You know those dark days where you feel kind of “lost in the woods” creatively, and then something nice happens? Once of those things was the lovely support I’ve received from readers and fellow bloggers. You light up my day, thank you!
Another thing was that Tom Burton nominated me, along with a few (handfuls) of other bloggers, for the Mystery blogger award. I thought what a fun, community-building opportunity!
What is the Mystery Blogger Award? The Mystery blogger award, playfully pseudonymed for its originator, Okoto Enigma, is said to be:
…an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blogs not only captivate; they inspire and motivate. They are among the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging; they do it with love and passion. — Okoto Enigma
I loved the way Tom answered the questions posed to him by fellow nominee Uzma, of Wit’n’Word—very generously and honestly. Such an enjoyable and heartwarming read!
Tom listed me under his ‘Fabulous Five’ fiction writers: “These talented bloggers are exceptional storytellers, creating vivid short stories that leave the reader eager for more! Their characters leap off the page through rich authentic dialogue, well-crafted emotional struggles and immersive world-building that pulls you along for a thrilling ride.”
Wow. I am so amazed and humbled by this praise! And it’s funny because I was thinking of switching to fiction! Thank you, Tom. :))
Heartfelt thanks also to Matthew J Richardson, without whom Tom might not have seen my blog. Matthew appeared like a light in the blogging ether to encourage some of my stranger-than-fiction bits-and-pieces, starting from the earliest days of my time here on WordPress, some months ago. I truly value his opinion and his support means a lot to me. He writes short fiction, book reviews, beautiful haikus and honest commentaries on the writing world, such as this one about the blogging-vs-submissions conundrum, which is one many bloggers can relate to. Do check out his blog! And thanks Matthew, for your wonderful words and support.
After answering Uzma’s five questions, Tom asked five questions of his own. Here they are, along with my answers to them.
TOM’S 5 QUESTIONS (and my answers):
#1. What makes you happiest about your blog?
I feel happiest that I actually created it, wrote some things and hit “publish.” It may sound simple enough, but I used to be terrified of doing this very thing.
#2. What motivates you to continue blogging?
What motivates me to continue blogging is the sense of connection it has given me to other writers. I used to promote and support the work of other writers, long before I was publishing my own writing. But the feeling of being “in the arena” (as I once heard Brené Brown call it), no matter how small our own version, is very different. We are all creators in this sphere together, and it feels very cosy and communal to share words and ideas like this. It’s the main reason I manage to continue, in spite of fear and self-doubt. So thanks to you all!
#3. Favourite blogging/writing advice?
I’ve read and heard so much good advice…. one thing that particularly comes to mind is from a book my husband gave me (The Lean Startup) that I haven’t finished reading yet. I’ve seen this advice via other business-related studies as well: use KISS (“keep it simple”) and LEAN/agile business principles in whatever you do. Start free or low-cost, with whatever name, whatever resources, and “ship” early and often, to get regular feedback and reiterate. That way, you’ll improve most quickly. These techniques are how my husband built his early businesses, and he still employs them in his work as a dev-ops lead, and that’s part of what I’m doing with my creative efforts here on this blog.
Having published on WordPress for nearly four months now, honestly I am sometimes so (pleasantly!) surprised by which bits of writing get the most positive feedback. It’s usually things that took me the least amount of time or stress to produce, plus what shows my most honest, strange, relatively unedited core self. For example this piece (The Zombie Apocalypse Letter to God-Turned You) or this piece (Morning Routine) or perhaps the most-quick-and-fun-to-produce one of all, One For the Volcano God. I would not have known what would resonate with people if I’d just kept “writing in the dark,” as I did for so many years, without “shipping” and getting feedback. So it was sound advice, though it took me ages to finally have the courage to use it.
Another rule of thumb I like to use is Hemingway’s edict, “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” Some of my most popular bits of writing were made using that advice. The quote comes from one of my favourite books, Hemingway’s autobiographical novel, A Moveable Feast.
#4. Do you have a favourite book, film, or TV series that you never get tired of?
I would especially like to mention a book that was a gift from my husband: The Reader on the 6:27 by Jean-Paul Didier-Laurent. That one has a special place in my heart. It’s the fictional story of how a woman’s lost diary brings meaning to the person who finds it. There is also a book that my mom gave me last Christmas which I completely fell for: Unless by Carol Shields. It also has special meaning for me because the writing is beautiful and because, as Wikipedia says, it “explores the extraordinary that lies within the ordinary lives of ordinary women.”
I have a much longer list of input/books/articles/sources here on Github (although it needs another update, since I’ve sadly neglected it while trying out WordPress!).
Films: I love films that bring me into a dreamy world of love and laughter and a bit of wonder. Some old favourites: A Room With a View, Enchanted April, Amélie, and A Good Year (that last one is based on Peter Mayle’s novel of the same name and is probably my most favourite of all). I also love funny fairy-tale revamps like Shrek or rom-com-satires like The Princess Bride, or modernized medieval revivals like A Knight’s Tale. But also films that flip reality and explore “red pill” themes, like The Matrix and The Truman Show. And finally, pretty much anything at all with Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller in it. Especially together. 😆
#5. Celebrate a flaw of yours; is there a particular imperfection that you’ve accepted, embraced and turned into a personal strength?
I have so many flaws and imperfections. Which to choose? Well, one of my biggest ones is certainly my difficulty in making decisions. ;)) I have an awful time deciding things. Another one is my seeming tendency to self-sabotage — creatively, at least.
I’ve come to accept that every flaw is balanced by an equal strength — for example, difficulty in making decisions is balanced by flexible nature, and the ability and willingness to see many angles of a given situation. Self-sabotage is balanced by compassion for others who also tend to muddle around a bit and make “mistakes.”
I have attempted to embrace both of these imperfections by writing about them. Writing is actually how I work through a lot of problems. It’s basically a kind of therapy for me. So in that regard, my process for overcoming my imperfections is (hopefully!) a means to personal success.
Thank you so much, Tom, for asking these questions and giving me the chance to answer them! I am truly grateful for the “award nomination” and for your thoughtfulness.
Now It’s my turn. Besides Matthew’s blog, as mentioned above, I would like to recommend these blogs today:
- Lamplighter’s Tale: This is an incredibly insightful, thoughtful, well-worked blog by Digital Humanities graduate student Taylor-Cate Brown, of Loyola University, Chicago. Prepare to be inspired towards higher thinking. Also, Taylor is one of the nicest people on the Internet. You can also check out this project with her fellow student Rebecca Parker over at MUDDLE magazine on Github — and even contribute, if you’re a bit literary, artistic, Github savvy and/or just very curious!
- Pizza Party of One: I’ve recommended Ailsa’s blog before. Started on the same day as my own WordPress blog, Ailsa’s blog (her name is pronounced “AIL-suh”) was started in the midst of, and perhaps as a kind of healing balm for, bereavement due to her mother’s passing. But in spite of the sadness, her blog celebrates life through its blatant honesty. It shows this one girl/woman’s life as it is, no holds barred. To me these are the very best kind of blogs. I just love Ailsa’s millennial-sized heart and courage, and her zest for life even in the face of personal anguish alongside life’s everyday challenges. If you like pizza, wine, rom-coms and urban inner-speak (with plenty of F-bombs thrown in) then this blog’s for you.
- The sobriety bloggers. The further I travel through midlife, the more interested I become in increasing awareness and thus decreasing alcohol intake — even the amount considered “normal” by society. There are so many wonderful sober/aware love warriors on WordPress as well — thank you all for your stories! Readers, just type “sobriety” into your WordPress Reader’s search field, if you’re a blogger on WP, or type “sobriety blogs” into your browser search, for those of you not on WordPress — and be prepared to be inspired by truth, love, and consciously-lived lives. One example that provides a quick read: Sober and Well by Melissa — brief, authentic (including a few of f-bombs) but well-being focussed. For beautiful zen-style quotes and health-aware lifestyle, there is also L. Leeds Meyers’ Your Daily Dose of Kindness. If you are interested in mindful drinking or reducing your alcohol intake, also check out Club Soda Together on Facebook.
- A blog called “Dread Poets Sobriety” by Alex Blaikie. This is actually an impromptu addition to this list, since I just now came across it by the first method listed in number three above. His posts are great, glancing at them just now — satiric and insightful on today’s world politics — but so are his “about” page (called “origins” in which he interjects, mid-third-person bio, “<Yes I am writing this myself and yes it is absurdly awkward in the third person.>”) and especially his “Legalese” page (“Should you plagiarize my work, / You’re a total f-ing jerk.), both of which I’m sorely tempted to plagiarize. Kidding! (His attorney is rumoured to own a firearm.) Basically he puts process and humour into his art, which is my favourite kind of thing.
- Behind The Madness, the blog of rebel-gymnast-gone-viral, Katelyn Ohashi. I actually discovered this blog because of (fellow Canadian) Ross Murray’s hilarious blog (which I have also previously recommended). There’s one post in which Ross claims to have made a “clone army” of Katelyn Ohashi’s, to save the world. I later saw that Katelyn had this project on Instagram to promote healthy body image/self esteem, as well as the afore-mentioned blog here on WordPress doing the same. Wherever you choose to find Katelyn online, I recommend her story (you can find some further links in my other post about her), because she reminds us, through her conscious choices and actions, that we must each follow our own path, all the while building community and awareness, and not forgetting to ask for help when necessary. That is how we are most likely to find joy. And isn’t joy the real secret of success?
- Akarsh Jain’s blog, A Fine Balance. Akarsh writes sensory-rich, immersive vignettes of life and love in India. In short, this blog is my biggest storytelling WordPress crush at the moment. One of his recent flash stories: Of Men and Their Ways, and its sequel, which shows the other main viewpoint in the story. Absolute magic! And definitely a fine balance.
- SKYLARITY by Josiah Harry: “Paradigm Shift, Mindfulness, and Personal Empowerment.“ Another impromptu addition — just saw this blog last night! A published author, a bass guitarist, residential draftsman, university academic… the list goes on. Anyway, his posts are incredibly uplifting and inspiring, all focussing on the positive and being the best we can be. What I liked best, reading through a few older posts, is that he includes autobiographical reference points from the perspective of an ambitious planetary enhancer, career-changer, mindfulness advocate, longtime spouse, and father of four. Love love love!
There are many other blogs I love here on WordPress; far too many to name in one post. I’ve named some of you in the past, and I will continue to do so in future. If you didn’t get named this time, it’s not because I don’t think you’re amazing! Each of you is a “blazing bloom” to me, and it wouldn’t be the same without you!
Now it’s my turn to do the asking. These questions could be answered by any or all of the above bloggers, if they/you wish to do so, but they’re also for each of you reading this. If you wish to and are able, please feel free to share your answers on your blogs/platforms and then post a link to them here. I would absolutely be honoured and thrilled to read them and I’m sure many others could benefit from your answers as well. Here they are:
NADINE’S CREATIVITY QUESTIONS:
- What are some things that bring you joy in this world? And How do you think you could further incorporate those things into your creative life?
- How do you balance “regular life” (e.g. daily “duties” and/or the need for money) with creative life/pursuits? What improvements could be made to this balance, if any, and what positive changes might they bring?
- Who are the people that have encouraged or inspired you the most, creatively? Write a paragraph about the way they’ve inspired you and/or helped you (and publish it, if you are willing/able!). Bonus Wor(l)d-blooming exercise: send that paragraph to them personally. It’s amazing how we can light up a person’s life with just a few words!
Well, that’s it for now! Thanks to each of you for being here and reading. Your support means the world to me.
Write on. :))
Image: A quick sketch I made by tracing parts of Okoto Enigma’s profile photo, using the Sketchbook app on iPad.
(NTS 2019-02-23: reverted to first published draft, but including additional blogs).