And I wouldn’t care what anyone else thought of it

And so it is done. Though there were months during my blogging honeymoon that I posted 40-50 times in thirty days, this month, this November, has just about quenched my desire to EXPRESS MYSELF.

I know my youngest sister would find that hard to believe. Once Mary and Karen and I were driving along a dark road and I told them something I’d been thinking about for awhile. Karen asked if I just say everything that pops into my head, and I reassured her that I refrain from saying at least nine out of ten of the things that pop into my head.

I wondered today, as we did the usual Sunday things, what I would write on this the last day of the great NaBloPoMo (a day so significant that, yea, verily I say unto you, nearly 99.99% of all the earths’ inhabitants have never even dreamed of being aware of it).

What would you write if you only had one more month to live? And you can’t say “A letter to my family telling them how much I love them.” Pretend you’ve already done that. Or that your family, you know, knows that you love them, because you smell their panties to determine cleanliness WITH YOUR OWN NOSE.

And you can’t say “Instructions for my funeral,” because, get over it. Funerals are for the living, not the dead. I don’t know why people do that thing where they plan out their funerals. Does anyone really do that? A birthday party for six year-olds is about my limit planning-wise, so I’ll leave the funeral seating arrangements to the experts.

What would you write?

Your memoirs? Gothic poetry? That fiction story that’s been nagging at the corners of your mind for months? (years?) A rock opera? The great American novel? The great Madagascarian novel? A play? A screenplay? An inaugural speech for if you were elected president? I know, a BLOG POST. A postcard to your estranged mother in Australia?

A few things I’d like to write include:

* A romance novel that’s kind of a cross between Jane Eyre, Some Kind of Wonderful, and Suddenly You.*

* A hymn of praise/unworthiness. Take a classic measure/phrase pattern and preferably a tune that was once a Welsh drinking song, and write my own lyrics. Deep, forgiveness-inducing lyrics.

* Memoirs of that period in my life when I fell in love with completely the wrong person, about a year and a half before I fell in love again, this time with completely the right person.

* Some sort of motherhood handbook that tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Easy, because naturally there is only one right way to be a mother.

What would you write if you had only a month to live? (and you can’t say that you’d be too busy spending time with your family, telling them how much you love them. Let’s say if you have six months, okay? Surely in that much time you’d want to leave some sort of mark. What would it be?)

Jane

*I’m not recommending Suddenly You to the gentle readers out there. It’s a bit racy.

Not drinking enough, apparently

Today is the penultimate day of National Blog Posting Month, and it has been much more of an experience than I expected. An experience in the way that the week-long wilderness survival trip I went on as a senior in high school and the first few months after bringing a newborn home from the hospital and the fourth time I quit Mountain Dew were all experiences.

Posting every day for a month is demanding and specific enough that you start to hold your breath at the end, hoping you’ll make it to the edge of the pool before your arms give out. You think of all the other things you need to be checking off your To-Do list, and realize (half-guilty, half-relieved) that you can’t possibly deal with them until this thing is over.

Two quotes have been chasing each other like hamsters in my brain all month (yep, there’s a lot of space in there for hamster wheels and puppy dog tails). The first is so intoxicating, exhilarating, liberating, inspiring, and I have no idea what it really means (or, if, in fact, Ray Bradbury ever really said this):

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.

Why is this so appealing? Why does it make me want to run BARBARIC YAWPING to an Edenic spring, tearing off all my clothes as I go and cannon-balling into the water with a splash that ripples all the way to the shore?

The second quote, I am all too sure that I know exactly what it means, and what it means is that I will never be a genius (i.e. “one who creates”) so long as I am mired in the motherhood. (Handy, right, to blame all my un-genius-ness on the myriad mundane moorings of my morassifisic life?):

A genius is the man in whom you are least likely to find the power of attending to anything insipid or distasteful in itself. He breaks his engagements, leaves his letters unanswered, neglects his family duties incorrigibly, because he is powerless to turn his attention down and back from those more interesting trains of imagery with which his genius constantly occupies his mind.

Perhaps William James just wanted an excuse to give his wife for why he was always late for dinner.

And I am the wife. Feeling (not-guilty-but-defensive) if dinner is not on the table.

Jane

My Better(-Paid) Half

I’m often asked why I blog (WHY do you blog? Why do you blog? Why do you blog?). There are as many reasons to blog as there are people to blog. Basically, writing is good for you like exercise is good for you. It quickens the heart, focuses the mind, works the muscles, cleanses the system.

Blogging is the easiest and most easily rewarding way to write that I know of. But it can still be discouraging or upsetting or maddening. In the end, I blog (despite not turning blog-famous) because I have something to say.

And also, apparently, to communicate with my husband. Dick writes at IdRatherBeWriting.com, and today he’s got a post up about how living with a mommy blogger is great training for a corporate blogger. He totally misrepresents me in places, but I’m reminded that I fell in love with his thoughts and writing even before his hot body.

If you started reading Seagull Fountain after reading Dick, I only ask that you keep in mind that, while Dick’s college GPA was .02 higher than mine, I smoked him on the ACT, GRE, and dishwashing championships.

Why do YOU blog? (Or not?)

Jane

talk-to-me-tuesday_white

I’d gaze at my navel, but have you seen that thing?

{Back to HELP WANTED.}

A few weeks ago my aunt and uncle unsubscribed from my blog’s email updates. Which is like saying “I think you suck, and your writing does too.” Ouch. But it was fine, because I’m a grown-up. Though I may have yelled at Susan to JUST EAT YOUR DING-DANG MACARONI when she asked why I was hunched over my computer instead of coming to the table.

Self-worth comes from God, after all, not readers or comments.

But I did want to find out why they’d unsubscribed, so I’d know whether to ignore them at family reunions or to start dropping subtle hints about blogging being thicker than water.

That irresistible need to know warred with the ignorance imperative — the only thing worse than unsubscription would be for them to know that I knew about it. Or for them to feel bad that I felt like sticking my head in the oven when I found out. Still, I had to know why.

We don’t keep secrets very well in our family, so I’m not sure why I entrusted this delicate mission to my mom, beyond the fact that she could bring it up casually to my aunt. Just find out why, I said, but don’t let them know that I know. Of course it’s not a big deal, AT ALL, it’s just that I’ve been thinking about it anyway. Trying to figure out how much Spot Can Talk! and how much Equal Parenting: Neither Equal Nor Parenting and how much Molten Lava Cakes my blog should be.

People tell you to find a niche, a voice, a hook, a style, and to stick with it. This is harder than it sounds (at least it is for me — not the voice part, but the niche part). And whatever you write, the more some people like it, the more others won’t. In fact, if no one hates a post, you can probably guarantee that no one loves it either.

The great thing about blogging is that you can write whatever you want. Which is the terrible thing about blogging: you can write whatever you want. If I write a post called Awkward, Like Steve Carrell, Only Not As Funny, Carolina will say “Great post -– it’s like all my life issues intersected in your post!” and Aaron will complain that it’s “all over the place.”

Good writing is like porn. Hard to define, maybe, but you know it when you see it. And it’s like sex. You might be technically competent, or have all the working parts, but if there’s no chemistry, no catalyst to jumpstart a connection between you and your audience, you’re gonna stall.

When I asked my mom to reconnoiter the relatives for me, I was hoping she could get a feel for which sort of writing/blog would appeal to them. Not that I would ever cater to such disloyalty, but in the name of market research, I explained my Unified Theory of the Personal Blog. Which is basically that many good (mommy) blogs fall into one of four categories: Mundane Olympics, Nostalgic/Exotic, Unexpected/Humor, and Sweet Family. Which kind appeals to you?

Mundane Olympics

The original Mundane Olympics blog is Dooce. At the risk of turning into a Dooce-fan site, I am IN. AWE. Yes, I wish she wouldn’t dog on my church and use shocking! language. BUT. Anyone who can complain about a four-year old’s propensity to ask Why? without making me want to reach for a sharp implement for my own frontal lobe should just be enshrined already.

Nostalgic/Exotic

Here we have stories from places appealingly different from our own, like The Pioneer Woman‘s. Her photographs are beautiful, her recipes are mouth-watering, and her middle-child angst is endearing. But would she be taking over the world if she didn’t live on a real-life ranch in the middle of virile cowboys and wild mustangs? I wonder.

Unexpected/Humor

Two of my favorites are Bye Bye Pie and Memarie Lane, who recently warned that, as she gestates, her thoughts are turning mommy-ward. Most of her posts are wonderfully self-contained topical features and they’re often hysterical (and not in a uterus sort of way). June of Bye Bye Pie is not a mommy, except to her cats and dog, and I could read about her trips to the post office and never get bored. June usually makes the Mundane Olympics team too.

Sweet Family

Probably too many personal (mommy) blogs fall into this innocuous-sounding category. Still, blogs like Boo Mama and Big Mama are anything but blah. Instead, reading them is like curling up on the window seat with an L.M. Montgomery book and remembering that life is pretty darn good.

This was all more than Mom cared to know about the blogosphere. She nodded. Well, since we were on the phone, she made appropriate “uh-huh” noises whenever I paused for breath. So, basically, Mom, I said, find out if they’d rather I just wrote about family happenings and posted pretty pictures, or if they’re interested in book reviews and recipes and women’s issues. Please?

Mom, who had listened patiently to all my “it doesn’t matter” and “please interrogate them,” then told me that my aunt and uncle just changed email addresses. She read me their new one so I could check the feedburner email subscription list. And there, right near the top, was my aunt and uncle’s new email address.

Not that I cared, or anything.

BlogHop ’08. (No, Mom, I don’t have any friends in real life) (Happy now?)

A couple days ago, my only friend who lives near enough to swap babysitting with moved. We’d like to move too, but haven’t found the right house to buy.

I’ve lived in at least 23 different places, and I confess sometimes I ignore my neighbors, because, well, they probably won’t be my neighbors for long. Other times, though, friends are just there, ready to mock you when you fall off the treadmill or to bring chili when you’re afraid you’ll miscarry.

Blogging, for better or worse, fills a lot of that friendship need (except the babysitting). I joined the BlogHer Adnetwork because June said she’d gotten new readers through the headline circle thingie. I’ve gotten new readers, and new blogs to read, and, most important, new friends who sometimes I wonder if we were separated at birth, as Tara and I were.

Blogging’s also about writing, and I wonder how many bloggers hope to write something different or something more some day. Blogging’s great for developing writing habits and getting instant feedback, but is it the only thing you want to write?

I’m not exactly sure where BlogHer fits in there. Is it friendship or writing, or both? And how serious do you have to be about blogging to actually go to a conference about it? How serious about making friends and writing do you have to be to join a party about a conference that you’re not attending? I’m not sure, but I do know that whenever I meet someone (in real life or online) who speaks to me, I’m compensated, a million times over, for the worlds not conquered and the kids still whining.

Which is why I’m excited to join Pensieve’s BlogHop ’08. If we were getting together for real, I’d make these Molten Lava Cakes for you:

If you seemed approachable and chummy, I’d mention my weekly Things That Must Go post, and encourage you to go share your Things That Must Go because this weekend I’m giving away an LLBean Tote Bag. And if you were really sympatico, I’d probably confide that I recently wrote my first fiction post, called WonderWoman Meets Her Match.

And before the evening was well over, I’d be anxious to get home so I could check out your blog and see for myself, in pixels and in words, who you really are.

My first guest gig: Afraid to Call Yourself a Writer (Me Too)

So, I’ve gone over to the dark side of bloggy guest posting and such. After carnivals and a giveaway, it was only a matter of time.

Please, for the love of everything holy, go comment on my poor little offering. Thanks! I’ll even close comments here so we can pretend that I’m stopping hordes of you fine people from commenting here instead of there. I already know I have no influence on the children in my life. Let me retain SOME illusions, okay?

I’d offer exotic internet favors in return, but I’ve already pledged my soul to the devil for a DSLR camera via Twitter. Do you think the devil is on Twitter? I guess I hope not. Because I didn’t really mean it about my soul. Maybe a kidney?

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Awkward, like Steve Carrell, only not as funny

We went to the zoo today. My dad’s work was having their yearly ‘company picnic,’ complete with catered lunch and crafts for the kids. Dad dotes on his six grandkids. I know this is what grandparents are supposed to do, but he certainly didn’t dote on me (at least, not that I remember from my teen years). My sister was there too, quieter, sadder, and I don’t know when she’ll again enjoy a simple outing without thinking of how things were supposed to be.

At the lunch, we remarked on the nifty plastic tablecloths. They were fitted and had a tiny edging of elastic to kept them from shifting. My dad was so struck by them that I volunteered to go ask the friendly, middle-aged zoo host guy where they got them. He and his helper were very chatty. I said the tablecloths would be great for church activities, and then later in the conversation he asked what I thought of the whole event. I said that the only thing not perfect was that I wasn’t sure that the paints being used for the birdhouse craft would come out of my childrens’ clothes. And he said, “Well, that would be a great topic for a Relief Society night.”

This caught me off guard and I didn’t respond right away. He said, “You know, getting paint out of clothes.” Still a confused look on my face, so he rushed to apologize: “Oh, when you said that about church activities, but, I’m sorry . . . ,” and of course I said, “Oh no, that’s fine, you’re right, it would be a great topic for Relief Society.” (Although it wouldn’t. Who wants to learn about laundry techniques on the rare night out with the church-girls?)

The weird thing is that I’m sure at some point in my life I wouldn’t have been at all surprised by his casual reference to the church I belong to. And at some other point in my life I would have been offended on behalf of every non-Mormon that someone would assume from a simple “church activities” that I was Mormon and not Baptist or Catholic. I’m pretty sure they have activities too. Not to mention his assuming that everyone knows that “Relief Society,” in Mormon terms, refers to the entire women’s group, and not some committee to send aid to lepers in the leper colony (although Relief Society women have been known to knit those funny bandages).

Now I’m at a point in my life where it was just awkward, and I felt bad for him putting me on the spot and for me putting him on the spot. Of course, it was even more awkward when, after he had taken pains to speak to the craft women and to assure me that the birdhouse paint was water-soluble, I spilled an entire coke all over the nifty plastic tablecloth and then had to stand around apologizing and feeling stupid while he cleaned up after me.

Not my finest moment.

Also at the lunch, a woman came over to Dick and me. I did not recognize her at first, though she looks much more similar to her pre-children college self than I do. In other words, she looks great. Turns out that the three of us were in Writing Fellows together, which was the class/club/ finally-I-know-who-I-am-group where Dick and I met at BYU. She is married to my dad’s, well, not boss exactly, but very-respected colleague of some sort. We asked some personal (awkward) questions in an attempt to catch up. Yes, those four kids are hers. No, the older two (including a 14 year-old) are from her husband’s first marriage. Etc.

Dick and I talked too much, in our excitement at seeing her and through her, re-connecting with our idealistic, impressionable selves. I often feel later that I have monopolized a conversation, talking too much about myself, my interests and I never know if it’s because I am a really insufferable person (probably) or if the people I tend to be friends with are just really good at asking questions and seeming to be interested in me.

We asked her if she was writing. And it was as if we had asked if she were curing cancer yet. She was bashful, a bit apologetic, wistful. (I guess if you felt you should be curing cancer you’d be REALLY apologetic). I stumbled to say, “Of course, I know with kids and all, it’s almost impossible to do anything else.”

So, no writing, except for some family history things, stories about her ancestors, that sort of thing. Which, of course, is “writing,” though it was obvious that she didn’t consider it to be the kind of thing that we were talking about. Even after we told her we mostly blog, and everyone knows that isn’t a very respectable form of writing. And Dick is a technical writer, which everyone knows is selling out.

I wondered how I would have felt two years ago or a week ago when I felt like never writing another post, if someone had asked me, “Are you writing?”

Quite likely I would have screamed, “Are you KIDDING me? When should I be writing? Between the mopping of the syrup and the listening to the tantrums? Or the policing of the snack cupboard and the feeling guilty for pulling hair? Or the listening to the whining and the smelling stinky panties? I haven’t even had my Mountain Dew yet, and you think I SHOULD BE WRITING?”

I wanted to apologize, and yet, how could I? I’d apologize for the fact that her kids are taking up so much of her time, only she looks like she’s enjoying it, and her kids look really happy too.

The worst part is that Dick and I actually had cards to give her. I felt like a realtor, or a Mary Kay consultant. At least my cards were free at Vista Print and I only got them for that blogging conference I went to a few weeks ago. And they don’t have my picture on them.

Still, it was awkward, especially since she probably saw the thing later with the spilled coke all over the nifty plastic tablecloths.

The good thing is that, even though I have now stayed up another hour and a half to write this, and I’ll be paying for it tomorrow, I feel so much lighter, so much freer. Like I’ve apologized for real now, in writing, for all the awkward things that happened today. And that, Dear Reader, is why I write.


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If you haven’t entered the Luvs/Anita Renfroe giveaway yet, the deadline is today at 10 pm. (Well, the deadline is that whether you have or haven’t). Tell me your Things That Must Go! Besides awkwardness.