When I began my genealogy blog ten years ago, the ‘sphere was fresh, unknown territory. The prospect of reaching an audience, even unidentified, was exhilarating. The possibility of attracting lost relatives and exchanging family records was intoxicating.
Blog posts flowed out regularly.
Comments and followers multiplied.
Cousins-many-times-removed shared stories, tips, maps, and letters.
Until one day I realized that my story cache, specifically Ira Sayles’ tales, didn’t fit a blog post format. And blogging was a chore, not a joy.
Time to reassess. How can Shoots, Roots, and Leaves function as a space of curiosity and joy, that complements the deeper dive I will be doing offline?
Not sure. Yet.
Leave your ideas and requests for future posts in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!
A few weeks ago I proclaimed that deadlines were my friend.
Every day was a potential deadline. Stories would simply rise to the surface of my consciousness, like well watered seeds sprouting above composted leaves.
Clearly that didn’t work. Deadlines are horrible friends and daily deadlines just lead to dead lines.
Words are stuck in my drafts file. Incapable of stirring my emotions or piquing my curiosity, I refuse to press publish. My ideas fail to hook MY interest. Why edit?
Yesterday a line from Brene Brown’s book Rising Strong intensified my self-critiqueing.
I still feel scared and exposed and vulnerable as I prepare to share a new idea with the world. I still flinch a little when I turn to my community and say, ‘I’m trying this, and I would love your support!’ But I try to remind myself that, on the flip side, I love it when someone is genuinely excited about his or her work. I’ve also learned in all of my rumble that if you don’t put value on your work, no on is going to do that for you.
I stop my writing from growing into a full-ledged wonder story in all sorts of ways. I don’t value the process, the shitty first draft, or the second and third and fourth shitty drafts. I don’t want to open myself to an avalanche of negative feedback–which I perversely assume is the natural outcome of my thoughts. By not using this blog as a drafting, proposing, what-do-you-think platform, I rob myself of potential cousin-clicks and writer/photographer tips.
And if I don’t value my trying then who the hell should?
I don’t know that I will post every single day, but I am willing to try the whole deadline-is-my-friend thing again. I will risk being exposed and vulnerable, while I rumble with what I see, through my lens and through the leaves of my family’s tree.
My “decluttering for the holidays” was stymied today by the discovery of scan-able scraps that directly pertain to my previous post. And so, as is often the case with my reorganization efforts, I am at the keyboard rather than behind the vacuum.
The photograph of James A. Corrigan was dated in the upper left corner–1912. During this morning’s work, I found his medical school year book, Jefferson’s The Clinician, among the boxes I was sorting. Inside the black leather cover were a few scraps of paper.
Dead stop. Flip Pal out.
What a hoot!! No letter of “Congratulations! You have been admitted to the class of 1915!” Just a notice of matriculation, number 386, confirming that James Corrigan had satisfactorily completed preparatory classes in 1911. His family certainly counted it as an important document, and carefully preserved the scrap as proof that Jim had been admitted to Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia beginning with the 1911-1912 session.
Another valuable piece of paper was this stationary, remarkable for its header.Being asked to serve as President of the school’s pathology society as a second year student (1912-1913) must have been quite an honor.
The scraps add dimension to the image in front of the flowering shrub. It is more than a photo of a thirty-something Jim Corrigan. It is a snapshot of the Hazleton native’s transition from scholar to doctor and community leader.
Within the last week I read an article about commitment, or rather keeping a commitment. In sum, the author stated that it is easier to practice your craft or hone your skill, develop new habits and deepen your spiritual practice if you commit 100%. No creeping “well, just this once I won’t take my binoculars” or “I’ll get to the writing tomorrow.”
So I am committed to this experiment. If I write every day on this blog or on my work-in-progress Shared Legacy narrative (more on that later), no excuses, will the writer’s block melt? If I take my binoculars or camera everywhere I go, will I spend at least a few minutes mindfully every day? And if I write and deeply look at my world, will I find myself energized and engaged?
What have you, dear reader, decided to commit 100% to? What tricks did you develop to hold yourself accountable?
TWENTY-TWO HOURS UNTIL YOU CONFRONT THE BLANK PAGE!
My countdown calendar fairly shouts at me. My brain feels like a tangled, sticky mess of dates, lists, register reports, and story ideas. I have dutifully completed the interactive tutorial with Scrivener, a wonderful writers-specific word processor, and entered an outline for my project, Reconstructing Ira Sayles. The thought of confronting the dazzling blankness of the editor page tomorrow reduces my keyboard activity to just characters per hour. AUGH!!!! My wonderful stories are trapped inside my brain, struggling against the mind web, getting ever more buried into its fibers.
I must remember my promise, first articulated by Lynn Palermo, the host of this crazy challenge. Confront the page, one bit at a time. The day’s results don’t have to be great prose. Though I would love to provide Ira admirers with a complete narrative – someday – the best outcome of this next month may not be measured by my word count. The final result may be the habit of daily writing.
And that addition to my life will ultimately be more wonderful than even the story of Ira Sayles.