Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.
Today is the first birthday for my blog. One year ago today, I sat down at this computer and banged out a bunch of words and posted them on this WordPress site as if I knew what I was doing. (I didn’t, and I still don’t, by the way.)
I wanted a pic of a birthday cake, but around me, cake never lasts long enough to be photographed.
When I started Just Watch the Blinking Lights, I had one goal: to exercise my writing muscle. Wait – okay, two goals: to exercise my writing muscle, and to write one post a week for publication. Well, technically three goals: exercise the writing muscle, publish one post a week, AND get accustomed to writing for an audience. Those were my three goals as I set out on this new project.
The writing exercise was really the main focus, for in recent years I had let my creative muscles atrophy, and I felt I was wasting something very precious. The writing for an audience worried me, for I had never done so before, and the idea of opening myself up to people – friends and strangers – was outside of my comfort zone. Yet I needed to do it, because I knew I’d never be able to move forward as a writer until I’d developed some thicker skin.
But the one-post-per-week goal seemed simple enough. I know bloggers that have goals to post every day — that’s every. single. day. — and so I thought the one-per-week was going to be easy.
As regular followers of this blog probably realize by the irregular posting schedule — it hasn’t been easy.
Although today marks the 52nd post on JWTBL, I have not posted each week. Sometimes I have posted multiple entries in one week; more often, I have gone several weeks without posting a word. So even though my average might be on target, the truth is, I didn’t make the goal.
My reality is one of single fatherhood, corporate casual weekdays, deadlines, children’s schedules, trying to be a good dad and a good employee and a good friend, all while trying to carve out a new life for myself in what could be called ‘Terry, Act II’. I am loaded, and not in the good, financial way (but fortunately, not in the high, drunk way either). So with all my commitments and obligations, finding regular time to do personal things –like write– is difficult. Wait — no, scratch that. That’s a gross understatement. It’s bloody hard.
So I didn’t make it every week, but I did get some good posts in, here and there. Some were better than others — some posts fell flat, while others generated much feedback that surprised me at how much the writing resonated with people.
I made friends with strangers who happened to randomly read one of my posts, and I connected deeper with people who knew me but didn’t know I was a ‘closeted writer’. I have been writing all my life – but until this blog, I’d never shared it with anyone. Back in those wild days of my youth, I didn’t consciously decide to keep my writing to myself – I just did.
This is me, circa 1990, writing in a dive motel on the Oregon coast. I actually have very little memory of this - good thing I wrote it down.
As this year went by, I learned some things about myself, so that’s kind of a bonus. But I found myself wondering, as the anniversary of my blog approached, if I should keep going. There was no way I would be able to post daily, and I was told that for a blog to be successful, you have to post every day. So if I couldn’t be “successful” at it (whatever that means), should I bother?
I considered letting JWTBL go dark. I had given it my best shot for a year, and I felt my results were fine because I didn’t really have any expectations of what this thing would be when I started. I just did it because I needed to write. Because that’s what writer’s do: they write.
Did I need to keep doing it publicly, though? That was the question I asked myself, as I contemplated abandoning this blog and doing something else with the time I spend on it. I figured some folks in my inner circle might ask, “Hey, what happened to the ‘Blinking Lights’?” but for the most part, there wouldn’t be any fallout from my walking away. This is how my blog would end, not with a ‘bang’ but — well, more of a disinterested sigh.
Then, last week, I received a message from an old friend of mine. I have not seen this woman in over a quarter of a century, since we graduated high school. Facebook is a wonderful tool for reconnecting with special people from long ago, and my friend Kriss is one of those people.
Last week, Kriss posted the following message on my wall:
“So hubby asks me yesterday “what would you do if Myah decided when she grows up that she wants to be a maid?” You’ll be happy to know I pulled up your blog and read him your post about your daughter wanting to be a waitress. Great conversation starter. Thanks friend!!”
Kriss was referring to my recent post, “My Daughter, the Waitress” – an essay I wrote rather spontaneously as part of a series of fatherhood-related posts leading up to Father’s Day. I wrote it in about an hour, and once I published it, I didn’t give it another thought — I just moved on. I received a couple of comments on it, but based on the blog traffic for that particular post, I didn’t think my audience felt it was particularly special or remarkable.
But Kriss’s message changed that thinking. The fact that one of my meager little blog entries happened to generate a dialogue between people fascinated me. Well-known and professional writers probably experience this all the time – but it’s a new experience for me. I was touched and honored by my friend’s comment, and felt a sense of humble gratitude at having something I wrote be referenced in a family conversation.
It made me think, “If a simple, honest post about my experience can be useful to someone else in any way, then isn’t that reason enough to continue to publish writing on this blog? Couldn’t that be considered, in a way, ‘successful’?” I’m not using the old cliche “If just ONE person is helped by my action, then it will ALL be worth it”. I’m just saying – if it helps and doesn’t hurt, why not keep it up? Why not share it?
So today I decided that this will not be the last post on Just Watch the Blinking Lights. I can’t honestly commit to posting more frequently than I have been, but I will commit to continuing to share my path with those of you who are interested in where I’ve been, and where I’m headed. I suspect the reason you read here is because your path is similar to mine. Or maybe we’re just headed in the same direction.
Me, watching the blinking lights with my eyes closed.
Thanks for reading. Year Two starts now.