Blogging: I CAN Have It All

I started this blog as a writer and now am writing you as a blogger. Did you know I care about my numbers? Did you know I think my readership rocks, not just for the depth but for the size? I have readers who have bolted their seat to this blog. Anyone who wouldn’t want that, raise your hand. Anyone who would rather have 500 subscribers over 5000, feel free to leave the room. You’re not for real. In my miniseries on successful blogging, I said almost a year ago,

I discovered my blog would be an art gallery – at least an attempt at one. Not with paintings or photographs, but words. And so the way I give birth to my posts fits that vision. If I had to choose between searching for the perfect word and befriending 20 new bloggers in a given window of time, there would be no competition. Because my goal isn’t to bust the roof on my stats. My art will always trump the blogging.

The cool thing I’ve discovered is there really is no competition. I can have it all, stay as demanding of myself (and guests) in the art and keep drawing new readers who appreciate the masochism. Hec, I can even laugh. I realized my writing was more stiff last year. I now try to say something more simply where I did more formally before – as a reflection of my ease as a blogger and a way to bridge any distance between me and the reader. I’ve also allowed myself more liberty, not insisting that I hurt my brain in every darn post. I discovered it’s called having fun. With you. Who cares what I did, where I went this week? Many of you let me know you actually do, in this thing known as relationship. A reader graciously praised me for keeping my ego out of this blog. That’s not been hard, as A Holistic Journey has become something bigger than me. (I know that’s supposed to be a subject pronoun.) Yes, I’ve worked my butt off but I can’t take full credit for what it’s become. I almost couldn’t name it as I watched it grow. But my blog was alive, this worldwide community of artists and thinkers who share their history, fears, and dreams. I feel closer to some of you than I do with people in my day-to-day. As I evolve, I’m seeing that quality and quantity in blogging can be friends.

So the 133 views on my About in the last seven days tell me I had a good number of new readers. This view count is our speedometer. Your comments will often come from faithful readers, your likes from them as well as the pop-ins. But it’s the stat on your About that marks those who’re checking out your blog and tells you if you’re walking in place or going somewhere. Sure, people can follow you without reading your intro but that number can help you gauge your growth. Whether folks are just passing through or staying depends on the content of that page and the rest.

I tend not to make promises to myself because life happens. But a goal is not a promise that you’ll make it. It is a hope you launch into the air with the commitment to keep it in trajectory. When a year after I gained 100 followers I found myself with 3000, I shut my eyes and then dared to peek into the sun. I set a hesitant goal of doubling my subscribers by the next June. A pie-in-the-sky aspiration, with these time constraints.

Turns out I’m terrible at dreaming.

What I’d considered a goal much higher than my reach was more than doable. I see the sign for 6000 feet up ahead and climb steadily to touch the milepost in two weeks. I hope this encourages you in your blogging. Remember, I didn’t know which way was up when I set out last year. You’ve shown me enough love; I’d like to hear if anything here is helpful for your own blog. Though I’ve seen people plateau in the higher numbers, I think success feeds success. With some notable exceptions in our midst, it seems to get easier for most of us after the first 1000 followers. But I will never compromise my standards in a chase for numbers. My exacting nature, which might be a liability at times in my personal life, I’ve been able to use as an asset on this blog. The fastidiousness is what I’ve built this blog on. I want to offer content that would compel a visiting editor or publisher to pull up a chair.

And I wouldn’t be here without you who’ve done just that. It makes me happy to see you grow. I want your blogging to be as bright, deep, expansive as you want it to be. I hope you feel the the heartbeat of your blog as I do mine.

Well, What If You’re Not Good Enough?

The TV clip at the gym caught my eye even though I knew nothing of Sara. It was a replay of her win in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. McMann stood on the podium, the first American woman to earn a silver in Olympic wrestling. And she was crushed. She hung her head because it was nothing less than gold she’d wanted.

The snapshot was in part a preview of the highly anticipated Mixed Martial Arts match between her and undefeated female MMA world champion Ronda Rousey. When Sara became pregnant she realized she was not done competing. After having her daughter, she took up Mixed Martial Arts. Here she was, gearing up to face the most talented, feared fighter in women’s MMA. I never cared to watch Ronda. It was enough and somewhat reasonable that I came to appreciate men in their fighting glory. I couldn’t wrap my head around women’s flexing biceps and bashing each other in the face. But Sara’s journey was so intriguing I was sold on the match. Many of you know achievement is a pet topic of mine. The women rekindled my fascination with people who “repudiate mediocrity, forgive nothing substandard,” as I’ve said in Part One of my series on greatness. Now I want to explore in a more personal way the question of being good enough.

See, I saw myself, I saw culture when I contemplated Sara’s face on that Olympic stage. She didn’t look Korean, but she was. Second place is not something Koreans are proud of. The “as long as you did your best” is a delusional American dream. McMann said, “I fight to win.” No one does this to lose. She and Ronda attacked the gym, beat their body because only one would walk away with the championship.

Few of us live for a tangible trophy but these stars play out on the global radar what the rest of us do in our own little world. We all want to win. What do you like to win at? I mean, do you get up and clock in at the office for the distinction of Mediocre Employee of the Month or the reputation as the weakest link on your team? Do you set out in the morning to be a bad mom? You don’t play Monopoly to go bankrupt. We don’t always vie for the farthest we can go but our pride keeps us from sinking beyond a certain point. We want to be good enough. I can’t count how many feel-good posts I run into that assure me I am beautiful enough, strong, smart, talented enough and gosh darn it, don’t let anyone tell me otherwise. What does this mean? We’re all attractive? How can you tell me I measure up when you don’t even know me? I’m bad at so many things. I couldn’t resist leaving this comment once on a blog: “I am not a troll. I’d just like to share another perspective. What if you really are not good enough?” If we’re all so hunky dory why bother with certificates, honors, congratulations? Obviously we reward those among us who stand out.

Talk about standing out.

The first American to win an Olympic medal in women’s judo, Ronda Rousey has transformed women’s MMA on the international field of sports. The fight with Sara I did catch was the main event of the night, the other matches all men. Unheard of. Can you imagine men flocking to watch women’s basketball or soccer? But flock they did to catch the Olympiads, “two elite athletes in their prime.” The commentator said of Ronda, “She’s beautiful, she’s bad. Her skill is unparalleled. With no losses, she’s the perfect face of MMA.” Sara was the greatest challenge Ronda faced in her career up ’til then and she had no plans to give away her title. “Have you ever lost in the Olympics? My mom was the world champion in Judo and she was the first American to ever do it and I had my shot to be like my mom [at] the world championships in Judo and I lost. It feels like dying to me. I’d rather die,” she said on Showtime recently. It isn’t just her drive and record that set Ronda apart. She’s Drama Queen. Known as a polarizing figure, you love this villain or hate her. And people don’t want you staying at the top, not when the world is your footstool.

So what happened with her and Sara?

It was vicious from the get-go. No feeling each other out, as I’ve seen with 170 pounds of male muscle. Sara gave Ronda a run for her money but in a sudden turn of events went down in the fastest knockout in history. After throwing a series of ground strikes, Ronda kneed her in the liver. Sara just went limp and the referee called it out to keep her from further injury. The glare Ronda had painted on broke into a sweet smile of exultation and Sara looked to be holding back tears. Female tears. The fighting wasn’t over; she had to stonewall the tenderness that makes her a woman, in a cage no less. Sara managed to compose herself and answered into the mike with clear answers and a smile. It was her own fault: “I should’ve gotten off the cage [wall] faster. I wouldn’t have gotten kneed.” Excuses are lame and owning up is noble but — an apology? I’ve not watched that many men fight but have yet to hear them apologize for losing.

It was an interesting, puzzling end to a cliff-hanger of a fight. How we handle defeat and aching disappointment. While my own sense of fulfillment grows from the things I labor over successfully, my sense of worth is not tied up in what I can and cannot achieve. At the same time, what’s hair-raising about a high-profile competition is you win all or lose all. Whether you miss by a hairsbreadth or a freefall, you staked everything and that is what you feel you’ve lost. Where does our fear of not measuring up come from? Did your upbringing feed your need to prove yourself? The commentator said, “There’s a big difference between wanting and needing to win.” Your thoughts?

Genius

Two years and 11 months

Two years and 11 months

According to Malcolm Gladwell, behind the genius of high-achievers that leaves us awestruck is really just 10,000 hours of practice.

Let’s see what this might look like for you as a drummer, Tennyson:

You’ve put in at least 500 hours thus far.

1 hour of practice a day, 35 free days in a year –>
330 hours
the next 5 years –>
1650 hours plus the 500 = 2150 hours by the age of 12

The next 12 years, double the daily hour –>
660 hours every year, a total of 7920 hours
plus the ones from the first 12 years = 10,070 hours by the age of 24

Unless an earthquake brings this house down or you find yourself with a single parent, you will continue to have every opportunity to play. And even in the tightest straits we will sell the furniture before we touch your drums. Every hour on the set you’ll get to exchange for more options as an adult musician. Every hour brings your dreams that much closer within reach. You easily played for an hour-and-a-half when you were five. It is up to you whether you want to hit your 10,000 sooner or later than 24. But a good idea to develop your art as deeply as you can, find its place in our world before you settle down? Keep those two hours a day sacred and you will learn self-mastery, excellence, and your happier self. We know the more we love our music, the more we love it, right? Play your joy and never make excuses. I don’t want you to end up looking on as Joe blows smoke out of his set, saying “I could’ve done that.” He just practiced longer than you.

Your biggest fan,
Mom

Why I Don’t Pray More

I’d have to face the ache of my longings. Go deep into the back room, unearth the box to surrender and and open it to see my heart bleeding. I know in my head my God is more than able to comfort and to provide as He pleases. But I’m like my boy has been – terrified over the sight and taste of his own blood, praying God remove the tooth without pain. Tennyson would rather eat and go about his day pretending he’s fine, that it doesn’t hurt. He is afraid of being afraid.

The Writing Process II, Part 2: Let the Clichés R.I.P.

RIPWriting is treasure mining, isn’t it? The sifting of options among all that language has to offer. In the process, leave the hollow expressions that lie buried from overkill to rest in peace. Settle on what’s attractive and weighty. Don’t clutter your collection with dry, ossified castoffs of nature that add nothing to your art.

If you’re writing about any of the following, you might wish to tread carefully:

Clouds
Uh oh, yup: here come the tears. Or fluffy cotton. Sigh.

Rain
Please don’t pitter patter. Oh, please. If you’ll die unless you do, just patter.

Soft kisses
*sputtttter* Eww. Wipe off.

Caress
Do you know how many caresses happen to be velvet just like yours?

Something “coursing through” veins (usually passion)
Right. *shudder*

“Take flight”
Driver caution: slippery road.

Whispers of love
*Cringe* I’ll refrain.  Bad enough poor thing made my hit list.

Starlight
This one’s forever Madonna’s: “Starlight, Starbright, first star I see tonight.” Doo roo roo, yeah baby.

The Ellipsis…
It sits in the technical toolbox for a reason. So that we can use it. But all too often it becomes an easy substitute for fuzzy thinking or an attempt to sound deep and contemplative. Let your words – the content – provoke thought. Go back and try removing these emotional markers. Go on. You will sound more crisp, better grounded.

The Holistic Wayfarer’s Lexicon of Clichés includes the exclamation point because it’s often overdone! That point under the punctuation is a drop of neon off the brush! I promise no one will miss your fuchsia, whether it’s your lips or the streak on your running shoes! In preparing to paint our first home to move into, my husband and I delighted in the thumb-sized square of peach pink on the color palette. We went on to secure a tub of the shade from the store and left it in the room for the painter. When he called to report the room finished, we hurried over. Opened the door. And screamed, “AAUUGGHH!” Suggesting itself on a swatch was one thing. Exploding on our walls was another. There was just no way. Husband whitewashed the room, then called me in to present a lovely peach pink trimming around the windows. As he was whiting out the eerie gaudiness, he discovered that just a touch of the color worked like a lovely picture frame in this case and brightened up the room.

Clichés are the balloons that had pepped up the party but in the day-old aftermath lie lifeless, asking for the dignity of disposal. They are the makeup as obviously tired as the woman by the time she resigns the bar at four in the morning. I am not saying there is no more room in the literary world for cloud and tears. All right, I’m trying to be polite. But my Bible is right. There is nothing new under the sun. We all grow in the womb, cry at birth to cry in life, fear to love, love to laugh, wonder, hope, do not know, learn, believe, strive, sleep, sweat, dance and trip, birth children and dreams, eat and forget to nourish ourselves, work and work, and expire. But we want to say what is universal in our own way. You don’t need clichés muddied with handprints of the well-meaning masses. Make each your own description.