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!