“We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason they write so very little. But we do. We have so much we want to say and figure out.” - Anne Lamott Bird by Bird
I’m a bit of a contemplative, to be sure. I’m reading the book Is the Internet Changing the Way You Think edited by John Brockman (@edge). It is a collection of 150 essays by today’s leading thinkers in technology, art and science. And it got the old noggin to ponder about the uniquely human act of writing. Not communicating. Any old plant or insect does that. But writing.
It occurred to me how ancient writing is. People who study such things claim that even prior to spoken language the prehistoric human felt driven to express herself by drawing on the cave wall. To communicate… through writing… is truly a primal force that compels us.
I would then say that when we write, we are drawing on something deep within us that predates the pen and paper. Something very, very old. It predates even the necessity to communicate through the written word. It’s strange. It excites me.
It makes me think it has its rudiments somewhere deep in the code of DNA then. To the spiritual among us, they would claim that it is a God-authored drive. I kind of like the romance of that notion. The more prosaic in our ranks would argue that it is an emergent property that developed as tribes solidified and chores were assigned allowing us more free time to create and express. Still others would say it is an overdetermined phenomenon and probably has multiple factors involving its arrival in the human psyche. I simply don’t know. And past the fact that it is an ancient scenario, my pontifications on the reasons and the modality fail me. I can’t figure it all out.
But what I do know: It’s there. It is in all of us. We want to write. From crayons to keyboards, the proclivity stays with us our whole lives.
Sure, a select and esoteric few are genius at it. Most of us fall in the skill level of writing that the average population does with math - we know a little more than enough to balance our check books and get the taxes done. I suspect, though, we could do a lot better if we wanted to. All primitive tribes have language. There are a few that have no more than two words for math, however. It seems that to count was not as important to survival - to being human - as to communicate and to write. I can relate. I would much rather write in my spare time than do calculus.
So I started wondering. In the age where social media ubiquity offers the unprecedented forum to write and to have people read it - why aren’t more people writing? Oh sure, they post about lunch. They post cute pictures with cats. They even let you know when they entered or exited a relationship (something I would never post about but absolutely love reading from others). But, surely, more of them ought to be blogging. Right? I mean in paragraphs. You know the sort of thing: a topic sentence, middle progression, and a cogent end bringing it all together for the reader.
Ah. I just dismissed it as fear. Laziness. Or maybe people are too busy.
But something nagged at me telling me there is more. Everyone has hobbies, interests and opinions. I know they can articulate them - they do every day at Starbucks. And then, right in the middle of my caramel frothy thing, I heard someone say, “Yeah, but no one wants to hear what I have to say.”
Now that is an entirely different objection to writing from fear, skill or accessibility to audience. That’s about relevance.
People who say that no one wants to hear what they have to say often make the declaration with such authority that I often wonder how they obtained such absolute, god-like knowledge. You mean no one - at all - wants to hear anything - at all - about your story? At all? Wow. How’d you find that out?
I am thinking the average person feels like there are too many people crowded in the cave. And who wants to see one more pictograph of a man slaying a deer in the forest!
So… whatever you feel about the subject of writing… you still have that thought to do it, don’t you? It may not be with you like a sickness. Like the “ick” that all adored writers through the ages declared they had to surrender to or face insanity. You may not have it like that. But to write is there. It may only feel like a shoe that doesn’t fit quite right. You can still walk just fine. You get through the day. But you are aware of its presence, its almost quiet ache nonetheless.
Arguing with your inner writer only leaves you exhausted and angry. Quit fighting.
I want to tell you today that I still want to see your drawing on the wall. I am convinced that being in the lineage of the ancient man with the same desire, you too, have returned from the hunt with a story to tell. I’ll even go to your cave to learn about it.
You may not be able to draw your story with the detail or shadowing of some. But should that alone prohibit you from taking up the pen? No one else can write your story for you. Not really. While the plots may vary but little, the voice of every storyteller is different. Always.
I want to hear about your journey. I do. I am a bit of a nosey quidnunc… fine. But I know others who want to hear you as well.
It is a human and ancient thing to sit alone somewhere and read the thoughts of another from a page. It wakes me up. It gets me thinking. At times it makes me outraged. I laugh. I remember. It takes me to new places. I can’t always determine whose words it will be that do all that for me.
So don’t just write for yourself. Write for me. Write for all of humankind.
“Writers will happen [even] in the best of families.” Rita Mae Brown
Love it. Rita is making the point that a true writer - the one with the ick - has to write. Born that way. There isn’t a choice in the equation. Fundamentally, I write because I have to. I write to stay sane - or to get and stay sane. This compulsion, this obsession to communicate through the written word, is more than an illness like, say diabetes, that can be treated. The only way to treat this ick is to surrender to it. So it reminds me that…
“Writing involves a commitment greater than illness.” Bernard Malamud
Still, since I have to do it anyway, someone else might as well read the stuff, right? Ultimately…
“One writes to make a home for oneself, on paper, in time, in others’ minds.” Alfred Kazin
Sure… we hear every hour new tips and tricks to maximize the circulation of our musings. Trying to avoid redundancy, I offer these ideas as well:
+ Use Twitter. Daily! Seems obvious but I am still a little surprised by how many people do not have a twitter account today. And those who do are not using it to its full potential. Create a pithy, pointed profile. Google uses keywords from your Twitter bio to help determine how you appear in search results. Use a clear pic. Follow a lot of like-minded, but quality people, and tweet relevant information. In between that promote the URL for your blog. Don’t forget to show a little personality in your feed or, I feel, it comes across robotic and dry. And pay attention - there are a lot of articles out there about how to maximize your twitter experience. One last quick tip for writing bloggers: follow the hashtag #amwriting. It is a great group of writers supporting each other. Okay, one more… suck up. ReTweet, mention, favorite people’s tweets (they will get that email from Twitter and see your name).
+ Use networkedblogs on facebook. It is a great way to follow quality blogs you like while promoting your own. You can also “syndicate” your blog(s) and choose publishing options.
+ Sign up for stumbleupon. After two or three of your pages getting submitted and “liked” by other stumbleupon members your presence increases and you are suggested to other users. Also, “thumbsup” your own pages. Kinda like voting for yourself on election day if you were running for office - it just makes sense.
+ Use Reddit and Digg, too. (But you already know about these… I’m cutting back on the redundancy)
+ Use www.problogger.net. There is a lot of good information on this site: articles, links, interviews, SEO optimization, tips.
+ Look into and use www.blogcarnival.com… ”where someone takes the time to find really good blog posts on a given topic, and then puts all those posts together in a blog post called a carnival… Carnivals come in edited “editions”, just like magazines or journals. The fact that carnivals are edited (and usually annotated) collections of links lets them serve as “magazines” within the blogosphere, and carnival hosts can earn their readership by providing high quality collections.”
+ Comment on other blogs. Scour the internet for like-minded bloggers. Go to expert’s pages/blogs. Find good, relevant conversations and add quality comment to the feed. This gets you exposure and if you are good it gets people asking who you are. Many times you have to fill out a profile before you can comment and that creates a blurb and linkback to your blog.
+ Try www.blogrush.com. Another great blog syndication tool.
+ Have more than one blog. Try wordpress, tumblr, blogspot and others. Even if your content is exactly the same on each site, you are increasing your presence on the web so you are more likely to appear in internet search engines like yahoo and google.
+ Visit www.superbloggingtips.com. They have super blogging tips. Sorry.
+ Submit your articles to www.addyourblog.com. We are assuming it is good quality stuff - they do not tolerate spammers. Who would? Don’t spam, people. Why do we have to keep saying it!
+ Google+ Even if you are buying all the hype that G+ is about to kick the bucket, they still have the ubiquitous power to control search results. At least get a Google+ account as a placeholder and post your blog posting links there.
+ Join www.bebo.com and promote your writing there. You can sign in with facebook.
+ Newsdag. I like http://www.newsdag.com. You can create an account quickly and publish each of your blog posts separately. The people there want to be there and spend a lot of time reading and commenting on posts. Be sure to linkback, of course, to your blog site.
+ 12Most.com. Over the last year 12most.com has grown phenomenally. If you can punch out a high quality proposal to them, following their clear guest submission guidelines, your exposure will grow exponentially.
+ My favorite! http://www.triberr.com is now open to the public. So far, joining far-reaching tribes on the platform will get your links more exposure through this one site than any other I have seen so far. There is a commitment factor inherent in the tribe that ensures your links get Tweeted by other members in the tribe. The tribe chiefs are brilliant at monitoring other people in the tribe to ensure they are regularly approving your posts to be Tweeted and that quality content is being streamed for you to post in kind.
If you are a pro, you have heard most of these… thanks for bearing with us! Maybe some have helped. If you are new, you cannot afford to blog without checking into most of these supports.
No matter what, do not stop writing. In your journal, on bits of scrap paper, on a card you may or may not send to a good pal… WRITE! You have a story, a message, a voice - and we need to hear it.
Connect with me on twitter @HeyOverbey and email me: JLOverbey@gmail.com