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Blogging Amidst the Trumpian Chaos

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BLOGGING AMIDST THE TRUMPIAN CHAOS

August marks five years since I started blogging here at Writing With Spirit, and I want to recognize the anniversary and thank my readers and followers. I truly appreciate the company.

When I first began blogging, each post was greeted with an empty echo. Now I receive encouragement and feedback (even if I am occasionally damned to hell), and I have virtual “friends” I’ve never met. I love reading comments from the people in my neighborhood, and I love imagining who my readers might be in Turkey and Japan and Australia.

I want to continue blogging — I do — yet I seem to be losing inspiration lately. Here I am in the midst of a two-week stay at my little writing retreat in New Hampshire, the place where my blog was born, and I haven’t blogged once!

Just sittin’ and pondering

I Blame trump

I blame Donald Trump, as I do for most things. Donald and Twitter. I am so overwhelmed by the chaos and danger and tragedy in the nation and the world that I can’t find a handle to get inside a story. It’s all just swirling around in my head and overwhelming me, like the toxic brown waters swirling around the people of Houston and India and Pakistan and Nepal and Yemen and Niger.

See? I try to use a simple metaphor and all of a sudden I’m drowning in the despair of lethal climate disruption and the current administration’s denial and vengeful dismantling of all of our climate protection programs. Not just the programs to research and curb the disruption and death, but the ones to address the consequences, like money for flood programs and healthcare.

And the EPA Administrator shaming the “opportunistic media” for insisting on talking about climate change “without basis or support.” And the Attorney General declaring that “Hurricane Harvey Is proof we need to militarize our police forces.” What???

And Twitter

I just can’t hold on. When I try to focus on one travesty, such as the president being unwilling to disavow white supremacists, the president encouraging police to hurt people, the president toying with nuclear annihilation, the president mocking efforts to prevent Russia from undermining our democracy, the president dooming our planet, well, I just, I just . . .

I just resort to wasting time on Twitter, is what I do. Which overwhelms me even more and exacerbates my ADD. You think you’re getting a handle on the hateful #Nazi violence in #Charlottesville when all of a sudden the hate-full #Evangelicals release their gay-bashing #NashvilleStatement.  (Mean, embittered religious men must always make a resounding STATEMENT or a PROCLAMATION.)

And who can keep up with the White House firings and resignations? I am both spooked and comforted by the apparent military take-over of the White House. Near as I can tell, General John Kelly is the only reason we still have a country at this moment.

So I want to say three things:

  • Happy anniversary to my beloved blog, which has kept me sane during some very trying times these past five years. I will persist and continue Writing With Spirit, despite the madness.
  • A hearty thank you to all of my followers and readers and fellow bloggers for the encouragement and inspiration and food for thought.
  • Climate change is real. It is happening. People are dying because of it, in hurricanes, floods, heat waves, tornadoes, typhoons, and tsunamis. After the flooding, the typhoid and cholera. So the Tweeter in Chief and his reality-deniers are criminals. Period. They should all be in jail for mass murder.

And that’s where I am, five years in to this blogging endeavor.

 

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Who Said Anything About Sex?

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WHO SAID ANYTHING ABOUT SEX?

As it turns out, generating three hundred words a day isn’t as easy as it sounds. I may rue the day I agreed to join this writing challenge with my fellow Hopkins grad school alumni.

I started work on a “spiritual memoir” that’s been gestating for more than a year: 871 words the first day, 467 the second, and 436 the third day. Then I took a two-day break, brought on by the total absence of anything to say.

My spiritual memoir had taken a decidedly sordid turn and become all about my awakening sexuality, something I had no intention of writing about. Within the first three days, I’d played spin-the-bottle and kissed the neighborhood pastor’s son, a gangly gay boy who later died of AIDS; had my first “real” kiss in a church basement while a psychedelic sock-hop raged upstairs (if you don’t know what a sock-hop is, consider yourself fortunate); and fallen hard for a missionary’s son who touched my thirteen-year-old breasts and left me reeking of Jade East cologne.

So you tell me – wouldn’t you run from that? God only knows where the next three hundred words might take me.

Runaway Narrative

I have no apparent control over the narrative of my own story. I start off musing about how I came to know God and end up being felt-up by a missionary’s son. And I know what happens once I hit the later teen-aged years. It’s not pretty and it probably wouldn’t be shelved in spiritual memoir.

Worse yet, I have journals from all those years, and this whole enterprise may lead me into a long-delayed exploration of those yellowed pages. The last time I read back through my journals was in 1980. Really.

So I’m tempted to drop the whole memoir idea and go back to doing profiles and interviews, which I enjoy and which are clearly safer than allowing my pen to roam where it likes. It seems easier to find meaning in other people’s lives than in my own.

Truth Happens

But no. I’ve been here before: I know that when a story has a will of its own, it probably has good reasons for wanting to emerge. A story I wrote about Willa Cather turned out to be about my relationship with my alcoholic father. A story about our family house turned out to be about finding strength in the suffering of women ancestors. A story about an endangered tortoise turned out to be about my search for the sacred.

Writing is a spiritual act for me, an act of co-creating with God. I need to surrender to the process and trust that there are transformational truths hidden in strange and unexpected places.

I’ll go back to the memoir when I’m ready. In the meantime, blogging counts towards my daily word goal, so here are my 475 words.

 

Melanie 14

Reeking of Jade East cologne

How to Find Me

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“Really? Really?” I’m sure my voice is squeaking. I feel like a wriggling four-year-old watching Mom hang my muddled finger-painting on the frig.

This is my response every time one of my neighbors or someone from church or school says, “Hey, I’m enjoying your blog.” It’s always such a surprise. Writing these posts is even more fun than finger-painting, and the idea that someone may actually be reading them is just icing on the cake.

I see the daily stats on the number of views, but somehow I’m still delighted every time I discover that my late night emoting/ranting is reaching somebody “out there.”

By the way, I’m sorry for all the recent ranting about climate change. It’s not premeditated, it’s just that with the election and the hurricane, it’s hard not to say, fairly frequently and in largish print:

“Isn’t anybody paying attention??”

But I digress. It’s not as if it’s the future of the planet or anything.

Back on point: I’ve been curious about how people find my blog. It’s clear that most of my referrals come from Facebook, and a few come from Linkedin (those people are far more “professional” than Facebookers and probably have little time for such frivolity). Some viewers find me through the brilliant and insightful comments I’ve made on other WordPress blogs. An author friend of mine linked to a sort-of book review I wrote about his new book, and that has brought several dozen onlookers.

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2012/09/14/hope-or-hostility-in-a-multi-faith-world/

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

FB and LinkedIn Images via CrunchBase

Image representing LinkedIn as depicted in Cru...

It’s intriguing to keep track of the many countries represented in my stats – close to fifty – and I can’t for the life of me figure out what drives that. When I did a piece on sexual harrasment at the CIA, I could understand why I got a lot of visitors from other countries, but otherwise, it seems fairly random. One post will get one or two from the UK or Canada, and the next will get visitors from thirteen different countries. Why?

Most interesting to me are the search engines. The Mysterious Google. I know people spend a lot of time and money trying to figure out how that Google search function works, and how to rank higher in the searches.

For what it’s worth, someone searched for “Romney Silhouette Pictures” and landed on my blog because I mentioned Romney in a climate change rant, and I had also done a WordPress photo challenge entitled “Silhouette.” Probably not exactly what they were looking for.

Another person searched for “Scarlet Letter” and ended up in a post about shame (in which I happened to mention the Scarlet Letter.)

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/what-color-is-shame/

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

Weirdest of all, and something which took a while to figure out, was that someone searched for “hemorrhoid relief” and ended up here. And then I remembered an early post I had done after paying the price of sitting on a bee. I wrote of standing in the kitchen “smearing baking soda paste on my posterior.”

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2012/09/05/on-pollinators-pain-gay-guys-and-gratitude/

I just need to apologize to that unfortunate reader who was, through no fault of their own, subjected to that image.  I mean, really, you’ve got enough problems with the hemorrhoids and all.

None of this helps to figure out the Google search function, I’m sure, but I find it interesting to ponder.

Who knows, maybe with several uses of the word, “hemorrhoid” in this post, my blog will become the new hotspot (so to speak) for hemorrhoid sufferers? I’d better read up on that. For now, my only advice is

do not to sit on bees,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   and of course:

Romping Write Through the Equinox

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Equinox approaches. The hummingbirds have entered kamikaze mode, frantically dive-bombing and bitching at each other as they load up on sugar for their astounding migration from my backyard in Maryland to Central America. Wouldn’t you think that given their insane metabolism, they would be designed to stay put? They don’t seem to store a gnat-worth of energy and have to suck nectar constantly. All that energy invested in endless migration! 

I had a boyfriend like that once. He thought that “settling down” meant being home in the fall and winter “when the kids are in school” and then taking his carpentry on the road for the rest of the year, leaving me with those imaginary kids. He poured his energy into gambling and darting from sweet flower to sweet flower…but I digress.

My point is that the shadows are slanting low, the leaves are beginning to fall, and it’s time to dig out my Fall Writing Plan. (I use CAPS so I’ll take it seriously.) The plan is captured on an Excel sheet, but also involves scraps of paper with colored inks, arrows and cross-outs. It consists mostly of revision, envelope-licking (gotta love literary mags with no online submissions), and assumptions of rejection. Here’s how it goes: I send out my best essays to my favorite outlets in May and June, wait for the rejections to arrive, tweak the essays, and then send them to my second choices. Then third. And so on.

You have to put yourself in puppy mode. You romp out into the world with an essay flapping in your teeth, all vulnerable and excited. As the months go by and reality sets in, you slowly curl up into a smaller and smaller ball and wait for the kick. And then, “Thank you for sharing your work with us. We regret…” Whimper. Then you’re to bounce back, leap to your furry feet with a hopeful smile, dash to the Post Office, and lay your precious words down for another kick.

“Aim for a specific audience,” many people advise. “You’ve got to study the publication. Read the articles, ads, and letters to the editor.”  This worked for me – once. I joined AARP, read their magazine, aimed at their audience and got published. http://www.aarp.org/work/social-security/info-11-2011/melanie-griffin.html#.TrqiPkT6_dg.email Yay!! No pay, but yay anyway. At this point, though, I’ve spent several months of the salary I no longer receive on magazines I’d never read otherwise. (Really, Mel? Martha Stewart?)     I’ve also spent whole days in the periodicals room at the library, taking copious notes about departments, deadlines and editors, only to find they’ve redesigned and let go half their staff by the time I’m ready to submit a piece.

“Screw the editors,” others say. “Just write what you need to write, and it will find a home.”  I like this organic approach better, but it’s not very pragmatic. This is the appeal of a blog, of course.  It doesn’t pay, but it’s a thrill that somebody out there cares enough to click and maybe even “like” or comment.

“You’ve just got to find the right fit.” This is my favorite advice and makes the most sense. It’s a combination of “aim strategically” and “pray hard.” At least I’ve got the prayer part down. I once took a class at the Bethesda Writer’s Center http://www.writer.org/ called The Business of Writing. The speaker said, “To be a freelance writer and author, you need to be disciplined, organized, and focused.”

Oh crap – three strikes.

But c’mon. Half the writers I know or have read about are (or were) heavy drinkers, and more than half are on meds for depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, or some combination thereof. A lot have flighty minds like mine, which don’t perch anywhere for long. In the last week, I’ve used napkins in a pizza joint to scribble the next scene of a short story I started two years ago, researched proposal writing for a book of creative nonfiction, submitted one historical essay, and revised a travel piece. Oh yeah, I’ve also written an essay for my Johns Hopkins writing class on what kind of teacher I expect to be. Apparently, undisciplined, disorganized, and none too focused.

Well, I’d better go. I’ve got to rifle through my desk and see if I can unearth my Fall Writing Plan. Happy Equinox!

It was here somewhere…

For more on hummer migration:

http://www.worldofhummingbirds.com/migration.php

And on the Autumnal Equinox:

http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-autumnal-equinox-of-2012

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