This is the only pic that came up in my media library for the word “garage.” It isn’t my garage, but it is one of my favorite pictures I’ve ever taken because it exactly captures the mood of my first spring in Portland.
Whew! How is it possible that February is peering around the corner. I had a heavy workload last week & had to give every morsel of writing energy to the work, so no posts actually made it to the finish line here. But the energy was still there, that good blog mojo I used to love.
Back in the 2000s, a lot of blogs were about blogs, about blogging. If that sounds exhaustingly meta, well, yes — but it was also SUPER generative. When the thing can describe itself, when it becomes the natural place to discuss and debate itself, I am telling you: some flywheel gets spinning, and powerful things start to happen.
This is related to my opinion that the very best movies are about movies, the very best books about books.
I was mentally hollering: yes! exactly! That spinning flywheel! It’s what I was talking about a few weeks ago when I recommitted to posting here, right? The way our 2005-2010ish blog conversations generated meaningful experiences, reexaminations, and new lines of thought. And yes, often arguments—but they were (this is just striking me now) more personal arguments than today’s social media pile-ons. You may have been in a fierce debate with someone you’d never met in person, but you knew the ages of her kids, what their current read-aloud was, what their kitchens or gardens looked like.
I’m thinking this through, even though it was a tangent—you can now see those details of people’s lives on Instagram, but something was different during that particular blog era, at least in the book and homeschooling corners I inhabited. There were fewer of us writing, I suppose; but maybe also it was the sense of visiting each other’s personal spaces? I remember around 2009 explaining to a friend that my blog felt like having friends over to my home, whereas Facebook (the Facebook of that time) felt like meeting people in a public space. (Not realizing, then, that it was a data-harvesting space.)
I know this sense of home is why I never did let the blog lapse completely, despite some long silences. I remember an in-person writers’ gathering around 2012—I was vigorously arguing in favor of maintaining one’s own website (and blog) no matter where else you were actively posting. Platforms change, or they disappear. This space has always been mine. An internet home base.
Ah, okay, this wasn’t what I was going to write about at all! (Though related, in a way.) I realize that much of what I’ve posted here since waking the site back up a month ago has been meta. But that’s because I’ve been developing a thought about the role of Bonny Glen in my present life, and what it has meant to me at different touchpoints.
Which is related to the news I wanted to share about Patreon:
After several months on hiatus, my Patreon is reopening to new members. (Current members, this means billing is resuming tomorrow, Feb. 1st, so please check today’s update for details about tier changes.)
Why Patreon? Two reasons. One: the income I earn over there helps keep the lights on over here. Two: I’ve got some things I want to write about in a less public space, and Patreon is a good place for me to do that. In the past I sometimes found it difficult to figure out what posts belonged here on Bonny Glen and which ones belonged on my Patreon, but the distinction is quite easy now because of Circumstances.
If Bonny Glen is my living room, full of bookpiles and notebooks and puzzles and a jumble of items in active use, then my reinvented Patreon is…my garage, in a way? It’s seen by fewer visitors, and only the ones who really want to be there. Ah, I’m losing hold of the metaphor. What I mean is more literal. Of course I want visitors to keep coming to Bonny Glen. But I also literally want to write about my garage and all it contains.
I want to grapple in a very frank and personal way with a topic that has been a throughline of my entire adult existence: the ups and downs of dealing with—well, I don’t like the word clutter, because it always seems to me to devalue the objects we care about. So: just Stuff. As I wrote on Patreon earlier today:
I want to write about Stuff. Possessions. A lifetime’s accumulation of objects. The stories they hold, the feelings they spark, the challenges they present.
Our garage right now is like an archaeological dig through the layers of my family’s history and all our interests—the enduring, the recurring, or the only briefly alluring. (Ha, there, that’s the organizational structure I’ve been looking for. I want to write about the incessant necessity of figuring out what goes where, and what got forgotten about, and what should really be gotten rid of.)
I feel like I’ve been struggling with finding balance in this area since the day I arrived at my grad-school apartment with a U-Haul stuffed to the gills, and my wonderful program director, Jim Clark, waggled his impressive eyebrows at me and said wryly, “Thought you said you didn’t have much stuff.” And I was surprised—I mean, it was the smallest size of U-Haul! In that moment my understanding of what “not much stuff” meant was dramatically recalibrated. But, you know, the shift in vision didn’t keep me out of used bookstores or plant nurseries. And then I went on to have six kids.
So I’ve been wanting to do some really focused writing about this topic for YEARS—and to do it in tandem with the process of sorting and sifting and saving and shucking. And now (not a minute later) is the right time.
And Patreon, because it is a just a bit more secluded, is the right space. I keep the subscription fees low in hopes of making the content affordable for those who wish to see it. (There are $1, $3, and $5 monthly tiers. All three give access to my posts—as well as to a personal RSS feed for all the audio recordings of my Bonny Glen posts—and the $5 tier includes access to a weekly live coworking session.) I would love to have you join me for this exploration.
Either way, I’ll still be over here on Bonny Glen, writing about what I’ve always written about here: my family’s reading life, our homeschooling adventures, my current enthusiasms, of which there are many.
I typed “January” into my media library and this African violet from several years back is what popped up. Today’s windowsill looks much the same.
Updated to add audio again! Like yesterday, I recorded this in one gulp on my phone. It’ll have hiccups, but if I start trying to polish it up, I’ll never be able to stick with this. Thanks for understanding!
Oh my goodness, what a delight to wake up to so many comments from old blog-world friends! I really really want to get in the habit of dashing off a quick post every day, probably around lunchtime, because otherwise I’ll start doing the thing where a half-written draft takes on too much weight and I never come back to it.
I am terribly fond of containers. I used to have such a good one for blogging—the necessarily short transition from mom hat to writer hat. If I spent too long on a post, I’d lose my window for writing, and I had pretty intense book deadlines when I started this blog (and a lot of bairns) so I didn’t have any windows to spare.
My day still falls pretty neatly into a mom focus and a work focus, but the rhythms are quite different now that I’m only homeschooling Huck and Rilla—who, if you’ve lost track—are now both in their teens, and now that I do a lot of freelance work in addition to writing my own books. I’m prone to catapulting straight from lesson time into work brain without taking a breather. (Or else I dip into social media and take too long a breather!)
Well, I’ll try this midday container for blogging and see how it goes. My friend Chris O’Donnell—who has been blogging longer than anyone I know—made me laugh on Facebook this morning with his New Year’s Eve post: Happy “I will write more on my blog and less on social media next year” night to all who celebrate. Ha! I can’t deny that that shoe fits!
Okay, SO. As I read your comments, a slew of replies and post ideas rolodexed through my brain. I made a list. I made several lists. This is so energizing! Thanks, seriously, for jumping right back into conversation here. You made my day.
Question: if I reply to a comment, do you see it? I used to have an option for readers to get comment replies by email, but I feel like that stopped working a long time ago. Just curious.
My gravatar isn’t working, either! But some of yours are. I mean, I logged into my gravatar account and it still appears to be linked to this one, but the pic doesn’t show up.
Well, that’s cosmetic and not all that important. I promise I’ll stop being 100% metabloggy soon. But, you know, first you have to tune up the jalopy before you can take it for a spin! 😄
I liked, yesterday, that I landed on the idea that our old blog conversations were like letters from friends. They didn’t always feel that way, but they often did—chatty glimpses of life in someone else’s world. I’ve always loved a good epistolary tome! I remember so happily the leap of the heart at seeing a friend’s particular handwriting in the mail, and that’s how it felt when your names popped up here yesterday.
All righty. Lunch is over and I’m ready to get back to the household-reset that is my much beloved New Year’s Day tradition. I did the files this morning and now I want to tackle some bookshelves. And it’s sunny today! In Portland, in January! I think Scott & I will take a walk after he finishes chopping an onion for the black-eyed peas.
I’ve already overhauled my studio for the season, and I’m half giddy over the enticing rows on the little built-in shelves next to my writing chair: a shelf for poetry, one for fiction and nonfiction (currently reading or at the front of the queue), and one for embroidery and art books. Heaven. The two books delighting me most at the moment are Padraig O’Tuama’s perfectly wonderful Poetry Unbound (which I forgot I’d preordered until it arrived—on my birthday!) and Gareth King’s Modern Welsh: A Comprehensive Grammar. It sounds funny to say I’m enthralled by a grammar book, but I am! Both for the clarity he brings to the concepts I’ve learned in three months of study on Duolingo and Say Something in Welsh, and for his descriptivist approach to language, which is so in keeping with my own approach and the vibe of the Brave Writer programs I write for.
I want to say more about the Say Something In courses soon—I’m wildly enthusiastic, and if you or your kids are studying Welsh, Spanish, or Dutch, you should check them out—and more, too, about Readwise and some of the things you mentioned in the comments. And Moominmamma, that post has been percolating for a while.
So much to talk about, once I start talking.
Well, I said I wanted to dash off a post and I have, in the sense that I wrote it rapidly and haven’t gone back to polish anything at all—but I didn’t promise it would be a short one. I’m not a novelist for nothing. 😉
Updated to add: I made a quick and (in keeping with the topic) totally unedited audio recording of this post, if you’d prefer to listen. I just used the voice notes app on my phone, and to close up some longish pauses, I selected the “skip silences” option, which has pros and cons. It’s good enough for now.
Am I doing the math right? It’s about to be 2023, and I started my blog in Jan. 2005—so: it’s about to turn 18? Holy cats.
Lately I’ve been doing a lot of reflection about this blog and all the other places I’ve engaged in online discourse. I’m holding most of that reflection close to the vest for now, but what I can say is that my line of thought this past year has been heavily focused on the way this blog used to support my writing life, and the ways my pattern has shifted over the years.
One thing I’ve been keenly aware of is that navigating multiple platforms—necessary at times, for good reasons—has often left me feeling scattered, digitally speaking, unsure what to put where. My Patreon (in addition to paying off the hefty medical bills of 2017) was meant to cover the overhead costs of Bonny Glen. In practice, though, I found myself constantly waffling over what to post where. Here or there or social or where?
During the pandemic years, the decision fatigue—bane of my existence—has had a dampening effect on my writing process overall. I’ve begun, and left in drafts, dozens, possibly hundreds of posts. Blog, Patreon, newsletter, Medium, Instagram. As my old Astoria landlord used to say: It’s too much! It’s too much!
Another major factor in diminished blogging was the end of Feedburner’s posts-by-email function. Some of you will remember when I tried a substitute, with unfortunate (ad-icky) results. Absent that feature, and with social networks playing algorithm games with us all the time, readers have to actually go to a blog to see if there’s a new post. A few readers still use an aggregator, like Feedly, but not many. (I do have extremely high hopes for Reader, though—a new offering from Readwise, which became my favorite platform of 2022.)
Substack has perks as a platform, but—like Patreon—much of its content lives behind a paywall, and as a reader I thoroughly grok the impossibility of paying for individual subscriptions to a whole bunch of Substacks. Medium, at least, offers access to all paywalled posts for about the same monthly cost as a single Substack sub. But getting any kind of visibility on Medium is a whole nother challenge, a boring one.
And it’s all—aha, here I’m getting to the heart of it—work. It takes time. A lot, lot, lot of time. But this blog was never intended to steal time from writing my books—it was meant to support my work. I’ve written often about the role it has played in my reading/writing/thinking/mothering life, and that’s part of the more recent reflections I’m holding close for now.
What I will say is this:
Over the past several years, I’ve experimented with half a dozen strategies for refocusing my blog habits. Nothing succeeded at beating back the scatter factor. So in September, I tried something new. I put my Patreon on pause and dialed back on all forms of posting. No newsletter, not much action here on the blog, very little social media activity. I needed the break.
But privately, I was trying to restore the practice of daily blog-style writing—capturing my thoughts about what I was reading, watching, experiencing. And now, with lots of things bubbling behind the scenes, I’m ready to return to posting. But posting within some self-imposed parameters.
1. Since work and family responsibilities tend to come in intense waves, keeping to a regular posting schedule has been difficult-to-impossible for me. For that reason, and to mitigate the scatter factor, I’m keeping my Patreon on pause indefinitely. I’ll miss the egg money, but right now it’s more important that my blog is a delicious respite from work rather than another kind of job.
2. I’m not going to bother with affiliate links anymore either. I switched from Amazon to Bookshop.org a while ago, but (much as I love Bookshop) that creates even more work. (Amazon’s tools are faster, basically.) I may leave affiliate portal links in my sidebar, but I’m not going to take the extra time to grab specific book links any more.
3. Photos: another form of busywork. What I’ve been doing this past year is just entering loosely related keywords into my WordPress media library and choosing one of the old pics that pops up. I may also take advantage of Readwise’s lovely quote graphics because they require only a quick tap.
4. Similarly, I’m not going to bother much with design. My WordPress has a built-in analysis feature that loves to scold me for using too many words/too few keywords/too few subheadings/too few images/too complex a vocabulary. To which I say: Pffffttthhhht! See, what I’ve learned is: subheadings make a piece of writing feel like an essay or article, not an old-school chatty blog post, not an even-older-school letter from a friend. And essays and articles, while a form of writing I love to read and sometimes write, are not what I’m turning up in this space for. I need a place for shoes-off, hair-down writing. Warty writing, even.
5. How to let people know there’s something new! Last year I planned to round up posts in a monthly newsletter. This required both a) posts and b) sending a monthly newsletter. I did not much of either. What I think I’ll try instead is just sending a newsletter whenever I have three or four posts to share. No fixed schedule. You can sign up for my newsletter here, if you’d like.
6. And finally, as for posts themselves—the heart of this endeavor. There again, no pressures, no expectations. Just thinking out loud about what I’m reading and doing, as of old—but without any of the busywork that has often made it feel like a job. (Sending a quick newsletter isn’t arduous if it’s just to say—like Tonia Peckover or Three Ravens—here’s something new I wrote.)
So that’s what I’m thinking about my digital writing life as 2022 rolls to a close.
This year, I stopped wearing a Fitbit because I was weary of feeling like I hadn’t taken “enough” steps yet. I stopped caring about streaks in everything except Duolingo. (I’m learning Welsh, and I’ve been obsessed for [checks notes] 112 days.) I think I’ve logged barely half of my year’s reading at Goodreads—another intensely busyworky site, if you care about certain fiddly details. I’m sick of metrics. I keep thinking about that bit in A Ring of Endless Light where Vicky’s younger sister, Suzy, is more or less volunteering at a bait shop (something like that), and she comes home every day and flops into a chair with melodramatic fatigue, and the rest of the family is like, well if it’s so exhausting, why are you doing this totally voluntary thing? How about you just…don’t?
Here’s to walking away from the bait shop, friends, if that’s what you feel like doing. Here’s to a year of rest and restoration for all of us. Here’s to reading what you feel like reading, and deleting what you feel like deleting, and writing like your best friend is going to college on the other side of the country in 1989.
In the course of writing this post, I’ve thought of about six other things I want to write about. Which is, of course, the reason I blog in the first place.
Good grief, it’s been two months since my last post. I did start several (in the seventeen-plus years I’ve been blogging here, I’ve amassed a truly ridiculous number of unpublished drafts. Over seven hundred of them. I mean.) but I kept butting into that wall I face when I want to capture some funny or beautiful moment—the larger context, the grimness of that larger context. The state of the world. I’m resisting the urge right now to write that distressing litany (war, plague, corruption, oppression, fires, dying oceans, dying soils, melting ice—the list we’re all carrying around all the time.
I’ll read a poem that shoots through me, or something amusing will happen during our lessons, or I’ll see a neighbor’s cat stalking a scrub jay, the jay perfectly aware of the crouching, intensely focused predator, cocking its head this way and that, hopping a little, flaunting its total confidence in its power of flight; and I’ll want to come here and record the thing so I don’t lose it. Even capturing in a notebook as I often do doesn’t insure against loss: I’ve filled so many, many notebooks. And they don’t have rapid search engines.
But the urge to begin with a disclaimer—exactly this kind of disclaimer—burns up all the energy I had for writing the post.
Can I just issue the disclaimer once and move on? Everything is terrible, but also a lot of things are beautiful and I want to remember them?
Well. Here I am, in May, a month I love. On the East Coast I loved it for the explosion of blossoming trees; but here in Portland that begins in April and is winding down by now. We’ve had cherry blossoms & tulip magnolias & flowering plum; now it’s dogwood time, and rhododendrons and azaleas. What I love most about Portland’s May is the light: especially in the evenings after rain, when the light lasts and lasts, and the clouds are shot through with it, backlit, illuminated, and it’s like there is light in the air, or the air is made of particles of light. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen, anywhere else.
Soon, unless it starts pouring, Huck and I will go out for a walk. Last night, Scott and I were returning home from a long walk and encountered a pair of mallards splashing in a large pool of water on Beech—a cross-street in our neighborhood badly in need of repairs. Blocks and blocks of puddles and potholes. Puddles large enough to attract waterfowl, it seems! Oh, the gorgeous sleek green head of the male duck.
And of course I can’t think of mallards without remembering one of the funniest moments of my whole parenting/homeschooling life: the time someone at the park yelled “Duck!”
…A bunch of kids were playing ball not far away. Suddenly a cry rang out: “DUCK!” Every person in the vicinity ducked out of the way of the large ball hurtling toward our group. Except my kids. All three of them (there were only three at the time) LOOKED UP AT THE SKY. I kid you not. “Where?” cried Jane. “Is it a mallard?”
How happy am I that I wrote that story down at the time? 2006, it was. Sixteen years later, still so funny.
August 2008. The baby has several inches on me now but the bookstacks are just about the same.
I’ve learned, by now, that in the days before a writing deadline, many of my good habits and creative practices slide away. Often, I go into overkill mode and obsessively power through chores that could absolutely wait until after I finish the writing assignment. Last week, with yesterday’s Dart deadline approaching, the obsessions were updating my long-neglected (we’re talking months) Goodreads & sidebar book logs, and a handstitching project meant to help with the writing, not haunt my every thought.
The Goodreads update took so long that I fizzled out before getting to the sidebar; and then I had the bright idea of outsourcing the update to Beanie. (I mentioned to a friend that I was hiring Bean to do some virtual assistant work for me. The friend gave me an amused look and asked, “Don’t you mean actual assistant? Not virtual? You’re in the same house.” I burst out laughing. Yes. Of course. Not virtual when you’re in the same house. Maybe I’m tireder than I realize.)
Well, thanks to Beanie, all my booklists—including the sidebar here—are up to date. Links go (mostly) to Bookshop.org, where I have a little storefront that supports independent bookstores and sends a small referral fee my way. Both Bean and Rilla jumped in to add favorite titles to a few of the lists I’m building there—Rilla started her own list!—and we plan to keep adding to our collections. Most of our lists are still in their infancy. It’s a big project, combing our shelves for our best-loved books.
But where was I going with this post? I started it twelve hours ago and have lost the thread. Oh yes, breadcrumbs. When I curled up with my cocoa this morning, I felt like a stranger to my own self. What did I use to do in these quiet dawn hours? It had only been a week, less than a week, but my poetry mornings felt extremely far away.
I reached for my notebook and was relieved to find I still inhabited the pages. Read—write—stretch—stitch—breathe. As simple as that. Maybe sketch a little, water the garden before the heat flattens us all. My “seven sevens” (pick any activity from that list and do it for at least seven minutes, and fall into whichever one opens up for me) caught me, stilled the aimless spinning, reminded me how creative practice works.
It seemed hardly ten heartbeats later that Huck came to get me for our walk. He finished his garden-watering job on Monday but we decided we both loved the early-morning walk so much that we wanted to keep it up. Today he wanted to visit the giant sequoia seven blocks east. Another seven, sending me into the day.
Oh my dears. If you subscribe to receive my blog posts via email, you may have received a message from the new service (follow.it) this morning, notifying you that I posted yesterday. A very ugly, spammy-looking message with ads at the bottom. Gross. I’ll be deleting this situation right quick. Some experiments fail, and boy howdy, is this one of them.
What this means: until I find a better option, you won’t receive my new blog posts via email. My RSS feed still works, so you can subscribe via Feedly or another feed reader—if you’re one of the handful of people who still uses a feed reader. (I do! Feedly’s just fine.)
What I can do: from now on, I’ll include a list of recent blog posts in my monthly newsletter. That way, if you subscribe to the newsletter (and I think almost everyone who was subscribed to new-blog-posts-via-email is also subscribed to my newsletter—they’re two different lists but there’s a lot of crossover), you’ll see if I’ve posted anything new here on the blog. The newsletter’s pretty, I promise. Not spammy at all. I use Flodesk for that, which I learned about from the wonderful Nicole Gulotta.
Apologies for that spammy little detour! It won’t happen again. (Not even with this post. Which means you might not see it! LOL!)
I know, I know, I disappeared again! After dormancy, uh…more dormancy. At least here on the blog, and on social too, for the most part. I spent May and June feverishly busy on other projects, and when I wasn’t working I stayed offline as much as possible. I completely overhauled my studio, deep-cleaned the main floor of the house, reorganized the garage, fiddled with a picture-book manuscript, studied all ten Brave Writer Dart books for the upcoming academic year (I’m writing the whole batch of Darts), survived the heat dome, and read or reread all the novels of Emily St. John Mandel. That’s right: my pandemic lockdown began and ended* with Station Eleven.
*Oregon lifted all COVID-19 restrictions last week, but our home life hasn’t changed much yet. The spiking numbers of the Delta variant have me feeling cautious still, so I won’t be ditching my mask quite yet, not in indoor public spaces. I did get to spend a delicious evening with a circle of fully vaccinated chorale friends, singing around a firepit, and I’m hoping for an encore soon.
It’s a bit surreal to be all caught up on chores in the real world, and way behind on things in my digital spaces. But the former couldn’t have happened if I’d kept up with the latter. My sidebar booklist is months out of date. My whole site needs a spring cleaning. I didn’t even announce the Nerviest Girl audiobook and paperback launch here! Yikes! That is extremely bad authoring. More on that soon?
One of my looming digital chores was to deal with the demise of Feedburner’s email subscription service. If you’ve been accustomed to receiving an email whenever I publish a new post here, it may look different now. This particular post is meant to test the new delivery vehicle (Follow.it). If you received a notification email, would you mind letting me know in a comment? And if you should have received that email and didn’t (and you happen to drop by and notice this post), please let me know that too. The transfer was supposed to be seamless, but the subscriber number changed, so there was a puckered seam somewhere.
To my vexation, the new service seems to have added little ‘follow’ icons on mobile, hovering over the text in a seriously annoying way. I’ve checked all the settings and I most definitely have NO ICONS selected. Yet there they are on my phone, irritating as mosquitoes! If you’re a mobile reader, I apologize and I hope to disappear the icons very soon.
All right, this post is like a phone call to a friend you haven’t talked to in way too long. Too much to catch up on! I’ll hang up now and hope to chat again in a day or two. I hope you’re well. I’ve missed you!
I’m chuckling over the word “encounters.” In my Rule of Six (or Seven) list, that word flows naturally: encounters with beauty, encounters with living books, encounters with ideas to ponder and discuss…
But when I lift the phrase out of the list, it becomes comical. My entire day is a series of “encounters” with books. I might as well say I’ve had an encounter with air, or that my feet have encountered floors.
Actually, come to think of it, my feet have had plenty of encounters with books, too, because there is never not a stack somewhere in kicking distance. Right now: beside my bed, next to where I leave my slippers at night—i.e., exactly where I groggily aim my toes in the pre-dawn darkness every single morning. You’d think I’d learn after the sixth or seventh stubbed toe, wouldn’t you?
Narrator: she wouldn’t.
But okay. With what books have I had a particularly close or meaningful encounter in the past week?
When You Reach Me
Well, I finished our readaloud of The Wind in the Door, the sequel to A Wrinkle in Time. And for once I wasn’t tormented with indecision over what the next readaloud should be: I had Rebecca Stead’s lovely When You Reach Me waiting in the wings. It’s a natural next book after Wrinkle. (But we’re studying the parts of a cell in our biology lessons, so OF COURSE I had to read Wind in the Door first. After that book, you’ll never forget what mitochondria do.)
When You Reach Me is, as I expected, going over like gangbusters. Scott listens along with us, and since it’s set in 1979, with a narrator only a year or two older than Scott and I were that year, it feels like home. And Miranda’s Manhattan neighborhood is familiar to us from the years we lived in Queens and worked in Manhattan.
For Huck and Rilla, this setting and time period are new territory, an interesting backdrop to an incredibly gripping story. Miranda’s favorite book is A Wrinkle in Time, and she quotes from it or narrates bits and scenes quite often. I love love love internal references like this: they’re the best kind of organic connection, and our brains loooove connections. I’m always talking about giving kids hooks to hang other knowledge on, like the way the Horrible Histories English monarchs song is a useful set of hooks for us to sort other historical events by. “That happened around the time of King John,” I might say, and the kids burst out with: “Poor King John, what a disaster, rule restrained by Magna Carta.”
Anyway, we’re about a third of the way through When You Reach Me and I’m beside myself with happy anticipation of what’s in store for my listeners.
I’ve also been spending a lot of time with B.J. Fogg’s Tiny Habits, which I devoured when it first came out and have been enjoying revisiting more slowly. One of my 2020 achievements was becoming a certified habit coach via Coach.me, because—as you know if you read Bonny Glen back in the beginning—habits have been a subject of particular interest to me since the day I first picked up a Charlotte Mason book in the mid-’90s.
Tiny Habits adds new layers to the subject through Stanford professor B.J. Fogg’s research on human behavior and what he calls “behavior design.” His premise is that you can coach yourself into any behavior you wish if you approach it incrementally, taking advantage of certain hardwired aspects of human behavior—and that willpower has nothing to do with this process. He explores prompts, ability, and motivation—motivation being the least powerful factor of the three, when it comes to creating a habit.
James Clear’s Atomic Habits and Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before also unpack this topic and explore related strategies. Gretchen incorporates her unique and highly useful theory about the Four Tendencies into her discussion of habit formation. I loved her book, because she zeroes in on the importance of understanding yourself (your tendency) in establishing the right bite-sized habit and the best-for-you prompt.
A very long postscript
This post could go on and on, but I’m trying a new practice. I have hundreds of unfinished draft posts sitting in my queue—because life is so full that if I don’t publish them right away, it’s hard to come back later. The momentum is gone. The energy I have for persistent, gradual progress on a piece of writing goes entirely to my books and to my working creating Brave Writer literature guides. But whenever I let my blog slip, I start to feel twitchy. It’s an important chronicle for my family and an important vehicle for my own learning and exploration. I need to write in order to know what I think. And I need to share that writing—narration is such a crucial piece of learning and critical thinking!
So what I’ve decided to try—and I’ll be evaluating the success of this plan in real-time, as I go, probably out loud—is writing for a set amount of time (most days, 45 minutes) and then hitting publish even if I had more thoughts to think, or (as with this post) more books to dish about. I’ve rearranged the day to allow this pocket of time (swapping it out with my Morning Pages practice, because the truth is, Morning Pages bore me silly after about the third day) most mornings. And when the timer goes off, I’ll give it a quick scan for typos and then smash the publish button, even if I had more to say.
I have plenty of outlets for more polished writing. Patreon, Medium, Darts, Arrows, my books. For the first ten years, blogging worked brilliantly for me as a catalyst for discovery and analysis. I resisted the shift toward professionalization of one’s blog and I bristled at the trend toward prioritizing the inclusion of beautiful photos, creating a magazine effect. (Do you know what I do for images here these days, most of the time? I click the “Add Media” button and type a word, loosely related to the content of the post, into the search bar. Then I pick one of the zillion photos I’ve shared here in the past. Thus the ancient snapshot at the top of this post.)
Because social media favors posts with a captivating and properly sized “featured photo,” I kept leaving drafts in the queue to await a moment when I could take or find the right picture. And of course you’re supposed to use keywords and subheads or your SEO plug-in yells at you. Mine loathes the length of my sentences and paragraphs.
And I find that I no longer care. I seldom bother to share links to Bonny Glen posts on Facebook or Twitter any more. I use subheads sparingly and mainly because I love that shade of blue.
Now, I realize I’ve gone and written a whole second post to explain why I’m publishing the first one practically mid-thought. Once again, I’m thinking out loud, firming up my vague notions by articulating them to you.
This practice—which, again, is an experiment I’m testing to see if it clicks for me—will mean more frequent, less polished posts. If you’re still here reading Bonny Glen after all these years, and through my long silences, I’m guessing you won’t mind. If you ever feel I’ve given short shrift to a topic and you’d like to hear more, please let me know! I’d be happy to tackle it the next time I set the timer.
P.S. No time today for adding book links! If you’d like to give me the affiliate credit, here are links to my Amazon & Bookshop.org portals.
February 8, 2020 @ 12:43 pm | Filed under: Bloggity
Allears.cc invited me to try their new audio recording studio for bloggers. You read your posts aloud* and embed the audio into them. I love the idea of the increased accessibility and thought I’d give it a try. I did a test recording with a post from last week: Astonished at the Voices of Willamette and Wren.
* To clarify: the audio is in addition to the usual text post.
I practiced it once and then recorded. I can hear where I loosen up midway through and of course I like the looser, chattier part better! But I think rather than make myself bananas with trying to get it perfect, I’ll just go with good enough—since the whole point is easy layering-in of an audio option. Easy means don’t overthink it.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on audio recordings of blog posts!