Welcome to Post 104.
I know, doesn’t jive with the title, does it? Well, take away an introductory post, a look-back-post at Post 50, and a couple more, and I figure I’ve now posted about 100 substantive posts, be they essays, poems, or (super) short stories. Along the way, I always intended to look back after about 100 posts and take stock. And here we are.
Last August, I started this blog, with the idea to see if I could jump start some creative writing. In that regard, I think it’s been a success. The latter fifty took longer than the first fifty, given new responsibilities at work, travels, and finding new territory to mine. Still, 100 posts in eight months ain’t bad. I’m giving myself a pat on the back for that one.
In the beginning, I envisioned a more academic blog, covering literature, technology, and maybe even fashion. Hey, my own TED Talk blog! Alas, the best laid plans of mice and men rarely produce the blog they intended. Pretty quickly it became apparent to me that, in-between a job, a husband, and just life, I lacked the time, energy, and, most importantly, talent to consume and comment on enough cultural things to produce any semblance of the blog I intended. Moreover, I soon learned that mining one’s own life for topics is pretty fun. It’s a challenge to not only articulate your past in a coherent way but also to universalize it where it may have meaning for others. Absent the latter, you end up with a therapy blog that no one cares about. I hope I’ve avoided that.
The most important lesson I’ve learned after 100 posts is this: writing is difficult. Simple, huh? It’s one thing to think you can do it, to understand subject/verb agreement, and to string a few sentences together. It’s another to craft a piece in such a way as to be clear, coherent, substantive, and entertaining — the latter being perhaps the most important. Sure, you think that embarrassing moment in junior high is entertaining, but try writing about it. Suddenly, it’s not so easy.
Hand in hand with “writing is difficult,” I’ve humbly learned my limits. Under the time constraints I enforced on myself, I can occasionally produce a piece on par with a decent high school essay. Occasionally. Often, they just don’t work, and more often than that I’m not creative enough to really produce something (fairly) unique and attention-catching. Then again, even the masters didn’t write masterpieces in an hour, my typical time. My hour-long limit was realistic for my goal of writing something; it wasn’t realistic for necessarily writing well.
That said, looking back on 100 posts, a few personal essays stand out to me as those that, despite the time limitation, stand strongly on their own: “On My Grandfather’s Ghosts,” “On the Danger of Terrariums,” “On What’s Unsaid,” “On Fading Music,” “On the Boy With Three Donkeys,” “On Belonging,” “On an Audience of Sandwiches,” “On the Ineffable Delicacy of Souls,” and “On a Driveway Moment.” Most of those are fairly personal but pretty effectively universalize the point. None are perfect, and all could use editing and further reflection, but I’d put those forward as solid, good work.
The most surprising turn of the blog, for me, was my strong desire to write poetry and a little fiction. As far as the non-poetic, the Axton Village stories were all fun to write, and I enjoyed writing them just to have fun. On the more serious side, “On a Lost Son” and “On an Annual Goodbye” were effective, again remembering they were written in a very short time. I would enjoy taking them, breaking them down, re-writing them, and giving them added depth, texture. The stories are straightforward, but I enjoyed exploring the soul twisting impact of pain. The isolation and the lives set in amber. It’s a phenomenon that’s not rare, even in my own extended family. “On a Letter To Your Pain” explores that a bit. The piece isn’t fiction, but it’s not personal either. As far as the rhythm of my pieces, that one is probably my favorite.
As far as the poetry goes, I learned a word as I wrote the first 100 posts: poetaster. A poetaster is a person that writes bad poetry, and that’s me! As much as I learned that writing short essays or commentaries is difficult, writing serious poetry is even more difficult. Rhyme, rhythm, word choice, syntax, structure, themes, symbolism, realism — you name it, there are dozens of ideas, concepts, and choices to consider in writing what is, honestly, a few words. Most of the poems I wrote had, maybe, one interesting idea in them, or perhaps I was just trying to play around with a rhyme scheme. Only a few succeeded. “On an Anticipated Son” may be a hair too sweet, but it remains one of the entries that speaks to me. I can’t say it accurately reflects my inner life as we wait for our adoption to materialize, but it does reflect broad themes in a meaningful, beautiful way. I’m proud of it. Almost infinitely less sweet, “On Knotted Knives of Lust and Lies” is probably the most sophisticated, most artistic blog post I’ve written to date. Of the first 100 posts, I’d enter that in a writing competition. Stripped of almost all pretense, with a strict poetic meter, that poem probably comes closest to achieving some semblance of authenticity. Along those lines, I’d give consolation prizes to “On a Small River Town” and “On My Orderly Soul.”
So, from here? Well, I’m going to keep writing, but I’m going to free myself, to the extent I can, from the expectation to post as frequently. I want to write as much, but I want to give myself permission to take longer to write something, to post only those things that I am truly proud of (or at least pretty proud of). To take my time. To write something and then sleep on it. I think I’ve proven to myself that I can do it, now I want to see if I can do it well.