Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Tangled in My Words

I was cruising around on Facebook last night and came upon a status update from one of my favourite bloggers. She was frustrated because a post she was writing would not behave itself. Boy, did she have my sympathy: a lot of my draft posts do not behave well at all. I've been blogging for well over a year now, going for two (Cripes, it will be two on March 8th), and I still don't know whether I'm doing it well. Second guessing yourself is an insidious disease, and one to which ex English teachers are prone.

Sometimes, when I'm writing to make a certain point, the post will just take off and I find myself tangled in tendrils of sententious truisms. The writing goes trite and overemotional unless I take the pruning shears to it and, even if I do that, I often lose the main thread and end up with a badly butchered and truncated argument. Some of those drafts are still in the word processing folder waiting for me to gather up my courage and rewrite from the start. I probably should delete the whole bunch and start the draft all over again but I don't. These mangled bits sit on the shelf and gaze down at me reproachfully. 'Your logic function is screwed again', they say to me.

And there is another thing I do. Overuse of metaphor. Stretching analogy within an inch of it's life. Overcomplicating. The previous paragraph is a fine example of Mary at her most elaborate and I am only leaving it in to make it an example. There's also a fine example of a compound/complex sentence up there that needs its commas revised, at the very least. Not to mention big, pretentious words by the dozen. Words like 'pretentious'. Oh, well. Eight years of studying Latin are hard to shuck off. I wish it made me a better Scrabble player, but that's another post.

There are things I do well: use cadence; tie paragraphs together; fit person and tense properly. When I'm 'on' I can come up with an apt phrase or word that just clicks into place. But when I'm struggling to get an idea laid out, the piece can end up looking like one of those ornate mediaeval page capital letters that you have to work to figure out. It's odd, really, because when I do a graphics layout I am all about white space, simplicity and clean lines. When I take a photograph I am very conscious of the grid, distance and sight lines. It is only when I write that I complicate things.

My major problem, as I see it, is that I like the way I write. It's fun to let a thought loose and follow it where it leads me. I am not writing this post in the hope that commenters will pop up and say 'No, no, Mary G, you are a fine writer'. What I am mulling over is whether the way I write is appropriate to blogging. Because I hate pompous, over literary bloggers. The writers I find myself following with joy are the ones who write clean, clear narratives that tell you a lot about the person. The writers I love are the ones that make their intelligence and education serve their purpose and whose every word is clear and appropriate. The blogger whose angst I noted is one of these and her explorations of her own problems and depression and moments of joy shine like jewels.

All over the blogging world is advice about how to increase your readership, make yourself more popular, write to the audience, sell yourself. When I started blogging, I was not prepared to do this and I still am not. In consequence, my reader list is pretty static and my 'bounce rate' is high. I'm not unhappy about that. The people who do read and comment are a wonderful bunch of folk and, I guess, prepared to put up with the odd patch of purple prose and pomposity. Thanks, all of you.

It is probably old age that makes me stubborn like that. When you get to be a certified Senior, I figure it gives you licence to wear what suits you (elastic pant waist and all), choose some at least of the things you do and say what you think in the best way you can. But, come to think of it, I've been stubborn like that all my life. It's just easier now. And those chopped up drafts can just sit there and whine until I am good and ready to deal with them. After I have my nap.


  1. That's why I like to read your page, because you are comfortable in your own skin.

  2. I think a lot depends upon why you started a blog in the first place. I never started to become "famous" or build a major readership, and it seems as if you didn't, either. I have no illusions of "getting discovered." I write because I enjoy the outlet and, like you, really like the group of readers I've garnered thus far. I'm always happy to have new ones, of course, but I don't write to gain a specific audience; I write for me. It seems that you do, too.

  3. Thanks, Mary! I always like some linky love!

    I can relate to this post very well... I have SO many drafts that I wonder if I'll ever return to. Some things, the thoughts are there but the words are NOT! I think I'm prone to melodrama and am constantly on top of myself about that.

    But like kaye said, it's clear that you're comfortable in your own skin, and that's what I like about you. I love your perspective on life, and I appreciate you as a wise older friend.

  4. I was going to say what they said.

    I also just like hearing about your place & how you raised your children in those 'wilds.' Not very many people write about a landscape that they love.

  5. I find that good writing will draw me to a blog but it's really the person behind the blog that keeps me coming back. I think you are a mighty fine writer but, more importantly, I think you are a damn fine woman that I would like to continue spending time with.

  6. I firmly believe that your blog should reflect you - the way you think and the way you express yourself. If I was to write a novel (hah!) I would want to think about it carefully, structure it, tinker with the prose. When I blog, I like to put my brain in neutral and let my thoughts run straight out of my fingers. Which means my blog is almost never a "clean clear narrative" and makes me all the more grateful that you pop over to say hi now and again!

  7. I just can't bring myself to "sell" my blog. It's the same problem I have with acting (and consequently why I am not a professional actor). I really want to go to BlogHer for the forums, but I'd like to avoid the whole schmoozing thing.

  8. Yeah. I just can't be bothered. I love that celtic-ish scrawl, BTW - but I cannot figure out what letter it is!