What It’s Like to be Featured on Discover

Every day, I watch the Discover feed. If you’re a WordPress blogger, I bet you watch the Discover feed as well. It’s an envy-fest. The blogs featured are beautiful. The photographs unique and glowing. Who takes such extraordinary photos, I ask myself. Who writes so perfectly?

I read the featured blogs and I think that Discover is out of my league. I could never be so ‘put together’ as my mother would say. Never have the scarf that brings out the color in my face or the shoes that finish my outfit.

I once had a blog post that was featured on Freshly Pressed. It was a piece written in response to a Daily Post prompt asking “How will you stay young at heart?” My piece, called “You’re Asking the Wrong Question” was plucked by a WordPress editor and featured on Freshly Pressed. The editor sent me an email telling me it was going to be published which I read while standing at the counter to pay my bill at the dentist’s office. I yelped. Right there, while the clerk stared at me. Of course, then I wrote about being Freshly Pressed. Who could resist?

When Discover replaced Freshly Pressed, I figured I was done for. So I watched and waited for a good long while. And then I started submitting. I submitted several pieces before Book Mark was chosen. This is a piece that I wrote with the intention of submitting it to Discover. It is about my fumbling, ill-conceived efforts to extend sympathy to friends who had lost their children to suicide. I thought it had a message, a piece of knowledge that I’d acquired the hard way. It said something that meant something. So I wanted it to have a decent audience. Beyond my blog.

Here’s what it’s like to be featured on Discover:

  • Wonderful – The feeling of having a piece featured as an Editor’s Pick is delicious and sustaining. This is especially true if it comes after several pieces that were not selected. It’s extraordinary to be in such well-tailored company.
  • Rewarding – Writing is about connecting to people. When that happens, it’s amazing. People’s comments to my Book Mark piece told of their own grief experiences and their own awkward efforts to be present and authentic.
  • Challenging – If you’re a writer, you have to try. Risk is what makes writing clean and sharp. Submitting to Discover involves risk – not that one would be rejected but that one would be published. The thrill of writing comes in the daring, the exposure, the loss of protection.

Of my father’s many sayings, the majority of which became meaningful only years after his death, one of my favorites is this: People make their own luck.

And the people who make their own luck have to, first and foremost, believe in their right to be lucky. They have to believe in themselves, believe in their product. In the case of writers, they have to believe in what they’ve written. That sounds so simple but I know firsthand that many of us simultaneously love our writing and believe it’s not good enough. We wear it on our sleeves and then put on an overcoat. Our ambivalence makes us dear, sweet, and small. And comfortable. Did I say comfortable?

I don’t want to be comfortable. I want my sweater to make me itch. I want to fidget in my seat. I want to worry about what is showing. I want to wear my mistakes like a necklace.That is what it’s like to be featured on Discover.

 

 

Note to New Bloggers: What to Write About

Comparison is both the fuel and the death of creativity.

Knowing that, I read just a few other blogs. Not all of them are terrific but they all have something unique. Artwork, humor, insight, style. Comparing my blog to theirs and to others highlighted by Discover, a curated site operated by WordPress, helps me position myself in terms of other writers. How do I measure up?

But as in the rest of life – brains, looks, charm – the comparison game quickly sours. That’s when I know that if I persist, I’ll get depressed. And because much of my life is about mood management, I am loathe to continue down a road headed for a cliff with rocks and thorny cactus below. Self-preservation outweighs my attraction to the creativity of others. I have a pretty high opinion of myself but it needs constant protection. Too much information about the glory of others is not helpful.

I think this is a valuable tidbit for new bloggers. Manage your exposure to other bloggers for a while. This is another way of saying manage the intimidation you feel. Just write what you write and let things unfold. I talked about this yesterday. Be glad that no one reads your blog when you are starting out; there’s protection in being ignored. Revel in it for a while until you get your bearings.

So what do you write about when you’re starting out?

Write about the smallest big thing that happened to you today.

Be a laser beam.

Find the tiniest stitch.

Paint the untied shoe.

Love the one thing.

This is so hard for people who have been driven to writing a blog because they have a lot to say. But let me tell you this, don’t say all you have to say. First of all, you won’t do your experience justice in one blog post. Secondly, you can’t convey true heart with too big a picture. Third, the tiny and beautiful draws people to you.

It takes discipline to find the smallest big thing. And the discipline has to do with not thinking about what other people will think is the smallest big thing.

It has to be entirely yours.

I will tell you about the smallest big thing that happened to me once. It was the day this picture was taken.

IMG_3994

This was the moment that one of my grandsons took a shell from the hand of a stranger at the coffee shop. I wrote about that moment and what I thought it meant. I’m not saying this is the world’s greatest blog post. It’s just an example of zeroing in on a moment in time. And then realizing what the moment told me: my daughter, these boys’ mother, is raising them to be happy and friendly. I loved that about her and about this moment in time and so that’s what I wrote about.

So that’s what I encourage people who are just starting out to do: write about the smallest big thing. Make it your precious moment. Unique and glowing.

And then share it.

 

Blogging: It’s My Thing

Is blogging every day a good thing or a bad thing or just a thing?

Today on Discover, WordPress’ new curated site, there is an interview piece by Cheri Lucas Rowlands entitled “Author Alec Nevala-Lee on Writing and Blogging Every Day.”

In the interview, Alec Nevala-Lee talks about the benefits of blogging every day – he’s written a 500-word piece every day for over five years along with several books. The connection isn’t linear as in more blogging, more book sales. It’s more complex than that.

He says, “But in less tangible respects, the payoff has been enormous. Publishing five hundred words every day has forced me to master a new bag of tricks, and as a result, I’ve become more efficient in every aspect of my working life.”

I feel that way about my current streak – a blog post every day since November 1st. The discipline of it is yielding something but I’m not quite sure I can describe what. Perhaps it’s the appreciation of adhering to the discipline. I don’t do anything else everyday except take a shower and brush my teeth.

I don’t meditate or run five miles every day. I don’t do crunches or read the Bible every day. I don’t even walk the dogs every day even though I have this message on my white board:

Walk Dogs

But I blog every day. At least for the past 51 days, I’ve blogged everyday. So what are the benefits of blogging every day?

  1. I haven’t gone off the deep end. Self-pity is a corollary to hearing loss or any disability. If I hadn’t been blogging through my hearing loss and especially through this cochlear implant process, I’d be a mess.
  2. I’ve tried new things. The most recent was my lame attempt at haiku inspired by the cloth bags of rice at the Indian market. It was so bad I thought about going back to make it better but was stumped about how to do that. Limericks may be next.
  3. I feel connected. Even though I’m in a bit of an exile from regular life while I recuperate/retrain from my cochlear implant, responses to my blog posts make me feel functional. Summed up: blogging makes me feel well.
  4. I remain free to fail. I think being willing to have a piece go flat is a big asset in writing and blogging. The more you blog, the more chances you take. You also get beyond the sure-fire win of the big confessional: How My In-Laws Ruined Christmas By Not Letting Me Bring My Ex and His Pit Bull Even Though My Husband Said It Was Okay.
  5. Amongst the chaff (of which there is much) is the wheat. I’ve had a couple of pretty decent pieces during this period. The one that makes me the happiest is the one that ended up on the Erma Bombeck Writing Workshop site. I remember the night I wrote Mr. Tan Shoes and Me at KFC. It was late. I was tired. I had no interest in writing. And then the story showed up. If I wasn’t blogging every day, I would have put it off. And it would have evaporated. Poof.

So is blogging a good thing or a bad thing or a just a thing? It’s just a thing.

But for the time being, it’s my thing.