Author’s Note: Please, please please, I beg of you, if you find this blog even nominally interesting, read this post to the end. Please do not comment, or even think about what you are going to comment, until you’ve heard me out completely. I’m afraid I might be misunderstood. But please know that, as you read this, I am NOT fishing for validation. I need your help. This will be long. Please bear with me.
I realise I’ve been a real Shleprock lately, and I’ve been doing a lot of navel gazing, but hopefully my personal “extreme makeover” will be over soon. I’m still mentally in the wilderness.
This is a very scary post to write. Not because it’s self-critical. Not because I’m opening myself up to external criticism. But because there’s something I need to change, but in doing so, I might ruin myself as a writer forever.
A back-story: my mother used to be writer. A pretty good one. She wasn’t published or anything (although she gave the quest of publication everything she had). But she was inspired, and she was prolific. I was only a youngster, and although I can’t tell you if she was a great writer (we lost all of her manuscripts in fire #1), I can tell you that she was in heaven when she was writing, and I loved reading her work.
She wanted to get better. She took a creative writing class at a community college. It ruined her. She never wrote a full chapter again. She overthought every sentence, trying to fit it into the template she was taught. Like her son, she didn’t take criticism very well, and overreacted.
Since that time, I have been very, very, VERY afraid of atempting to learn the “craft” of writing. I’m running on only what God gave me. I’m afraid that if I attempt to hone my skills, I’ll lose the “artistic” side of writing forever.
But, something has to change. I may be uneducated, but I’m not an idiot. The one constant from this blog is that every post I make is misunderstood by someone, somewhere. If it happened only once or twice, I might question the reading comprehension skills of the reader. But it happens so often here, the blame can only be traced back to me. My style of writing (and I have no idea what that is), does not allow me to convey whatever it is I’m trying to say.
A couple of recent examples (there are so many, it’s hard to choose). I tried to be self deprecating in this post. Rachel from Women’s Health News, who I consider a blog hero, had an immediate reaction that I was insulting her and others. She figured it out before I explained what I really meant (something I spend a LOT of time doing), and I love the way she worded her next comment:
As soon as I hit “Submit” it occurred to me that, given your writing style, I was probably reading you wrong.
Rachel, I do not take offense in this. You couldn’t be more correct.
Once I read my comment on this post at NiT, I saw how it could easily be misunderstood. (I’m not going to tell you what I really meant – of course I was trying to be funny). Brittney has too much class, she just let it go. But once again, my writing style makes it look like I was saying something I had no intention of saying.
I understand my Easter post was discussed widely (I was a little busy that day, so I couldn’t join the fun); that post had only one main idea: that Christianity is the only modern religion that can be empirically disproven, based on an historical event, and it’s quite dangerous to throw your heart to an idea that could theoretically be, beyond a doubt, proven a fraud. That’s all. It’s my understanding, of all the discussion, none centered on that theme, the only one in my post that mattered. I’m glad there was vigorous discussion, but it disheartens me that the discussion wasn’t based on the idea I wanted to throw out with my post. That comes back to me as a writer.
I know that I’m not completely talentless with the English language. I’ll risk appearing conceited: I KNOW I can write a darn good sermon. I know this because of the feedback I get. The main difference between a sermon a blog post? You get to deliver a sermon. When you’re being sarcastic, it’s easy to convey. It’s no problem getting a twinkle in your eye to let folks know a joke is coming. When you get to the profound part, you can raise or lower your voice to convey the correct emotion. This, I can do.
I just can’t do it here.
I know it, and you know it – let’s not pussyfoot around. Oh, I do OK with ‘poignant’ posts about my kids, those have a “feel” close enough to a sermon, I can get away with it. But the rest? Chances are you’ll think I’m saying something I had no intention of saying. Especially when I talk politics or sociology.
It’s really rough to have an AI moment, when you there’s something you’ve thought your whole life you were good at, only to come to the realization you actually suck at it. Or at least certain aspects of it. And it’s really scary, because I write from the gut, what I am putting out there is “me”, in a way. And I do not have the reckless forthrightness of Aunt B, or the insightful precision of Kat Coble and Brittney, or the easy, conversational style of Newscoma, Kathy T, Ginger and Hutchmo, or the humor of Lindsay, Busy Mom, and my Sista, or the scholarly style of Rachel. Lindsey can be snarky, but there is never any doubt she means to be snarky (and I mean that with the greatest of respect).
I write flowery prose. I’m a hack poet with no word economy.
That hurt to write. But now, we can move forward.
I want you to give me advice. How do I make clear just what it is I’m trying to say when I post? Should I curse more to indicate when I’m angry? Do I need to add < / sarcasm > tags when appropriate? Do I need to follow up jokes with a “that was a joke” disclaimer?
Do I need to quit trying to hit home runs with every post (meaning each is deep, and poignant , and just generally a magnum opus)? Should I end every post with: “I guess what I’m really trying to say is…” ?
I’m looking for real, practical advice. I know how to write something that will be delivered orally. Blogging is an animal I haven’t yet tamed. Don’t be afraid to offer criticisms (of my writing, you can criticise other things at a different time). I can take it; I just called myself a hack poet with no word economy – I doubt you could even top that.
I am NOT looking for “don’t change a thing” validation. I appreciate it very much (newscoma 🙂 ), but I waste a lot of my time saying “What I really meant to say was…” . I’d really like to figure out how to change that. Even though honing my writing skills is something that scares me to death.
10 to 1 somebody misunderstands this post…