You need a new plan

Ever catch yourself thinking the same thing in multiple situations and realize it’s one of those Big True Things About Life? Here’s one that’s recurring for me:

If your plan depends on controlling the beliefs (and consequently the actions) of other people, you need another plan.

Now think about this without escaping through the word “controlling.” Are you assuming the would-be controller is a bad person? Make them a good person, someone who cares deeply about a worthy cause. What is that person asking of the world?

In my experience, personal and organizational plans for “change” and “awareness” and “saving the world” usually boil down to everyone thinking and acting according to one set of values. That will never happen. We know from history that even total dictatorship can’t maintain uniformity for long. It’s not in the nature of things. No matter how hard you argue, campaign, rant, emote, reason – pick your verb. No matter how hard.

Wasted effort frustrates me. I’m tired of the disappointment it brings. I’m tired of dreams falling apart because the dreamer resisted practicality. How often do smaller, feasible solutions to specific problems fall by the wayside in the mad dash for the panacea?

Feed the person in front of you. Plug the hole you can reach. If everyone did that, we wouldn’t have to save the world.

If everyone did that…See? Even me!

Training the Bots

It has come to my attention that I must train the bots. As I hike the WordPress wilderness in search of kindred spirits, I’m finding the bots need some help deciding what it is I’m looking for. This made me think of Lewis Carroll.

The time has come,’ the Walrus said,
      To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
      Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
      And whether pigs have wings.’

The Walrus and the Carpenter, by Lewis Carroll

The Walrus appears to be ahead of his time, listing off tags and search terms. However, I find I don’t share his interests particularly, although I do like a good pair of shoes.

Sometimes, I browse the WordPress Reader, making up search terms from things I know I like. You can find treasures that way. For example, I like tiny toys and handmade things, and I stumbled across two fun blogs browsing for dollhouses.

Quimper Hitty chronicles the wonderful domestic lives of a set of Hitty dolls. The name caught my eye because I read a book years ago called Hitty, Her First Hundred Years. I wondered if Hitty were the name of a type of doll, not just the name of the character in the book. It is! But the book is the beginning of this custom. The author, Rachel Field, found a little wooden doll in an antique shop, and the book grew from her curiosity about Hitty’s life before she found herself on that shelf.

I discovered Donahey Woodens and Friends on a day when ACorn the Squirrel had misplaced his hat on a midnight adventure involving a bear. The adventure ended well in that the bear was friendly, but the hat was much mourned. This morning, I was pleased to see that ACorn has a new one. ACorn’s human friend is adept at tiny knitting.

I love these tiny worlds, created with such loving imagination. They are a respite from the larger world and they water my story-loving-book-writing mind.

I also love gardens. I never seem to have time to make them in my real life, but I never tire of seeing them, on or off line. When I was little, my sister and I cleared a spot on the top shelf of a sort of built-in bookcase in our closet. It was a good sized space, probably 3 feet by 3 feet, or 2.5. We climbed onto it and pulled the folding doors shut behind us, and we cut out pictures from a seed catalog and taped them up all around us on the closet walls and the inside of the folding doors. It was a secret garden. It remains one of my most treasured childhood memories.

Susan Rushton is one gardener I’ve discovered in my rambles. I followed her for her beautiful photography and for the exquisite sensibility in this bit about susurrus.

I love books (to the surprise of no one), and I encounter many reviewers and book bloggers in my wanderings. Beloved Bookshelf is one I started following recently because I saw a much-loved book from my little girlhood in one of the photos and as I explored the site, it looked like the work of someone who enjoys many of the same kinds of children’s books that I do.

There are other sites – some are interesting because of their topic, some for the voice and personality of the person writing, some because they brush against whatever I was thinking of at the time. But I hope, dear bots, that you are paying attention and will direct your energies more fruitfully after clicking and whirring your way through this post. Should you require further instruction, please consider corgis, small friendly herbivores, home-made bread, daydreaming, literature, tea cups, India, and going to the beach in the fall.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

No thank you to the blog marketing tips

Dear Stranger,

If you are following my blog because you have a blog that’s going to increase my blog following, expand my brand, profitize my prose, et cetera and so forth, please do not trouble yourself.

Your cursory glance at my blog indicates that I am building a community of bloggers.

This is true.

We even have a hashtag. #bloginstead.

Also true.

But you missed something.

I’m building the community because I want the community. You know how you do something because you enjoy it, and then you find other people who enjoy it too, and you spend time together enjoying it?

That’s what I’m doing.

I’m not looking for quick tips on expanding my brand so that my viral blog will attract advertisers and enable me to quit my day job and subsist on sponsored posts.

Big nope on that.

Yes, I write books. Orthodox Christian children’s books, actually. I’m doubtful this is the target market your tips and tricks are intended to reach.

Yes, I will talk about my books on this blog. I like writing my books. I like having them published. I’ll never get over the enchantment of seeing them illustrated.

More than that, I like people to buy my books. I hope they read them till the covers fall off, that they find them again when they’re all grown up and hug them spontaneously for all the good childhood memories attached to them.

I market Orthodox books for a living, and I know for a daily fact that people can’t read a book if they don’t know it exists. I know the value of spreading the word and finding an audience and building a brand. All those things. But I see NO value in doing those things for their own sake.

I don’t want to lose the value of being a human person who likes to write, who enjoys talking to friends, and who wants to recapture the kind of internet space where that was, and could still be, possible.

Life is complicated. Intricate. Interwoven. I can’t separate my writing self from my author self, my community-seeking self from my book-promoting self. Not completely. There is one me, and all aspects of my life connect, one way or another. But I can decide what matters most and choose it every time I have the choice.

That’s what I’m doing here. And that’s why I won’t be following your “how to win big in online marketing” blog.

No, thank you.

P.S. If you know the guys on social who believe that a friend request from a total stranger leads to romance, even from a total stranger who looks miraculously like numerous other total strangers dressed as retired admirals and possessing adorable dogs, please inform them that I already have a more-than-satisfactory retired officer and adorable dog of my own. Thank you.

Welcome to Blogtown, Annie!

In English I hear “be attentive.” In French it means “wait.” In Latin it actually means “to stretch toward.” Sort of like you do when you’re waiting and being super attentive, listening so hard you’re about to fall out of your chair? Ah. That’s the word I’m looking for then. Because I’ve noticed a glaring lack of this in my life.

Annie, blogging at Rural Time Warp

#Blogtown has been up and running long enough that adding a new member on our original list didn’t seem practical. What if you aren’t checking back to the list? You would miss Annie!

Annie’s blog is called Rural Time Warp.

Don’t you already want her Blogtown, just from the name??

Annie said she wanted to join, so I hopped over to Rural Time Warp, and there was a post about being attentive. It fits so well into the whole #bloginstead mindset. Blogging is slower, deeper, more human-scale. You have to pay attention in longer increments to blog than to post on social media, if you want to be coherent. And we do! We do want to be coherent!

So, welcome Annie! We’re glad you’re here! You can find a list of other people to follow HERE, and everybody – please follow Annie!

Remember, you can add neighborhoods to Blogtown. Start your own list. Recruit friends. Follow each other. Talk to each other. That’s how #Blogtownneighborhoods are built.

Why Blogging? — This One Life

It has been interesting returning to the blogging space after a few years of hiatus. I have had to confront my former blogging motivations, why I left, and what has changed. It feels a little bit like coming home again, or wearing an old sweater again, or maybe visiting college well after graduation. Things are […]

Why Blogging? — This One Life

If you’re reading this, you probably know that the original #3daysinthewilds, in which a group of intrepid friends leaped off social media and tried to #bloginstead, has grown like a stream running downhill. Now it’s a river, and it’s one I plan to stay on, rowing along with my eyes open for other small craft making the same peaceful journey.

The post I’ve linked above is from Amber at This One Life, one of the #bloginstead pioneers. This post is honest, and I believe MANY bloggers (and former bloggers) will recognize themselves in her look back at why she started blogging. I’m so glad she came back, and especially that she came back AS SHE IS NOW. I believe our redemption lies in communication for its own sake – for the sake of sharing information, perception, faith and hope and love.

Well, I’ve got a hammer

And I’ve got a bell

And I’ve got a song to sing

All over this land

It’s the hammer of justice

It’s the bell of freedom

It’s a song about love between

My brothers and my sisters

All over this land

If I Had A Hammer – Lee Hays, Pete Seeger

7 Things Our Corgi Doesn’t Believe In

You might think a dog who likes to eat socks would have no sense of propriety, but you would be wrong. Ferdinand the Corgi combines a photographic memory of how the planet looked yesterday with a joyful confidence that you should have left it that way. Generations of sheep-herding ancestors egg him on, and his soulful gaze and soft, stumpy paws make him a formidable opponent.

What surprised me, as he first began expressing his opinions, was how often his objections stemmed from his love of routine. Like the Navy, Ferdinand adheres strenuously to the precept that there is a place for everything and everything should BE in its place. No dog likes a thunderstorm, and neither does Ferdinand. But he is more likely to protest from outraged sensibility than fear. And even you, oh lovely reader, would struggle to predict what will outrage him.

  1. Trash bags. Wouldn’t you think a dog would be fascinated with a lumpy sack of kitchen smells? Not this corgi! The minute we heave it up from the trash bin to haul it to the garage, Ferdinand loses his fuzzy little mind. He braces his front paws, winds his ears up to full alert, and barks hysterically. Plainly, this kitchen necessity is far more dangerous than the vacuum cleaner.
  2. Helicopters. Also airplanes of every description. He races across the yard, barking the buzzy thing off the property. Does he think it hears him? One must admit that every time he chases a helicopter, it leaves and doesn’t come back.
  3. Lawn reindeer. They weren’t there yesterday. They do not respond to friendly greetings. Sometimes, they fall over. As a species, they have sunk themselves below reproach.
  4. Dishwasher detergent dispensers. You know the square opening on the door of your dishwasher? The one into which you pour the detergent and then shut the cover with a click? To be fair, this should be filed under Things We No Long Object To. Upon discovering that the dishwasher contains eggy plates and spoons decorated with peanut butter vestiges, Ferdinand found that he no longer objected to the detergent caddy.
  5. Heating vents. This objection can be filed with number 4. In the early days of his puppyhood, Ferdinand refused to pass any vent in the floor unaccompanied. He peered nervously into each one, sniffing with the veriest tip of his nose. But winter came, heat began to emanate from these gloomy abysses, and he decided that covering them with his furry belly and snoring was the best defense.
  6. Loaded laundry baskets. Is he wrong? Do you not also wish to flee headlong from the room at sight of one?
  7. You, leaving the house for any reason without him. You can have no possible reason for doing so. There is nothing more to be said.

Laughing at an adorable corgi is an irresistible temptation. His personality is so much larger than his stumpy small self, and his barking, squeaking, pleading little voice is almost human. How can outrage be taken seriously when it bounces?

But I suspect we are more like Ferdinand than we realize. Don’t we all object to the unexpected? How often do we race to control forces that, like helicopters passing overhead, are not truly under our control? And who can object to love that mourns every parting and rejoices with such sincerity over each reunion?

The Time Value of Literature

“A classic is a book that has lasted more than 100 years.” –

Famous Person Cited by English Professor Too Long Ago to Remember

But the forgotten famous person has a point.

Today at work, I was talking with someone about a writing project she’s considering, and two books published several years ago came into the conversation. “Of course, they wouldn’t be published now,” I remarked. Times have changed, the publisher’s needs have changed, what the market is reading has changed…the list goes on.

My subconscious mind must have thought this was interesting because the topic recurred in another guise while I was scrubbing a saucepan after dinner.

It began with recollections of a picture book my mama read us often when I was a little girl. The book is called Supposings, by Johanna Johnston, Pictures by Rudy Sayers. See? That’s already something different. Picture books now say “illustrated by” on the cover. Why did that change, I wonder? Is the word “pictures” too specific, or not specific enough?

Everything about this book reminds me of my 1970s childhood. I remember it being read to us, I remember the sunlight inside the rooms of our house and that soft “nap-time-soon” quiet feeling of cuddling on the couch with wiggling siblings, staring at pictures, pointing at things at will, floating along in the sound of our mother’s voice.

The colors in the illustrations and the style of them remind me of the curtains on the landing and a wool plaid vest my mama sewed that still hangs in my closet, simply for love.

I love this book. But if Johanna and Rudy submitted it now, would it be published? Would it be hard-back? (I don’t like picture books to be paperback. Thin and flooooppppy.) Would this simple, childlike journey through an afternoon of daydreaming be considered a plot? The illustrations would be different, wouldn’t they? Even art for children follows trends. Are those trends set more by adults, or by the shifting landscape of a generation raised in front of screens?

Supposings was published by Holiday House, Inc., in New York, in 1967. There was no such thing as self-publishing in those days. That means a New York editorial staff thought this book was a good risk. Would they now?

What was the competition like back then? Were publishers swamped with submissions the way they are now? Perhaps they thought they were, but could their swamp compare with the tsunami made possible by personal computers, internet research, and the lure of social media stardom?

Years ago, my Daddy explained to me what he meant by “the time value of money.” He told me that even if I have a million dollars, if it hasn’t been paid to me yet (or it’s tied up in a trust fund or etc. etc.), then it’s value is changed. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Is there a similar principle for literature? To me Supposings is a classic because it is lovingly bound to a host of childhood memories. My objective analysis of its literary worth will be quite subjective, no matter what. Love is not blind, but sometimes love is not seeing the same object that everyone else is.

Would it be easier to evaluate the lasting literary contribution of a book for adults? I’m not sure. Novels go out of style. So do self-help books. Medical advice? Goodness yes! But at some point in all this analysis, one must confront the reality that a change in criteria is not always a change for the better. Before we can finish judging a book that wouldn’t be published if it were submitted today, we can’t avoid asking whether it should be.

Articles that should never be written

While reading the Dr. Seuss Sleep Book (impossible without yawning), I encountered a sentence that stuck with me. It’s about “five foot-weary salesmen” who have been racing around all day trying to sell zizzer zoof seeds, “which nobody wants because nobody needs.”

Today, I decided to make a list of articles that will never be written. Like the zizzer zoof seeds, they contain information that nobody wants because nobody needs.

Here goes.

Five Ways to Keep Your Baby Up All Night

“How stupid do you think I am?”: An Accurate Assessment

Pouff: Maximize Humidity Retention for Better Hair

Sweet Memories: How to Bronze Dog Mudprints from Your Carpet

10 Things I Wish Everyone Didn’t Know About Me

DIY Pocket Banners: Flag the Spot Where You’re Carrying Your Wallet

Slicker: Increasing Speed and Decreasing Traction on Your Rainboots

How to Ensure No One Will Forget What You Said at the Office Christmas Party. Ever.

Picnic Fun: Attract Angry Geese to Your Group in 3 Easy Steps

Be the Solution: A Frantic Woman’s Guide to Training Everyone to Depend on You for Everything

This is quite fun. Who wants to try? Name me some more articles that should never be written!!

How to Join #bloginstead: Move to Blogtown!

It’s Saturday morning. We’ve completed the #3daysinthewilds that comprised the original plan for #bloginstead, and we’re happy in this growing community. The pioneer members have decided to unpack the wagons, build houses, plant gardens, and stay a while. Would you like to join us?

We hope you will!

If you want to move to Blogtown and participate in friendly, human-scale community online, just follow these simple steps. We’re looking forward to welcoming you!

  1. Read about how #bloginstead got started (HERE).
  2. Learn how Blogtown works (HERE).
  3. Do you have a personal blog? If you read about Blogtown in number 2 above, you know we’re personal bloggers. Nobody’s a brand here, and that’s important. If you don’t have a blog, make one. Personally, I like wordpress.com. But it’s your blog. Do what works for YOU.
  4. Follow the blogs listed HERE to join the current group.
  5. Start your own neighborhood in Blogtown. Invite real-life friends to revive or create personal blogs, and then follow the same procedure – everyone in the group follows everyone in the group.
  6. Start writing posts, and start reading and commenting on your friends posts.
  7. You’re in Blogtown! Welcome!

Remember, this isn’t the glamorous world of influencers and the one-finger scroll. This is people talking to people. Don’t worry if you can’t write deathless prose that will shock the world with profound insight and prodigious beauty. Write the way you talk. You have something to say. Just type those words onto your blog. Plain or fancy, they are your words. What makes you an important part of the group is YOU – your voice, sharing your experience and conversing with your community about their experience, too.