When I went to pick my youngest up from school, the teacher’s report included a story about their reading circle. She was reading a book about animals to the class and asked the kids what kind of animal they wanted to be. All of the kids started shouting out animals. All of the kids except for mine. My son sat with his hand up, politely waiting for his turn to share. When she finally got the others to calm down and asked him to share his animal, the teacher said, “I think he forgot what he was going to say and just repeated what the others had said. But it was so cute we all laughed.” I think the story was meant to make me feel good that my child is cute and can politely wait his turn.
I didn’t think much more about it until the next day when I sat down at my computer. I’m looking for jobs. I’m hoping to make a lucrative career of writing and so I’ve been reading a lot to see if and how this is possible (lucrative may be a stretch). I’ve been losing time on the internet and what I’ve discovered, is that the internet is overcrowded with people like me. Everyone just shouting the same things over and over trying to be heard. It seems, in order to get paid to write, you have to be willing to shout with all the rest, all the time. It’s both sad and encouraging.
It turns out, the internet is a lot like a preschool classroom. It’s loud and bright and messy and filled with all kinds of characters. Some people you like and some people you don’t. There are plenty of choices of things to do and there are flashy things to grab your attention. People sometimes behave differently then they would at home. There are hundreds of options to keep you busy until the time comes to go home. You sometimes leave cranky and tired. You will likely learn something new but in the end, you know there are more important things in life.
The most consistent advice to anyone hoping to make a career of writing is…drum roll…to keep writing. To stay relevant, to attract advertisers, to gain a following, to cultivate a presence – you need to write. All the time. There are millions of blogs with people just writing to write. Shouting and shouting and shouting into the bloggisphere hoping someone is listening and something resonates with the masses. But that doesn’t seem right or like much fun.
You may have heard that November is National Blog Posting Month or NaBloPoMo. I’m not kidding. NaBloPoMo is a real thing. (If you say it out loud, it sounds even more silly.) If you choose to participate, you are supposed to post something everyday. It’s supposed to be inspiring and fun and a great way to “catapult your blog toward greater visibility and online opportunities” (according to Blogher.com where people like me go hoping to learn the secrets of success). It’s supposed to help build communities and support fellow bloggers. But I can’t bring myself to say something just for the sake of saying something. I have to believe that quality over quantity matters when trying to gain a presence on the overcrowded internet (and in life).
Or maybe it’s better to keep shouting with others instead of waiting politely for an audience and something to say. But what happens if I forget what I want to say? Or (arguably worse) what if the crowd quiets enough for me to finally share only to realize like my son, I have nothing new or original to add? There are only so many animals to choose from. We’re all re-telling the same story – we sleep too little and get frustrated by the kids whom we love most dearly. The laundry and dishes are never done. We never feel good enough but we make ourselves feel better by sharing articles about how we are good enough. We talk about being thankful and grateful but complain anyway. We console ourselves with wine. We’re all struggling and surviving and laughing and crying and sometimes, it just feels like one collective, boring, whine (with overused puns about wines and whines). (It’s ok, I can say this because I contribute to it.)
But I remember my son. My son who will keep yelling, “Hey mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” but will not finish his thought until he knows he has your full attention. “Yes, Nolan,” you have to say while looking at him, “what is it?” It’s usually something ridiculous, like “um…uh…nothing” but with his cheeky smile, it almost always gets a laugh. He reminds me that what’s most important – especially when you don’t have anything original or unique to say – is how you say it.
So I’m heading back to my preschool today, but I’m still not participating in NaBloPoMo.