The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Thinkwright August 23, 2012

I think I figured it out. I came up with a word that explains what I do. I would like to call myself a thinkwright. A builder and an expresser of thoughts. First I create them in my mind, then I put them in tangible form. I mull, I muse and I consider things as I go about my day – and in my solitude here there’s plenty of time for that – the ideas percolate to the surface, then I sit in my chair at the end of the day, and I write. (I might also be called a writewright I suppose, but I don’t think it sounds as good. And of course, it might make sense to use thinkwrite as well; it implies the word ‘wright’, yet it represents literally what it is that I do. Hmm. Still mulling this over. A quick google search comes up with very few thinkwrights, so maybe I’m onto something.) Maybe you haven’t felt any reservations about calling me a writer, or a blogger, but I have. I still don’t quite feel like either. Recently, something happened that had me thinking more closely about what it is that I hope to do with my writing. In this world people expect growth, change, progress. So what am I growing towards? What might I hope to do, be or achieve in the process? Never really thought about it before, but these days I’m wondering.

Recently I’ve been toying with the idea of joining an online blogging support community in order to get a better idea of how I might expand my readership or maybe even tweak the look of my blog a bit. It doesn’t cost too too much ($20 a month), but in my world that’s an expense that I really need to justify before I commit to it. So when I get those super-upbeat emails from the director of the program, telling me that she has “seven proven steps to make my blog go viral” I experience some mixed feelings. The first one is from my ego. I think, wow, that might feel pretty good. The fourteen year old girl inside me who still wants validation from everyone really likes that. But then the second, less needy voice appears, and it says wow, think of all that connection going on. Think of all those people sharing the same stories, the same take on things. Think of all that connection – with old friends, with new ones. Maybe even readers connecting with each other. Not sure, but seems possible. I have nothing to sell. I don’t want my readership in the hundreds of thousands for any other reason than to build a sense of friendship and community, of mutual support. When my stories resonate with someone, that means they share some sense of agreement with me. They get what it is I’m expressing, and in so doing, we all share an understanding of sorts. And that’s a good thing.

So when this very peppy blogging guru told me I could go viral – I simply had to be the annoying kid in the room with my arm up. I just couldn’t imagine my blog going viral. Why would it? What would drive this crazy upsurge of activity? I asked her, embedding a challenge in my question, a prideful dare. I was being a bit arrogant, ignorant too maybe, but it seemed like she could take it. And I was pretty sure she could dish it out. Indeed, she was very professional – and kind – and responded. She’d read a post of mine in the past and had commended me on the writing. Yeah, that’s nice, and I’d appreciated it, but what of this viral thing? Might that magic work on me too? She told me that I had too many “I”s, “me”s and “mine”s and that I needed to turn it around and offer my audience some concern for them, using instead “you”s and “yours”. I had to offer my readership a solution for a problem, and I had to make it about them, not me. Hm. Didn’t sound like it applied to me. Decided to let the idea sit for a while. So I went out to work in the garden. And I thought about it. And I came to a conclusion which suits me for now: I’m not a blogger who writes, I’m a writer who blogs. I’m not offering solutions here, just perspectives. Perhaps I’m a memoirist without a publisher. Yeah, that feels more like it.

I don’t have anything to offer except my life and my own take on it all. That’s it. And I apologize if there really are too many “I”s and “me”s in my writing – but hey, that’s kinda what this experiment has been about thus far. And if you weren’t kinda curious or interested, you wouldn’t be reading. And I’m sure you don’t read when it doesn’t appeal. You’re all busy, just stopping by takes time. For that gift of your time alone I’m so very pleased. I really do hope reading these posts gives you some joy, maybe even some sense of connection. That’s why I started this whole thing to begin with – to feel some connection with the outside world. I needed to throw out a lifeline because I felt so very alone. I just needed to get it all out. And for me, it’s worked pretty well. So if the circle grows, great. If not, that’s just fine too.

So I guess that kinda gives away my true colors. I’m no blogger. I’m just one person trying to understand my world. Just one person hoping to connect with fellow residents of this difficult planet. A gal just trying to express herself. A writer of thoughts, a thinkwright.

 

Here One Year March 4, 2012

Filed under: An Ongoing Journal...,Divorce Diary — wingmother @ 11:22 pm
Tags: , , ,

Although I can hardly boast any appreciable new technical skills after having been a blogger for one complete calendar year, I can report that I’ve had a full and robust year – one in which I began to find my voice and become more fluent in its expression. Yup, it’s been an interesting year for me, and this blog has helped me through some difficult episodes. (Although the entries may show to have been written earlier, my first true post was March 1st of last year.)

I’d hoped to perhaps have a more sophisticated handle on this forum by now, but I still find myself merely hanging on to the simplest tools. I can insert a photo by the skin of my teeth, a video still eludes me as this platform doesn’t like the form my the vids from my camera arrive in – and inserting an interactive guest book here is as confounding to me now as it was six months ago, in spite of hours spent researching it. In view of the much more visually interesting blogs to choose from in the world, I’ve found myself wondering what I have to offer here. This was a question I’d not even begun to consider even a few months ago, but with a growing readership, it has me thinking about this differently. Might I consider a little marketing? A little upgrade in my presentation? There’s certainly room for that. But in the end, in that I’m not selling anything, in that I’m so very grateful that I have people at all with whom to share my life, in that this has all been a lovely adventure – I think I’m going to let it be as it is for the time being. One day I may rally my efforts towards ramping this humble blog up a notch, but not right now.

Let me make no mistake about it; I began this blog simply as a means to keep myself from despair. I had been treated badly by my husband in this cruel divorce, and after several years of going it alone, I wanted a witness to the unfair way in which my marriage was ending. I was outraged, hurt and angry, and I felt it was time that someone else felt the outrage too. I was hoping that this public platform might help me to conclude my divorce – if by no other way than by shaming my husband into treating me better (i.e. giving Elihu and me enough money to live on as was entirely possible given his own personal financial reality) by giving our story a wider audience. In that Fareed has seen little more of this blog than the photo of this three kids by three different mothers (and, enraged by this, told me to remove it ‘or else’), and in that he lives in a world of his own concerns (and I am not one of them), this blog did not in the end serve to shame him nor cause him to reflect on the inequity of the situation. But while it may not have done what so selfishly I’d hoped in the beginning, it did end up taking a different course which proved to lead into happier new territory. Entries became more about our own personal adventures and struggles, and much less about the divorce and its lack of parity. I’ve never been one to keep a scrapbook or record personal events in a diary, and so this blog has been a nice way to not only record things that have happened in our lives, but it’s also given me a place in which to work out my thoughts on life as it happens. Honestly, I’ve forgotten so much of my life; I’m glad to have this past year down on paper (as it were). And I can’t help but wonder how Elihu himself may one day value this window into his younger years, this window into the thoughts of his own mother. I can’t begin to imagine having such a document of my own mother’s, or of my own early years. Really, what a great tool. What a lucky time to be alive.

It’s been through this blog that I’ve met many new friends, reconnected with old ones, and heard the stories that others have had to tell too. And because of it all I’ve come to feel a lot less alone. I had no idea anyone other than a handful of friends would come to read my posts. I may feel so isolated some times, but I’m reminded, through this magic little oasis in the ether, that you’re here with me too. In the end, I suppose that’s been more important to me than anything else, although a year ago I had no idea.

A little ‘by the way’ for you: Fareed and I will indeed be legally divorced as of 9 am this coming Friday. This was the very thing I sought with my first desperate plea one year ago this week on my virgin blog. “Letter to All…. I cannot get divorced…” And so here I am, one year later, my goal met by week’s end. Thank you so much for being with me through this difficult year. I so appreciate your friendship and support. Elihu and I both are aware that we’re not alone; we both know that you’re sharing our life with us. It makes us happy to know. It makes us grateful, too. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Happy Birthday, Hillhouse!

 

Wannabe December 30, 2011

‘To be or to wannabe’, I think that’s my question today. Am I writer or do I just think I’m a writer? Over the past few weeks I’ve had more ideas for posts than I can deal with. I find I’m getting out of bed every night to jot down ideas. I have more material than time to write it. And I feel it must come out – if I’m to live healthily, that is. I can’t really justify it any more than that. I am followed by a guilty voice that tells me this is pointless and selfish. Every now and again I peruse my old posts and wonder if it doesn’t seem an extended pity-party for the poor, almost divorced (yeah, yeah, get over your drama) newly-impoverished (it’s been three years – not so new) middle aged woman who (boo hoo) is now a single mother in spite of her wishes (join the fucking club) to a simply amazing child (isn’t everybody’s?) and must somehow start over in life, now that her boobs can no longer hold their own without a bra and… well. You know.

Years ago after reading a letter I’d written, a dear friend remarked ‘you’re a good writer. You should be a writer’. That got me angry. ‘I am a writer!’ I screamed at him. ‘What do yo mean I should be?!’ I referred to of course, as this poor guy could hardly have known, my collection of hundreds (ok, maybe dozens) of journals in which I’d written nearly every day of my life for the past decade. For many years of my life friends would see me writing in a tiny notebook, one small enough to fit in a pocket if necessary. I’d assumed he, having seen them himself, knew of their importance. Importance to whom?

The conversation we had on that day began a now decade-old debate inside my head. Just what makes a writer a writer? Is it getting paid to write? Is it simply the quantity of material? The quality or uniqueness of the writing? Getting published perhaps? It seemed, as the anger of my reaction to his one simple statement revealed, that I myself felt being a ‘real’ writer meant being a published one. I think I got angry because I myself felt guilty. I knew I wasn’t a writer. Silly to declare that I was. I’d always wanted to express things; I’d dearly wished to connect with people who might be happy to recognize themselves and their own experiences in my observations, and so I wrote. While I had material, no one had ever read any of it as of that point. To connect with people, this was the germ of my hope, but I hadn’t come close. So my own private sense of failure had bubbled to the surface in anger. I wrote, yes. But was I a writer – yet? I knew I wasn’t. My writing existed for me alone.

So now I have this growing repertoire of posts, and in some way, they are published. Kind of. I’ve had thousands of readers visit, I have hundreds of regular readers. I know I’ve connected with people. Does this now finally make me a writer? I’m still not convinced. I don’t want this post take on a ‘poor-me, won’t you please help me with my lack of self esteem issues and validate me’ sort of tone, I really don’t. I’m just sort of wrangling with this in a public way, as I’ve been doing with all of the mundane events in my life. So on I go…

I’d always thought that being a real writer meant in part that you were paid to write. That was somewhere in the equation. But first, a writer had to be published. No money in this critical step. You know, send your stuff out to underground zines and obscure quarterly literary issues – the kind that I remember looking hand-typed way back in the day. (And honestly, the kind of publication I might pick up casually at a cafe but would find little interest in.) But before the days of the internet I wouldn’t have had a clue how to find, much less court, these publications. Then of course people will want to know how to market you. Who do you read? What authors do you like? What is your writing similar to?…  Shall I mention another guilty issue for me? I read a lot, but I have nothing to show for it. I can never remember the titles or authors once a book is finished. So if someone asks me ‘what have you read lately’, while I can recall all the places I’ve been and all the thinking I’ve done as a result of all the volumes I have indeed read lately, I can’t for the life of me remember who wrote them or what their titles were. And that is inherently disrespectful of the author, to say nothing of what a huge oversight it is in general (plus it just makes me look stupid). While it’s not an excuse, I know I’m not the only one guilty of this. It’s kinda like meeting someone at a party: you have a really interesting conversation with them, maybe even beginning to feel a real kinship with them, but you’ve forgotten their name. Now what do you do? You feel silly; you like them, but you don’t know their stupid name. If you know you’ll never see them again, you don’t really need to know their name. You now know their essence; they’ve shared their story with you – and isn’t that the part you truly take away? And if you do think you might want to see them again, you ask their name. Maybe write it down. Then you can find them again if you like. Kinda like me and a book. If I really like it, I’ll write it down. Or I’ll scribble the author’s name on a post-it (and well, there goes that). So while I read a lot, I don’t have much on paper to show for it. So that might not go over so well in an interview situation. Maybe that’s what an agent is for – to run interference. But an agent? Geez. That’s a whole nother ball of wax.

Singer/Songwriter = Writer/Thinker. That’s occurred to me.  But what good is a singer/songwriter singing alone in her basement? What good is a writer/thinker with a journal in her pocket? I need to make some forward movement here, but I’m feeling stalled. Ladies’ Home Journal is hosting a writing contest. I submitted a piece. Not sure it’s clever enough. One thing I’m realizing in this process is that my writing is done in pretty plain language. Not a lot of color or nuance. Out of the context of my blog – who I am and what I’ve gone through up til now – my writing might not hold its own. I don’t really hope to win; I just don’t feel my writing stands out in terms of craft. I’m more about getting the idea expressed and shared, and I’m not sure my voice would work in a stand-alone essay contest. We’ll see.

Btw – I am printing out my entire blog and having it spiral bound at Kinko’s (parts I and II, thank you very much) as a gift for my internet-challenged parents. So pretty soon, I’ll have something published. Sort of.

I guess I’m a writer. Maybe. I’ll keep working at it, cuz even if I’m not one yet, at least I know that I want to be.

 

20/20 Vision June 17, 2011

Filed under: An Ongoing Journal... — wingmother @ 1:40 pm
Tags: , ,

Two thousand and twenty visits to my blog. In the grand scheme, very modest. In the personal realm, a triumph. My gratitude, thanks and love to all who’ve visited and taken the time to read my stories. I appreciate your audience; it’s more meaningful to me than singing before a sold out concert hall.