The Nuts and Bolts of This Daily Blog

I spend about 4 hours a day working on this blog. I’m fortunate in that I have the kind of job that allows me to do much of this while on the clock. If I had to dedicate this much of my free time to keep this engine chugging along, trust me, you’d be staring at a blank page.

The truth is, though, I don’t blog every day. Actually, I write two posts a day, four days a week. At least, that’s my goal. The nice thing about WordPress is it allows me to postpone my publishing date, so I can have them come out one a day, one minute past midnight, Pacific time.

If I don’t have at least 10 posts in queue at the end of my four day writing week, I’m very uncomfortable. My world doesn’t feel quite right. I genuinely believe that this weekly routine has improved my writing greatly over the years.

Sometimes I plan even farther ahead. For example, if I have a vacation coming up, I try to get enough posts in queue that I don’t have to mess with it during that time. (I love you guys, but sometimes I need a break.)

But who am I kidding? Even on holiday, the first thing I do when I wake up is check my statistics to see how many people have been reading my musings, and try to get a sense of what brought them here. I also post a link to the day’s publication on my Facebook group, The View from a Drawbridge. Then I run back over to my statistics and watch them spike, because a lot of my readers find me through Facebook. I’m averaging 106 views a day, now. What a rush.

I also try to respond to all comments the moment I see them. I figure if someone has taken the time to read what I write and respond to it, the very least I can do is reply. And I love the comments most of all, because it makes me feel like we have a community, here. And often that feedback from what I call Drawbridge Nation inspires other writing topics, which is wonderful.

Every day, I also reread and edit every single post that’s in queue. That means that if you see a typo, I’ve likely overlooked it as many as 10 times. Shame on me. (I really do appreciate it when you guys point errors out to me, though, so I hope you’ll keep it up.) Often the final draft is so different from the original as to be unrecognizable.

But that also means that I don’t want to get too much more ahead than 10 days. More than that and I feel so removed from the topic in question as to have become bored with it. I’m so over my writing after the 10th edit.

Another thing I try to do is link back to other posts that have something to do with the one you’re reading. After 6 years, I have quite the backlog to draw upon. New readers seem to appreciate this the most.

And after more than 2,200 posts, I’ve found it useful to keep a spreadsheet with the titles, the date published, and a short sentence as to what each post was about. In alphabetical order. With a link to the post. Because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to find anything, and since the ultimate goal is writing anthologies, this is a tool well worth maintaining.

I also link to other sources of information whenever possible. I’m humble enough to realize that there are others out there with more expertise and insight than I have. It is my hope that my posts are starting points for people, not dead ends.

And I enjoy finding really interesting pictures to include in each post. I’ve discovered that a lot of search engines have a way to filter their photographs so you can choose one that is “free to use or share.” If ever I were to be approached by someone who said that I didn’t have permission to use a photograph, I’d take it down immediately. I really do take copyright seriously. But I love the fact that it’s often the photo that draws the reader in.

One thing I do every waking moment is think in terms of blog fodder. Things I see or do. Conversations I have. The news of the day. Suggestions from you, dear reader. All can inspire a post. I have a long list of ideas for future posts. Some have been on the list for so long that I can barely remember what I was talking about. I’ve come to view everything through the filter of my blog. It’s second nature to me now. Like breathing out and breathing in. (I also tend to think in terms of song lyrics.)

This blog came to life because it occurred to me that I spend a great deal of time all alone in my little bridge tower, staring at the same view day in and day out, and because of that I notice minute details that most people overlook. I figured this blog would last 6 months, if that. But now I can’t imagine life without it, and without all of you. It’s such a big part of my routine, and such a source of joy for me.

What a gift. What a gift. And your reading of my writing is what makes it come alive. You are the nuts and bolts of this blog. So thank you, dear reader. Thank you for taking this journey with me.

(And a big thank you to Ray for suggesting this topic!)

You

Hey! Look what I wrote! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Musings on Gratitude

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. It’s my favorite holiday. No gift buying. Just good food and good people. It’s a time when we all focus on what we are thankful for. What’s not to love about that?

I have long maintained that an attitude of gratitude is what we need to get along, And I think that attitude should be maintained all year round, not just on Thanksgiving day. There’s much in this life that we can be thankful for.

I’ve written a great deal about gratitude. So much, in fact, that I’ve published an anthology entitled, A Bridgetender’s View: Notes on Gratitude. It’s available on Amazon, and I guarantee you that I’ll be grateful if you purchase it! It would make a great gift for the ones you are most grateful for. (Especially if you do want to give someone a gift for cooking all that great food for you on the big day.)

Having said that, check out one of my favorite posts from the book, entitled Congratulations, You’re Alive! and know that I’m grateful for you, dear reader, every single day.

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More Time Added to my 15 Minutes of Fame!

Suddenly my blog viewer stats were spiking. What drew people here this time? I was stumped. And then I saw the e-mail from Dave Isay of StoryCorps. Their anthology, Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work is now out in paperback form!

This is exciting because one of the interviews in this book is mine, from 2009. I spoke at a StoryCorps booth in Jacksonville, Florida about how much I love being a bridgetender, and they felt that it was worthy of inclusion in this anthology! I was really honored.

All the publicity, in O-magazine, NPR, Parade, Forbes, Time… all featuring me… this gave me a great deal of confidence. And it sent me down the path of publishing a book of my very own. A Bridgetender’s View: Notes on Gratitude is available on Amazon.com. And because I appreciated StoryCorps’ vote of confidence so much, I am donating a dollar from every book sale to them. My book is available in deluxe color edition and on Kindle as well!

So to say that I highly recommend Dave Isay’s book, in paperback or hard cover, is putting it mildly! And as he mentioned in his e-mail, it’s a great gift for young people who are just setting out on their career paths. The book is full of inspiring interviews with everyday people who managed to find their callings. Check it out!

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Giving Your Artistic Baby Away

There comes a time in the creative process when you have to place your art in the hands of someone else. This happens with writers, painters, musicians, sculptors, and anyone else who forms something in his or her imagination and goes on to give it life. If you can conceive of something and make it real for others, and yet not become emotionally invested in it, you have no heart. I have yet to meet a heartless artist.

One of the best ways to feel immortal is to create something that will exist long after you’re gone. In that way, art is like procreation. In essence, your art is your baby.

Unfortunately, as a general rule, artists don’t get to spend years with their work before having to experience empty nest syndrome. I’m not simply talking about that moment when you sell your work and assume you’ll never see it again. I mean that point in the process where you have to rely on others. Editors, producers, managers, publicists, gallery owners. They all have a profound impact on the “life” of your “child.”

You are forced to loosen your grip. You have to accept the fact that you are no longer in complete control. Personally, I find this to be scary.

Once I had finished deciding what I wanted to have included in my first anthology, it then was handed over to the photographer, the editor, the cover designer… a whole host of people with their own unique visions of the final product. Yes, I still had influence. My opinions were sought out. And of course I had veto power. But relinquishing total control is extremely unsettling.

It took me quite some time to realize that that part of the process had plunged me into a low-grade depression. I wasn’t my best self at that point. And the irony is that I had total faith in my collaborators. I chose them because I respected their work. But it was still my baby that I was handing over. That is bound to have an emotional impact.

But like most parents, I’ve come to look upon my baby, now all grown up, and feel pride. I may not have any real control over the impact, or lack thereof, that my book has in the world anymore, but I really do feel that I built it on solid foundations. I gave it the best possible start. I watch it from a distance and I marvel.

And now I can’t wait to make another one.

baby

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The Beauty of Collaboration

Currently I’m working on an anthology that will be entitled A Bridgetender’s View: An Anthology on Gratitude. But there’s no way I could do it alone. Anthologies are a lot more work than I realized! Many dear friends are taking part. Deborah Drake is my catalyst, my publisher, my editor, my web designer, my coordinator, and so many other things I could go on forever. Amy Sassenberg is doing the photography. Bronte Polette is creating the cover and making all the photos format friendly. Vicky Cabe Autry did the separator graphics which I’ll also be using on the website and my business cards. Amelia Torres wrote the foreword.

I just love collaborations. When you create something together, it becomes even better than the sum of its parts. It’s kind of like preferring a savory stew over a raw potato and a couple of carrots. And it’s fun because as everyone contributes ideas, it inspires even more ideas within you.

This is not the first time I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with someone. I also create fractal art under the name Serenity Questi. (You can see some of my work here.) In the virtual world of Second Life, I met a wonderful artist who goes by the name of Treacle Darlandes, who runs the St@rt gallery, and she has for many years taken my fractals and worked her magic on them, making vases, sculptures, and art in motion among many other things. If you are familiar with navigating Second Life, you can check out her virtual gallery here.

In the meantime, here are some pictures of our collaborations. These photos don’t really do them justice without the movement and the three dimensional feel, but it will give you some idea of the amazing things that can come out of collaborating.

So relax your grip on your creativity. Let others take ownership of a portion of the final product. You’ll be amazed at the results. Give it a try!

I’m Tweeting

I have been Twitter-resistant for years. I just didn’t see the point. Between this blog and Facebook and e-mail and Second Life, I already felt as if my social media world was rich and nuanced. I also worried that if I added one more thing, my introverted little self would be crushed under the sheer weight of the stimulation.

In addition, in case you hadn’t noticed, I tend to be rather verbose. How could I possibly restrict my thoughts to a mere 140 characters? And then a funny thing happened. I decided to publish a book.

One of the mistakes many writers make is thinking that once their books have been written, their job is done. Au contraire. That’s when you’re just getting started. Many a book has died aborning because the feeble promotional effort has left it moldering on some dusty shelf.

As my first book approaches its final edit, it became obvious to me that I’d have to have courage to take flight in the Twitter-verse, or I’d be missing a vast potential audience. Thank goodness I have a dear friend who was able to answer all my silly, nervous questions.

Now, instead of thinking of each little tweet as a restriction of my words, I’ve come to think of it as a sort of haiku. I have to get creative to force my thoughts into the restrictions imposed, but what that has done is oblige me to get innovative.

But, having leapt off the twitter cliff, I seem to have plunged into the wallflower abyss. I’ve only managed so far to get 8 followers. And some mornings I’ll wake up and find I have lost one. Heartbreaking. It’s reminding me of all the times I got picked last in gym class.

I really need to put this in perspective. It took me years to build up a following on my blog. It’s ridiculous to think I’d get a million twitter followers in a few days. Slow and steady wins the race, right?

And along the way, go figure, I’m starting to like it. Tentatively. Hesitantly. Perhaps that had been my fear all along–that I’d like it too much. That I would turn into one of those constantly twittering people that I’ve made fun of for years.

Well, be that as it may, I am now a tweeter. Follow me here if you so desire!

Twitter Bird

My Latest Story–Wrong Can Be Right

I went to my monthly storytelling event while still in a delighted daze about all the amazing things that have been going on in my life, in terms of the StoryCorps anthology and the anthologies that I’m planning to publish myself, so naturally that’s what I wanted to talk about, even though tooting my own horn does not come naturally to me.  

But it was a tricky month for horn tooting, because the theme for this month’s event was “Mistakes–Stories of Getting it Wrong.” So I had to be a little creative. Let me know how you think I did. Here’s the recording of my story on Sound Cloud, and if you are unable to get audio or don’t want to hear the dulcet tones of my voice, below that I’ll post the text I practiced with for weeks prior to the event. I think I stayed pretty faithful to it this time.

I truly believe that if there’s a lesson you’re supposed to be learning but you aren’t, then the universe will throw it at you over and over and over again until it finally sinks in. One of those lessons, for me, seems to be that despite my best efforts, life just isn’t going to be predictable.

I’m a Capricorn through and through. I like everything to be foreseeable and expected. I like all my triangles to be equilateral and my t’s to be crossed and my I’s dotted. And my ducks better behave themselves and stay in a nice little row.

But if they don’t, what will I do? What can I do? Nothing. Because life just isn’t going to be predictable. I don’t know why that always takes me by surprise. I think my life has taken an unusually high number of 90 degree turns simply because I’m supposed to be learning that lesson.

“You think you can have it all under control? Well, buckle up baby. Here we come!”

I have to say, though, that recently I’ve been enjoying this lesson a heck of a lot. It started when I got a phone call from  StoryCorps asking if I remembered that interview I did for them back in 2009 about how much I loved being a bridgetender.

“Yes…”

“Well, we want to include it in our next book.”

So here I am, on page 17. They even spelled my name right!

But oh, that’s not all. Of course they want to promote this book, so they asked if it would be all right if they played part of my interview on National Public Radio’s Morning edition.

Heck yeah!

So now you can hear it on the NPR Website and the StoryCorps website. And because of that, overnight, visitors to my daily blog, the View from a Drawbridge, tripled in number.

Hooooo… so now things will die down and become nice and predictable again, right?

Noooooooo! Next, I was featured in Parade Magazine, which has a readership of 54 million.

And then a friend went to one of the book signings in Austin, Texas, and of the 53 people in this book, Dave Isay, the founder of StoryCorps, mentions my story specifically. What???

So now, when I google my name, I get almost 4,000 results.

Even so, I wasn’t expecting the next phone call, from a senior editor of O Magazine. Yup. I’m going to be in the September issue. Are you freakin’ KIDDING ME? Oprah Winfrey is going to know my name for about two seconds! How cool is that?

I cannot believe this is happening to me. I’m so excited! I’ll ride this wave as long as I can, even though sometimes it can be a little bit exhausting.

But I’m now working with the AMAZING Deborah Drake to start publishing a series of anthologies based on my blog.

Predictable life? Pfft. Little did I know.

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Dave Isay Knows My Name!!!

Okay, I’m star struck. I’m giddy. I’m stunned.

I was just lying here cuddled up with my dogs, watching really bad Youtube movies after having spent the day completely goofing off and feeling pretty proud of myself for my level of unrepentedness (okay, so that’s technically not a word, but you get the idea) when my phone rings. It’s my friend Amelia Isabel, of Shaping Sapiens fame, who recently interviewed me for that self-same podcast.

She just happened to be in Texas. Austin, I think, right at the same time Dave Isay was doing a book signing for Callings, the anthology that yours truly is a part of, on page 17.

And here’s the thing: he talked about 6 of the people featured in the book, and one of the ones he talked about was…ME! With a really ugly picture of me weighing 50 pounds more than I do now, with my arm around my ex-boyfriend who hates me! And she videotaped it! And I watched it! And he pronounced my name correctly! And he mispronounced my bridge!And he kind of sort of calls me a poet! Me!

And then she talked to him afterward and said hello for me! And took a picture with the man himself, Dave Isay, the founder of StoryCorps, who is probably one of the few people on earth who has a cooler job than I do.

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Amelia Isabel with Dave Isay

I hope at some point he’ll come to Seattle and I’ll get a picture with him, too.

I’m freaking out here! Stuff like this just doesn’t happen to me. But… apparently it does. 🙂

Help Me Map Out My Walk Down Memory Lane

Hi everyone! I really could use your help. I’m going to be doing several anthologies of my blog entries, and I need your opinion.

My blog is a bit eclectic. In general, it’s about stuff I think about while sitting up here on my drawbridge. So I’ve been going through old posts and trying to identify various themes that I seem to revisit, and determine which ones are my favorites.

The funny thing about revisiting past writings is that it feels similar to going through old photo albums (remember those?), or school yearbooks. The memories come flooding back and then you look up to find that hours have gone by. Re-reading these posts from years ago feels like going to a high school reunion, only without dreading some of the people you’re going to run into.

What you see below are 10 blog posts from 2012 and 2013 that I think have anthology potential. What I need to know are your thoughts on the subject. Which do you like best? What themes do you enjoy most? Are there any other posts of mine that are your favorites? Is there anything else I should be asking you that I’m overlooking?

Anyone kind enough to voice their opinion will be gratefully acknowledged in one of my anthologies, unless you prefer to remain anonymous. But please know that your insights really matter to me. I write for you!

I seem to write a lot about my insights about nature. Here’s one called A Rare Gift from a Dolphin.

Here’s an example of one of the many things I’ve written about having a sense of myself. Learning about who I am. It’s called Coming full Spiral.

Another one like that is Lightning Strikes and Other Unforeseen Events.

I also love to write about obscure things that may not have crossed your mind, and/or things that most people haven’t heard about. Here’s one called Cool Stuff You Never Knew about your Teeth.

Other times I go for the humor, as in How to Give HORRIBLE Customer Service.

Sometimes I write about travel experiences, such as Reliving the Battle of Olustee.

I like to write about trying to make a difference in one way or another, such as in The Immigration Issue in Reverse.

And I also tend to wax nostalgic, like in Those Moments.

Naturally, I have a lot of drawbridge stories to tell! When in Doubt, Blame the Bridgetender.

And I have plenty of time to come up with quirky insights and wonder about things. Where Are YOU Located?

I really hope I hear from you! Thanks in advance!

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Calling All Readers

Did you just hear my StoryCorps interview on NPR’s Morning Edition? What a rush!!! If you missed it, check it out on the StoryCorps site here. Or even better, look at the amazing write up it was given on the NPR site, and listen to the recording with their intro. And please, share it with friends!

In light of the positive feedback I’m getting from that, I’m thinking of taking my blog to the next level by writing some anthologies. I sure could use your help with this. You’ve been giving me amazing feedback over the years, and I really value your opinion.

As you know, my blog is kind of eclectic, but there are various themes that keep cropping up, such as drawbridge stories, travel, exploring Seattle/Washington, quirky questions and observations, feminist rants, my sense of self… just to name a few.

What I’d like to know is which of my over 1200 entries do you enjoy the most? What topics interest you? What type of anthology would you most like to see from me?

For your generous assistance, I’ll include your name in the anthology unless you prefer to remain anonymous. Either way, thanks in advance. You’re awesome!

Looking forward to providing you with more views from a drawbridge!

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The view from my drawbridge right now.