The Stories I Tell ~ from The Word Cellar

Stories. Anecdotes. A free round of words for everyone!

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I love stories. I'm the one at social functions with a dozen new anecdotes. But I worry about hogging the conversation. Sometimes I tell myself that I'll be quiet and let others do the talking. But no matter how hard I try, my stories insist on bursting out! Here I can let my stories (the classics that I tell again and again, as well as new ones that unfold along the way) run free. I'm a professional writer and editor, and sole proprietor of The Word Cellar. I write for a variety of publications and clients on everything from green buildings and nuclear reactors to entrepreneurship and the arts. If you need words written, edited, or enlivened, I can help. Contact me.

1.18.2009

Pitfalls of the Blogging Writer


There are many things I love about being a writer. There are many things I love about blogging. But sometimes, being a writer who blogs can be a real drag. Actually, being a writer has a number of pitfalls. I live in constant fear that I'll mispronounce the word "nuclear." I worry about undetected grammatical errors infiltrating my daily speech. Writing a quick email is never quick or easy. Words are my trade. Unfortunately, those very same words are what we English speakers use to communicate. So every written or verbal interaction is like a landmine for writers. One false move or double negative and BOOM! Not good.

I love using this space to tell stories. I also love that it's a place to make you laugh, share truth, and generally form and kindle connections. That's what I love about writing in general. So when I'm quiet for a few days (or nearly two weeks), it's not because I'm not thinking of you, dear reader. It's because I feel constrained by my role as Writer, capital W. I want to stop by and say, Hey friends, how's it goin'? It's cold and snowy here. Oh, and I've been working on a cool project. What's new with you?

But that's not very story-ish, now is it? (Plus, dropping the letter "g" from the ends of words could get me in trouble with the word police.) Even writing this post feels like a cop-out. In the back of my mind, I'm always aware that what I write on this blog can be used to judge me. Of course, that's true for all of us who blog or share our words in a public way: There's always the risk of judgement when we put ourselves out there. But that's a whole different emotional animal that deserves its own series of posts.

I mean that I know that potential clients and editors can come here and judge the quality of my writing or the content of my posts. I have no statistical data on this, but I believe that what I write here may be a factor in whether or not someone hires me. So I feel an unspoken pressure to make sure it's always good.

But that kind of pressure in this kind of format leads to no writing. While I often use this medium to share stories, a blog is something different than a book of essays. Sometimes I wonder if I should make it more like an online publication and less like my little corner of the virtual town square. But I've developed real friendships and made good professional contacts as a result of blogging. Erasing the community quotient from this space doesn't feel right.

I'd like to know how those of you who make your living creatively feel about this topic. Do you feel like everything you write must be a reinforcement of your personal "brand"? (I know, I know: many of you hate that term.) Does this issue of quality control impact other artists as much as it does writers? What about those of you in other fields? How do you balance staying in touch and building community with the need to provide quality content on a regular basis? And while you're at it in the comments, How you doin'?

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5 Comments:

Blogger Wanda said...

I love this post. Authentic. Honest. An inner view.

And I am okay. Thanks for asking.

1/18/2009 1:09 PM  
Blogger GailNHB said...

Yes, I definitely feel very conscious of what I write in my blog, the comments I put on others' blogs, mistakes, spelling, grammar and the like. I wonder what others will think of me, my faith (which is my brand, I guess), and whether or not something I write on my blog causes someone to doubt me or question my sincerity... But even as I write this comment, I realize how silly it is to try to impress everyone in my writing. How much time I waste wondering if what I write causes someone else to blanche or flinch or judge me in a new way. Yes, I want to write well, but I want to live well and think well and be well.

I don't make money on my writing, so the pressure is a little different. But I do feel like I represent myself with my writing, especially on the blog. And I want to do that well... whatever "well" means in this context.

Good post, J. Thanks for pushing me to think more about this issue.

Also, I'm doin' fine. Learnin' more and more daily about who I am and what/who matters most to me. Tryin' to set time aside for solitude, prayer, reading, journaling, and getting to know myself better. It's not easy, but it's well worth all the effort.

1/21/2009 3:03 PM  
Blogger Karen Maezen Miller said...

I feel . . . the opposite. It's when I don't feel constrained or encumbered in my writing, when I don't contrive, that my writing, ALL of my writing, is improved. So the blog is my way to access that pure stream. By not trying to make my blog sound like something, or be like something, represent or sell something, it serves me as a writer best. And that is what serves my reader too. I don't believe anyone, or rather, hardly anyone, judges us as much as we judge ourselves. We stifle and suffocate ourselves. No reason to have a blog if it adds to that.

1/25/2009 1:04 AM  
Anonymous Nerdy Renegade said...

Several years ago I read a book titled "What You Think of Me is None of My Business". It helped to free me from dwelling on other people's opinions of me/my work. This isn't to say that I still don't go around seeking approval from others - that's an addiction I'll probably never totally overcome.

However, as I age and delve deeper into my soul repair work, I honestly have less and less energy to spend on other people's opinions. I trust the Universe will bring the people to my life - via my blog - who are meant to be there; and those who may not like what I write have millions of other blogs to which to turn; and those who do get to know me well enough will know that I'm not perfect - and - that sometimes now even revel in my messiness.

More often than not, I look back on what I've written (even an essay about MLK from 1981 that I just pulled out for last week's festivities and think "Damn, that's good! Did I write that?"

And, of course, I could sit here an type oodles about what a wonderful writer and communicator you are, dear Jen. It is your gift. But my hunch is that you'll have to keep wrestling with this one yourself. Just know you have my support - and my utmost vote of confidence! (Not that it matters, right????) :-)

As for how I'm doin'....

Hanging in there. Each day brings it's new challenges, memories, physical symptoms, grief reactions, etc. Today I have not cried at all. That's the first in a week. Slowly I will emerge, but I know it's going to take a long time.

1/28/2009 5:33 PM  
Blogger liz elayne said...

it is a balance indeed. i find myself feeling overall comfortable with the balance i have created between the freedom i feel writing whatever i am moved to write and knowing people will be reading it. it does depend on the day though. i have spent time really wrapped up in it...but i think we give people too much credit that they are judging us or thinking about us. we really each think about ourselves more than others...i don't mean in a selfish way, i just mean we are thinking about us, "what do i want for lunch? i have a headache. i need to run errands. i need to use the bathroom. i hope the mail comes and brings those new beads i ordered. i hope 'they' like me." and how the list goes on. even reading your blog post; i was thinking more about how i relate t it than if you added or did not add a "g." and i am an editor. but when i come here, i am reading the words of a kindred spirit, so the editor in me can relax...phew.

i am rambling...need some protein. :)

i really do appreciate you sharing these words today. it has me thinking but it also has given me more insight into you. and i honor that truth.

blessings...

2/02/2009 2:40 PM  

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