Woohoo! Wild! and Whizbang!

The place where I blog (on a day when it's tidy)

For several months now, WordPress has rewarded me with a cheer when I publish a blog post. This cheerleader Function has some very enthusiastic words in its repetoire, including the three in the title above, and others such as sly! brilliant! impressive! groovy! handy! (handy?) and fantastic! This is a Function that is obviously high on exclamation marks and adjectives-for-building-others’-self-esteem potions. Like kindergarten children who quickly learn to ignore praise that is excessive and indiscriminate (whether a page of scribbles or something actually labored over), I do not allow myself to take these words seriously. I do appreciate, however, that said Function tells me how many posts I’ve now posted, and quickly scans my latest column to suggest additional tags. Each time it also suggests three intriguing ideas for future posts, which I’ve not yet used, but surely will if I run out of ideas. (E.g. What gift would you like to anonymously send someone?)

So, all that to announce that I have now published 200 posts here at Borrowing Bones (this will be my 201th) and that this fact struck me as worthy of a little look-back and reflection. In addition, it’s almost two years to the day (the actual anniversary is tomorrow) that I posted my very first post, about the Winnipeg launch of A Generation of Vigilance.

My blog has never been a substitute for the personal journal I keep. Here’s what I wrote there after that first (to me) momentous day.

I’ve had a lot of fun with my blog — and I began! I put it up. It looks beautiful; I’ve had some great traffic — now what? What do I really want to keep saying?

Hmmm, looks like I was doing my own cheerleading at the time, and that I could have used some WordPress ideas. I soon discovered, though, that ideas more or less arrive on their own, most of the time at least, in the process of living and as you need them.

I also discover in my journal that I did some pre-blog brainstorming about things I was interested in and might blog about. I was still embedded in the formal Mennonite world at the time, so Mennonite topics rose to the top of my list. I felt that MennoMissus might be a good blog title, suggesting a bit of a niche, a playful feminism. Daughter C., who encouraged me to get started and was helping me technically, nixed it. And all I can say is a belated thank you! I see it now; what a truly awful name. In the meanwhile, friend L. of my writing group, shared a Pablo Neruda poem in which a fragment (see About) with “borrowing bones” in it seized me for its evocation of (to be Oprahesque) something I knew for sure. I still like it.

I quite like blogging, for the opportunity — and goad — it is to take a thought or experience further by working at it enough to set it into the public eye. It forces me to think some more, or distill what I’ve learned, or digest an experience. I like the way it allows me to do everything myself, decide my topic and then write, edit, and publish it. There’s a relative unimportance about a blog post, I think, that also allows a certain amount of writerly stubbornness, or perhaps writerly relaxation. If I want to amble through a long introduction instead of providing a snappy lede, so be it, or ramble along without a thesis, my problem too.

Which doesn’t mean I never think about you, my dear readers, and hope to keep you coming back. I took it all quite earnestly at the beginning, wanting to do well with what I’d decided to do, and I followed with diligence various pieces of advice to win readers and so on. It was all good advice, which I still try to follow some of the time, but the reality is that this isn’t really a personal blog and not quite a topical niche place either, and while this gives me both freedom and pleasure, it also makes me very grateful for those who put up with its inconsistencies, and if one post isn’t up their alley, will come back down another. (Every writer likes an audience.) I was proud to be accepted into the Christian Century blogging community but I confess I’ll feel a tiny crimp now and then: is this CC enough? Fortunately, the CC community, like the mainline Christianity it embraces, is generous and nonjudgmental.

After I’d been blogging a few months, Lent arrived and I realized that what I needed to give up was checking my stats. It was a good thing too, to break the habit of wondering, too often, has anyone come by? (Akin to Facebook obsessions: has anyone clicked Like or said anything back to me?) For the purposes of this two-year, 200th post celebration, however, I can tell you that the various posts concerning the Bolivian Mennonite rape scandal have generated (combined) the most views overall, thanks to google searches. (There was another comment on that today, in fact.) Another post that kept gaining views as it aged was “Mennonite chick lit,” my review of Rhoda Janzen’s Mennonite in a Little Black Dress. As for single posts, my brief recent reflection in honor of Eric Wingender went through the roof. That surprised me, as it was just one of those cases when you learn something that blindsides you, as it were, and you have to right yourself by thinking about it and speaking up. It got some Facebook links, and Facebook is huge.

If doing everything myself is the upside of blogging, it’s also the downside. I don’t think I ever click Publish without a moment of trepidation. Editors and publishers are so vital to the writing process, and here there’s no one to give that stern and extra eye, to let me know whether it’s making sense, or — most importantly — whether the tone is right for the content or will I be misunderstood? (This mostly of concern when I get opinionated, like a MennoMissus in battle gear.) Tone is particularly hard for a writer to judge well in the moment. Thankfully, blogging allows edits even after publishing, so spelling mistakes, awkwardnesses, or even criticism that has appeared personal instead of about a person’s ideas, can be re-considered when spotted or pointed out. I’ve not always been kind in my life, but I would like to be.

When I’m heavily involved in my fiction or other writing, keeping up the blog becomes more difficult. Two years in, I’m not writing as often as I did at the beginning. I also know that blogs have a shelf life and that it’s good to know when “best before” has arrived.

And now this post has become woefully long, which is a no-no in blogging. (Want an audience? Keep it short!) Still, I know that one Function at least will love it and shout Fantastic! or Handy! or something similar as soon as it appears. Anyways, happy two and 200 to Borrowing Bones, and thanks very very much everyone!

19 thoughts on “Woohoo! Wild! and Whizbang!

  1. Happy (handy? groovy? fantastic?) anniversary/milestone Dora. I’ve noticed these little “encouragements” via WordPress myself over the last little while. So nice to be virtually patted on the head by a mindless computer program…

    I hope you keep up the great writing here. For whatever it’s worth, I think the “best before” date on this blog is some distance in the horizon :).

    • Thanks Ryan; this time the pat on the head, as you put it, was “Radical!” I also remember yours was one of the first I put up on my “blogroll.” I just checked and see you’ve been at it since 2007 and that you led with “why blog?” and you’re still going strong, that you in fact recently reached 500! The reasons have obviously remained good enough! I’m also hoping you’re starting work on a book. 🙂

      • A book! Well, that would be something… Not sure where I would begin!

        (I suppose “Radical” is an appropriate pat on the head for a MennoMissus :).)

      • Maybe begin with what you’d like to read yourself but haven’t quite found anyone saying yet. That probably sounds silly, but I hope you know what I mean. Though to even encourage someone writing a book in these uncertain times for book publishing may simply be irresponsible of me.

  2. I always enjoy reading your blog and miss the conversations we used to have in the conference office. God has blessed you with a wonderful mind. Keep up the good work.


  3. Fabulous! Amazing! Woot! Woot! I not only read every word, I also hit all the links. Your stat page will be ABLAZE. 🙂 Especially after I put a link up on FB.

    You and I must have started blogging at the same time a year apart from each other. I had on my mental blog idea list to write a similar kind of blog post. But first, a toast to Dora, the near-miss MennoMissus!

    • Thanks Shirley. I will look forward to your reflections on blogging, especially as you’ve carved out a niche, created a virtual “textbook” on matters memoir. I’m wondering if that distinct focus ever feels restrictive, or actually freeing.

      • Good question. Sometimes the focus restricts me. But usually I find a way to write about what’s on my mind. The category of “personal reflections” is actually one of my biggest ones.

  4. Congratulations, Dora, on posting 200 very fine blogs within 2 years! Personally, I stand in awe of your continued excellence in writing on a wide range of subjects and also of your diligence in simply keeping at it. Maybe that’s why it surprised and cheered me to read that you’d considered the MennoMissus title for your blog. Somehow, that didn’t quite fit with my “elegant” image of you as a writer and that made it doubly endearing because it left room for some down to earth surprises in what makes you tick! Also, that nixed title option, reminded me of another respected writer, Margaret Laurence, who apparently planned to name her novel, “The Stone Angel” something like “The Sword of Justice.” Thankfully she too bowed to the wisdom of others! Also, I was really pleased to note that your posts on the Bolivia Mennonite story had scored the most viewers to date. I think that means that the light of the candles we lit during that lament and prayer vigil on a wintery February evening in 2010, continues to shine on … And lastly, all of these things almost persuade me to start a blog too! Leona

    • Thanks Leona, for your kind words. I’m glad I cheered and surprised you a little with the dour MennoMissus. Would MennoMs. have sounded more elegant? 🙂 Elegance is the least of it most days, I’m afraid, more like MennoMisses. Well enough of all that. But all this and Margaret Laurence’s first title just confirms what I noted about the need for editors and advisors! — As for you starting, go for it. I’ll announce it!

  5. Woot! Woot! Way to Go! You’re Great! You’re Amazing!
    Ahh Dora, I don’t get over here often enough, but every time I do, I find another wonderful gem.
    Like you, I have no particular or finely-tuned niche, though I tend to throw it under the umbrella of travel. Though often I end up musing about things completely unrelated…which is both freeing and terrifying.
    And I too, am trying not to watch my statistics too much because I get too Sally Field about it all…’they like me, they really like me!” Conversely, I also end up with, “Why bother?” if the numbers go down. It’s a roller coaster I can do without, but like a traffic accident I am drawn to peek whenever I can’t stand it any more.
    I haven’t checked that whizbang function button out yet, so I don’t know what post I’m up to, but I’m still loving (and like you, sometimes feeling severe trepidation about) the whole process of publishing what I want…when I want.
    All this to say…Congratulations!

  6. Thanks Colleen, for your warm words — and welcome back to your writing desk after your long walk in Wales and then travels India. You amaze me with your adventures and the way you talk about them! (BTW, I don’t know how many times I’ve repeated your advice about it being more important about what you leave at home than what you pack, namely your expectations. We put that to good use for our Europe trip in August and had a memorable time.)

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