Draft No. 13: Opening Gambit or Death Knell?

A pocket watch laying near pile of autumn leaves.

In January this blog will be entering its 11th year. Blog. I can’t even say the word without chagrin. Substack is laughing off-stage, with Twitter and Instagram spewing out witty one-liners and memes and giggling about that old broad over there getting ready to write a blog post. Snort.

This is a special place to me and I feel ashamed of its neglect. Over there in the corner, covered in cobwebs, are the 12 drafts I wrote and never posted. Up in the attic of this blog, there are dusty WordPress Freshly Pressed awards, stats that used to seem impressive, and a couple of dick comments that got deleted. That is the old world. I pull up my reader. Who’s still around? I see old friends with whom I’d exchange comments. We’ve all aged, our blogs looking worse for the wear, the graying Classic editor, the temperamental and annoying Block Editor who won’t shut up while you’re trying to write.

This is where I learned to write in public. I made friends as real and as important to me as in-person. It’s where I met friends who will likely be lifelong (it might be because I’m old and lifelong is not really that long). This is where I learned that a friend I’d been communicating with died from lung cancer. Where I manned holiday comment boards in a group effort to provide company to those who needed it. This is where I met the lovely people now in my writing workshop. This is where I wrote curmudgeonly posts about the holidays and my first (and only) tattoo. This is where I grieved the death of my grandfather, several pets, and tragic world events.

Ten years and all this blog gets from me is an occasional perusal, as I go to Twitter to get my adrenaline hit of rage and to send profane memes to politicians. This disloyalty has been rewarded with a tinny voice in the back of my head that says, each and every day, I should write a blog post. Off and on over the years, I’ve had to review my reasons for maintaining a blog. These days, mired in an MFA program, writing groups, and writing-heavy volunteer work means that the writing habit is there. The blog no longer serves that need. So what am I doing here?

Cartoon drawing of man with chaos in his head.

The bumptious hamster wheel of modern life means that my attentions are fleeting. I jump from app to app to app. Screens light my face more than the sun does. I task switch 460 times in a single hour. And complete sentences are…what was I talking about? I can analyze the underlying metaphors of a narrative, but don’t ask me how I’m feeling today. I will stutter. I will struggle to form a coherent thought. Perhaps that is what this space should be for me now – being forced to form coherent thoughts around the life that I seem to only be tangentially living.

The last few years have been hard. From my daughter’s medical crisis, the loss of my mother-in-law, both my cats, and of course, the things that are wearing all of us down – politics and the pandemic (and fuck the opportunists who have conflated the two and killed so many of us), I’m just soul-tired. The most exhausting process is recognizing the tiredness, standing back up, and saying, how can I make things better? Rinse and repeat ad nauseam. Perhaps the reason I’m soul-tired is that I haven’t been writing the muddle in my head out enough. Or at all, really.

Perhaps it is because I have never communicated so much with so many in such a variety of ways. Many of us are struggling. When I get the texts, e-mails, phone calls, and Zoom requests, it is my nature to want to be present. It feels the least thing to do for someone, a simple message of: you are not alone. But I’ve begun to recognize my limitations and started disconnecting a couple of days a week in the hopes of finding what, in my own brain and body, needs attention. And then I remember this blog. This dusty, stale little blog that has seen shinier, more social days.

Autumn Leaf

As I write this, it feels like an alien experience – putting what’s in my head into words. Not saying it out loud, not chopping it into a tiny Tweet, not saying oh shit after I send out an irretrievable email with typos. I will write it and then I will go outside on this windy, autumn day and feel the sun on my face. Then I will read it again, trying to fix inevitable typos and muddied thoughts. And then I will send it into the chorus of voices that is the internet.

It is, perhaps, a start to remembering my own writing voice again.

Who is out there still? How have you been? Are you still blogging?

36 thoughts on “Draft No. 13: Opening Gambit or Death Knell?

  1. I’m not a blogger, but it does appeal. I’ve followed your posts for a while now and always enjoy your writing whatever the subject matter.
    I know I’m exhausted by Covid and the anti vaxers, politics, the state of the world and the absolute craziness in the US.
    I’m also getting older, I am a widow, no children and though I have friends and a hobby or two…sometimes it feels empty.
    I hope your daughter is doing better now and I hope to see you dust off your blog and continue with it.

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    1. Hi Mary. You point out a curious thing – this sense of emptiness. I feel it at times – so overwhelmed by bad news that I just shut down or lost in this endless drift of a pandemic that I lose all sense of time and sometimes, purpose. I’ve learned that I have to force myself out of this mode – most often by doing something concrete, even if it’s just the dishes. Disconnecting helps a lot, even though for other people, that’s the opposite of what they need. We’re all just feeling our way through this strange period of time with very little in the way of leadership or guidance.
      My daughter is doing well – thanks for asking. They extended her treatment to prevent a tumor recurrence during the peak Covid time, but they are discontinuing it next month and Minnesota just became the #1 state for rising new infections. We just have to take it a day at a time.
      I know that returning to the blog is a good thing to do at this point. Longer form thought and an intentional act of self-care. Thanks for still reading!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re right, Lucinda – one can’t do it all. I’ve been thinking about doing a little “Marie Kondo-ing” of my time. Blog writing was usually a source of pleasure, while quite a bit of how I spend my time now is not. I think I’m due for a clearing out. What have you been writing? (I know, worst cocktail party question ever).

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  2. Nice to find you in my inbox. I’m kinda sorta in the same place with my blog. I abandoned it at one point mid pandemic for a variety of reasons. I suddenly got the urge again, or maybe it was guilt, and I did get a few posts out. And It’s been two months now of silence from me. To be honest, I don’t know what I want.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Fransi – I’m so glad to hear from you! I don’t know what I want, either. It feels like all the saner voices on the planet have just been muted by all the loud, craven voices. Maybe more of us writing out loud is still needed. I don’t know. I do know that I need to start writing things that aren’t literary critical analysis or emails about the next meeting (love Zoom, but whew! So many meetings…). This seems like a quieter corner of the world to untangle thoughts about the chaotic times we’re living in.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m still here, and glad you are, too. I was absent for a year and a half or so, but suddenly felt the need to form and transmit coherent sentences about what was on my mind again a few weeks ago. So it goes. I’m a follower on Twitter, not a contributor to the madness, ditto Facebook. I link my blog posts on Instagram, and that’s about it. I don’t know what Substack is. I’m very uncool when it comes to “the latest” thing online, even though I make my living in the cyberworld, for the most part. I have been a blogger in various forms from the early days of online community, including many different incarnations hosted mostly on my own website, which no longer exists, and even on Journalspace, where I would still be if someone hadn’t done it in, and I’m certain I will always be a blogger as long as I am able to type. I like the short format, and the sense of community , and I have a lot of lofty ideals about the ability of the masses to instantly transmit whatever they wish without the interference of a gatekeeper publisher. So here I am, and here I’ll stay, and I hope you will, too, cuz I love your ideas and the way you express them. 🙂

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    1. Social media is a weird and rather unhealthy place. It takes quite a while to find how to make it useful for oneself. I think the reason I keep coming back to blogging is that it’s simply quieter writing and interaction. I’ve been frustrated with Twitter – great for finding out about writing submissions and programs, terrible for genuine connection. And oh so enraging!
      Your point about needing to do coherent writing is what I’ve been thinking about as well. If anything, forcing myself to express or process ideas and writing them out, clears out my head. And it is due for a big clearing out!
      Thanks for your kind words and encouragement. One day at a time…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I am just happy that you send out a missive once in a while. Sending up a signal, reminding me that I am still here too. Still blogging after all these years…..oh, still blogging……everything turns into song lyrics these days. So yes I am writing, more and more, working less at the ,”day job”, the one that pays me, but writing feels more and more like my life even if it it isn’t particularly good writing. Thank you for still being there.

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    1. It’s wonderful that you are writing more and I think there is something about writing that forces us to be in the moment, with little regard for outcome (or at least, that’s the challenge!). That’s got to be healthier than the feelings of doom that can sometimes overtake us. Thanks so much for taking the time to let me know you’re out there, Leslie!

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  5. I am still here and I always greet your posts in my inbox with the same feelings I have when I hear from an old friend. I am still taking photos and they make up most of my presence on social media. I wrote one blog post that was filled with my frustration about the events after Charleston and Charlottesville that I have hidden because it seemed so incongruent with my cheery posts about photography. I did write a tribute to my oldest friend on his passing on my memoir blog – but that was over 4 years ago. I miss the meaty posts about deep things that just can’t exist in the Wild West of social media. I dabble in Quora – it’s perfect for wordy people with opinions. Even my social media has become more about my dog’s insta than my own life because of the vitriol. I keep thinking about starting up again and then I just don’t. I always mean to reply or comment on your posts but then I just get busy and forget until I see the next one. I was trying to explain to one of my friends what Freshly Pressed and it made no sense at all. I have really been thinking about writing a blog about camping culture – I do a lot of that and I find the people I camp with can be great comrades as long as we steer clear of politics. So good to hear from you – thanks for the prompt to respond. I too love to see your ideas and I hope you will keep sharing them.

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    1. I saw your gravatar and I was so happy – like seeing a familiar friend in a strange land! It’s been a long time. So glad to hear from you. I understand what you say about the vitriol and I am a mixed bag when it comes to that. I am very angry about a lot of things right now and channeling that energy is tough! Because I’m involved in a lot of voting rights work and interact with activists I’m not comfortable staying out of the fray, but good lord, I’ve doubled down on the swearing. However, taking a beat before reacting is always a better plan and blogging requires a slower rhythm and more thoughtful pacing (in theory). It really is good to hear from you – if I recall you were working on a family memoir. Has that continued or did you put it aside (as we writers are wont to do)?

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  6. I continue with my blog, too. I use it just for myself, as a repository for things that interest me, for “book reports,” for accounts of outings. I don’t care if anyone else looks at it (and only a handful do). It’s the best place I can think of to store the contents of my mind—and be able to find them again. Thank you for your blog. It’s like reading a letter from a friend. So much for satisfying than any tweet or social media post. This is real life, and you’re not trying to sell yourself. We need more of that, not less.

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    1. Hi Anne. I do think it’s interesting how we are able to shape media to our particular purposes. It sounds like you’ve figured that out for yourself. I constant re-evaluate things, especially if they require work, so looking at the blog and trying to see what purpose it fills for me is a challenge.

      I wanted to read your blog. I don’t know if it’s public or not, but if it is public, you’ll definitely want to link it to your gravatar so that people can find it (if you want them to). Feel free to drop the link to it in the comments. Thanks for sharing your blog thoughts!

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  7. I’m so glad to see/hear your blog again. I never stop thinking of you. Well, okay, I think of you often. Between the ever-growing emails, spam calls, jerks who abound, politics/politicians, etc. etc. etc., and the messy side of life, I enjoy few things. However, those few things I definitely enjoy include a beautiful great-granddaughter (3 months now), the joy of painting (sometimes actually see improvement!), the rest of the family, and those special friends such as yourself, Michelle.
    Life is good. I’m certainly not ready to give up this life yet even though I turned 80 this year. Most days I feel 55 1/2! What keeps me going during some very chaotic times is, of course, my belief in God, my passion for painting, my family and friends, (not always in that order!), and that in spite of humankind being absolutely nuts these days, I believe we’ll survive…for a little while longer. If the insanity of today’s politics and the seeming desire to hate everyone and everything, and the do-if-you-don’t and the don’t-if-you-do infractions weren’t so dire, I would be laughing until I cried. Fortunately, my DNA includes optimism so I end up smiling a lot. Michelle, you have a lot of people who love you so please stay connected. Keep writing your blog (I’m always glad to see it as many others are as well). If you have to eliminate something else, do it, but do not eliminate your incredible, and often times, mind-blowing blog.
    Glad to hear your daughter is still doing well. Love ya…Take care.

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    1. Your gravatar came up as Anonymous, but I’d recognize that “voice” anywhere, Sybil! Hello friend, it’s been awhile. I’m glad that you are still painting and finding joy in these crazy times. I have some work to do to reach that level. Give me another 30 years. Until then, I’ll keep wrestling with myself and learning how to navigate all these life lessons. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will never be a classic optimist, but I am happiest when working the problems and trying to figure out how to make things better. Still writing though and will likely write more here. Stay safe and thanks for stopping by!

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  8. I’m still here. I’m still listening. You’re doing far better than me. I haven’t written a blog in a long…looooong time. Though I have had plenty I could say. Like you though, I’m not sure who is listening. Who is hearing my laughter or my cries. Keep blogging. You help more people than you realise, I suspect.

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    1. Hi Michael. These days I think we’re all limping along the best we can. I’ve been so angry for so long that I’ve been afraid to express myself – especially seeing the social ecosystem become the Hunger Games. However, I forget that writing is how I work through so many things and usually come out more reasonable on the other side. I’m beginning to feel like if I keep it inside, it becomes corrosive. And I’m getting old – I don’t need anymore corrosion! The best thing about all of this is hearing from everyone – we sometimes get the idea that we’re isolated, fighting our own battles when everyone else is out there fighting theirs.
      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment here.

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  9. So happy to see you pop up again! I am attempting to NaBloPoMo my way back into a better blogging habit. Day 17 – I’ve at least made it past the half way mark. I have been faithful to my WordPress reader even when I’m not posting. It’s a happy corner of the internet for me, welcome back and I hope you stick around.

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  10. We are all going to have to do something to get out of this funk we are in. I am 76 and at the time the pandemic started I was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer – while I was undergoing chemo my dear Mom died (she was 96) and the absolute worse part was I could not be with her. So after two years I still cannot find closure – I was her caretaker and was heartbroken not to be there for her. So to combat all these feelings of loss – of my Mom – of our Country – of people, ( I just think people are ranting, raving idiots – even my closest friends have deeply disappointed me – my oldest friend came out and said “when you think about it the Jews actually had it coming” really she said that – a good “Christian woman” – I never spoke to her again, I couldn’t. My neighborhood is “Trump crazy” – which means they are racists – everyday so depressing.) I decided to turn my one acre yard into a max garden – vegetables, flowers, (actually I’ve been doing that for 30 years – but not to the crazy extent I’m doing it now) Then I share my bounty – vegetables galore and beautiful bouquets to the food pantry – flowers to assisted living facilities and nursing homes and yes even to my neighbors. My cancer is being treated with a variety of drugs – good days and bad days. I have no idea how long I have – but I don’t care and the cancer actually made me aware of how precious everyday is. So I get up everyday and give’er hell – I’m so happy your daughter is doing so well – she’s so young and has her whole life ahead of her. I have been so blessed all my life – even now I feel blessed. But, after all is said and done, I so worry about what is happening in our Country and the whole world. I don’t see any improvement in site – when did people get so selfish and dumb?? I must not have been paying attention. Take care – and as my Mom always said “chin up” (hard to do sometimes) Mary Ellen

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    1. Hi Tony Jean. You have been and are really going through it, aren’t you? I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your mother while you were going through your own health struggles. I think there will be a great reckoning for the grief and trauma of the last few years. I don’t know how we avoid the violence that seems to be fomenting now. I do know we have to make a lot of individual choices. It sounds like you made a wonderful choice in growing a garden and sharing with people who need it, even as a gesture of goodwill.
      This perhaps is how we need to re-set ourselves. Find people to help. Notice people who are doing good. Recognize positive activism. Educate ourselves on the issues at hand. Step by step. Day by day. We lose when we get beaten down by the loud, malignant voices now dominating our public spheres. I take heart in the strong people I see taking care of the vulnerable among us. Kindness may not stop illness or bullets or cruelty, but if it is our guiding force, we’ll make the world as good as we can manage. I wish you wellness and joy and the gentle grieving you need to do for your mother. Thank you for sharing here.

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  11. OOOPS! I must have done something wrong…I wrote a zillion comments and posted said comments but I don’t see them here. Or, did the thought-police delete them as unacceptable!!??? Just keep on keeping on Michelle. Luv ya and take care.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. My years on here also add up to near or maybe more than a decade. And yes, I too am neglectful but am loathe to shut it down.
    There’s some serious love in this space – a thoughtful warmth. Connections that feel like friendships, maybe they ARE friendships – although we mostly only meet in this cyberspace. I still think of bloggers lives – who have disappeared without a peep. And miss them. There was a woman who lived in the countryside in the north of England, an off-the grid rambling and cheerful writer in Australia, a doctor who moved with her 2 teen sons and husband to France and then back to California. And there’s the painter in California… so many! Poof! Where did they go? Are they okay?
    So my heart fills when I see a post from a blogger I feel connected with. Like you! It’s about the writing, yes, but I also like the people who hang around in this dusty space.

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    1. Hi Tricia – I’ve definitely had the same experience – connections that have gone with no explanation. I think this is one of the weirder aspects of social media. But then how many times does that happen in real life? A conversation in a waiting room, at a kid’s ball game, anywhere people are passing time together. You have a great conversation and never see them again. I think it’s the repeated interaction and then silence online that makes it weird.
      I like the phrase “thoughtful warmth”. It’s true. I resist settling into comfortable spaces, so concerned that I’m getting dusty myself. But I’m no good on Twitter and when I do let some opinion rip, I feel like a school child getting chastised by the 50 million “you are wrong” opinions out there. Who needs that when I can be comfortably wrong here?
      Thanks for popping in and sharing your blog experiences!

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  13. I’m still at it, Michelle, though not nearly as often. Trying to focus on other writing and exploring new curiosities, while recognizing what I can and can’t influence in the world around me. It’s not the time for spinning my wheels or chasing (too many) windmills. It’s always good to see “The Green Study” pop into my in-box. It makes me smile.

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    1. Hi Donna. I’ve had a year of living not-so-kindly in some ways. I’ve been chasing A LOT of windmills and perhaps that is why I’ve returned here. It’s grounding. I’m trying to do somewhat of a re-set, because I don’t like where I’m at emotionally or physically. The recognition that the pandemic is still raging on through another winter hit me hard and kicked in a depression. So I’m just rallying and trying to get some things sorted with a healthier plan for head, heart, and body. Glad to see you’re still at it!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Best tonic: Tim Kreider’s “We Learn Nothing.” It may not get you blogging again, but it’s an hilarious, intelligent, insightful perspective-provider on this lunacy we call being human, which has never felt crazier than now.

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    1. That is one of my favorite essay collections! A few months ago I read I Wrote This Book Because I Love You by him. It was funny as well, but We Learn Nothing is a little more universal. He wrote an article for The Atlantic back in May called “I’m Not Scare to Reenter Society. I’m Just Not Sure I Want To.” He wrote: “…a lot of people went very far away over the course of this past year, deep into themselves, and not all of us are going to come all the way back.” Oof. I definitely am not coming all the way back. I will do everything in my power to never attend another meeting in person again. But here, on this blog…presence seems doable.

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  15. I love that you’re still doing it, even if sporadically. I too started over 10 years ago, and many of my favourite bloggers throughout those years, the ones I connected with and who can write a decent post, especially a decent travel post, have fallen by the wayside. For sure the pandemic didn’t help, but they, like you, were such beautiful writers. It’s been a pleasure to follow you all these years Michelle. I hope you continue even if only now and then. Good writing is always a pleasure to read. I’m still here, still posting, still reading.
    Alison

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  16. I don’t blog much anymore, most of my writing of late has been academic. Like you, I’ve gone back to school. Graduating this month with a degree in counseling psychology. I can’t compete with dark money and modern politics, but maybe I can help restore some sanity, one person at a time.

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