Sunday, February 03, 2008

What about the thirty word experiment?

I can't be doing with too much agonising about blogging on blogs. Generally I think one should get on with it or shut up. Doubts and losses of confidence are inevitable, no one can be brilliant and inspired all the time. Actually, some people can and are, and they are those whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose, but I can't, and fretting about it, floundering in impotent envy and self-pity and making odious comparisons, won't help.

However, those doubts arising, the little-and-often structure and discipline of doing thirty words a day was useful and interesting. I hope it has enforced habits of succinctness and elegance which I can maintain, though I fear it may be as when I have imposed dietary restrictions on myself; asceticism gives way for a time to a more moderate and wholesome restraint, followed by total relapse, two glasses a day at least and bacon sandwiches. We'll see.

I continue to reflect indecisively and scribble inconclusively about What Matters. ( In fact one helpful insight I may have arrived at is the simple necessity for a personally satisfactory balance between time spent scribbling longhand in comfy old spiral bound squared-paper notepad, often on the sofa, wrapped up in warm stuff with a dog on my lap and Tom plugged into headphones muttering darkly at the news, and time on the computer.) I might yet try to develop some of the scribbled things further here, if I find time in between more interesting matters such as food and knitting.

For now though, I think perhaps the most positive thing I've begun to think about was prompted by what Dave pointed out about Clare's 30 word 'Once around the Park': that its most important feature is not its brevity but that it is based on continuing observation of a particular place. I see now that this is perhaps one of the strengths, beauties and achievements of blogging, the honouring of our rootedness and our surroundings, however humble and apparently unremarkable. We can all, in our way, become contemplatives, breaking through the barriers of boredom and limitation and finding, in quiet, patient observation and appreciation, grace in simply being where we are. And at the same time we can experience other places and realities intimately through others' writings and pictures. It's not necessarily about creating fabulously beautiful art, though if we're lucky some of us might, but it's possibly more important than that.

Moe Lauher has a simple mantra, as he photographs the roofs around his house in different weathers, which, he says, are not the rooftops of Rome or Paris, but 'this is where we live'. 'The desire for beauty', he affirms, can be satisfied by the familiar sight of a houseplant standing in a yellow saucer. Dave is a great inspiration in the depth and beauty with which he recreates the place where he lives and works, I love and was very tempted to imitate his new photoblog Visual Soma. GrannyJ carefully and lovingly chronicles the pavements and scrapyards and crazy folk art and more of Prescott. Joe's Tunbridge is an endlessly rich and quirky and intricate place which half puts me in mind of Stanley Spencer's Cookham, where angels could be just around the corner, or glimpsed from the corner of an eye. Jean's London is deep and subtle and full of secrets and not without terror. This list is not intended to be invidious; it could go on and on.

Yet having said all that, it's not the only way to blog; with many of my favourites I have little or no awareness of where they are written from, and it doesn't matter. I have always been leery of making Box Elder into an 'Expat's life in France' type blog, and deliberately chose a name which gave no clue to its setting, was in fact misleading. That genre of writing, as exemplified by my bete noire Peter Mayle, is one I'm suspicious of, and though I know that local colour and interest is popular here, and I enjoy writing and photographing it, I don't want it to be exclusively what I do.

So, seeing as how I've enjoyed doing thirty words, and think it's a good form of regular writing practice, and recognising the importance of place-based observation, I've started another blog just for that. I wasn't too certain about this; I've now got four on my dashboard and have to think about which one I'm hitting ( two are fairly dormant ), and personally when I go to someone's profile and see a list of different blogs I find it off-putting. However, I'll make it clear this is my main one, and the new one is a sideline. If you care to visit and drop the odd comment fine, but it's not mandatory. A nice thing about the limited output is it's easy to catch up with reading after an absence. It's very similar to Clare's in presentation and probably style too, but I've no shame in imitating such a good model. It'll be based on the walks I take every day with Molly, who is very much one of the things that keeps me rooted here, so is called 'Out with Mol '. There won't obviously be as much human interest as in Clare's - her babies in swings post was a cracker that kept me smiling for days - and the odd bit of rumination or 'poetry', since a regular walk is good for such things.

The box elder tree will continue to be home. Never a grand arboreal specimen, and subject to the odd disagreeable parasite, but harmless in root and branch and not without use for timber or sugar, faute de mieux. Unlikely ever to set viable seed, but pleasant in leaf and aspect, and slightly exotic by dint of its displacement from its land of origin, you're welcome to join me in its shade.


Unknown said...

Your analysis of bloggery seems to me to be spot on. I'm so glad that you are going to keep Box Elder as it always has been. I'll look forward to walks with Moll, meanwhile and to 30-worders ensuing. My heart leapt up when I read of your dislike of Peter Mayle. There are few books which deserve to be detested, as do his.

vicki johnson said...

i appreciate your thoughts and always do...and i'm glad Box Elder will continue.

Wrestling with "to blog or not to blog" is a natural part of the process, it seems to me...along with "what to blog and how"'s very tempting to pattern oneself after others when one feels empty...and yet we all survive on inspiration and exercise...don't one form or another?

i chose to blog because of the freedom of not having to meet anyone's expectations but my own. i've known for sometime many of my limitations (though i employ denial in self-defense just like everyone else) and for the most part i accept them...even if it sometimes continues to make me sad that i cannot inspire in others what i wish to, when i hope to.

Anonymous said...

The new blog looks great! Yes, I think you hit on the essential element - I'm a little chagrined that I didn't mention the importance of a connection to place in my mini-roundup of microblog experiments the other day. The writing is terrific. My only criticism - take with a grain of salt - is that your tagline is rather too long for a microblog. The "inspired by Clare's 'Once Around the Park'" bit really deserves a spot in the sidebar, where you can also hotlink it to the inspiration in question.

Maurice Lauher said...

Thanks for your kind words.

Pam said...

I'm catching up after a blog famine because of far too much work, and have really enjoyed your 30 a days (albeit I've read them all at once... sorry). But am glad to have you back more volubly too.

Anonymous said...

Lucy, what a find! I trailed you over from the comments at Dick's place. Will bookmark for further perusal in-depth when I am home again with a decent internet connection in March.

Take care :-)

Carroll (blogless, and temporarily displaced)

Lucy said...

Joe - thank you, and for your continuing blog-friendship. My thoughts entirely on Peter Mayle.

Zephyr - what you say about not meeting anyone's expectations but your own is a very important one to remember; the unexpected bonus of friendships, and the desire for affirmation and to be liked might threaten to get in the way of that, but I think one is only worth reading and worthy of attention when true to oneself. Yours is one of the most visually beautiful blogs; the fact that you don't post very frequently may mean you don't get as much traffic, but confirms to me that your blog comes from a rich and busy life and isn't all-consuming, which I admire. I would dearly love to take photos as good as yours.

Dave - thanks. I wouldn't even call that a criticism anyway, it's a very good point, which I shall set about taking you up on. I wasn't 100% about the look of the thing, I only ever really like the Minima template for example, but felt I was running out of options for what to do with it. That change wll certainly make it look more balanced, and a link to Clare is obviously necessary. Thanks a lot.

Moe - you're very welcome, thank you. You're doing some really good stuff over there.

Isabelle - you're an inspiration for your good humour, generosity and thoughtfulness, and that you keep up blogging nicely in spite of all the work, so you must use your writing time very well.

Carroll - lovely to see you here; I always love reading your comments over at Dick's!

Granny J said...

Lucy -- once i thank you for the kind words and link, a comment on straight-jackets. They can be challenging -- and stifling as well. Even tying one's blog to pictures can turn into confinement -- I've been shut-in for nearly two weeks, now, with most of my back-up pictures either on inaccessible DVDs or eaten by my computer and I'm forced into a 30-words sort of photography! What shall it be today -- snow on the roof? footprints in the snow? or perhaps some tshirts or geegaws from my collections? Oh, how I long to get out-of-doors!

vicki johnson said...

Thank you for your very kind words, Lucy! i'm reading your compliments on a day when they are very much needed!

i would like to post more often but "stuff" gets in the way...but...i'm thinking maybe i need to get more than one batch of images ready at a time and that will help a's all the uploading and then play time in photoshop that stops the momentum..but i think the main reason i don't get lots of traffic is that i don't have loads of time for visiting and commenting on other's blogs...which is all part of the nurturing of these online friendships...and important, i feel.

Rob Windstrel Watson said...

I love the idea of the 30 words blog and the poetic way you write your posts.

I'm most tempted to try it myself but my writing schedule, as I said on Clare's blog (followed from your link), is already hugely overextended.

Perhaps, I should learn to write with both hands.

But you would probably say 'Why write so much'?

And I would reply 'Dunno .. Probably because I must.'

Rosie said...

I just happened to have Soul Music on for the repeat as well. I dont think it is possible to listen to Tallis's piece without sobbing...but then I am easy game. I listened to a program about John Martyn's album "Solid Air" with the line "You curl around me like a fern in the spring" so beautifully sung and played, that I was back in the seventies, hearing it for the first time, tears running down my cheeks...but what I meant to say is, some of us are succinct, some of us verbose and some of us easily distracted and flippant...but there is room for us all, it is the variety that is interesting

Lucy said...

Z - I always appreciate your visits here!

Rob - welcome. I don't think there's any harm in expounding at length when it's to a good end, I was simply starting too many things and not finisihing them because I didn't know where they were going. But I do like the idea of writing with both hands, or writing with one and doing something else with the other.

Rosie - funny I was thinking about John Martyn - always loved that line - I think he was mentioned in the Radio Times, and wondering whether to reacquire Solid Air and Grace and Danger. Glad you enjoyed the Tallis.

Clare said...

Lucy -- thank you so much for your enthusiasm for Once Around the Park and 30 words. I really appreciate having another writer confirm that it's a good idea. I'm looking forward to your walks -- there's something about dog walking that's conducive to writing.

The 30 words thing is such good discipline: I've found that even after this short time, I can say a lot more in 30 (or 20 or 10 words) than I ever could before. It reminds me of my days as a local newspaper sub editor, when I would have to write (say) a head in three lines with 8-10 chars in each.

As for the point about going back to the same landscape over and over again -- Dave is right. I now see that there are dozens more types of mist, sunlight, cold, dampness, wind, rain etc than I realised. I'm stashing them away for use in other works.