Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Beginner's Guide to Joyful Living -- Day 25

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.

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.

What you do matters.
Beginner's Guide to Joyful Living A 31-Day Challenge


  1. The photo of the flower in the field is so lovely. Your words today are encouraging. Blogging can make you wonder if maybe your time could be spent better, but for me it is a way to connect with my daughters and leave a record. I'm amazed sometimes that I don't remember a day two years ago, but can go back in my blog and see where my head and heart were that day. That's the fun in blogging for me.

    1. That's so true! A blog is an online journal, a record of our lives. An amazing life's work.

  2. Michael Lee. thank you so much from writing from your heart. These are really encouraging words today and I needed to hear them. When I retired from my interior decorating business, I needed a creative outlet. I stumbled onto blogging and didn't have a clue what I was doing, I am still learning. I sometimes wonder if there is something easier I could do, but I get so excited over the sunset photo or that spider web! You are an inspiration with your transparency!

    1. Blogging led me to learn about taking photos, and taking photos of everyday objects and things led to great personal joy.

  3. I love your blog. Always have, since I discovered it a year ago. Whether it comes weekly or monthly, I know it will always be intelligent, thoughtful and sensitive. And sometimes just pretty and fun :) I prefer blogs that pop up occasionally, as opposed to blogs that crank out something on a daily basis. Because really, where's the quality in that?

    1. Your words lift my heart. Thank you so much!

  4. Thank you, Michael. I knew in my heart blogging was art. I love to blog and share my experience and joy in life. This year I am trying to find balance in blogging. When health issues overcome our daily life, I choose to blog about tea times for my annual calendar I make for Christmas gifts and blog about the wonderful places I visit when I travel. I love your thoughts on life and blogging. Balance in daily living is the key to Peace and Serenity. Keep writing.♥

    1. And that's the very best reason to blog. You keep writing, too!

  5. I'm copying that Bruce Lee quote! I think we (collective) are all trying to transform ourselves on the inside because we can't control what's happening on the outside(in the world) and, in doing so, we find hope in "shifting" the direction of humanity's trajectory. Well, at least that's what I'm striving for, but I also feel it all around me. As for the enneagrams, I'm a good dose of #'s 1, 5, & 9 with a dash of # 6!

  6. As an artist and an author, I know you have experienced that sharing each creation is a scary voyage into the unknown...how will it be perceived, will it be liked etc...As an artist, I too have learned with each voyage how to be a better sailor, a little braver, my confidence becoming my "sunscreen" to protect me from "the elements" and my mind secure in that I'm doing what I love, without caring if my boat sinks or floats...like the famous quote, "Enjoy the journey..." After selling my art in retail for years, blogging and doing whatever strikes my fancy is total freedom and joy without restraint. I used to worry about those who don't understand why one would possibly blog without payment, but payment to me is the knowledge that every post brings knowledge or inspiration to someone, somewhere, and that is enough for me. I will be the first to admit that I blog selfishly, in that I do it solely for the purpose of pushing myself, otherwise I would be hopelessly lazy! There will always be people who get it and people who don't and who cares! I like Bruce Lee's water theory, however it worries me about the lack of identity it suggests...

    1. I think blogging is a great motivator. If I hadn't committed t this series, I would have lolled away the month. :-) Really! Though sometimes, blogging can create humongous messes in the house . . . .

  7. Are there universal thoughts for bloggers or are you just unusually sensitive to picking up on them? Because I think so many of us read this and are amazed that you've nailed our concerns. One night, in an effort to postpone reconciling my bank statement, I went back to really old blog posts I'd written, stopping at some that I'd worked so hard on with many rough drafts. Posts that got a huge response (for my small blog), but I wondered "what is left of it now?" Was it your penny dropped into the water, never to be seen again? If so, for what?

    But when I finished and turned to my bank statement I felt happy and sort of in a mellow glow. And I think that counts for a whole lot. Now, onto the rest of Wednesday, and thankful for it and for this day to live joyfully. Thank you for this post.

  8. Blogging is an art form. At least for me, I consider it a source of creative expression. It keeps me writing. Not like you of course, I'm not an author, but it makes me think and put words done. ;-)
    I find myself spending excessive time and energy on some posts, and sometimes of late I ended up letting them just sit in Draft because I'm not happy with the photos or the post itself. Yesterday I joined a group of friends for a birthday celebration at a cooking school. It was a great time of friendship, creating and laughing as we prepared the recipes together for our lunch. The venue was about an hours drive away in the hill country. Of course I took lots of photos and expected to come home, edit the photos, and write a post to share. My ipad must have died on the trip home because I can't open it. I'm taking it in later today, but I'm not hopeful that I can recover all my photos. It's disappointments like this that frustrate me. Odd thing about blogging in my case is that my blog does not generate income, nor does it have a huge following, yet, I continue to put in the time and effort as well as expense. I think many don't understand the motivation. '-) Where does such a person fall on the personality scale you discussed?

  9. Awwww...I love that...it matters! Also, I don't feel that we're strangers, but friends that have never met in person, and you always touch me through your writing, Michael Lee. Your photos in this post were especially beautiful. Thank you, as always.
    p.s. After I read your post on Enneagrams, I actually took and Enneagram test on the internet, and it was pretty much accurate, but I was more of a #2, with wings of 9 and 5. I guess that explains why I cringe around show-off-y type people?? I always wondered!

  10. I had a reader tell me that they've never left a comment until the day I asked for them to say hello, because she didn't understand the need to. That wasn't the first time I'd heard that, but it still made me wonder why they didn't get it. For me it's a creative outlet, but it's also the camaraderie that makes me blog. I think I would have given up years ago if no one read what I was writing. That said, I still write what I want. Does it bother me if I only get ten comments or if I piss off a few people when I post something controversial? Hell yes! But, I know I was true to myself and that's the most important thing.

    Great post :)