  • Tell us seven things about yourself
  • Award fifteen recently discovered new bloggers
  • Contact these bloggers and let them know they’ve received an award

7 Things you might not have known about me:

  1. I’m a vegetarian.
  2. I’m raising my daughter as a vegetarian.
  3. I have two cocker spaniels (Dowo, 13, all black) and (Gus, 8, all white with brown freckles).
  4. The Wizard of Oz scared me as a child. It was a toss up as to which was more terrifying -a tornado or the wicked witch.
  5. So my parents told me tornados were impossible in WV; consequently, I believed tornadoes were a meteorological impossibility in WV until I was in my twenties.
  6. My least favorite chore is ironing! I absolutely hate it!
  7. I get car sick even on short trips, like to the grocery store!

And The Award Goes To…

It’s been several weeks, maybe even months, since I was notified by these generous and fabulous bloggers that I’d received this award and in that time I have barely had time to visit my regular blogs let alone find 15 new ones! So I’m breaking the rules and passing this award along to blogs I’ve been visiting regularly. I’m just passing along the award, though, and not the obligation. Should you wish to pass the award along, please do so with whatever rules you want or with no rules at all!

The Write Soil – For versatility in creativity.

No Clever Craft – For versatility in crafting

Tossing It Out – For versatility in content.

Mercy’s World – For versatility in menu options.

 

 

Slow Down Woodward and Blogstein!

Wow!  Those blogs!  That sounds a lot like reporting. Slow down, Woodward and Blogstein!  Let the big boys at CNN handle this with their trademark ‘I guess we’ll never know!’ (John Stewart, The Daily Show June 1, 2011)

This line from The Daily Show I saw last week reminded me of this post from May 21 – Writing and Blogging: Equal Standards?

I received a lot of thoughtful comments and decided to do a follow-up on the topic.

The gist of the segment from The Daily Show was that sometimes bloggers are doing better reporting than official reporters for news networks like CNN. I’m not political and have a bad habit of sticking my head in the sand when it comes to what’s going on in the world, so I don’t watch the news a lot and I don’t follow any political or newsy blogs.  Therefore I can’t speak to the veracity of Stewart’s claims, but I appreciate how he illustrates with parody and humor that blogging is a genuine and credible form of high-quality writing.

Both Alana and ali, from Ali Cross, believe that perceptions on blogging have changed for the better since 2006 and that in general, blogging is becoming an accepted and valued form of writing. As evidenced by how bloggers are now considered ‘experts’ in their field and are frequently called into newsrooms to give their opinions, which Alana pointed out.

From real newsrooms to fake newsrooms, blogging is gaining validity. John Stewart’s goof on ‘Woodward and Bernstein’ gives acceptability and legitimacy to bloggers by comparing them to such respected writers and journalists.

Another celebrity who recognizes the voice bloggers have is Gordon Ramsay. In one of his Kitchen Nightmare episodes, a restaurant reviewer/blogger comes in for dinner and he treats her as if she was from The New York Times. He knew her opinion mattered and that a lot of people would read her recommendation, either on her blog or on Twitter –since she was tweeting each course of the meal.

It seems the media is embracing blogging as a legitimate form of writing. What about the official ‘writer’s club’ that Cark refers to in Writing Tools? Can they be far behind?

Even if blogging is accepted as a legitimate form of writing, it isn’t equal in standards to other forms of writing. As i.ikeda of No Clever Craft pointed out, “a book manuscript should have even higher standards.” A lot more editing is going into a book, an article, a short story, or a poem to submit for publication than blog posts. It’s logical and it’s also why blogging is good writing practice.

Alana from Writercize agrees that typically “editing is marginal” on a blog and therefore the writing could be considered of a lower quality; however, she argues, “sometimes raw is more real.” And that’s what makes blogging an intriguing and unique form of writing.

I think blogging has evolved into a viable, respected writing form. I base this on comments I have heard at writers’ conferences and on the number of published authors who also have blogs (Pam @ Encouragement for Christian Writers).

Pam, as always, is hopeful and encouraging: “I think blogging has taken major strides in the eyes of writers and publishers alike.”

In the end though, as Dawn from The Write Soil points out, we determine the standards for our blog, just as we determine the standards for all our writing. It’s entirely up to us to write with skill and style. I can only promise to do my best.

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If you put the same amount of time editing your blog posts as you do editing your stories, articles, devotions etc. for publication, how often would you post?

Writing and Blogging: Equal Standards?

My writing group, First Writes, has fluctuated in numbers since we first formed in September of 2009. We’ve had as many as ten and as few as three at our meetings. Other obligations like Bible studies and choir sometimes take precedence. One of the original members, Ed, is a retired math teacher who enjoys writing essays about God and faith. He also enjoys working with the youth of our church and takes breaks from First Writes to minister to them.

 

We miss Ed when he’s not there. His insights on writing are unique and very well thought out. He’s a very precise person and looks at a manuscript like he looks at a geometry equation, examining all the angles. His fresh, detailed perspective is greatly missed by us all.

 

Before Ed took a break from First Writes the first time, he surprised us all with a wonderful gift – Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies For Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark (2006).

 

After a funny and eloquent speech that I wish we had in writing, Ed presented each member with a copy. Inside the book, he included the following sentence typed on a strip of white paper: May God’s love for us, and the love He wants us to give to others, be our inspiration; our power; and our greatest writing tool.

 

I was touched by his gift and his words. Both have been beneficial to my writing practice. Tonight as I was reading, I came across a chapter that caught my attention because the author seems to take a negative view on blogging as a form of writing.

 

In Writing Tools, under Useful Habits, Tool 41 is Turn procrastination into rehearsal. In this chapter, Clark explores the idea of changing how writers view procrastination: it doesn’t have to be a bad thing, according to Clark. He renames it rehearsal because procrastination gives writers the time to map out stories or other writing ideas in their head.

 

In other words, when I’m ‘procrastinating’ by doing the dishes or vacuuming, I’m also rehearsing by doing story sketches and working out plot.  Running is not a form of procrastination for me, but it is a form of rehearsal.  When I’m running stories practically write themselves in my head. I only wish I could record my thoughts!

 

Then Clark suggests another way to beat procrastination: lower your standards. He quotes the poet William Stafford from Writing the Australian Crawl to demonstrate that high standards can inhibit writing. As further proof that low standards free a writer to write, he says,

Relaxed standards are persuading a generation of online writers that they are members in good standing of the Writing Club. It would not be hard to make a case that the standards of most bloggers are too low, that these digital innovators would make themselves more readable and persuasive by raising their standards –but only at the end of the process (Writing Tools, 202).

Writing Tools was published in 2006. Is Clarke’s view of blogging accurate for that year? Is his view applicable to today’s blogs?

 

In some cases, Clark is right. Not every blog is well-written, but a lot of them are, which makes me question whether the writing I do on my blog is of lower quality than what I write for publication.

 

I will admit that I do not edit my blog posts as much as I edit a manuscript I’m submitting for publication, but I maintain the same standards for blog posts that I do for any piece of writing. I put considerable thought and effort into each post while keeping in mind my audience and what I want to show and tell them. I would never say my blogging standards are low and from many of the blogs I regularly visit, I would have to say that all bloggers maintain high standards.

 

So what does Clark mean when he says, “but only at the end of the process”?

 

I see blogging as a ‘process’ of writing, a motivational tool that keeps me writing in spite of procrastination or writer’s block. But it doesn’t keep me writing because there are no standards or expectations as Clark suggests. In fact, blogging keeps me writing because my readers are expecting quality content. Is Clark proposing I just throw anything at my blog to see if it sticks and then when I’m finished blogging go back and try to clean it up and make a pretty picture?

 

Then again, when I’m finished with the Bible Bloggers series I plan to edit and revise each entry in the hopes of putting together a book. So in a way, I’m doing just as Clark says.

 

What do you think? Have opinions on blogging and bloggers changed since 2006? Or is blog writing stigmatized as beneath ‘regular’ writing? Now can Tweets be considered a form of low-standard writing?

Better Blogging

Per my schedule, Tuesday is about building a better blog and becoming a better blogger. I believe a good blogger visits other blogs, comments on other blogs and replies to comments on her blog. In which case, I’ve been a terrible blogger!

As hard as I tried, I couldn’t keep up with blogging while on vacation. Today, though, I’m determined to reply to the comments left on my blog, visit other blogs and leave comments.

Just because I wasn’t actively blogging doesn’t mean I wasn’t thinking about blogging. (Much to my hubby’s dismay!) One thing I realized was how lucky I am to have such faithful readers! You guys are awesome! The support you all showed for my running and writing is amazing! Please know that I appreciate every comment I received on last week’s posts, and I look forward to catching up with all of you today!

PS. While on vacation, I did start a Twitter account :) I have no idea what I’m doing with it, but I’ve got it. If you’ve got a Twitter account, would you please leave your user name so that I can follow you? (http://twitter.com/BriannaRenshaw)