When I started this blog 4 years ago, I had no idea where it would lead. My original intentions were to post several times a week. I thought that would be easy as pie. Boy, was I clueless. Obviously, I haven’t even come close to that. I’ve considered pulling the plug on this blog so many times, it would make your head spin. But I don’t want to give up. I don’t want to be a quitter. I’ve got an ache in my heart to do this. To write.
If I’ve learned anything this past 4 years, it’s that blogging and perfectionism aren’t a good match. And I laugh while saying that because I’m very aware that my blog and my writing are FAR from perfect. Not even close. My grammar and punctuation leave a lot to be desired. My sentence structure stinks. I often write like I talk (which probably isn’t a good thing, being a true southern girl with a pretty heavy southern drawl and a strong southern dialogue). In the end, I love to write, but I’m far from being a writer.
I see things in this big, beautiful and crazy world of ours that inspire me to write. But when I sit down at the computer to begin, the writer’s block hits. I’m left blankly staring at my computer screen without one single thought coming. I can easily go weeks without writing. Yet, I still feel those thoughts all jumbled up inside my brain and I fight to get them out, but it’s as if they’ve been locked away and someone’s thrown away the key. It’s been a stressful year that’s involved loss and bereavement in this ole girl’s heart. I’ve learned that heavy-duty grief will downright crush inspiration. Concentration comes hard when you’re missing and grieving someone and you can’t get your mind off the source of that grief.
Yes, writing can often be frustrating. Sometimes I know exactly what I want to write about but fear keeps me from writing. There’s fear I will offend someone, fear I won’t express myself adequately, fear I’ll leave myself open to attack, fear that what I write won’t be good enough, that it won’t be perfect. I so need to get over that.
I remember a time when I was a senior in high school and I turned in a required essay for my English class. I can’t even tell you what the topic was or what I wrote about, but I do remember how hard I struggled to produce something worthwhile. I wasn’t real pleased with the finished product but I had given it my best shot. I also remember the poor grade I received on that essay and remember the teacher calling me up to her desk, looking me dead in the eye and point-blank telling me that my writing “was boring.” That I could do better. I remember fighting back the hot tears stinging my eyes as I made my way back to my desk with that essay marked full of red ink and trying to swallow down that baseball-sized lump in my throat. And I remember later that night, getting very angry at the statement she had made to me. I remember thinking if only she knew how hard I had tried. And how I desperately wanted to do better. I wonder if perhaps I was so upset because this was a teacher that I genuinely liked and respected and I felt somehow I had disappointed not only her, but myself too. Looking back, I now believe it’s the best thing she did for me. I was determined to show her I could do better and so I signed up for a community education creative writing class. I was 17 and the youngest in the class. Most of the others were middle-aged and most had writing experience. A few I think were even published. The first night of class, we had to tell why we were taking the course. I was honest and said my English teacher had told me I was a boring writer and I wanted to change that. I laugh now when I think about the gasps I heard throughout the room that night and seeing all the mouths that were agape. I was definitely a fish out of water throughout that semester but I persevered and stuck with it and afterwards I felt better about my writing. I think it was in that class that I realized how fun writing is, how much I loved it, and how rewarding it could be. It’s amazing what a little encouragement can do from a group of complete but compassionate strangers.
Recently, I decided to read one of my favorite blogs — A Holy Experience by Ann Voskamp (who is fast and furiously becoming one of my most favorite authors) from beginning to end. I started reading from the time she started blogging I believe in 2004, and plan to read to the most current post. It’s taking some time (I’m just now starting 2007) but I’ve learned so much. Besides admiring Ann’s humble spirit, her strong faith, and that fun-loving farm family of hers, I’ve enjoyed seeing the change in her writing style over the years. I’ve learned of her struggles with perfectionism and her feelings of being left feeling vulnerable and her feelings of never being good enough. I share Ann’s feelings that blog stats don’t matter (they never have to me). And while I enjoy comments, I don’t stress too much over getting them or not getting them. Ann Voskamp doesn’t have a comment section on her blog and I’m beginning to think she may be on to something– that she’s doing it the right way. Yes, Ann Voskamp has taught me a lot with that gracious blog of hers.
A pattern I’ve noticed with successful bloggers is that they post frequently. I’ve learned you don’t have to write long detailed posts–something I really struggle with (as you can see by this post and most others I write). Just write. Even if it’s only a few sentences, some favorite quotes, relating a funny story that happened while at the grocery store, or a list of 5 of your favorite books. Just. Write. So that’s what I plan to do. It’s the first step I’m taking and my new motto…. JUST WRITE! It’s not going to be perfect, it’s not going to come easy, and it might even leave me feeling exhausted, bare and exposed, but it’s going to help me learn to become a better writer. And after all, that’s my goal. Yes, it’s going to be messy at times. I’m going to screw up grammar and punctuation, but I’m going to get better and I’m going to learn. I’m not going to improve my writing skills by sitting here and staring at a blank computer screen now, am I? It’s a start.