Wednesday, September 22, 2010

It’s All in the Practice

I posted my very first blog on September 22, 2009, which makes today my “blogoversary.” And today, one year after entering the ‘sphere, I am more than pleasantly surprised. In addition to finding a community and being incredibly humbled by the writing of others, I’ve realized that there is tremendous personal value in this process.

I believe it has made me a better writer.

In his insightful book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell wrote of the often unplanned criteria that lead to success. Among that criteria? 10,000 hours of practice. (As he pointed out, it’s what the Beatles ultimately got from all the time they spent in Hamburg.)

I understand Gladwell’s point when I read my own work. Before publishing my novel, The Somebody Who, I must have read that manuscript 40 times. I edited and re-edited and then edited again. And I was quite sure, when I signed off on its “done-ness,” that it was as good as it could possibly be.

… Now, though? I see things (minor things/word things) I’d like to change.

Was it something I missed? Nope. It’s just something I’ve learned.

The same is true for my blog postings. When I read my earlier posts, I occasionally wince at a phrase I wrote. But I don’t wince because I missed an edit in the moment; I’ve simply become a finer technician.

I’m growing. I’m getting my practice. And I’m loving every minute of it.

I don’t have a timeclock by my side. For all I know, I hit the 10,000-hour mark a few years ago. (Or maybe it’s six years away.) Doesn’t matter, though. The more I write, the more I am able to write well. And I appreciate blogging because I no longer write in a vacuum. The words actually go out there. And somebody – often a few somebodies – actually read them.

Beginning this coming Monday (September 27th), I am introducing a new feature to my site: Monday Re-runs. I am doing this because, in addition to growing as a writer, I have learned something as a reader. From having followed the blogs of others, I’ve realized that – no matter how much I love a person’s voice, style, or content – I am unlikely to back up by more than a few posts. And so… I certainly don’t expect my new readers to back up too much.

My Monday re-runs will bring the backing-up to you.

(And I won’t edit them, either. Even though I know I’ll be tempted!)

I realize it isn’t Monday yet, but it’s still my blogoversary. And what better way to celebrate (i.e., reflect) than to repost the first essay of this experiment. It follows below. You may glean some negativity. Some ‘tude. And if you do, you’ll not be wrong. Perhaps I haven’t only grown as a writer during the past year. Perhaps I’ve also grown as a person. I’m cool with that.

Drinking the Virtual Kool-Aid
(originally posted, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2009)

A few months ago, Kevin Spacey was a guest on Letterman. Several minutes into the dialogue, Dave asked the actor if he “did the twitter.”

From watching Letterman’s show fairly regularly, I have gleaned that Dave is adverse to online social networking, and while there’s curiosity behind his questioning, he’s not likely to change his attitude. Perhaps, when he asks a question about twittering, he’s looking for someone to explain – in terms he can genuinely understand – why everyone is so engaged in this new tweeting-and-following phenomenon. Perhaps he just likes to initiate a dialogue that will afford him several opportunities to look bemused and perplexed.

Spacey’s answer did, in fact, lead to some classic quipping from Letterman, and that amused me. But what stayed with me – and what has motivated me – was how the actor introduced his response. I am not claiming to quote him directly (though it’s possible I’ve remembered it verbatim); regardless, Spacey said this: “Yeah, I was resistant for a long time, but my business partner told me I had to, so I drank the Kool-Aid.”

…He drank the Kool-Aid.

What an interesting metaphor. Sadly, it began in 1978, when hundreds of people committed suicide together. And from that day in Jonestown, it has become the catch-phrase for buying into a perspective and agreeing to embark on the path of whatever individual(s) or dynamic(s) are leading that perspective. And you have to believe, when someone uses the metaphor, that there’s something rather negative underlying the choice of words. When someone says that they “drank the Kool-aid,” you can’t help but believe that they were led kicking and screaming to the trough.

But I am so grateful for Kevin Spacey’s use of the metaphor. I am grateful because I relate to it. I don’t want to participate in the world of online social networking. I find it inherently impersonal, often narcissistic, and completely overloaded.

On the other hand, I have to face the reality of today: people spend more time online than they do offline. They get their news, their views, and their “bemuse” from whatever they can type into their search engine. So…

I’m approaching the trough, and my intention is to return to it about once a week.

I don’t have a plan (and I’m not sure I’ll ever have one). I’m just going to write and share. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll find folks who want to know about the other things I’ve written.

If you don’t know my work, something that relates remarkably to this premiere entry is my Amazon Short, “Too Many Machines.” For a mere forty-nine cents (yes, I spelled that out because it’s so damned quaint as prices go), you can download a copy of a Seussian poem that I wrote in 1987. Once you’ve read it, you’ll understand why I’ve resisted this marketing vehicle for such a long time.

Feel free to let me know what you think.

More to come,
Katie Gates

A little 9/22/10 PS: As some of you know, "Too Many Machines" is something you can read right here on my blog. Amazon Shorts became a thing-of-the-past earlier this calendar year, which is why I reposted the piece on this site.


Cheryl said...

Happy Blogoversary! It IS all in the practice, isn't it? Thanks for reposting your first. I'm looking forward to reading all of your backstories.

Jules said...

Happy Blogoversary to you! I'd sing but that would not be a good thing. I'm glad your re-running these now I can get to know you better. :D
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Anonymous said...

Hi Katie. Great idea to repost and happy anniversary! As you know, I love 'Too Many Machines'. I have your 'One Lovely Blog Award' on my site at the moment and I was going to post a link to 'Too Many Machines' within the link to your site. How wierd is that? I didn't in the end because I wasn't sure if you'd appreciate me linking to something from so far back.(I am obviously nuts). Well, I agree that the more one writes the better one writes. So, I shall now get back to some of my own...

Mansi said...

Happy anniversary, Katie. I could very well have written this post myself --though I'd probably not be quite as articulate. I've been reading the Outliers and recognize the value of putting in those 10,000 hours (or more) in the quest to attain perfection (although, with writing there's always scope for improvement). I cringe when I see posts I wrote last year ... not sure if I can be as brave as you in bringing them to the fore again, but I might just give it a try. Thanks for sharing, as always.

OJ Gonzalez-Cazares said...

congratulations on your anniversary! I am totally supporting your Monday re-runs - I agree with you that sometimes we don't go back in time to read older posts and, re-runs (in my blog I call them flashbacks - Sunday flashback), are the perfect opportunity for us, readers, to catch up.
And please, don't edit them! what you wrote at the time has a meaning, it expresses your mind and soul at a specific moment, and chances are it is going to cause an impact in another person feeling the same way.

Martha Gates-Mawson said...

Has it been a year already? My Wednesdays aren't complete without coming here and seeing what you have written. Of course, I'm spoiled - I grew up with your words and wit. But how lucky everyone else is now to have access to your musings. Congratulations on your first year - may there be many, many more!

Green Monkey said...

Happy anniversary Katie! I love the idea of Monday reruns. I also feel like my writing has expanded thanks to blogging - although blogging at times distracts me from writing :) does that make sense???

Deb Shucka said...

Happy anniversary. One of the great things about anniversaries is that they help us see how far we've traveled. I feel exactly the same way about my writing, and I love how you said nothing was missing, there's just been learning in the meantime. And I know for myself, as my writing improves, so does the quality of my life and the abilities of my heart. So glad you're here and in my virtual life.

Joy said...

Good for you! Happy anniversary. . . "and many more. . ."