Sunday, October 2, 2016

How to Be a Happy Blogger: Grace Notes

At times, blogging reminds me of a fast-moving river, its powerful current rushing downstream, washing away everything in its path. Rocks are eroded, creek beds are carved out, and debris is carried for many miles. Drop a penny into the water, and it disappears. Writing a blog post is like building a paper boat and setting it gently into a wave. The boat launches, scurrying into the tumultuous current. Will it stay afloat or get sucked to the bottom?

I'll just be honest. Blogging doesn't always get the respect it deserves. It takes courage, stamina, motivation, persistence, patience, and grit. It can also be time-consuming, expensive, and messy. You can do your best, but your boat may sink. Or it may float but no one sees it. So you work harder and harder, all the while knowing that just around the bend, a waterfall could sweep your vessel under the surface.

Oddly enough, your boat may reach an unexpected destination. It may bump into someone (a non-blogger) who is puzzled by the concept of blogging. It doesn't matter if you publish full-time or once-a-week; it doesn't matter if you have a modest income from ads or you don't make a penny. The Puzzled Person wants to know if you're making money or getting famous, with 19 million hits a month and billions of loyal followers. They won't spit on you unless Hollywood is beating down your damn door (remember the blog and movie Julie & Julia?). If you aren't rich and famous, the Puzzled Person wonders why you'd put so much time and effort into such a foolish, wasteful enterprise. 

You might quote an old Zen proverb: 
All work is done with the simple understanding that it matters.
If a rock can hold up a house, anything is possible.

Of course, writers, photographers, water-colorists, actors, craftsmen, and musicians have heard the same questions about craft. It's just hard for non-artistic folks to understand.
And make no mistake, blogging is an art. 
Only an artist can be giddy when she's taking pictures of wildflowers or spider webs or a sleeping dog. That's how artists are wired. Unfortunately, our wiring can make some of us highly sensitive. We may worry that we've gone daft. Is the blog taking over our lives and closets? Has all this work been for naught? Should we shut down and get an MFA in Something?
You know, a profession that no one will question. One that we won't question. Me, I sure would miss the chance to see a wild blossom and share it on the blog. 

Sometimes non-artistic types aren't the problem. 
Sometimes blogging itself isn't the problem. 
Life can get hard, pulling us away from our work.  

During the last two years, I've learned to be like water. 

“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” 
-- Bruce Lee

I know, sometimes the problem is more complicated, and we can't be like water. We're bruised and broken by circumstances beyond our control. I've been there, too, and I can promise that a dark outlook can be pulled into the light. It may take a while, but once we're in the sun, we can see the splinters and rough spaces. We can see what needs to be hammered back into place. 
The same thing can be said for blogging. I'm not talking about adding a slick, pro header (which I need but won't get) or another superficial tweak. The problem isn't my header, sidebar, publishing pattern or (fill in the blank). No, I'm fixing myself. 
On the first page of my diary, I wrote:

You are reworking the blogger, not the blog.

If I've learned anything, it's this:
The best thing you can do for your blog is to be present in your own life. 

To really be there moment by moment, engaging in activities that lift the soul. Because if you love what you do, the rest will follow. 

Blog from your unique, wonderful, loving heart, and don't let anyone stop you.

Don't let "if onlys" drag you back into dark waters. A sure-fire path to doubt and darkness is to question your art--or to listen to naysayers, even if you are your own worst naysayser! Questions lead to doubt, and doubt turns your creativity into a pin cushion. Stick yourself enough times, and the best part of you will leak out.

No one ever said the artist's life is easy. It's not. But it's your life, the one you have chosen at this time. And you never know if somehow, someway, your work may touch a stranger in need. 
You just never know.

Your little boat may or may not survive the river.
The boat is what it is.
The river is what it is, too.
Don't look back. Don't look sideways.
Build another boat.

All work is done with the simple understanding that it matters.


  1. Beautifully written post. I think that artistic and creative people need outlets, I know I do. Blogging is still fun for me, even though I don't make any money from it. Your thoughtful post was a wonderful read this morning, the pictures are wonderful too.

  2. Michael, this is such a wonderful post. Not only are your photos just breathtaking but your words are so inspiring! I don't tell many people in the "real world" that I blog. I guess I don't want their opinions and yes, questions as to why I am not famous of making tons of money. Thanks for the reminder of why we feel the need to create! Enjoy your Sunday!

  3. Oh, Michael Lee, this post is priceless! You're so right! We blog because we want to. Blogging is certainly not like it used to be, is it? There are the so called 'super bloggers' and I followed some for a while, but they just wore me out and I felt pressured that I wasn't doing enough on my blog. But with my olden age I have realized I'm blogging for the fun of it. I love comments but if I don't get many any more, that's okay. I'm met some wonderful folks in blogland, you included, and even though we've never met in person, I consider them my friends. I just love blogging and I guess I'll continue to be my silly self and hope someone comes along with me. If not, it's still okay!
    You're the best!
    Shelia ;)

  4. Love this post and I'm bookmarking it to re-read this afternoon in my leisure time. So many good thoughts about blogging...

  5. I love your blog and read it every day. Thank you for the beauty

  6. Don't think I've ever read anything more beautiful than this. This really spoke to me..."Unfortunately, our wiring can make some of us highly sensitive. We may worry that we've gone daft." Maybe I am daft, but I love this thing called blogging. Sometimes I am the water, and sometimes I am the pin cushion. But always, always, I am your friend.

  7. Beautifully articulated!!! I sometimes think of quitting because I miss the comments of years gone by, now only a half dozen will taken the time to communicate with me. I wrote a mission statement when I first started blogging and so far I have kept true to myself and my statement. I believe you have to love to write and love to help people in anyway you can with the talents you have been given. I hope to keep floating along like you do!! Thank you for this beautifully written post!!

  8. Well said! It's kind of like getting naked in front of someone else for the first time and then it becomes more natural. I have gone through a lot of realizations this year about me and my blog. I will stick to what I am comfortable with, stay "me" in the process and if I'm liked I'm liked if I'm not then so be it! I enjoy it and like the friendships I've gained. You're a good therapist- your words speak to the mind and mean a lot. XO, Liz

  9. I shall remember this post and the picture of the rock holding up the house whenever I get down. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Just perfect Michael Lee. I think when you start blogging, you're doing it for the love of it and for the creative outlet. Once you realise there is a blogging 'world' out there, you want a chunk of it and lose sight of why you started in the first place. I agree. What you do matters to you. Just keep doing it and don't worry about the other boats.

    Anne xx

  11. Your heart has always come through your posts. Oh, and your authenticity too!

  12. This is probably one of the best posts I have ever read. I love the analogies that you made about blogging...You so eloquently said it are such an amazing writer, photographer and stylist/decorator and we all benefit from this. Thank you for this most beautiful post!

    1. Oh, Shirley, how kind and generous you are. Thank you!

  13. I wrote to you when I found your blog unexpectedly, I wrote to you to let you know how much I appreciated your non-commercial approach. I am an oil painter, today's writing hit me because of the incredible timing. I am slowly losing my sight, going through heroics to stave off the worst outcome. It has sent me to the darkest cave I have ever known. I took your comment that "a dark outlook can be pulled into the light" as the most life affirming logical encouragement I have ever received.

    And ,yes timing is everything in life, thank you for writing this piece on this day. Yesterday, I went to the store to get the ingredients for your Lemon Thyme cake and made it. The sun hasn't been out here in a week, but I sat outside with a piece of your cake and a cup of tea and things weren't overwhelming for a short period. It was something tangible to do to make myself feel better, I live alone, I'm sure people would question why I made an entire cake for myself. Well, it was the way you had written about the cake being good for any occasion and I remembered how you described cutting a slice of pure joy.

    I don't subscribe to blogs, just your letter. I know my paintings continue to touch people's souls long after they have left my easel. Know your letters are remembered and the words linger long after it has been published.

    Thank you so very much.

    1. And your kind words will be remembered. Thank you so much for writing to me--and for making the cake. I hope you enjoyed it! Your words mean the world to me. I am so sorry about your vision. My mother has wet macular blindness, and she has saved some vision with treatments. When she visited, she was able to read a book--first time in over a year--and she was on cloud nine. My thoughts are with you, and I will send up prayers. ((Hugs))

  14. I am saving the link to this post and sending it to everyone who is puzzled by why I blog. Bloggers are artists, writers, photographers, editors, stylists, and with the stamina of a bull moose. Except for the occasional product that I am sent for review, I receive no money. I do it for the joy. During the last days of my husband's life, I did it for the therapeutic aspects. It is a joy worth understanding and experiencing.

  15. Amen to that!
    Beautiful and important post :)

    Greetings from Scotland,

  16. this is probably one of the best blog posts I've read to date.
    honest. sharing. heartfelt. and ohhhhhh so beneficial to so many.
    I've always "gotten" it but there are so many who do not.
    Their loss.

  17. Michael Lee, Your Grace Notes are so heartfelt and ring so true for me accompanied by your beautiful photos. My boat's been on a rocky ride for the last month since my MIL passed away, making me wonder if I'm more than a little daft to spend time blogging. But I also know there is nothing like that inner thrill and balm to the soul when you capture a sun-dappled setting or pretty bloom. I need to pin this to my mirror to read every morning: "Blog from your unique, wonderful, loving heart, and don't let anyone stop you." ♥

  18. This is a beautifully written and insightful post. You've tapped into thoughts and feelings that so many of us have. I will refer back to this often, thank you.

  19. Wow, wow, and more wow...what a wonderfully written, heartfelt, meaningful post, Michael Lee. You, with your own special gift, have said it all SO beautifully. Thank you!

  20. Thank you. I've taken the words from your heart into my own.

  21. Thank you. I've taken the words from your heart into my own.

  22. I come to your blog for the writing. ...And your beautiful pictures are a bonus. There are so few bloggers out there who can actually write. (And aren't concerned with pageclick$ or attention.) Please keep posting this refreshing breath of Southern air ;)
    Caroline in NC

  23. Beautiful words and breathtaking pictures. Thanks for sharing!

  24. Amazing post and gorgeous photos... THnaks for saying it just right!! Een if it goes nowhere it still matters!

  25. Yes. To your entire post.