According to Darwin, this Skeleton shouldn’t survive.
I am told people love a good origin story. What’s not to like about a promising start? It has rich narrative potential: good omens, a few occurrences of occult significance, symbolism, some prophecies – or at least a silver spoon (somewhere). Just try writing an epic fantasy without it.
That being said – today I opt for honesty. The disturbing truth of the matter is this blog has a dreadful family tree. I have a history of starting blogs and then abandoning them.
The poor young things never have a chance. Each and every one of my back pages arose out of turmoil, phoenix-like: they were intended to channel the promising energies of whatever my latest project was, into something which would (certainly) prove my fame and fortune. At least three of them haunt my WordPress “My Sites” tab; they are starved but not dead, not gone but mostly forgotten. I wish I could report I have nightmares of them smothering me, but nothing so Twilight Zone – mostly I just look at them and think “…lesson learned.” (You’re welcome to imagine it in Rod Serling’s voice.)
Sometimes you can’t force what isn’t there. Sometimes you can’t trick yourself into love. Sometimes – whatever is needed – you just don’t have it yet. I’d like to say otherwise, but that wouldn’t be honest.
So in terms of “survival of the fittest,” this Skeleton does not have a promising pedigree. It’s like finding out a canary survived the meteor that took out T-Rex. Chirp, chirp.
Maybe the canary learned something. Maybe adaptability is a better lesson than appearance of expertise.
Maybe the canary finally learned to quit overcrowding its schedule, quit doing things just to maintain the appearance of “young professional,” quit forcing an interest in things that weren’t worth spending a life on. Oh, and learned to just sit down and write.
This post is somewhat more personal than the usual, ah, high-quality in-depth reading material you have (hopefully) come to expect.
I mention all of this because Skeleton-At-The-Feast.com just passed 200 “follows.” And though I try very hard not to pay attention to the numbers – it means a very great deal to me that each of you give a portion of your lifetime towards reading my thoughts and learning experiences. It keeps me writing, each and every day.
My world has been challenged and expanded by your comments and by your own blog posts and work. I am very fortunate that each of you share your unique voices in this community. I consider each of you to be friends, and I hope my work contributes something useful to your day.
Maybe it’s not always “survival of the fittest;” sometimes, it’s “survival of the best community.”
10 thoughts on “Origins: A Break In Our Regular Programming”
I love the WordPress community. As you say, it is inspiring and motivational for me. I had another blog for ten years. It was just a blog attached to a personal website. I got bored and abandoned it. The big difference between the old and new blogs is the WordPress community. It makes the blogging so much more dynamic and rewarding.
Sometimes I think those old projects need to be abandoned to make mental space for something new. My old blog had so much crap on it that I didn’t even remember what was on it.
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“Sometimes I think those old projects need to be abandoned to make mental space for something new.”
This is interesting and makes a lot of sense! At the same time, I enjoy the idea of a long-term online space that charts a person’s development and interests. This is probably because I view my WordPress site as this amorphous thing. I like the thought of a reader stumbling across a years-old post, like a sort of internet time capsule.
That said, most bloggers probably wouldn’t want to be judged by their past content. Most would probably be embarrassed by it so I get the impulse to draw a line and start afresh, especially as interests and styles change and evolve.
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You have a point about letting go of old projects – I notice that any truly useful insights from discarded projects will usually re-surface in some other, newer form. Sometimes the best way to figure out what needs to be expressed is to discard a project and see what survives.
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I’ve abandoned three other blogs – Hahaha. So I can relate. Old blogs (to me at least) are like those embarrassing pictures your parents keep of you when you were that awkward psycho brace face kid. The kid you are more than happy to bury. But no! There she is again. Risen from the cold dead ashes of the past. (Thanks Mom).
But I’m trying to learn to drop perfectionism and give myself grace.
Stops and starts are, I think, part of the process and continuing to press forward is not for the faint of heart.
Keep at it. I enjoy your unique brand of humor.
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Ha perfectionism – if only we could abandon THAT as easily as a blog, right? 😉 I think there really is something to be said for learning from (apparent) failure – it makes you think through things carefully, whereas with success, you have this idea you did everything perfectly and therefore you can’t change anything. So the urge to experiment just dries up. As always, thank you for sharing your thoughts – I look forward to them!
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Even if I don’t always comment (sometimes “This is wonderful!” or “I agree!” just sound trite), I’ll continue reading as long as you keep posting.
I think your point about following your current interest or inspiration is important. I bristle at the idea of conforming or carving out a singular identity for my blog (even though I concede that’s the best way to gain traction in terms of followers and engagement). The imposed pressure to create an ‘author platform’ is a bit gross to me. A good blog that sustains a long readership needn’t necessarily be a marketing artifice. It can be as messy and multifaceted as its author’s thoughts.
With regards to Skeleton at the Feast, I just really enjoy your insights and writing style, no matter what topic you choose to explore that day. That’s the connective tissue tying disparate topics together. I suspect your other readers feel the same and will continue following wherever you lead us.
I’m glad you’re getting the traction you seek and hope this iteration of your blog continues. I gotta say: it’s maddeningly impressive how prolific you are. I couldn’t pump out this calibre of high-quality, thought-provoking posts every day if my life depended on it. I wonder if you do any other forms of writing (fiction perhaps?), or is most of your creative energy fed into this blog?
I’m trying to write more, get some regularity, but it’s a struggle to get back into after a fairly long hiatus. My impression is that writing for you is a fun and exploratory avocation. Is that a fair assessment? What keeps you coming back to it? Is it a longing for connection with readers or maybe formalising it in writing is a means to process a thought or idea. Would love any insights into your process 🙂
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Hey there! My apologies for taking a while to respond. Thank you so much for observations and questions. They sparked A LOT of thought and I wanted to accurately address each component. (Some of the stuff got away from me to the point where it will likely appear in later posts, so please take that as a compliment to the fact that you made me think 😀 .)
Easy part first: regarding the frequency of posts – I currently only work 2-3 days a week (lockdown is a great writer’s residency), and I’ve consigned the housework to hell. So for 4-5 days a week, my full-time job is to produce writing. With a more intensive or mentally-demanding work schedule, my posting frequency would necessarily drop.
Returning to “active status” after a hiatus can present a huge logistical and psychological hurdle – something I’m painfully aware of from first-hand experience, although in my case I also had to unlearn and reframe a lot of preconceived ideas about writing. Slight contextual detour: I learned writing in three different ways: first, by reading (foundational); second, through scholarship applications (they want your past and future, told compellingly); and finally, through academia.
The last two may be thought of as “genres” whose imprint is hard to shake. That is to say, it is possible to glean highly useful skills from them, but in and of themselves they can become stumbling blocks if one does not move beyond their tropes.
I semi-jest with the idea of “writer’s residency in lockdown,” but (unfortunately, sometimes!) periods of change/transition/turmoil can be a creator’s best friend. I don’t completely agree with the sentiment, but there’s Orson Welle’s famous line from The Third Man: “In Italy…they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed. They produced Michaelangelo, da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock.”
On the note of “residency”, that idea derives from Lenka Clayton’s Artist Residency in Motherhood project. Though it is intended to re-frame the idea of conflict between an artist’s work and an artist’s family, the concept of “creating work from wherever your life is” has a lot to offer those of us trying to produce useful, meaningful content during transitional periods – whether the return from a hiatus, or a pandemic. Perhaps you may find it helpful to create some sort of mental/conceptual structure to frame your new work?
All that brings me to your other question about why I write.
I love edges and confluences. I love concepts coming together to form a system of understanding.
Things don’t have much meaning until they are placed into context – connected with other things.
Lives don’t have much meaning until they are placed into context.
But people can create their context. When I talk about “creation” – and I’m aware I trot out that trick pony quite a lot – this is the essence of what I’m talking about: the act of taking on responsibility for one’s own context.
Of course, people are also given context by other people. This is a necessary part of community life – but it can be a true double-edged sword: think of the difference between a much-loved community figure, and a person who is told “you’ll never amount to anything” – and so they don’t.
Therefore: when you make something, not only do you give yourself context – but there is also the chance, the risk, that you are giving other lives context. That’s where the idea of “do no harm” comes in, at least in my own morality. Whatever I create must shape my life and any other lives it may touch towards something better than they were. Hence the “Words that change brains” tagline comes (in my experience, people who are completely satisfied with their brains don’t read or like my work).
So, in part, the urge to write comes from the urge to touch other lives – but the necessary qualifier is that ideas don’t mean much unless they are shared, connected, given value. So the other part is the urge to establish at least the baseline of a system of thought, on any given topic. I have a bad memory and a brain like a herd of cats – so the most effective way to go about the business is to write things down and fix the logical inconsistencies that become apparent. And then it becomes much easier to see trends, patterns, and the emergence of knowledge from a bunch of experiential white noise.
Umm, also I would just feel really unproductive if I play Stardew Valley all day ;D.
As always, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts!
Darwin’s theory is actually, “Survival of the most adaptable”, not survival of the fittest. The bloggers who adapt, evolve. Some of the past ones might be thought of as discarded skins, while their owner grows and moves on…
I admire the way that you keep putting it out there, writing every day, being so open. Almost opposite to my own approach and therefore all the more useful for me. Cheers.
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Oof, research fail 😀 thanks for catching that misquote! In terms of past blogs, I think one of the most useful takeaways has been a recognition of the tension between adaptability and depth/expertise/specialization. That is to say, the topics for the past blogs were very narrowly defined and reflected my desire to narrowly specialize in a very specific field. But each time I tried to write, I became (paradoxically) both overwhelmed and bored with the narrowness I had set for myself. This time, I specifically steer away from specialization while still trying to nurture depth. Even if that coexistence is not practically possible, it currently seems to be the best goal to work towards. As always, thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!