Can Old School Blogging Save My Writer’s Soul?

One of my all-time favorite songs is Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles. Ironically, video also killed the blog, as did every other social media platform.

I began my very first blog before social media as we know it today existed, and this is my fourth personal blog. There was a time when I used to post every day. Now I struggle to post once a month.

It seems like I’ve been forever trying to figure out how to write more. Of course I want to write better. But doesn’t writing more mean writing better? So why haven’t I been writing as much as I’d like to? The truth is I lost the feeling of joy at the thought of publishing a post to my blog a long time ago–circa 2009 to be precise.

Do you remember when blogs were interesting? Before branding and niches? When bloggers weren’t quite so…impersonal? So voiceless and polished? When posts weren’t SEO-driven, marketable (God I hate that word), and utilitarian? In those days, the blog was a humble and eclectic and sometimes messy but delightfully authentic treat to read. And to write.

Today’s blog is superficial. Unoriginal. The internet has been flooded with money-making blogs for the past decade. Blogs that are so full of ads and promotions, pop-ups and marketing (there’s that word again), that you can hardly find the content you were searching for.

The blog’s transformation from its organic, wholesome, democratic roots to a vapid capitalist enterprise was swift and tragic. It’s been quite the revelation to me that my writer’s soul has been one of its casualties. I had become plagued with perfectionism, preoccupied with keeping up with trends, and afraid of putting anything in writing that might not measure up to the standards of the marketplace.

It wasn’t that I no longer wanted to write, it was that I no longer wanted to write like that.

I don’t care how many words the experts say the ideal blog post should have. Or whether I have found the perfect Google-searched click-bait title. The one rule I am keeping is: the advantage of consistency for the content creator. No one wants to read a blog that posts inconsistently. I know I don’t.

My primary writing goal in 2021 is going to be to show up and write here as often as I can. No one has revelations like this every day, but there is something in the everyday and the ordinary worth sharing. My inner blog guru will try to make me feel small and unimportant, but the old school blogger in me says, “Write on!”

The old school blog is needed today, and I have a hunch I’m not the only one who misses it.

Getting Acquainted with Magical Realism

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I first came across the term magical realism a few years ago when I was looking for the genre that would best describe a work of short fiction I had begun.

My story was set in the real world. It was realistic in its depiction of events. There were no overtly supernatural or fantasy elements. But there was a mood and an atmosphere that could only be described as uncanny. There were characters who seemed to suggest the mysterious in subtle and curious ways. There were events which I planned to include in future scenes that would be read as miraculous or magical, even though the characters within the story would perceive them as ordinary and entirely acceptable.

This was the kind of storytelling that my soul wanted to tell, and now I had a name for it.

Up to that point, I had written mostly poetry, and this story had a lyrical quality to it as well. So when I read through the many attempts to define magical realism, I was amused to come across one that described it as “a poetic denial of reality” (Arturo Uslar-Pietri).

You may come across several definitions of the genre. It can be tricky to definitively describe it. No one definition is all-encompassing. Alberto Alvaro Rios has put together a good online resource for this genre with a collection of working definitions by scholars and authors.

I’m coming from the point of view of a writer, so one of the definitions I find most useful is from A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory:

[In magical realism we find] bizarre and skillful time shifts, convoluted and even labyrinthine narratives and plots, miscellaneous uses of dreams, myths and fairy stories, expressionistic and even surrealistic description, arcane erudition, the elements of surprise or abrupt shock, the horrific and the inexplicable.

Another description which intrigues me is:

[Magical realism is] an implicit criticism of society, particularly the elite.” (from Twentieth-Century Spanish American Literature)

Facts About Magical Realism:

  1. A variation of the term was first used in 1925 in reference to German art.
  2. In 1955, critic Angel Flores used the term in an essay, sparking interest in literature which portrayed magical elements in a realistic way.
  3. Latin America is considered the origin of magical realism, but many non-Hispanic authors categorize their work as magical realism. It has been adapted to fit many cultures and is now an international genre.

Characteristics of Magical Realism:

  • Real world setting, ordinary characters
  • Magical elements can involve time, place, events, or characters, as long as the work maintains realism.
  • The writing style is typically literary.
  • A theme of fate, without too much emphasis on elaborate prophecies or chosen ones or other fantasy elements
  • Meaning (can be spiritual)
  • Subtlety
  • Magical elements are described in a matter-of-fact way.
  • Myths and folktales from a particular culture are often incorporated.
  • Political/social themes or criticism are common.
  • Ambiguity: The reader wonders whether the magical elements are real or not. Are they just psychological? Are they metaphors?
  • The journey of the hero or heroine is often passive–waiting, wandering, wondering. A mystery initiates the journey. It usually hints at a void in their life. It’s not always resolved.

A {Writing} Place of My Own

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Having a comfortable place to write is important to me. It should have everything I need. It should be inviting, clean and pleasing to the senses.
 
That seems like too much to ask. Maybe I should learn to write in crowds, or at a restaurant, or on the beach. But I know I can’t. It’s a feature of my INFJ personality (extroverted sensing so my surrounding environment affects me), and it’s also because I’m a highly sensitive person(HSP).
 
If I’m surrounded by mess, or the temperature is too high or low…if the wind is blowing my hair across my face… if there are too many ants crawling on the picnic table… if there is a strong smell of smoke or perfume or garbage… if I’m hungry or thirsty and I’m far from refreshment… if television is playing in the background, or loud conversations or music is part of the environment… if there are frequent interruptions … or any conditions that might affect me in a negative way, it is nearly impossible for me to focus.
 
Today’s prompt suggested that I try writing from a different location. But I don’t have one right now. That happens to be one of the more annoying aspects of my current circumstances.
 
I write from a couch, which also happens to be my bed. And sometimes I write at work when I have the opportunity.
 
I enjoy nature. But a cold front has just moved into central Florida, and I’m not eager to go anywhere outside.
 
I don’t even have a clean table to work on. It’s not my house, and I’m not up to cleaning it right now.
 
I need a place of my own. I’m working on it. But I’ve been displaced.
 
I’ve never had a place of my own to write. I don’t know what that feels like.

My Secret Ingredient

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I am told that I make good pancakes.

Even if I weren’t told this, I would know it. Because I taste them, and they taste good, and I have good taste.

They’re the perfect color. Golden yellow with light brown edges. Crisp on the outside but fluffy and soft on the inside.

I am patient. I wait until the just-right amount of bubbles appear on the surface of the round puddle of mix. A puddle that is not too thick and not too thin. I resist the urge to peek, and I stand guard as they cook. When the bubbly surface begins to look dry-ish, I know it’s time to flip them. Timing is everything. You cannot flip them a moment too soon because you must only do it once. Multiple flips will mean the texture is lost.

They look good. But the taste is what really sets them apart. Sweet but not too sweet. Delicate, not doughy.

I have a secret.

The secret ingredient is buttermilk, and it makes all the difference.

Writing isn’t much different than making good pancakes.

It starts with good taste. You don’t need anyone to tell you your writing is good except you, though it is encouraging when they do (and it helps).

You need patience. A sense of when a piece of writing is finished, not over or underdone.

But most of all you need a writer’s secret ingredient: persistence. You have to show up and write consistently and persistently enough to grow and produce work of quality.

Growing as a Writer {a 21 Day Challenge}

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I want to grow as a writer. My plan is to show up here every day and write something.

Poetry. Dreams. Memories. Stories. Observations. Thoughts. Feelings. Whatever.

I’m told that I need the practice. And that something magical happens when you just write. So I’ve decided to take on a daily writing challenge. I’m going to write here every day. I’ll be using some prompts.

After 21 days, I’m going to look back at what I’ve written. I’ll see what themes emerge. I’ll find my voice. Writing every day will be a habit, and I’ll train my brain to think like a writer. Well, that’s the idea anyway.

Here’s what I know about writing:

There’s a voice in my head. It’s the voice of every book or poem I’ve ever read. When I arrange words and read them out loud in my head, the voice tells me if they sound right. If they flow. If they sound like what I’ve read.

Neat. Polished. Nothing messy. No sordid details. Clean, clever and cold. Censored and sifted. Careful. This is how I write.

Maybe I’m reading the wrong books?

This is day two. Read day one’s post here.