Get With it, Grandma

Let me start by saying, just so I don’t worry her, the title isn’t about you, mom. I’m saying this to myself.

Right now, I am my own worst enemy. I know I’m a good writer. I know I’m reasonably intellgent. With just those two traits, I could be making money writing on the internet, and yet, in the past year, I have not even attempted this feat.

Why?

Because I don’t want to write the way I need to write if I’m going to write for the internet. In other words, I’m being stubborn.

Here’s the problem. With dating and writing, you get two conflicting sets of advice. The most common advice the single person and writer gets is: Be yourself. However, this is then followed with a hundred gazillion rules you should follow if you want to be successful. So what is it? Follow these rules, or be myself?

A couple of years ago I entered a flash fiction contest. We had 750 words to tell a story, The excercise was inspiring, and I felt I turned in a very creative and fun story. Then I read the winner’s entries. It was so confusing. They didn’t tell a coherent story. They didn’t even really follow some of the rules of the contest. It was like they picked the one with the most bizarre content. I didn’t enter another one, because I figured I was completely out of step with current trends.

It’s true for internet writing as well. The current trend is to fill your writing with SEO (Searh Engine Optimization) words. In other words, fill your page with words that will be found when someone is searching the internet. That’s how you get hits. That’s how you get readers.

It’s also necessary to keep it short for today’s short-attention-span reader. I wrote an article about meditation and gave it to a friend who is big in social media to read. Her response, “That might be the best article I’ve ever read on meditation, now cut it in half and put in a list.”

Aaaaaaahhhhhh! I do not want to be a part of the dumbing down of America.

So what do I do? If I write with my voice and if I’m myself, I will continue to write blogs like this one – not optimized for searching, not filled with cute lists that people can scan quickly, and probably getting very few readers.

The Yahoo Style guide sits on my shelf – a book that would teach me all I probably need to know about writing for the internet. I read it once, and despite a 4.0 in college, I didn’t grasp it, probably because I didn’t want to grasp it. I want to write how I write.

Is that so wrong? I mean, writers spend years finding their voice? Why bother when we’re just going to have to write in another voice?

Would it make more sense for me to continue to write in my style, perhaps drawing other readers who are sick of the style the internet has imposed on us, but likely drawing none because they never find me? I don’t know. Probably I just need to “get with it, grandma,” and learn to write like the kids these days want to read.

Tell me your thoughts. Are you a skimming list reader? Or do you prefer to put in a little effort and read some well-constructed prose from time to time?

I guess I will face my stubborness and pull out the style guide. Hopefully this old dog can learn a new trick.

 

 

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Savoring Life

Finally! The mix is right.

A few weeks back we had a girl’s night out… at my house, which I guess for me made it a girl’s night in. A portable firepit was brought over and we sat in my backyard on an unseasonably warm February night and had a marvelous time – telling stories, laughing, and just enjoying a night of friendship around the fire. It was so nice, i realized the next day that I wanted my own portable firepit.

When I got a larger than expected tax return, I decided to take a little piece of it and get a firepit. The first night it was operational I sat there, basking in firelight, leaning back in an adirondack chair, looking at the stars through the bare, siloutted branches. My cats were excited to be outside after dark and flitted around my chair as they explored the place at night. Then it hit me. I finally got it right.

Back when I lived in LA I would spend 99% of my time in an overcrowded, noisy, competitive, and lonely environment. The other 1% was comprised of when friends and I would head up to a cabin in the mountains, or a tent in the desert. Sitting by the fire, or listening to wind in the pines in the morning, I would think, “I’ve got it all wrong. Out of the city is where I’m whole. This is where I feel happy. This is where i can breath. I need to spend 99% of my time here, and 1% there. What am I doing?”

Sitting there at that fire in my own backyard, I realized I had finally done it. Any night the weather cooperates, I can sit by the fire. And just about any morning, I can sit on my sunporch and listen to birds and/or wind in the trees. I was able to step back from a fast-paced life and high-paying job and tranistion into a slow-paced life with far smaller financial rewards.

At one point, while recently getting my college degree, it occurred to me that I was probably the only student at the school who was getting their degree with the knowledge that they would use it to earn less money. It goes against everything our culture tells us we should do, yet it is what led me to joy. It’s made me think. Where did we get this idea that life is about toil? Talking about how busy your are has become a badge of honor. Hard work is admired. Savoring life is not. Every generation sacrifices themselves so that the next generation will have it better. However, rather than having a better life, the next generation, learning from the previous, then sacrifices themselves so that the next generation has it better. And so it goes, lifetime after lifetime after lifetime sacrificed. At what point does it stop and a generation actually get to savor the better? It isn’t just our individual lives that are on a hamster wheel, it’s our entire culture. Maybe the best thing we could pass on to the next generation isn’t a better life, but living life to its fullest.

Now I fiercly defend my slow-paced life. I balk at over-scheduling myself, even as I feel guilty for doing it. I know my friends are going from morning to night, and if they do it, why shouldn’t I be willing to do it? And then I remind myself… that’s not the life I want. I didn’t come here to run, run, run. I came here to live, maybe for the first time in my life. Savoring life is a glorious way to live.

The mix is right. Finally.

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