Tag Archives: writing

Amazing the Room

My dad always said I keep my thoughts to myself unless I think I can amaze a room.

It’s too true.

I’ve written very little this month, and there are several reasons for this. I am hampered by several factors right now, and I’m starting to envy those who blog anonymously. I always want to write authentically, but right now there are only a few things I can discuss without the cloak of vagueness. So why blog at all? I can hear you asking.

I don’t know. I have missed blogging this month. The less I blog, the more pressure I feel to amaze a room with my next post. That’s probably the worst thing about not blogging for me. I get out of the practice of writing, and begin feeling pressure the more I don’t post to ONLY come back if I have something unique, something thought-provoking to say.

Clearly I don’t have anything like that to say today.

Mostly, I just miss everyone. I know I’ve been a terrible commenter, and for that I am sorry. Blogging was always more about community for me. The sense of going to a virtual coffee shop and discussing issues at a roundtable, with smart, opinionated people.

So, since I don’t have anything earth-shattering to say, I’ll ask you guys, oh wise ones, if you are still here at my virtual coffee table. Do YOU have problems when you stop blogging restarting again? Do you feel your next post has to be so amazing that you just give up and don’t post? Would you rather post anonymously?

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17 Comments

Filed under What Say You?, writing

The Issue of Class and Blogging

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I’ve been watching the first season of Revenge on NetFlix. Oh, is it fun! One of the reasons the show is so enjoyable is the schadenfreude involved. We watch (and cheer) as villains are taken down from their lofty stations in life. The villains are thinly disguised versions of Bernie Madoff and other Wall Street crook types. They are fabulously rich and they have committed all sorts of crimes, including murder, to get where they are – the top of the heap in the Hamptons.

But there are more subtle discussions around class on the show: mostly how difficult it is for anyone not born fabulously wealthy to make opportunities happen for themselves. How life is a struggle for most of us. For those cheek to jowl with such wealth, who have none for themselves? It’s difficult to compete.

Where I live is fairly similar to the Hamptons. Immensely wealthy out-of-towners come here to set up residence because of the natural beauty and proximity to Silicon Valley. Then there are the townies, like me, who were born here and love it. But we are faced with rising costs of living and often can’t compete with the newcomers financially.

What Does This Have To Do With Blogging?

It’s becoming more and more difficult to break into blogging as a career. Most bloggers don’t make a living off of their blogs. I would venture to say that most bloggers are hobbyists. There used to be a group of bloggers who were able to make a living off of banner ads and high levels of traffic, paid articles and even book deals. These bloggers established themselves with their unique voices and in many cases, their writing prowess.

I have read (and heard) that it is becoming increasingly difficult for these bloggers to make a living, due to a collapse in revenue for banner ads. Some welcome this development, saying it is high time for some bloggers to get a job, like everyone else. I am going to disagree.

Right now, the blogging “voice” of choice is visual and highly branded. Affiliate links, pay for pins, branded merchandise, TV shows even: these other sources of revenue are where the money is. What this means is those making money from blogging now are increasingly not sought out and valued for their writing. And, well, let’s be honest. A lot of the biggest bloggers doing well, who are at the top, are financially independent in some way: whether through their husband’s job or family money or whatever. They don’t NEED the money they make from blogging, but they can “afford” to spend a lot of time blogging and marketing themselves because they don’t have to go out and “get a job.”

I don’t see this is a positive development.

The Parallels To Journalism

I think I’ve mentioned before that my dad was a journalist in the golden age of journalism, when the most talented writers (regardless of how wealthy or not they were) could get well-paying jobs at magazines or newspapers. As the internet grew in popularity, circulations then salaries shrunk and as a result, since working/middle class journalists couldn’t afford to feed themselves and their families on a small salary, the prestigious papers (like The New York Times, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair) began to be more and more populated by younger writers who were Trust Fund Babies. They didn’t NEED to be paid a lot. I’m not saying they are not talented writers, either. They are. What I AM saying is the Voice of the publications became different, less diverse. When many/most of your writers don’t need to worry about everyday life and expenses, this becomes obvious in your publication’s tone.

As an example, just look at The New York Times’ coverage of infertility and adoption. Their articles almost exclusively portray those going through adoption/loss/infertility as wealthy, or they filter the story through the lens of a political position.

Where Does This Leave Us?

There were those who said blogging would become the “independent voices” lacking in journalism. I think that was true in the aughts: you had talented writers like Alexa Stevenson (Flotsam), Heather Spohr (The Spohrs are Multiplying), Monica Mingo (Rantings of a Creole Princess) and Eden Riley (Edenland) even properties like Television Without Pity, which launched the Fug Girls. These blogs and forums were staffed and voiced by new, fresh talents with diverse points of view.

Now, it seems there are a few posts that go viral because of controversy (like the whole “Hall Family” slutshaming debacle, ew) but not bloggers who emerge as writing talents. Please correct me if I’m wrong: I’d love to be tipped off to some excellent new bloggers writing about issues of interest.

I’m becoming disheartened that bloggers only get “PAID” when they have deep pockets, a business plan, a publicist and pretty pictures.

Do you agree? Or do you think the cream always rises to the top?

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Filed under Blogging, What Say You?, writing

Cheryl Strayed, Toughness and What is Feminism Now?

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Loribeth and Esperanza had both mentioned they enjoyed Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild, and as we’ve begun the painstaking preparation for a family camping trip next month (WHY so much gear? Why so expensive?) we visited an REI store where I finally bought the book.

Wild is about a young woman’s quest to redeem herself and take back her life after a difficult young adulthood filled with injustice and tragedy. Like Pam Houston before her (one of my favorite writers), Strayed takes to the outdoors in an effort to save herself, and undertakes hiking the Pacific Crest Trail solo. She quickly finds she is unprepared for the physical, gear and mental rigors this endeavor requires, but through sheer will and stubborness she always continues on, often by just counting her footfalls and channeling some strong inner resource that most of us would lack.

It is an inspiring and emotional book. A few things stood out to me:

1. Her forthright feminism, something that seems, unfortunately, out of style today. Can it be that the 90s (when the journey takes place) were something of a golden age of feminism?
2. An Adrienne Rich poem called “Power” which influences Cheryl’s quest. I’ll admit that I don’t know much about Rich or poetry (that’s my mom’s domain), but I did look up “Power”, which is ambiguous.

Living in the earth-deposits of our history

Today a backhoe divulged out of a crumbling flank of earth
one bottle amber perfect a hundred-year-old
cure for fever or melancholy a tonic
for living on this earth in the winters of this climate.

Today I was reading about Marie Curie:
she must have known she suffered from radiation sickness
her body bombarded for years by the element
she had purified
It seems she denied to the end
the source of the cataracts on her eyes
the cracked and suppurating skin of her finger-ends
till she could no longer hold a test-tube or a pencil

She died a famous woman denying
her wounds
denying
her wounds came from the same source as her power.

I think Rich is using Marie Curie as an example of a woman who was both the architect and the undoing of her own power. I think Rich is saying when women deny our power, it is both foolish and fatal.

While the 90s might have been a “golden age” of feminism, the beginning of the long climb to women becoming increasingly more educated and closing the gap of salary disparity, I’m not seeing very many hopeful signs today. The word feminist seems to be a dirty word, there seems to be all sorts of backlash and slut shaming and increasing “man-splaining” demeaning women who speak up and are thought to be prudish for not enjoying rape-y songs like “Blurred Lines.”

I really think this sentence from Mel’s post today about Robin Thicke could explain not just this song and its popularity but an overall public sentiment that is scaring me.

The New York Times review of the song wrote: ‘He has the look of a man finally coming into the privilege he was sure was his all along.'”

Have you ever read Sarah Bunting’s essay on what it is to be a feminist?

Chery Strayed and “Blurred Lines” and Adrienne Rich…all of this is what I think about when I worry about my daughter’s future and whether women will be better off in the future or worse off.

I worry it will be the later.

What do you think? Have we seen the end of the golden age of feminism? Or do you think things will get better? Or do you not think feminism is a good thing for women?

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Filed under Parenting After IF, What Say You?

Project Dreamcatcher: Goal Schedule

In which I admit I am struggling with my deadlines. No Ted Talk this week.

My iMac is being rebuilt at the Genius Bar. It’s taking longer than I expected. And I am struggling: I’ve been writing longhand in my pretty journal, but it’s not the way I prefer to write and it’s slowing me down. I haven’t had as much time to write as I thought I would.

I have admittedly put myself on a pretty tight schedule with tight deadlines (see below). And when I start to miss looming deadlines, my risk-aversive brain starts going into escape mode. What cupcakes can I make? Can I go to the gym instead? Or, shamefully, I discovered “Scandal” was streaming on NetFlix and decided to see what the fuss was all about one valuable free night. Four HOURS later!!
😦

This procrastination then leads to a self-perpetuating cycle of shame and guilt. And it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the hugeness of the goal I have set (30,000 perfect, ready to be published words! In 2 months! With no computer right now!)

Anyway. That’s where my head has been. I reached out a Project Dreamcatcher member and admitted all this. She told me that I tend to be negative toward myself (true) and while I am positive about what I get done and accomplish, I’m very hard on myself when I’m in a nebulous territory.

That’s when I realized that I have some tools for this.

First: the have dones. It helped me to look at what I have accomplished this week.

1. Diagnosed, backed up and saved data then dealt with and got cheapest fix possible for iMac. Brought iMac to Genius Bar. Followed up.
2. Received changes from one editor for 1st half of book. In process of reviewing changes.
3. Got final bids for transcription services. Got closer to making final decision.
4. Began and made it halfway through research and writing of newest profile.

I mean, this is not where I want to be, but it IS progress.

I also started imagining a stop sign when I started berating myself. Weirdly, this helped to stop those negative thoughts in their tracks.

Finally, I remembered that I could be honest here, with you guys, who have been so supportive of this project. And that would help me, too.

So. Want to see my aggressive timeline of deadlines? Of course you do 😉

Week of June 17th: send story to profile subject for approval. Finalize transcription service. Begin next profile. Review edits for completed chapters.

Week of June 24th: complete second profile, send to subject for approval. Get completed transcriptions, send to editors. Begin to investigate cost of cover art and PDF conversion of document to Kindle.

Week of July 1: complete third profile, send to subject for approval. Review changes to transcriptions. Choose vendors to get quotes from. Investigate legal fees/language and reprints of poems/song lyrics.

Week of July 8: complete 4th profile, send to subject for approval. Review proposals from vendors of art, PDF format. Investigate cost of hard cover books.

Week of July 15: vacation. But: write 5th profile, send to subject. Send approved profiles to editors.

Week of July 22: write 6th profile, send to subject. Finalize cover art and PDF vendor. Decide on hard cover book. Resolve legal issues.

Week of July 29: Write 6th profile, send to subject. Write introductory chapter.

Week of August 5: end of Project Dreamcatcher. Write 7th chapter, send to subject.

Rest of August:
Write 3 more profiles, get approvals.
Forward and Afterward
Get all edits done and back
Pick cover art
Get finalized document to Kindle vendor
Deal with Amazon

Not included in all of this of course? The many tweaks and changes that will occur as I proceed. This is a working document that will constantly be fluid.

Ugh. It’s a lot. But it’s worth it. I know it is.

I want to tell you all that I am here for you too: if you need advice, encouragement or just a little reassurance. I’m on Twitter at @2manyfish2fry and I’m Too Many Fish To Fry on Facebook or just email me at jessicacarroll@hotmail.com.

For everyone/anyone: do you find providing yourself with a timeline of deadlines is helpful to getting a goal accomplished? Or do you think it stresses you out too much?

And sorry for a lack of links and or typos: I’m currently using my phone to write blog posts. :/ I will update with links tomorrow!!

7 Comments

Filed under getting published, Project Dreamcatcher, writing

They Help Us To Do The Hard Things

Esperanza and I were talking today about our love of a good memoir. I’m taking a hiatus from reading so I can focus on writing, but as I write more profiles I’m thinking: what makes these stories so compelling to me? Because each person I profile I admire very much. And I’m wondering, why we are so drawn to certain stories?

Esperanza is reading two memoirs I recommended, by two bloggers actually. The first is “Heaven is Here” by Stephanie Nielson. I’ve talked about Stephanie’s blog before (NieNie Dialogues: I’m a fan) but the book is something else entirely. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, once upon a time there was a beautiful young mother of four children, married to a handsome loving husband. A Prince Charming if you will. She was, as Esperanza put it, “so, so happy”. She’d created art out of her own life on her blog, and the beauty she generated from her cooking, decorating and photography led to acclaim from Martha Stewart Magazine and Conde Nast. Stephanie’s blog was inspiring to many women who aspired to be the kind of devoted mother and wife she was. Stephanie attributed her approach to life to her deeply held Mormon beliefs. In 2008, she was truly living the dream. She had everything.

Which is why what happened next was so shocking. She and her husband were in a terrible plane crash. They survived but their friend who was also in the plane did not. Stephanie was burned over 80% on her body (including her beautiful face) and was in a coma for 2 months. The pain, the injuries, the horror: it’s almost unimaginable. Yet, she survived and thrived and eventually even gave birth to another baby, Charlotte. How? How could you recover, mentally and emotionally from such a thing? In the book Stephanie credits her Mormon faith with much of her recovery in every way, and also her love of her family.

In the book, she attempts to hike a local trail to mark her recovery and gain a victory of sorts, even though every movement hurts. On the trail a child she has never met cheers her on, relating the message: “You help me do the hard things.”

The other book I recommended is “Bloom” by Kelle Hampton. Kelle’s a fun-loving photographer and mother-of-one whose world is rocked when her second child, her daughter Nella, is unexpectedly born with Downs Syndrome. The book tells the story of what happend next with honesty and sincerity. Kelle relates the depression she felt immediately after Nella’s birth and then the fierce embrace of her daughter and the decision she made to celebrate the “small moments”, the triumphs and the beauty of Nella’s life. Kelle eventually creates her own pretty unique approach to parenting: one of optimism and expecting the best of a situation, not the worst. The gorgeous photos help to tell the story as well. Kelle’s gang of girlfriends (she calls them “the net”) are at the root of how Kelle adapts to her new reality. Their love and support and words of wisdom are really at the heart of what allows her to fully embrace her new role as Nella’s champion.

After discussing these books with Esperanza, we decided we seek these stories out because they are about women dealing with hard, hard things. Life is full of hardships. It just is. So we seek out words of wisdom from those we think perhaps have answers we don’t, the key, so to speak of what is resilience. And how we can develop it on our own.

What stories speak to you, and why? Do you seek out memoirs?

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Filed under Project Dreamcatcher, writing