You may have noticed something slightly different upon landing here today. Yeah, that's right, I've got a new blog design.
This was not entirely my choice. I've known for quite some time that my old design looked dated and it is one of my goals for this year to update it and redesign it. But 2015 has been a whirlwind, and I'm now working on rewrite #2 for my agent, and THAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER. So in my thinking, the blog re-design could wait.
But the Google Gods had other plans for me. Apparently, by the end of this month, if you have a blog or website that is not responsive (i.e., not configured to be easily read on a tablet or smartphone), you are going to the bottom of the Google search engine heap. And Google has always been good to me, so I didn't want that to happen.
In truth, I would have been blissfully unaware of all of this, were it not for my most amazing and wonderful VA, Elizabeth Jackson. (VA stands for Virtual Assistant. Its the best invention ever. Elizabeth lives in Spain and I live in Portland, but we work together nearly every day.) Somehow, she knows this stuff. And then she figures out how to deal with it and save me from the wrath of Google.
So here we are with a new design. I will tell you straight out that it is not my favorite, but it will do for now. Once I have a chance to sort things out in my brain and figure out what I really want, it will change again. But that won't be for awhile.
What do you think? Like it or hate it? Are you changing your blog design to be responsive?
This morning I got up, grabbed my coffee, and went outside to write. (The days I'll be able do this are numbered and I'm taking full advantage while I can.) I began writing about my day yesterday (2 Labor Day picnics = fun) and mentioned a couple people. Then I explained who these people are.
Which got me pondering:
Who am I writing to when I write in my journal? I'm obviously not writing to myself because I know these people. So why take the time to explain to the page who they are?
Because I'm writing to an audience. Even in my journal, apparently. Which is not as surprising as it seems when you consider that writing is communication, and communication implies a sender (the writer) and a receiver (the reader).
In the case of my journal, perhaps the audience I'm explaining things to is the page itself. I certainly don't glump my thoughts onto the page every morning with any expectation of people reading them. Quite the contrary–I'd be one unhappy camper if anyone did.
All this brilliant obsessive morning writing led me to wondering about other audiences, aka, readers. Who do I write to when I write?
Who do I write to when I write my novels? Years ago, I heard a novelist speak about her ideal reader. She had envisioned a clear image of the average reader of her books and when she sat at her computer she visualized this reader. Do you do this? I have to admit that I don't. But when I think about it, sometimes when I'm writing I do have an audience in mind–my weekly critique group, the first readers of my work. This is a fairly unconscious thing. I have to really dig deep to realize when I'm doing this.
So, good idea or bad to have an audience in mind while writing?
Perhaps the idea of writing to an intended reader could have a bad side if you're constantly thinking about how they will judge you. When doing first draft writing, you really want to set your inner critic to work doing something else so that you can write. Just write. You want to do the work without judging, letting yourself fly wonderfully wild and free on the page. (Doesn't that sound like fun? I miss working on my novel. I set it aside to finish the Emma Jean edits.)
And I can see a good side to keeping your readers in mind if you're beyond the first draft, and engaged in a more editorial type of work–rewriting and revising. Perhaps you're keeping your ideal reader in mind because you want to make sure she keeps turning the pages. Or you're keeping your audience front and center so that you don't fall back onto sloppy writing habits.
And what about non-fiction? Keeping your ideal readers in mind might allow you to stay on topic and hew to what you know your intended reader is interested in. When I write blog posts I stick to articles about writing, inspiration, motivation and spirituality. Those are the things you're used to me writing about. Those are the topics my readers expect to read about. So that is keeping an ideal reader in mind–because, you know, those of you who so kindly and loyally read this blog are my wonderful ideal readers!
So I guess this blog post doesn't come to any conclusions and instead asks a lot of questions. It's a topic I'll ponder further. Oh God–I almost forgot to include the best quote of all time about who a writer writes for:
"People ask me who I write for, I tell them I write for the rain." Tom Robbins
A caveat here: I'm quoting this from memory. I believe Robbins said it in a long-ago profile in Esquire and I've never forgotten it. (He's a Northwesterner like me.) But the wording of the quote might not be exactly exact.
To continue the questioning, who do you write for? Do you have an ideal reader in mind when you write? I'd love to hear either way.
Perhaps it is because I'm called to serve on jury duty more than anybody else on this planet. This was my third time, and I've gotten excused from service several times before, when my children were little. I know people who have never gotten a summons, ever. So I was a bit taken aback when I was called yet again.
I told myself that I was too busy. I had a trip to Nashville planned. I'm self-employed and can't afford to take a day off. Yada, yada, yada. I called the number on the summons and was told I could reschedule, so I did. Then called again and rescheduled once more.
Finally, the day came. I had to be in the jury room by 8 AM and if there's one thing I hate, it is having my morning routine of writing and introspection interrupted. But off I went to the courthouse,clutching my bag full of manuscripts to read and work to catch up on.
The county really makes jury duty as painless as possible. You only have to serve for one day, or one trial, whichever is longest. And there's a large room full of chairs to hang out in, with big-screen TVs, vending machines, books, newspapers, and magazines galore. I always head straight to the back, where there are tables and chairs. I found me a good spot and staked my claim to it.
It is tradition for one of the judges to come down and talk to the jurors, and she did, reminding us that the founding fathers of this country thought so highly of the right to a jury trial that they died for it. This made me feel highly virtuous for a few moments. Then she talked about how for women, jury duty is the only compulsory service we must give to our country. By then I was preening, so proud was I. But when she finished her talk and pressed the button for the cheesy video, I was deflated once again. I gave up my precious writing time to watch a bunch of yahoos talk about how great it is to be on jury duty?
Once the video was finished, we were left to our own devices until such time as a jury pool would be convened. I looked around at all the people who had brought their laptops and wondered why on earth I hadn't brought mine. Even when I remembered that I had made a conscious decision to use this day to get reading done and stay away from my computer, I pouted. I wanted my computer, wanted to write a blog post, work on my novel, tweet away the day (which I did from my Iphone anyway, but never mind).
I pulled out the manuscripts I had to read, but soon was interrupted by a loud burp. A plump gray-haired woman in a polka-dot blouse was drinking Coke and apparently it made her gaseous. It also didn't do much to keep her awake, because soon she was curled at one end of the couch beside me, feet propped on a chair from my table, snoring loudly. Which was a festive counterpart to the counter-culture type (orange shirt, hair in a pony-tail) who sat at the other end of the couch, head thrown back, mouth open, snoring even louder than the woman.
I muttered under my breath and pondered dark thoughts, like I wouldn't want either of them to serve onmy trial, as I tried to read. Then I looked around at all the people with their computers and started feeling bad about that again. I needed my computer desperately. What was I thinking, leaving it at home? I could be getting so much done.
I started obsessing about what would happen if I got on a trial. I thought about my Friday, the plans I had for finishing projects, the appointment I had. I started figuring out options for making sure I wasn't chosen for a trial. My daughter told me to tell them I loved guns. A friend on Twitter told me to tell the judge I had diarrhea. Another friend told me just to say I'm a writer, that that gets them every time–attorneys don't want free thinkers. So I pondered all this and then my brain looped back to how horrible, how utterly awful it would be if I had to serve on a trial and take another one of my precious days. Because, you know, I am important. I am a writer with things to do, brilliant words to commit to the page.
And then, something happened. Either I got sick of listening to this endless drivel in my brain, or my brain got tired of providing it to me. I sat back and realized that no matter what, it would all be okay. If I got called for a trial, I'd work late, or work on the weekends to get things done. I'd rearrange my appointment. All would be well. This was only a very short time out of my life and it was just fine.
Ah, the sweet release of letting go. I went back to my reading and finished two manuscripts in rapid time–for such is the power of focus. I had a thought about a new novel I'm fooling around with and wrote three pages on the legal pad I'd brought. I was so wrapped up in my work that it was a surprise when I looked up from it to see the gray-haired burping lady gazing at me.
"Have they called anybody yet?"
"No, they haven't," I answered. And I realized that it was nearly 10:30, and every other time I'd been on jury duty, several groups of potential jurors had been called by then.
A few minutes later, the jury clerk addressed us from the podium at the head of the room. All eight trials slated for that day had been resolved in one way or another, she said. They wouldn't be needing any jurors that day. We were free to go.
The stunned silence that ensued was quickly followed by a rush to the door, as if everyone was thinking the same thing–let's get out of here before they change their minds.
And so I was home by noon, and I had time to go grocery shopping, get some writing done, write a blog post, take a walk. And as I walked and thought about my day, the thing that stood out in my mind was the moment of letting go. The minute I quit resisting and accepted the situation as it was, I got everything I wanted–the chance to focus on my work, the opportunity to leave early and go home.
Give it all up, get it all back. I first heard that in a book written by Alan Cohen, and I often quote it in my Writing Abundance workshops. And yet, every time I am shown the power of letting go, I marvel anew at what an amazing tool it is.
The same rules hold true in writing: put it all on the page every time you go to it. Don't hold back. Give it all up.