Friday, October 9, 2015

My Memo, Manifesto, Mission Statement



Draw a crazy picture
Write a nutty poem, 
Sing a mumble-gumble song,
Whistle through your comb.
Do a loony-goony dance
'Cross the kitchen floor,
Put something silly in the world
That ain't been there before.
-- Shel Silverstein

"Frankly," a close friend told me the other day, "I think blogging is for self-centered and prideful people.  I don't see a point to it."

I sat listening and -- well, not to be melodramatic, but -- I was thunderstruck.  To be fair, we had been talking about writing and blogging, and in all honesty, I'd been whining a little.  I think if I gave you the full context of the conversation, we could all agree that protection and my well-being was the intent.  

I wish I were a bigger, stronger person who could, as the song says, "shake it off."  But this isn't just anyone -- it's someone who means enough to me that an opinion isn't just an opinion, especially when it's about something like writing, an activity that means so much to me.  I felt stung, and also a little paralyzed.  Also, this isn't the first time I've heard this kind of sentiment; another person said something similar last summer. George Orwell even said, "All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives lies a mystery." If this is what people are actually thinking, I wondered, why am I doing it?  More importantly, should I stop?

Well, obviously, I'm still writing and blogging.  At least one more time!  And though I don't think this person or the other critics I've heard are going to read this, I thought I'd write what I've been thinking, maybe for no one other than myself.  Call it a memo, manifesto, or mission statement -- here it is.

I've always loved writing, ever since I could do it.  I wrote plays performed mostly by Mom and my sister for my dad.  I wrote bad poetry.  I wrote sappy love stories and unmysterious mysteries.  I just wrote and wrote.

And, I've always really loved stories.  My favorite memories are sitting around dinner tables all over the world, listening to tales from people who had traveled more than me, who had been through wars and the Depression.  I've always loved asking people how they met their true loves, or about times they struggled with adversity. 

Stories are everything, whether written or told.

Before Facebook and Twitter existed, before I had even heard the "blog" (because I'm not the most hip and happening person, I will be the first to admit that), I lived in Spain.  I was part of a large club for spouses associated with my husband's work, and after my first year, I ended up as the newsletter writer.  I was going to do it with someone else, but then she quickly backed out.  So I had two young daughters, a husband who was often gone doing stressful work, family far away, figuring out life in a foreign country.  I was stressed about getting this newsletter printed every month until one day, I had a lightbulb moment: why not make it fun?  

So I started to write a column -- sometimes silly anecdotes about being a stranger in a strange country, other times hopefully inspirational words because all of us were kind of in the same boat.  It terrified me, but it also just felt good and so right.  Undoubtedly, there were people tossed the whole thing in the garbage, but several others came up to me, saying things like, "I laughed so hard!  I've just gone through that!" or "That thing you wrote last month?  It was just what I needed.  Thanks."  These were the words that kept me going on hard days.  In the tough times, I could step back from the situation and look at it through a different lens by writing about it.  Funny experiences seemed even more hilarious when I thought about how I would write them.  

Is that selfish?  

On the one hand, I get it.  I understand why writing and blogging seems like a self-centered pursuit.  Why would anyone care a whit what I'm thinking or what I've been doing lately?  Why should they?  I'm afraid I can't give you a good reason.  I'm a fantastically ordinary person.  

But on the other hand... If someone enjoys making jewelry or sewing clothes, would it be selfish for her to wear her creations?  Is that vain and conceited?  Or if someone likes to sing, should he only sing into a pillow lest someone hear his "pridefulness"?  

What I mean is, it's easy to pick on writers/ bloggers for being selfish in thinking anyone would want to read their thoughts or observations.  I just don't think it's fair.  

Maybe, as ordinary as I am, I can offer something lots of people can relate to.  Maybe I can make a few people feel less alone.  Maybe if I accomplish anything, I can give someone else the courage to try because if I did it, trust me, anyone can!  Maybe I can just make you laugh at something foolish I did, and that will be the bright spot in your day.  Yes, even that would make me happy.

This friend, as I've said, really was concerned about my protection, and I know and appreciate that.  The Internet is a dark and terrible place in so many ways.  Joy Cho of the extremely popular blog Oh Joy! wrote in her book Blog, Inc.: Blogging for Passion, Profit, and Community compares the blogosphere to the Wild West.  I can't lie, it scares me to put anything on the Internet, and I do question all the time how much I should say about myself or my family.

But... The "real" world is pretty scary, too.  And yet, I don't keep us locked up in the house all the time.  In fact, I try to smile and say "hi" to people, to be friendly.  Sometimes I even start random conversations with people.  Is it for selfish reasons?  I mean, I like having friends, I gain good things from relationships, so that could be argued.  Do some people wish I would go away and leave them alone?  Without a doubt!  But I'm not going to stop being me.  

Now that several weeks have passed for me to think about it, I'm very grateful for my friend's words now because they've made me hone in on just what I want to do with this blog -- or, if I stop blogging, with my life.  I've thought harder about how much the words I say to others around me matter and last, and I need to be darn careful with them.

Before I close, let me tell you this story about Facebook.  I like Facebook -- for the most part. I can be in touch with friends in Australia that I haven't seen in over a twenty years.  I can keep up with my fourth grade teacher and my favorite French professor from college who is a truly lovely person.  I know the names of the babies my friends are having on the opposite side of the country -- or even the world.  

Facebook turns into something ugly, though, when I use it to play the comparison game.  I've fallen into that trap way too easily, far too many times.  We're also very familiar with those political rants that are just exhausting and get us nowhere, and rumors that adults should really know better than to spread.

But then... there's my piano teacher (who, coincidentally, is also named Joy).  She is one of those truly beautiful people, amazingly talented at both piano and organ.  She gardens and cooks delicious meals.  Most of all, she is genuinely nice.  So it's no surprise that the space she takes up on Facebook is full of the best things.  Almost every day, she posts pictures of her garden, or her grandkids, or a sunset from the night before, and accompanies it with a verse or lines from a hymn or poem.  On your birthday, she writes words that water the dried-up places in your soul.  If you post a picture or say anything, she builds you with her kindness till you feel like the most special person in the world.  

Basically, I want to be just like her.  

1 Corinthians 10:31 says, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."  Whether or not I keep blogging or writing (because honestly, having five kids keeps me plenty busy with little time to write as much as I'd like), I think my mission in life is the same: to be real and authentic and relatable, to be kind, to build others up and encourage.  If I can make someone laugh or smile, even better.  

The Shel Silverstein poem at the beginning of this post is one of my favorites that I've loved for years.  "Put something silly in the world that ain't been there before."  Yes please!  Put something silly in!  Put something good in!  Put something beautiful in!  Smile and be relatable!  Yes, the world is a dark and ugly place.  So let's start shining some light!

2 comments:

  1. Writing is a gift. Embrace it and share it with those of us that appreciate it!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Caroline! You have a wonderful gift for photography, Thanks for sharing it so generously!

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