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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Why Bloggers Blog…. Part I

This is part one of a six-part series of posts exploring some of the reasons we bloggers blog. I'll try not to make it as obvious as serving chicken at a poultry convention, and I am especially eager to gather input from fellow bloggers on each section... so humor me.

Many of you have been blogging since the beginning of the revolution in 2002. As that article link suggests, at first most of the attention was given to the grass-roots journalism that was giving the mainstream media fits. Patterns of Ink (POI) began in an election year (2004), and many of my posts were editorial essays, but eventually blogging revived something from my past… from before blogging… before the internet… before computers. How can that be? I suspect this is true of many of the bloggers who read here.

We have more than a few things in common. We're all pretty observant, good thinkers, and friendly. I don't think that is a coincidence. Blogging is way to observe, reflect, wonder, write, share stories, form opinions, stretch views, and interact with others.

Part One's topic, however, is a common skill we've all developed through the years. When I say what it is, some of you will gasp, “That’s not me. I don’t fit that bill.” This post is about the fact that
we are all writers.

You may hasten to qualify the term, "I'm a writer in the making." Here's the good news: All writers are in the making.

I have enjoyed but struggled with writing my entire life. I once wrote a note to my teacher and closed with, “Have a grate day!” Cute, huh? Well, maybe if I hadn't been in 8th grade. Back then, I’d write a story like “The Mystery of the Cigar Store Indian” and Miss Statelier would give me an “A” for effort, characters, imagination, etc. but she'd circle dozens of misspelled words and write “Look it up” with a smiley face in the margin. I tried that. The words weren't there!

To this day, I'm a spotty speller. I talk to spellcheck like an old friend as I type. He's drawing his red line under my words this very minute. Ironically, he's telling me I've misspelled spellcheck. Evidently, Spell is his first name and Check is his middle name. Oh, well. I'm leaving it. Get over it, Pal!

The fact that midway through college, I changed my major and became a teacher would have shocked every English teacher who prodded me along the K-12 "paper trail." The fact that writing hadn't come naturally to me, helped me as a teacher for twenty years.

Writing is not easy for most people. I still struggle with it, and yet I enjoy it more and more the older I get—and the more I write. Blogging has brought the fun back to my personal writing.

If you're still not sure whether you're a blogger who writes or a writer who blogs (or an avid reader who can write well), consider the following:

If you've ever backspaced as you type to rephrase something a little better, you’re a writer.
If you’ve ever wondered if the stories of your life might actually be of interest to this world, you’re a writer.
If you’ve ever woken up to scribble down an idea for fear you’d lose it in a dream, you’re a writer.
If you look forward to the chance to sit down and flesh out your scribbled thoughts, you’re a writer.
If you’ve ever felt that what you've written was silly or hollow or overworked and that no one would ever read it, you’re a writer.
If you know that there are thousands of much better writers than you in this world, but you write anyway, you’re a writer.
If you’ve ever been motivated by the question “If I don’t write this, who will?”… you’re a writer.
If you sometimes find solace in the company of words (your own and other's) and know they have character and voice and meaning all their own, you're a writer.
If you choose words wisely knowing that you must live them and that some may live on when you are gone, you are a writer.
If you understand that clicking the "create" tab on your blog dashboard is a hint that the creativity of writing (and all the arts) is part of being "created in the image of God," you're a writer.
If you can put writing aside when none of the above feels true and know that you'll return, you’re a writer.

Oh, here's one more. You might just be a writer if you can't wait to write a post about the house full of your daughter's college friends who came for Sunday dinner and as you were getting ready to serve ice cream and brownies, a cell phone began ringing—in your freezer! Bewildered, you pulled out the ringing, vibrating popsicle only to have it nabbed from a tall blonde who says, "Oh, thanks. That's mine. I dropped it in the sink a couple weeks ago and now the screen only works when its frozen. I have three minutes to read this text message before it thaws and then I'll put it back in your freezer if that's okay?"
I can't wait to write about that. I guess I just did.

I’ve read your blogs (or will if we haven't met yet) and you are all fine writers with something to say. Most of us deliberately avoid writing about earth-shaking things. After all, there are books and books about things that have shaken the earth.

I tend to write about simple things noteworthy only in that they often go unnoticed. If I don’t write about them or if you don’t read them, it will probably make no more difference than where you pile the leaves to bag and cart away. Sometimes, though, it's good to remember the commonness of things we have in common. Everyone has something to say. Everyone has a voice.

Like the squeak of a rocker on the porch, even things that don’t much matter still belong.

Bloggers blog to write!
And that is just one of the reasons we bloggers blog.
.

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26 Comments:

Blogger Josie said...

Tom, I think you're a wonderful writer. I always enjoy someone's writing if when I am reading, I feel comfortable. I know that is a strange word, but that is how your writing makes me feel. I am not a writer, but I am an avid reader, starting when I was a very young child. I have always devoured books of all sorts. There are some really interesting blogs out there in the blogosphere, some are good writers, some... not so much. But by your definition, all of them are writers, because all of the folks put their hearts into what they are writing.

What a great post, and food for thought.

Cheers,
Josie

16/4/07 1:16 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

Hi Tom! You have made some very interesting and valid points regarding considering ourselves writers. I blog because It helps me sort through the clutter in mymind. I blog because it gives the opportunity to exercise my creative juices. When truly inspired, I very seldom back up and rephrase... except for my spelling not to mention my lousy keybording! :-)

Sorry I have not been at your blog recently... I do however read it with enthusiasm when the opportunity arisies. "I will be back!"

Take care!

16/4/07 10:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't have a blog. I read yours and a few others when I can. I agree with Josie not all bloggers are writers. Some of them I never go back to. Yours is like a book sometimes (or maybe like three different unfinished books sometimes =)
don't take that wrong. I like the variety.

16/4/07 1:55 PM  
Blogger SusieQ said...

Tom, I meet all the qualifications you've listed for a writer. I have taken my share of creative writing classes. I have had a few things published, but not in any publication worth mentioning. One was a trade publication. I have written some serious pieces and several humorous ones. I want to revisit a few things I have written(not on my blog) and give it another go. Even though it was a big hit with people years ago when I wrote it, I think I can improve on my zucchini story. I have written lots and lots of long letters to people, too...a writer needs readers in order to feel complete.

I think writing is hard work. I have been guilty of making it harder than it needs to be though. One of my creative writing teachers used to note in the margin of my writing "Tries a little Joyce too hard." Now when I write a story I hear this inner voice say, "Let the story do the telling." In other words, relax!

I am a good speller usually. I guess I can thank my Catholic education for that. I may not know a thing about chemistry, but I can spell. I also have mastered tricky things like "to,too, and two" and "loose, lose." (Now that I have claimed to be a good speller, I'll probably misspell something.)

Blogging has acted as an incentive to me to write. I like the fact that we can combine photos and music with our writing to enhance it. And now videos(YouTube). I haven't learned how to include music or YouTube, but I plan to learn.

I also like the fact that some people stop by and actually read what I have written. A writer needs readers. But I enjoy simply getting together with others at their blogs and at mine and exchanging thoughts,ideas, and good will.

Something else that I like about blogging is that it has helped me to hone my critical thinking skills. I visit some blogs written by college professors, or retired ones, and other smart people...like you for instance. Their subject matter tends to be political or about the culture. Anyway, what they write usually sparks a good debate and I like a good debate as long as it remains civil.

16/4/07 2:18 PM  
Blogger leslie said...

I'm indebted to Josie for sending me over here. I, too, meet all the qualifications you list for a writer but have always used my little blog site as a way of keeping in touch with friends and family. Perhaps I'll give "real" writing a try and see how it goes. Regardless, I'll be returning to read Part 2.

16/4/07 5:51 PM  
Blogger Dr.John said...

I have a blog but I am not a writer. I am a blogger. Writing requires skill. Blogging requires a keyboard.

16/4/07 6:13 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

I am in the spell check category, never could spell and never will be able too. I think I am phonetically(sp???) challenged! My southern dialect doesn't help much either. I feel like these qualities actually made me a better teacher because I could better understand how my students felt when they could not grasp a concept. I never really enjoyed writing until the computer made it easy. I love being able to edit, copy, paste, etc... Revision took on a whole new meaning when I entered the world of word processing. I LOVE IT!!! I also love to learn something new which is a big reason that I blog. Learning from others... like you! Keep 'em coming Tom... I'll be back.

16/4/07 6:25 PM  
Blogger Jody said...

I answered a resounding "YES!" to all of your IF questions you posed in this post. I even have life experiences that make me want to run to my computer and blog...nothing like cell phones ringing in the freezer, but stories nonetheless. SO, my pressing question after all of those thoughts is this, how did this girl come to find that her phone works if she places it in the freezer?! That would have been the last thing I would have tried in order to fix a phone. Funny. I guess I am getting 'old' and realistic in my thinking. In my youth, I suppose, I would have tried something like that too. Speaking of writing and typos, each time I have to type and/or retype the squiggly letters in order to comment on blogs, I now think of you. My husband would probably get jealous if he knew just how often that was. =)

16/4/07 8:19 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Josie,
I have read you say you are not a writer and it makes me smile. You're a gifted "non-writer" And you have hit on something I hadn't thought of... avid readers are likely to become good writers without as much thought as less avid readers. "Comfortable" is a very kind adjective. Thank you

Dave,
Thanks for stopping by. The blogosphere needs more male writers. We share some common nostalgic interests.

Anon,
I know what you mean about some blogs. I've often said that writing is cathartic but some people are "working through" some pretty dark stuff. "Three books" that's funny and I think you've mentioned before that I've left a few stories hanging (like all those mid-Sixties posts). I will get back to them. Because that string ends with a Christmas story, it may be November before I revive it.

16/4/07 9:50 PM  
Blogger EAMonroe said...

Hi Tom. I see you over at Josie's place all the time and she said to give you a visit. I'm glad I did. You have a lot of wonderful writing here, so I'll be coming back to read more.

"I tend to write about simple things noteworthy only in that they often go unnoticed." -- That sounds a lot like the reasons I write, too.

16/4/07 10:16 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

SQ,
Back when I taught more, I wrote more. Then when my Dad died in '95, I was writing a lot. Many of those scribblings have eventually made it to my blog. Then there was a long spell (when I went into administration) that my writing time was consumed with "policy" and a lot of "all work and no play" stuff. Then in 2004, a co-worker started a blog and I took a poem I'd written as an preface to a small collection of poems (not collectively published)and used the Patterns of Ink phrase as a blog name.
For all the reasons you mentioned, AND the kind encouragement from commenters like you, writing has been much more fun in this blog venue.

Leslie,
The social "keeping in touch" is a big reason for blogging that comes up in Part III. At first only my brothers and sisters knew I had a "site" (as they called it) where they could read drafts of my "family stories" and give me feedback via email. (They're regular readers but rarely post public comments.) It's late tonight and I keep getting pulled away from my laptop, but I'll check out your blog.

Dr. John,
This is so "YOU" --pithy and funny. Folks, if you've never read Dr. John's blog, check it out. This "non-writer" blogs daily and has a very faithful readership.

16/4/07 10:24 PM  
Blogger JR's Thumbprints said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

16/4/07 10:52 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Nancy,
I've known you were from NC, but this is the first that I thought to put an accent in your comments. Southern accents are great. We took our Seniors to Destin, Fl last May and will take another group in a month. Destin is full of strong Alabama accents. You will particularly like some links in the next post about Civility whith mentions letters from the Civil War (you can almost hear the accents in some of those letters).
You are a great encourager!

Jody,
That is so funny. I've been having a real hard time with the squiggly letters tonight. One blog made me do it three times. To answer your question... the girl goes to college in Chicago and during that cold snap last week she was on Michigan Ave. freezing and her screen started to work, but then when she went back in her dorm the phone got warm, it didn't work. That's how she knew to put it in the freezer to check her text messages. College kids are funny!

eamonroe,
I just checked your post about Ok City Bombing anniversary coming up on Thursday. Nice tribute

All,
This is very helpful feedback on an important topic to us all. I hope a few more join in the discussion.
I was at a new-faculty orientation meeting at a local university all night tonight. When I got home, I responded to a couple comments then my mom called. Then I wrote a few more and my daughter came home from work and needed me. Busy night. I just wanted to explain this flurry of separate responses in a short amount time.
Come back. Bring a freind.

16/4/07 11:22 PM  
Blogger Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I started blogging cause I was trying to encourage a friend who was procrastinating. However, I think I am addicted to blogging now. I blog to broaden my experience and perspective of the world an also as an antidote to work stress by allowing myself creativity and space to explore.

17/4/07 5:15 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

LGS,
"Antidote to work stress" is a good way to put it. My job is typically not that stressful (hard to believe, I know, as a school administrator, but it's a great school to be involved with), but still I think I owe a good deal of my "outlook" during the week to the fact that I was writing on the weekend. Last weekend was very busy and I didn't get to post this until late Sunday night. That was frustrating. I enjoy your blog and have learned a lot from you.

17/4/07 6:30 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

JR,
I don't know how I missed your comment last night. I think it came in during one of the interruptions in my replies. I had to take a personal "half-day" away from the office and just saw it over lunch.
Like my brother, you find humor and "lessons" in the raw realities of some unusual work settings.
Your edgy, tongue-in-cheek "tales from teaching in the prison system" may not be suitable for all POI readers, but they're sort of a "Welcome Back Cotter" with Sam Spade in the title role. Best of all they're set in the same Detroit metro/retro streets of my boyhood. Thanks for reading here. Your input is valued.

17/4/07 12:08 PM  
Blogger Josie said...

Dr. John was one of my favorite blogs, but for reasons unknown to me, he doesn't visit my blog anymore. He ignores me. It makes me very sad when people do that. I have noticed people who have "met" on my blog, and they visit each other, but have stopped visiting me. Am I offensive? I don't know. I try not to be, but who knows?

17/4/07 8:38 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Josie,
Some time back, he hat tipped POI and some readers came to me and said he sent them. I think you were one of them. I wouldn't read into the gap in comments. He may not have your new address.

17/4/07 9:48 PM  
Blogger It's a FLIP-FLOP World said...

Tom, thanks for stopping by my humble blog today!! I am just a very simple lady that always wished I could write!! Always wanted to write a book, love reading them but now since I have been introduced to blogging I am so enjoying this that I am very addicted.
You write wonderfully!! I just write what is in my heart mostly!! I don't consider it writing just what I feel I guess. I have met so many wonderful people in the last 18 months through blogging. I have so enjoyed this part since I love meeting and knowing people.
Thanks again for stopping by. I really enjoyed all three of your
WHY WE BLOG!! Sandy

19/4/07 6:46 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Sandy,
There is a "Flip-flop Mom" out there, too. Have you met?
Writing from your heart is an excellent start.
Hey, that rhymes! Didn't mean to do that. Part IV cautions us about "blog addiction." I know what you mean. Come back for that one. Thanks for stopping by.

19/4/07 9:50 PM  
Blogger the walking man said...

well sir of your eleven questions that you use to define oneself as a writer I failed eight of them.

blogging, hmmm it is a new thing to me and something I can live with or without, other than it is a way to make a few more minutes live within the course of a day.

I deleted everything from the first quarter of the year simply because I felt like it and am considering taking the hard copies of EVERYTHING I have to the bonfire. which would be ironic to the maximum because while away in boot camp, at 17, that is exactly what my father did with the ten books of poetry and shorts I had penned in the previous three years, yet in a way it would bring me back to full circle.

Words are easy, writing easy, editing and revising easy when I let time go by and approach whatever was written with a new mindset. Sometimes deleting tens of thousands of words because I didn't like the way the story was going and in a different mindset took it somewhere else.

Yet in the one or two courses I have taken I learned and have always strongly believed that whatever a writer will take the time to write he/she makes a contract with an audience to present it.

Personally I prefer live venues because then people will see the hands, face, torso of the non-nervous reader and get it, while here in cyberworld words can always and, often are, misconstrued to an intent other than what the reader sees in front of them.

My writing rarely reflects my inner feelings about myself but rather the world and society I see and live in both the scarred and the fair. From the brutal murders of innocents in drivebys to the mindless wonder of a dancing child to a tune only they can hear as they spin and twirl about, spousal abuse to aging folks and the love they knew when they were younger and with spouse and family around them.

No subject is sacrosanct, I have take on everything to racism, in the most racist area of the nation to White and Black audiences to religion and peoples personal beliefs about the organization of it, to homophobia in a room filled with drunk homo phobics, nothing that has ever not escaped my view was safe from a few lines or pages.
Including circumstances of my own life written truthfully and painfully honestly.

But I am no longer a "voracious reader" and I admit I get lost on 3/4 of the blogs when people mention a name of a writer I had never read or heard of. ever since i read one of Oprah's pick of the week or whatever I just saw no point in reading living modern authors, even those who make their fortune at it because with them especially to me the writing seem formulaic. Tell the same story over and over, change the scenery again being the hardest part of the next million book seller.

Why is it no one mentions Edgar Guest, a fine technical poet with depth, lyric and pentameter or Carl Sandburg the modern day proponent of free form or Robert Frost the avowed anti-Sandburg? Or Dickens even, these are writers I am familiar with but do not imitate in either style or way of life. Even Bukowski, who I do prefer over all other poets (with Brautigan in the running for top ten,) I don't consciously imitate, and I wear his picture on my hat.

Yet I think there is a twelfth question needs to be asked and it is this, and to me the only one that matters. Do you define yourself as reader or writer or as a kind man? Me I will take a kind person over all of the intelligentsia's of the world who have lived throughout all of time.

22/4/07 8:16 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Walking Man,
You clearly are a very good writer. The 11 questions were randomly typed that day. The 12th one you pose reminds me of how Christ summed up the 10 Commandments when asked which were "the greatest." He said, "Love God; and love your neighbor," but then (as I sense you know) he defined neighbor in a way that include far more than those nearby.
You may have your own reasons for deleting or discarding, but I would say the best remains to be written again. You sound like a life-long writer and there are bound to be pages and pages that don't survive and shouldn't, but the sifting porcess becomes harder after the fire so I wouldn't do that. =)
My desire to spend what "spare time" I have has decreased my reading of books, but I happen to be familiar and fond of the poets you mention. If you return and have time to go through the archives, here are some clues: The 2nd to last line of "Only the Roots Remain" (March) was influenced by Sandburg’s "Grass."
My father's favorite poem was Guests "It couldn't be done" and my mom's is "It take a heap of living to make a house a home" I mention this at the end of "Visiting Home" April 2006.
And Frost is my personal favorite. Dickinson you'll find in the post that followed this one.
Thanks so much for your insightful comment. Come again and keep writing! Don't start that bon fire!

24/4/07 8:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

JR's Thumbprints said...

Hey Tom,
I started blogging because [a blogger]suggested it. I told her, "Okay, I'll give it one year. We'll see what happens." Blogging is a way for me to generate some idea for short stories; it's a time to reflect and think and improve my writing skills. There's always room for improvement.

16/4/07 10:52 PM

29/4/07 6:34 PM  
Blogger Tracie said...

I completely agree with Josie...you are a wonderful writer and you make those reading feel comfortable. I am already learning a lot from you about writing although I'm still not sure I really qualify as a writer ....even though I DO fit a lot of the descriptions you wrote. But I'm enjoying writing down random thoughts that go through my head anyway.

10/5/07 4:10 PM  
Blogger HeiressChild said...

hi tom,

my internet is finally back up and operating after being down since april 6th. i have really missed blogging with all of my blogging buddies.

this is a good post and very thought-worthy. i'll be reading all of the next parts over the next few days and leaving my comments.

i think every writer is a good writer because that person is penning and expressing his/her own personal thoughts. each person's writing style and content is what makes that person who he/she is, and makes him/her unique in that.

growing up, i was always the secretary in clubs, or always the one who took notes. i was an executive secretary back when they had them, and did administrative work for many years. writing, note taking, typing, spelling, and grammar were always strengths for me. it definitely helps in my blogging. i like being unique, which is why i very seldom capitalize my letters.

i love to read other people's posts as well as writing my own. am looking forward to your next pieces on "why bloggers blog."

sylvia

14/5/07 10:10 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Tracy and Silvia,
I like finding comments afterwards... keeps good discussions alive. Reader's comments made this a very interesting string of posts. To hear someone say they are learning about writing from reading hear is a high and humbling compliment. Sorry it took two weeks to see these. =)

20/5/07 11:25 PM  

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