I’m nearing fifty essays in my 100 essays in 100 days project. “You seem to be writing a lot,” a friend said to me yesterday at lunch. Yes.
Not everything I’m writing is fabulous. That’s for sure. But there are some keepers in this pile. My idea is to write 100 essays and go back and look at what I want to develop further but truth be told, I am a flash writer with a serious addiction to immediate publication. I write pieces in one sitting and do very little editing. If I find myself editing too much or not feeling right about a piece, I scrap it. If it’s right, it’ll flow. If not, I don’t force it.
This is what I’ve learned at the mid-point of this little project:
1) I have more to say than I thought I did. Even on a day when nothing seems apparent or begging to be written about, there is something. I’m learning to be more attuned to what those unexpected topics might be. Sometimes they’re as thin as a glance at a stoplight, but that’s ok. That’s what I like.
2) I can’t perpetually live on the dark side, meaning that a steady diet of angst is really unpalatable. So writing about Shark Week lines up next to an essay about dealing with hard times in our family. Still, I adhere to Robert Frost’s guidance: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader, No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”
3) An essay has a life of its own. You hear novelists and short story writers saying this, that their characters take on lives of their own and they (the authors) don’t always know what the characters will do. Many of my essays are like that. When the detour doesn’t work, readers are scratching their heads; when it works, it’s a marvel, a little wee transcendent experience.
4) It can’t matter how many people read what I write. Of course, if no one reads anything, then it becomes a little ‘mad lady in the garret’ scribbling away anonymously. That’s not me. Watching the number of readers constantly (which is totally possible because of the WordPress stats) is natural but not productive. Some stuff has a really small audience; other topics have wider appeal. It’s hard to predict and probably self-defeating to do so. If you write what you think people want to hear, you’re probably not writing what you want to say.
5) A big purpose of the 100 Essays project is to get beyond the aging mommy blogger genre into essay writing. So I’ve been connecting to writing sites like Write on Edge, Open Salon, and Trifecta and loving the helpful and really engaged comments I get from other writers. Sometimes it feels pretty risky – like the forays into writing fiction – but no one’s reaction has mortally wounded me yet. I wrote a story about a couple’s encounter with an alligator that was crazy, improbable and totally fun. I never would have done that if I hadn’t been lured into Trifecta’s writing contest.
6) I’m amazed at the quality of so many writers I encounter online. Just awed by the range and use of words, the compelling story-telling, and the workmanship. My essays are really short, very compact. Other writers easily write 1,200 words; I stick with about 500, 800 words would be an opus for me. I often feel like the 3rd grader with the Dutch boy haircut in a school full of girls with flowing ponytails. One night I was so struck and so depressed by the wonderful writing of one blogger that I said to my husband, “I can’t stand X, her writing is so good. I hate her.” To which he responded, “Hemingway was a great writer. Do you hate him, too?” Of his many attributes, my husband’s unwillingness to ever, ever feel sorry for me is one of the most important.
So that’s my status report. I love this. I love doing this.