You know that scene in Miss Congeniality when Gracie Lou Freebush, newbie to the beauty pageant scene, is asked during her first competition interview: “What is the one most important thing our society needs?”
And she answers, “That would be harsher penalties for parole violators, Stan.”
Much to the relief of the audience, she quickly recovers from her moment of authenticity and adds “… and world peace.” The crowd goes wild.
Sometimes blogging feels like that. No matter how many times I remind myself that I am writing just for me, I can’t seem to stop myself from monitoring likes and comments, all the while keeping an eye on google analytics. The feedback is affirming! So, when one of my musings falls flat by these systems of measure, my instinct is to throw in “…and world peace!” Or in digital audience responsiveness terms: blog with more contrition, more selflessness, more gratitude, and – of course – more pictures.
Clap, clap, clap. Cheer, cheer, cheer.
Writing for public consumption has been an interesting adventure. Having to organize emotions into a succinct series of words is challenging in the first place. Throw in a dash of reader perception? Well, that’s when I start twisting myself into a pretzel. While I try hard not to get bogged down by what people think of my sentiments (dammit), I find that giving weight to the audience’s potential interpretation is very instructive. Do my words reflect what I’m trying to say? Is there an interconnectedness to my points? Am I whining? Am I lecturing? And so many others. Answering these questions ends up shaping my writing and, consequently, helps to shape and evolve my thinking.
Labeling what I go through when I write as my “process” sounds totally douchey, but there does seem to be a pattern:
- Take note when hearing, experiencing, or observing something that makes me tense.
- Articulate that tension in writing as a way to sort through the feeling.
- Detail the sources of the tension and how someone or something causes them.
- Give examples.
- Done. Walk away.
- Come back.
- Reread and look for indicators that I am whining or lecturing.
- Ask myself what is making me feel defensive and explore how I might look at things differently.
- Imagine what really honest and direct people would say about my observations.
- Bearing in mind 7, 8, and 9, adjust accordingly.
- Hit publish
Or something like that. Basically, I always start a new entry planning to outline logical reasons for why I am reacting to a situation in a certain way. Yet every time – literally, without exception – I end up shifting my focus and writing something totally different than I set out to. Historically, this really would have stressed me out. I’m pretty confident in my technical writing ability, and I have zero patience. And let’s just say I am not prone to rough drafts or spending a lot of time editing.
I am, however, curious that this writing journey is turning out to be about more than good articulation; it has become a catalyst for change… a change in me. Blogging, I find, helps me be more honest with myself about my truth – past, present, and future – and forces me to take a closer look. And guess what? The review process feels really good – viscerally good, and it is surprisingly liberating.
At first, it felt like I was focused on an objective: expressing my feelings. Now it feels more like I’m inspired by purpose: redeveloping my reflexes. The opportunity is beginning to seem as possible as studying verbs in French class to one day discover that you no longer having to think when matching a pronoun with its proper conjugation. Practice, practice, practice! (Thank you, Mrs. Church).
Don’t get me wrong. Keeping past behaviors at bay is not just repetition; it’s hard work. To manage old habits so that they don’t overrun my aspirations for a better me, my “routine” is proving to be critical. If I didn’t start by capturing my knee-jerk reaction to a given situation, and if I didn’t walk away from that diatribe, then I wouldn’t stand a chance of evolving my mindset. Believe me, I have to fight every instinct to call it a wrap when I feel satisfied with having made my case. Allowing for that passage of time is the key, since it seems to be the most powerful remedy for my blind conviction.
So, there you have it; transformation of thought happens for me at #5 – Walk away.
To be clear, I’m not talking about the dismissive kind of walking away. I’m talking about the kind of walking away that gives me more time to think, to move past what I am sure I already know.
And it’s paying off. Likes, shares, and comments, I am enjoying a range of real life conversations as a result of my blog. Admittedly, most people simply acknowledge my having written, which I do appreciate in and of itself. However, others seem to want to engage more and go farther down a given emotional road, and I’m loving that, even if my reflexes do make me feel like I need to defend my presented position. I find that if I can drop the pretense, those discussions more often than not expand my thinking and build my faith in the value of the journey from 5 to 7, 8, and 9.
I am mindful of the fact that sharing my musings via social media as a primary outlet may give me an overly inflated sense of my progress. The internet, after all, is so rushed and can be so one-sided; it is hardly and ideal venue for deep and meaningful meetings of the minds, much less hearts. That said, it’s been a good foundational starting-place for me. There is just the right amount of distance between the reader and me to help ensure that I prescribe a healthy balance of emotion, curiosity, and empathy.
I’ve always considered myself to be empathetic, but if I’m really honest, I have to face that I probably have put more energy into deciding how others should feel than into considering what they might feel. Should versus might… turns out there’s a huge difference (duh). The more time I allow myself and the more comfortable I get with what I really don’t know and with what others might be experiencing, the more expansive my thinking becomes. Truly. It’s powerful for me to walk away from standing my ground. Magically, space for learning from those around me appears. Self-protection and defensiveness fade away,
There is is again: #5 – walk away. Only this time it’s the transformation of life that happens here.
Funny, I set out on my blogging journey to provide clarity about what I feel, but given the advent of time, I see now that it is about so much more. This process – my eleven step process – is not just about hitting “publish.” It’s about discovering ways to dismantle my construct of feelings so that I can uncover the opportunities for growth.
Turns out my writing process is a guide – and a metaphor – for life. That’s some cool shit.
To mostly quote the the poster child for personal evolution, the infamous Ms. Freebush: “I came here, and I realized that [you] are smart, terrific people who are just trying to make a difference in the world…. For me this experience [is] one of the most rewarding and liberating experiences of my life.”
World peace, Gracie Lou. World peace.
To read more about our Tiny House #1, view a gallery of that completed project’s progress photos, and join me in my musings, take a wander around my website.