Sunday, December 12, 2010

from the BRG archives: Fatal Distractions

In Meghan’s “no resolutions for me” post, she lists her best “thinking” spots and asks readers to tell about theirs. Her query led me off on a tangent—not about places and times when writing ideas bubble up to the surface of my consciousness, but about my actual process when I go about writing my blogs.

So here it is:
The Id, the Ego, Those Infernal Impulses, and the Elements of Style

I love children’s poetry. It would follow that I also love children’s poetry books. Because I love children’s poetry books—I buy children’s poetry books. I have lost count of how many I own—but you can believe me when I tell you that I have hundreds of them. The same holds true for picture books—and all other kinds of children’s books. I don’t have to run down to the public library or visit a school library to find children’s poetry books or picture books or any other kind of books to review. One might think that having so many books at hand would make writing for a children’s literature blog easy for me. Think again!

There are two things I find difficult to do each week: decide what to write a blog about for Friday—and then to write a blog about it. At the beginning of my brainstorming process, I always end up asking myself lots of “Should I?” questions.

Should I review a poetry book that is hot-off-the-press?
Should I write about a wonderful book that was published years ago that has not found the readership it deserves?
Should I write an in-depth review of just one poetry book?
Should I review two or three books?
Should I review picture books written in verse—or picture books with lyrical texts?
Should I go searching for another old moldering poem that’s stuffed inside one of dozens of folders?
Should I write something serious and thought-provoking?
Should I don my wise guy persona and write a funny post?
Should I write something personal about the way poetry has affected my life?
Should I write about a controversial subject in the hopes of getting a discussion going?

Should I? Should I? Should I?

Next, the figurative gears in my gray matter start turning. There are times when I get so many ideas they all buzz around in my brain like bees flitting from flower to flower in search of nectar in summertime. And then I think: “This is a good idea for a blog. No, wait…this is a better idea.” And as the ideas spark electrical impulses in my frontal lobes and my left hemisphere sends messages to my right hemisphere and my right hemisphere signals “Right back at ya, Lefty” via my corpus callosum, I start pulling books off shelves and putting them on the table: a pile of moon books here, a book of poetry for very young children there, a bunch of snow stories written in verse at one end, poetry books that are beautifully illustrated at the other end, and on and on and on… Soon I am overwhelmed with different kinds of books and can’t see the top of the table, can’t decide which book(s) to write about. Then I invariably ignore the books I have spread across the tabletop and write about something else that has captured my fancy just before I sit down to compose my post.

Sometimes, after I finally decide what to write my blog about, everything in the writing/reviewing process goes smoothly from start to finish. Other times, I will spend a day or two on a post and then decide that it stinks or that it didn’t say what I really wanted it to say or that it would be better to post it on some Friday in the future. Sometimes I’ll find that the piece I am working on takes me where it wants to go—not where I want to take it. Sometimes another idea—or several ideas—will pop into my head after I have nearly finished my blog for the week.

I really do envy people who live their blogging lives in a straight line. They get one idea at a time, sit down and write about it, and post the piece the same day. No questions reverberating inside their craniums. No second-guessing their topic choices. No little nerve impulse gremlins jumping synapses in their brains and steering their conscious thoughts away from the writing task at hand or tempting them with new ideas. No little monologue bubbles hovering above their heads like rain clouds in April, whispering to them, and distracting them. Me? I try to remain on track—but I usually end up a modest train wreck of a writer almost every time I sit down to compose a post. So I think: Maybe it would be a good idea for me to write a book about my affliction and call it “Fatal Distraction: The Saga of a Kidlit Blogger with an Attention Disorder.” (Do you think any human being on the planet would be interested in reading a book like that?)

I believe that the mental health community should begin training special therapists who would be qualified to give advice to bloggers like me. Yeh, I could really use a bloggochologist—or maybe a bloggochiatrist. You know…someone knowledgeable about the inner workings of the human brain and psyche and subconscious who is also wise in the ways of topic sentences and paragraphing, main ideas and the clever turn of phrase, the independent clause and the pregnant pause, the ellipsis and the syllepsis, the subjunctive mood and gerunds. Someone who can distinguish an oxymoron from a blogging moron. Someone who is familiar with the works of Dr. Freud and Dr. Seuss. Someone who can make sure I don’t split literary hairs…or infinitives. Someone who can help me learn how to remain focused while I am writing and who can also keep me from dangling my participles in public.

If you know of any such professionals who would be interested in helping an old lady with ADBD— Attention Distraction Blogging Disorder—and also in collaborating on a nonfiction book about the disorder, please leave their names in the comments section for me.

Thanks for listening to my writing process rant, fellow bloggers. May Freud, no Jung, no Freud be with you.

Originally published January 10, 2007

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