Monday, June 12, 2006

June 12: Anniversary Edition

One year ago today I began this blog. This was my first post (and comments it got):

personal journal: nirvana or manuscript stifler?

I used to write lots of short stories and poems till I began a private journal. The stories and poems never got published. The journal, which I began as a notebook to help my writing, became instead a freewheeling, uncensored, unrevised forum for whatever I wanted to say: ideas, feelings, gripes, interests--anything that came to mind.At first the freedom from editing or rejection was liberating. And I loved the easy fluency I found, the flow and unselfconscious style I developed. But I found that the more I wrote in my journal, the less I wrote for submission. In time I lost interest in writing for publication completely. The journal became my only writing outlet, a substitute for any stories, poems, or essays I had written so easily before.I wondered if others had a similar experience. Is personal journaling always a good idea for a writer? Or can it stifle creativity and become a too-easy-to-please listener, insulating its author from challenges he may need more, like feedback from others, disciplined structure, focus and development of ideas, fleshing out of detail because it's needed for others to visualize, even though I might not, since I'm writing it? I honestly don't know.Online, it seems everyone promotes journaling as therapeutic and stimulating for ideas and creativity, great for hatching great writing to share. Privately, I'm not so sure. For me, it seemed to erect a writer's block like the Great Wall of China to anything I tried to write outside it.In any case, that's why I started this blog. I'm tired of just "talking to myself" in my journal and looking for ways to be read--not necessarily published or paid. At least I'm ready to listen.
posted by nbk @ 9:37 PM 2 comments

Since that first post was published I've received about 1,100 visits from all over the world that I know about and published 75 other posts. It's been very rewarding. I especially appreciate my regular visitor from Arizona (oops, sorry, New Mexico), Carol Anne, whose own It's five o'clock somewhere is always a delight to read and whose encouragement and insightful comments have sometimes kept me going when I got lazy. And I'm grateful to have had the chance to interact with a fascinating, very intelligent young museum researcher from Queens, Jill Pazereckas, who began commenting here nearly a year ago and whose own blog, Jill's Room, is a model to me of provocative social and historical issues.

But I feel most proud of the blogs my family have started this year and quickly diverged from this one, in both content and style. They all comment here frequently and really keep me busy trying to keep up with them, and they're bookmarked in my right column: Too Tall to Be a Penguin, by middle son Scott, the elementary school media specialist and part-time Disney ride operator--oops, cast; Iris Blue, my incredible wife, gifted photojournalist blogger, and love of my life; Underwear Ninja Comes With Space Suit, by youngest son and new york sound designer, whose photographs are amazing; and Lazo Land, by my gifted favorite daughter-in-law, Rhonda.

Thanks for a great ride, everyone!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Fight or flight and the river rocks

There aren't many things that really get to me, but having work done by others on my property ranks right up there. From the time they clamber out of their pickup trucks to the time they leave for the day, I'm in full vigilante mode, peering between closed blinds and hiding in the shadows.

But after a while of watching the work clandestinely, I can't stand it anymore. All the clanging and banging makes me too nervous to just sit. I have to do something physical. So I jump into my yard clothes and spend time busying myself around the lot weed-whipping everything to death even if it doesn't need it, or mowing, or my latest exercise machine: hauling rock.

See, when we got the house seventeen years ago, the screened patio had a pool surrounded by chattahoochee and river rocks around the pool edge, with a big river rock fountain at the far end. This might have looked quite exotic if we had an outdoor pool surrounded by lush vegetation, but inside, with nothing but ferns and leafy big philodendrons, it looked out of place. So when we decided to resurface the badly eroded pool and pitted chattahoochee patio all at once, and the contractor offered to tear out the fountain for an extra $300, as well as the river rocks around the pool we had contracted for, we said yes.

Perhaps I should have asked for more detail. It turns out the price didn't include hauling them away, just removing them. They all got "removed" into a big heap against my outside bedroom wall, and it was up to me to do something with them.

Well, there was my excercise machine. Every day I'd go in and teach in the morning while the workers jabbered and clunked and banged around on my pool and patio, then when I came home I'd jump into my yard clothes and start in hauling that rock pile around the property with my lawn tractor and yard cart. And I placed a couple of hundred river rocks weighing from about fifteen or twenty to over sixty pounds each around every tree, hedge row, walk and cranny all over my property.

This was my stress response. Selye said years ago that nature's response to danger or fright or stress is to "fight or flight," but when one is stressed and does nothing to either fight or run away, bad things happen. I can't sit in my fortress while the huns batter the gates and hurl flaming projectiles over the ramparts. I've found hauling fifty-pound river rocks till I'm dog-tired to be just about right.