Hookay. Calmed down a bit since the last post. Which, by the way, was widely read and responded to quite enthusiastically. (Why should readership have peaked so dramatically? I always notice a direct correlation between the generous use of expletives and increased readership. But since folks don’t know the juicy words will be there until they’re actually reading it – I don’t see how that could factor in. But it seems to. Maybe y’all are just forwarding the ‘good stuff’ to your friends. ?) And thanks, for all the help and ideas. All of it is under consideration and is being thoroughly studied by my R&D department. It’s taking quite a bit of time to review it all, as naturally there’s a lot of material to read and digest. Once again I’m reminded of how big a world this is. Depending on my mood that’s either really bad news (it’s too intimidating) or it’s good news (there’s always room for one more success!). I’m kinda walking the line in between today. I’ll feel a surge of hope, but then doubt hits me and I feel like lying down for a really long time.
For example, here’s something that I just experienced a few minutes ago: I was checking in with one of my favorite writers, columnist for USA Today Craig Wilson (and former resident of Saratoga Springs, New York where I myself now live), catching up on a few of his past articles, and then decided to Google the stats for his daily audience. Daily planet-wide readership for the rag is a little better than 3 million copies a day. ! Seriously?! That’s crazy. And I got all excited the other day because my hits had grown from 1000 to 12,000 in just a few months, and my world map now had over 40 countries. What-ever. ! I must also remind myself that that number reflects only visits – not actual readers. Also, as someone pointed out this summer much to my chagrin, many of those hits – including those from abroad that get my heart beating faster – may well be accidental. Folks who may be searching for one thing and finding me instead. Oh well.
Undaunted, I carry on and make a plan. I will write to those folks whose writing I enjoy, and I will enclose a bit of mine. Maybe even throw in a CD. Or a rock. Something that might make my correspondence stand out. My first thought was to write Craig. His writing is gentle, easy – just cynical enough. No wonder he’s the choice for USA Today. His writing doesn’t offend, and it usually makes you feel good. I read his only book, a collection of essays entitled “It’s the Little Things” and, like many readers do, by the time I’d finished the book I felt like I knew him. It’s so easy to feel like that with the author of a memoir. I remember shortly after discovering Michael Perry last year (he has a new just-released book called “Visiting Tom” – check YouTube for the lovely promo video) I was fairly in love with the poor fellow. He’s a farmer, a writer, a musician, a parent. Hey! So am I!! I laughed out loud more than a few times as I read through his stories – and I guess I can attribute much of my warmth towards him to a deep gratitude for stirring me out of my laughter-free solitude. I’d felt so damn lonely these past few years out here in the country, and Mike made me feel so much less alone. I immediately got online and began to check out his site. His videos, his music, interviews. All of it. I got excited – it seemed like he might be able to offer me some help, some direction, some… something. I don’t know what. But I discovered that even this guy, who really isn’t that well-known, and for whom paying the bills is still a source of stress, he had far too many fans to deal with personally. Crap. My heart sank down to my toes when I saw his pleas: there were too many folks for him to respond to personally, that he felt bad about it, but thanked his readers for their support… That was the general gist of it. So I’m not sure about bugging him anymore. And after seeing that Craig has over three million pairs of eyes reading his daily column, I have doubts about writing him too.
Then I think again. Ok. Mike might be busy right now with his book tour and his new release, but he’ll be back in his little Wisconsin farmhouse by winter, and by then he might just have a little bit of time to consider a letter from me. Hm. And Craig, come on – that guy’s got a comfy day job. He’s got his routine, his nice house in a Virginia suburb… why he might even be getting a tad bored these days with all that routine. Who knows? Maybe he’s got the time to help me out. Maybe he might be happy to read some of my stuff. Give me some ideas, write a letter or two of recommendation…
In the ’90s I worked as an accompanist for a handful of comedy groups in Chicago. After so much time watching the actors doing their thing, I got to thinking that it might be something I could do too. Playing in the band in “Tony ‘n’ Tina’s Wedding” I enjoyed acting in a couple of improvised scenes, and from that I got the idea that I might do more. I’d played keyboards and sung on a handful of commercials and thought that on-camera work wouldn’t be much different. But for me, it was. I was just never good with cameras rolling. And it seemed the more auditions I went on, the more nervous and the worse I got. Looking back on it now I realize that if I’d just done more – rode it out, so to speak – I would have improved. I might have caught on. But I didn’t… and well, I didn’t. I really sucked. And my sucking, combined with my need for everyone to like me, that sucked even more.
This writing thing – the idea of writing other writers for help and guidance – it’s bringing up those queasy feelings I had at commercial auditions all those years ago. It makes me ill, and I just don’t like it. I know it’s different. I’m older, I have nothing to lose, and no matter how things turn out I still have my family, my chickens and my view of the mountains. So I’ll continue. I’ll get a plan, identify some goals, write some letters. But what material to include?
I’ve been going through the 200+ posts of the past year and a half trying to pull out a few favorites. But so far, I just can’t seem to choose. Friends, do you have any favorite posts? Even if you don’t remember the title of it, might you remember the gist of it? Was there a post or two you remember liking more than the others? I could really use some input. As usual, I’m easy to find; my email address is on the ‘about’ page here as many have already discovered, and of course, there’s always Facebook.
So please, if you have any ideas for me – send em! I can’t thank you enough for your help, for your company and your friendship. I really value your opinions, so please be forthcoming with them. I can take it. ! (I think.)
5 thoughts on “Opinions, Please…”
I have two comments, or maybe three. First, with respect to seeking the opinions of somewhat famous writers that you admire, go for it. If they don’t respond you are no worse off and, who knows, you may end up with a helpful critique from someone really awesome. Second, you may want to consider cultivating a relationship with a local professional who can be potentially more available to you, say, someone from the writing department of a local college. Third, for whatever it’s worth, in your more recent posts it seems like you are trying too hard, like the words are coming largely from some distant place inside your head and less from your heart which makes it harder to make a connection. I miss the emotion and spontaneity. I freely admit that I have only read a couple of dozen of your posts over the past year or so but in my view there is a difference recently that feels a more forced. Keep them coming, though, I thoroughly enjoy participating in your life from afar. ;o)
With deep respect and fond memories,
Hi Daniel – nice to see you! Yeah, I agree with you on several points. First, contacting a local writer (got a few here at Skidmore College in Saratoga) might be more realistic and constructive, and second – the part about my recent posts ‘trying too hard’ – I hear ya on that. I’ve been spewing – been kinda fed up lately and those posts were definitely not coming from the same space as the majority of my ‘regular’ posts. So I’m aware, and thanks. Strangely, the more spazzy posts (ie ‘more head, less heart’) seem to get more readers. But don’t worry – that doesn’t sway me. I’ve just been letting off steam these days. I’ll get get back to business soon.
Btw – can you think of a post/topic that is a good reflection of what usually goes on here? I’m hoping for some input, maybe even specific suggestions…
Thanks so much, I really appreciate the thoughtful response. It’s strange working in this medium without benefit of a live audience as a ‘barometer’…
In Love and appreciation –
This probably won’t help but…I got so tired of strategizing and trying to figure out how to market my music and writing, climb the ladder, etc..that I just gave up and considered myself sort of “retired”. And as retired people will, I focused on what I love doing and not on what I hated doing. I started playing anywhere I felt like my music was a good match for, so I didn’t have to decide whether it payed enough, or over-exposed me, or wasn’t good for my “rep”, etc….All I had to do was decide, Is this place a good match for my sound? Then I decided to record everything I write and make it all (27 albums so far) available for downloading free or with a donation at my site. More things I didn’t have to think about, more decisions I didn’t have to make. I created a bunch of blogs. One like yours for thoughts and feelings and a few more that are basically tables of contents for my various videos, to make them easier to sort through. Like one is all my T’ai-Chi videos, one all my music videos, etc…I decided to follow up on any and all of my creative impulses but without much calculation or marketing. I wrote and self-published two books and just made web pages about them and then forgot all about them. They don’t sell that well, but they’re out there and I’m proud of them. I also post tons of videos. I have over 500 now on youtube. Some have taken off a bit, most not. But the main thing is that by returning to my folk roots and just putting things out there freely, and without doing what I really don’t like doing and find totally uninteresting: marketing, I’ve done much better than when I was always “pushing the river”. I’m not crazy successful by any means. We live pretty simply and I make most of my meagre income from teaching T’ai-Chi, not from writing or music. But I’m way, way, happier and enjoy my creative life way more than I ever did in the past. And some really nice things have happened since I started doing things this way, like some of the best gigs of my life and some really cool stuff in cyberspace. By the way, I get maybe 30-60 people per week visiting my site. Totally small time and yet I’m stoked about it. Yay! 50 people visited my site! I just love making things. Selling them to me is just a drag. So I’m taking a really long view and considering each creation a kind of message in a bottle. I think they all will land on friendly shores sooner or later….Be well and if do what feels most deeply right, good things will happen. ;~)
Hey Gene, yeah, I’m aware of how you’ve approached life/art/creation these past few years. And I do think that when you come from a place of integrity like that, it’s just plain a healthier thing – it certainly makes life more enjoyable. Hopefully, that grand, universal force pays you back in kind, whether in a happy heart or a financial boon. Both have their worth. But in that everyday bills are often so difficult for me to make, it would be nice if what I did for my health of spirit also happened to generate some much-needed income. But I’m ok as things are. Not hungry, live in nature, have a wonderful child and wonderful friends. Just get too many ‘final notice’ slips from the electric company. !
I’m not too terribly concerned about getting published, only it would be nice. I get so many folks contacting me personally and telling me they would love a book form of the posts… but for now I will pretty much go back to doing what I’ve been doing. Writing as I do, because it’s what feels right and good. I’ll do a little homework, write a couple of letters and test the waters of the ‘real’ world, but I won’t put all my hope in that. I definitely don’t need to create excess stress for myself. Having said that – I can’t guarantee that I might not dash off another pissed-off post from time to time. !
Thanks for responding, it is so very reassuring to know that even if I go a week without seeing another person, I’m really not all alone. And thanks for indulging my steam. xo from the other side of the country…
Write on. ;~) GB