Follow me on Twitter! or, Was this really a good idea?

So, this happened:

Yep, that’s right.  I—the proud owner of non-smart phone and a person generally uninterested in celebrities and small talk—have joined Twitter.  I have finally entered the second decade of the new millennium.  Which means that if you are reading this and have a Twitter account, you can now follow me on Twitter!  If you are reading this and don’t have a Twitter account, you can scroll down a bit on the side of the page to find my latest tweets.

I’m excited, but I’m also a little bit terrified.

I started coming around to the idea of Twitter when I noticed that I had a lot of little things that I wanted to share.  Thoughts that weren’t big enough to expand into a full blog post.  Links that were worth pointing out, but with only brief additional comments.  And thus @crazygradmama was born.

But it’s a risk, trying something new.  Will I wind up putting pressure on myself to be witty and remarkable with every Tweet?  Is this just a little too far “out there” for a socially anxious introvert?

I don’t know.  I suppose the only way to find out is to give it a shot.

From under the bridge

Familiar as I am with the Internet and Lewis’s Law, I was prepared that including the tag “feminism” on my last post might attract a certain genre of obtuse commenter.  I was not disappointed.

You won’t see the comment if you head over to that post now — such is the magic of the “delete” option.  It has been relegated to the trash bin, where it will languish for 30 days before passing into digital oblivion.

To be honest, I’m rather flattered.  Someone actually felt strongly enough about my post to reply to it in extensive detail.  I’m talking more words that the original post itself.  Whole paragraphs in response to excerpted sentences.  I don’t think anyone’s put that kind of work into commenting on my writing since, oh, high school?  Goodness knows that nobody gives me that much feedback on my research paper drafts in grad school, even when I straight-up ask them to do so.

I was also highly entertained.  The irony was just so delicious.  People would think it was “cruel” to outfit my baby boy in a pink dress?  Thank you for proving my point, dear commenter.  Oh, and I’m so glad you told me that women wear high heels to present ourselves as “frail, vulnerable damsels” and attract help from men, and that women are less interested in science because we can’t find husbands that way.  My silly little female brain couldn’t possibly have any thoughts of its own about women’s motivations; clearly, I needed someone to come along and mansplain it to me.

In fact, the comment was so ridiculous and such a perfect example of our society’s problem with fixed gender roles that I was almost tempted to leave it up.

Nah.

A non-exhaustive list of words flagged by WordPress’s “Proofread Writing” function

bored

massage

threw*

sleepwalking

career*

hassled

adapted*

grump

babbles

sew

creamer

sealing*

pureéd

bassinet

wakings

bowlful

gassy

packable

and my personal favorite,

bee*

*indicates words that were, for reasons unknown, deemed to be correctly spelled in THIS post.

Reflections on Writing 101

For the past four weeks, I’ve been taking part in Writing 101, a free mini-course offered by WordPress.  Every weekday, I got an email with a topic prompt and suggestions for stretching my writing style.  All participants had access to a forum where we could share posts, explore others’ writing, and request and give feedback.

(If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, you can keep an eye out here for upcoming repeats of the course.  In the meantime, all of the daily prompts are archived here for use whenever you like.)

I was a little hesitant about signing up for this.  Would it take too much of my time or add an unnecessary level of stress?  Would participating in a WordPress course be like adding a flashing red “n00b blogger” sign to the top of my page?  Now that the course is drawing to a close, I can say that the answer to the last question is, “Probably not much more than anything else I do.”

Fortunately, the other worries, the ones about time and stress, turned out to be unfounded.  Of course, I skipped a lot (more than half) of the assignments.  Some days were too busy, some of my personal topics were too pressing, and some of the prompts required writing fiction, which isn’t the right genre for this blog.  But that’s the beauty of an open course: nobody’s keeping track of what you get done.  It’s all about what you get out of it.

What did I get out of it?  Good reads, new blogs to follow, a bit of thoughtful feedback, and a bit of writing inspiration.  However, the #1 benefit for me was the push to make a commitment to free writing.  Not on my blog, but on my PhD thesis.  Here’s what my office whiteboard has to say about that:

crazygradmama_day12_cropped

Pushing myself to just write something is proving to be a good plan of attack against the toddler in my head whining, “I don’t wanna write I don’t wanna write!”  There are days when my output is mostly meandering junk, or when I seem to be repeating thoughts that I’ve already covered – but words on the page are a step beyond words in my head, so it’s progress.  Some of that progress is real and measurable and awesome: I just sent a complete version of the Paper From Hell out to collaborators for feedback.

Here’s to reading and writing and moving forward!

The first of many

crazygradmama_spam_small

I should be annoyed that the spambots have found my site.  Instead, I’m oddly pleased.  It feels like a blogging milestone.

The Liebster, or, Hey! A reader!

I had the very great pleasure this week of learning that someone enjoys reading my blog enough to think it’s worth a link.  A big merci beaucoup to B. D. Cavet, who gave me a shout-out for the Liebster Award.

Now before anyone gets all excited, this isn’t an AWARD award.  It’s more like a chain letter for new bloggers – the fun kind of chain letter, where you get cool postcards from around the world, not the lame kind that threatens dire consequences if you don’t forward it within exactly three minutes.  It’s a neat way to share the names of new bloggers and find some interesting reads that you might not otherwise have uncovered.  Plus, you get to put this picture in your post:

liebsteraward1

Which is a nice change from my usual picture-less situation.

By accepting the “award,” I’ve agreed to answer a handful of questions, i.e., ramble on about myself for a bit, which seems to be something I’m quite good at.

1.  If you had an entire day free of every obligation, what would you do?

If it was wintertime, and I was near some good snow-covered mountains, I would spend the whole day skiing, then snuggle on the couch with my family and drink hot chocolate.

If I were at home, I think I would have a normal-ish day, just minus all the work.  Sleep in a little but not so much that I felt groggy, wake up, go for a run in some crisp sunshine.  Enjoy a leisurely breakfast with a cup of tea.  Listen to my baby laugh.  Spend a lot of time reading and catching up on the crafty projects that I always have in the back of my mind but rarely make the time to do: filling out Little Boy’s baby book, printing photos from our vacations, maybe casting on a new sock.  I would take a luxurious nap in the late-afternoon sun, get some thoughts out of my head in a blog post, and end the day with more reading and family time.

2.  What’s an odd quirk that you think is unique to only you?

I’m not sure that there’s any one thing that’s completely unique to me; it’s the combination of all the odd little things that makes me truly an individual.  One of the small strange things about me is that I always say “knock on wood” – and try to literally knock on wood or wood-like material – when I say something is going well, so as to avoid tempting fate.  I am otherwise a highly scientific and non-superstitious person, as are my parents, so I don’t know why this habit is so engrained.

Also, I don’t like fan fiction.  I have a really hard time reading anything non-canon.

3.  Why do you blog?

I’ve talked about why I blog in several posts (like this one) and don’t want to bore folks by being repetitive, but here’s the gist.  I blog because:

  • I think in the form of blog posts.  Seriously, I’ve been writing hypothetical “posts” in my head for about two years.  Typing them up gets them out of my brain for a while.
  • I’m too chicken to post angry and/or personal things on Facebook.
  • I feel better because of it.

The next step in this whole Liebster thing is to nominate a few new bloggers (defined as those with less than 200 followers) to carry on the chain.  My nominations are:

The Mort Mommy

Unbeaten Mommy

Madi Does Motherhood

(I’m sensing a theme here… )

Your mission, should you choose to accept it (and I won’t be offended if you don’t), is as follows:

  1.  Thank your nominator (a.k.a. the lovely moi.)
  2.  Answer the questions posed by your nominator (see below).
  3.  Nominate N other bloggers who have fewer than 200 followers (where N is a number between 3 and 11, depending on how energetic you are and whose version of the rules you’ve read).
  4.  Come up with N new questions for your nominees to answer (as above, N=3-11).
  5.  Make sure your nominees get the news.

Nominees, your questions are:

  1.  If you were stranded on a deserted island and allowed to bring just one item, what would that item be?
  2.  In your opinion, what is the most beautiful thing you have ever seen?
  3.  What are your hopes for your blog over the next year?

P.S.  Google Translate says that liebste means “dearest” or “favorite” in German.

Edited to add:  My husband, who took multiple years of German in high school and college, informs me that “liebster award” is so grammatically incorrect that he doesn’t understand how it could possibly be written that way.

Blog what you need to blog

Write what you need to write, not what is currently popular or what you think will sell.

— P. D. James, author

Write what you want to write and not what you think you ought to write or what other people think you should write.

— Joanne Harris, author

(Thanks to Roxical Thinking for introducing me to these quotes.)

The act of blogging, for me, requires constant reaffirmation of why I’m writing.  Mine is a new little blog with a weird little niche in the vast expanse of catchy headlines and bad grammar that is the internet.  This means that some days (like today), I’ll get a measly two page views.  And I’ll be honest, that makes me a little sad.  Humility has never been my strong suit.  Because yes, I’m jealous when I see another new blogger who’s already got 1000 followers and pieces in The Huffington Post.  I start thinking, What makes her so special?  (Answer: She’s willing to publish non-anonymously and Tweet and do all that publicity stuff I’m completely uninterested in undertaking.)

At the same time, however – because the workings of my mind are remarkably paradoxical – each new follower gives me a little jolt of anxiety.  What if they don’t like what I write next?  Are they going to be disappointed that this blog isn’t all wry parenting posts?  Or all academic stuff?  Or all <insert latest post subject here>? 

That’s why the above quotations struck me so forcefully.  It’s good to be reminded that, fundamentally, I should be blogging for me.  I should be writing what I need to write.  I started this blog because I have Things To Say, and I needed an outlet in which to say them.  Writing is cathartic.  If others read my thoughts here, I should consider that a bonus.  If others actually like reading them, that’s a double bonus.

It’s an ongoing struggle to separate myself from external validation.  I know my husband reads my posts shortly after they go up; if he hasn’t mentioned it by the end of the day, it takes great concentration to avoid asking, “Did you see my blog post?  Did you like it?”  (I of course get great happiness when he does enjoy a post – just I as am enormously pleased to welcome new followers and commenters.  I just need to make sure that I’m not relying on their – or his – approval.)

Dear readers (and I know there are at least two of you!), why do you write?  Is it for fame and fortune or personal satisfaction?  Or a little bit of both?

 

But I hate writing

“I hate writing.”  This is one of my most frequent complaints whenever I have to actually write something for school.  I would much rather spend time coding a more advanced data analysis program than writing up my results in a research paper.  Writing is time-consuming, subjective, and cannot be mastered.

If we go back to a pre-grad-school time when my classes still required essay-writing, my dislike becomes even more pronounced.  Essays – ugh.  When my freshman honors class offered the option to lead themed class discussions in lieu of the usual three essays, I jumped at the chance.  (Bear in mind that as a severe introvert, leading class discussions isn’t exactly my favorite activity either.)

All this is to say that it was a pleasant but confusing surprise when I found myself (a) wanting to blog, and (b) enjoying it quite a bit.  Not just the community aspect – although that part is pretty great, too – but the process of composition itself.  But I hate writing!

What is it about the blog format that makes the writing not suck?  After some thought, I’ve come up with a few possibilities.

The stakes are low.  There’s no grade on the line, no impact on my professional standing.  I’m not trying to sell a product or drive traffic to advertisers – just writing because I feel like I have something to say.  A blah blog post is just a post that few people will read.  Lots of blah blog posts could translate to a general lack of interest and followers, but it’s extremely unlikely that anyone will bother to comment on the writing in that case.  In the end, it’s just me, trying something fun.

Rapid turnaround means no time to edit repeatedly.  A once-through for sense, a once-through for typos, and that’s it – publish.  If I want to post regularly, I can’t get stuck on making any particular post just right.  The low stakes factor plays a role here, too.

Unconstrained format.  Blog posts aren’t tied to the formal (and often deadly dull) structure of a research paper, and they don’t have to be organized like the dreaded five-paragraph essay.  I can play around with words and sounds and layout to land on something I find appealing.  And it can change from day to day.

Topics of personal interest.  Not since second grade, when I scribbled short stories on page after page of rough brown paper, have I taken much time to write what I’m really thinking.  High school was filled with contrived essay prompts and too-vague assignments; do they really expect us to come up with Serious Thesis Statements about every novel?  But now the words come easily; in fact, I often find myself composing posts in my head on the drive to school and looking forward to having the time to write them down.

Fellow bloggers, how about you?  Do you blog because of the writing or in spite of it?

Random thoughts on blogging

  • It appears that WordPress counts it as a “view” when I look at my own blog while logged in.  You’d think it would be easy to filter self-views out of the tally.  Not that it really matters…
  • It is much, much more intimidating to tell my curious husband about new blog posts than it is to release them to the internet at large.
  • Someone liked my introductory post just a few hours after it went up!  I did not expect that.
  • Dear WordPress proofreading software, I am pretty convinced that “sew” is a word, even if you are not.
  • The blogging-inspired “just write it” attitude has motivated me to take the Paper From Hell off the shelf where it has been sitting, nearly complete, for over two years.  It’s time to get that darn thing off to a journal.