On Choosing the Best by Letting Go of Some Good

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Tomorrow is my first day back to teaching after my late summer/fall break.

I’m nervous.

After thinking about juggling teaching, writing, family, and critters, I’ve decided to cut back on blogging for a stretch.

I have the usual reasons which you might have, too, when too many things call out to you to be done:

I want to have enough left of me for the best stuff so I’m scaling back on some of the great good stuff like blogging, getting creative with cooking dinners, and maybe even the joy of having folded laundry.

For the next few months, I’ll be posting only my words as a reader columnist for The News Tribune every six weeks unless time and space otherwise allows.

In the meantime, here are a few gratuitous kitten photos I hope will bring you a smile.

My ‘cat lady starter kit’ (so named by my most excellent sister-in-law) is definitely something ‘best.’

May you find the courage to let go of some good to have time for what’s best. 

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Ivan the Gorilla Was Right After All: How Success Can Sneak Up On You

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In looking back over the past year on my blog, I’ve noticed something that surprised me and made my writing heart happy.

I posted The One and Only Ivan and a Measure of Peace after reading a kid lit book based on his life. The One and Only Ivan is a fictional story about a gorilla based on a true story of an animal I saw as a child in the Tacoma B&I. Katherine Applegate’s story sunk deep into my heart, and I published my review feeling like it was one of my best. No one commented or seemed to notice.

I paused for a bit like I do when I get crickets and then kept writing.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Only-Ivan-Katherine-Applegate/dp/0061992259

It took me a while to notice, but over the last year and a half Ivan has gotten more hits than any other post. People have viewed it 151 times. Ivan has gotten more views than the nostalgic pictures of Auburn High before the wrecking balls came through this past summer in My Doomed High School (74).

It doesn’t always take this long for others to notice posts I’ve poured my heart into. The Triple Amputation School of Beauty got noticed around the world quite quickly but still does not have as many views as Ivan.

And, honestly, I have no idea why people have been drawn to my posts. The interest in Ivan may have nothing to do with how well I wrote it. Maybe clickers are drawn to the book by an interest Applegate or maybe they just love gorillas. But a little slice of joy lights up inside me whenever I notice that people are still looking at my words about a story that captured me.

In case you want the graphics, here’s the full review of 2014 including a map of the places in the world where people could be reading about a gorilla who once lived in Tacoma, a condemned high school, or a brave woman who lives life to the fullest.

Click here to see the complete report.

I wish you all found memories of your time in 2014 and the years that came before. This year I learned sometimes it takes a while for people to notice when you’ve done your best work.

Besides. Those stats reminded me that even if people never noticed and even if they were only looking for a book review, I would still be glad I wrote about the inestimable Ivan. May you all keep doing whatever it is that brings you slices of joy whether you get crickets or clicks.

Blogging Resolutions in February

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I’ve spoken to a lot of people lately about why I blog but it occurred to me that writing my purpose into my blog might be a good idea, too. So, in the spirit of my 30 day blog revision and a belated New Year effort, here I am  with a ‘purpose’ statement. I’m writing it in my most challenging non-fiction format: the interview. Of course, no one is interviewing me for this piece but me…

Why are you blogging, rather than keeping a personal journal?

First and foremost, I blog because I it brings me joy. I enjoy looking for stories from my week that might mean something to someone else and write them. I love that I can self publish those stories and people will resonate with my words or not. I get to move on to the next story regardless. I do a little inner dance knowing I have one week to come with an idea, write it up, fix it, polish it and then move on to the next. The whole process keeps me writing when things like finding someone to buy a story, looking up their guidelines, reading their back issues, submitting and then waiting half an eternity for them to reject me (or not even respond) 90 percent of the time keeps my fingers far away from the keyboard.

I have found that, just like playing my clarinet for an audience rather than to my office chair, I step up my game when I know someone else is listening. Improving my writing is my biggest reason to blog instead of filling up spiral notebooks and stacking them in my closet (which I also do).

Oh, and I get a motivational lift when people tell me they have read what I’ve written and that it mattered to them. So if you are one of those people, please keep telling me. Your words matter to me, too.

What topics do you think you’ll write about?

So far I’ve blogged about my everyday life. That’s involved mostly:

  • teaching English as a second language
  • creativity
  • spirituality
  • book reviews

I imagine writing much of the same this year but I may stretch myself or even create a recurring feature of some sort. I’m tossing around the idea of word origins or other linguistic topics. I’ve also considered making videos but considering is as far as I’ve made it with the idea of fussing with cameras and then seeing myself on the internet moving and breathing and making mistakes outside of spelling.

Who would you love to connect with via your blog?

With this blog, I would absolutely love to connect to people who find meaning in my stories, both the stories of my everyday and the fictional stories I write. In a revealing exercise, I went through my Facebook friends and picked out the people I write for. (For whom I write? My inner grammar teacher tells me that’s correct, but the normal person in me cannot use ‘whom.’ I’m sure that says something about how I want to write, too.)

I noticed as I did this that many people I am friends with on Facebook and in real life probably won’t connect with my writing. They are wonderful, caring people with different lives and interests. I’m sure they are okay with this, and so am I.

If you blog successfully throughout 2014, what would you hope to have accomplished?

Blogging successfully in 2014 looks like creating a space for me to connect deeply with many who need the words I have to give and loving what I’m doing. It might also involve connecting with more bloggers, creating groups that meet and work with one another, an actual editorial calendar with regular features and forming an online class. I’d like to do something with my fiction,too, but am not sure what this will look like. For now those stories are bouncing around the traditional publishing world.

Finally, to keep myself from getting overwhelmed at the idea of ‘blogging success’ I’ll end with a quote from Winston Churchill that my colleague recently put up on her wall:

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

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