Let’s Call Them Elder Community Centers
Reconsidering Age Humor

Getting From Post No. 1 to Post No. 1000

On Monday's post about the 1000th Time Goes By blog entry, lilalia of Yum Yum Cafe asked what has changed in my writing and thinking since post No. 1. An interesting question to contemplate, so here goes:

Although I have believed for as long as I can remember that "The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair", it has never been proved more true for me than on this blog.

When I began Time Goes By, I had spent a lifetime writing in other peoples' voices for television. It doesn't take long to get the hang of the rhythm and cadence of program hosts and correspondents, but as a result of all those years, I had no idea what my own writing voice is.

As I slowly discovered it over the first few months, writing what I meant to say got easier and especially so as I adapted some television techniques to print. Among other challenges, almost always in television, one must shorten the copy to meet time limits which usually means dropping adjectives. Sometimes it was necessary to find synonyms with fewer syllables to shave a second or two off a voice-over to fit the video.

In applying those techniques - omitting unnecessary adjectives, figures of speech, excessive verbiage we use in speech - my writing got sharper, more focused and clearer.

And clarity, for psychological reasons I understand but are too boring to explain, is usually at the top of my list of reading and writing needs which has led me to write more slowly than in the past. I think for much longer now - sometimes days - about what I mean to say, about what I believe before I hit the keyboard.

Often I am inspired to write a blog post from a visceral reaction to newspaper story, a comment (as this one), another blogger'™s post, something I heard or saw on television. It i€™s easy to say I liked it or hated it, but unless I can winnow out the reason and add some value, it is not fodder for the blog.

So although my writing is better than when I started Time Goes By, more important is that I think more deeply, thoroughly and clearly than I did before. E.M. Forster said about his writing, "How do I know what I think until I see what I say." Me too, and so I often start writing a blog post without knowing where it is going or what the conclusion will be. This leads to dumping some that turn out to have no focus, or setting them aside - sometimes for months on end - until "I know what I think."

There have been unexpected developments over three-plus years and 1000 posts. My original intention was to write about what I had learned researching aging for nearly a decade and to explore further what getting old is really like. What I didn't anticipate is that I would become such a fierce advocate for elders. And I didn't see it happening until it was long established on Time Goes By.

I also did not anticipate the community that develops around blogs and blogging for everyone but especially, I think, for elders. Before I began, I read or briefly dipped into hundreds of blogs over several years, first to suss out what this new phenomenon was (when only a few techies were doing it) and then to get a feel for what it was becoming. Either the strength of community was not yet evident then or I stupidly didn't notice it. But it cannot be missed nowadays.

We are friends, real friends, we bloggers who gather in the same online places. That we can come to know one another as well as in-person friends is proved with every blogger I meet. When Claude of Blogging in Paris visited here last fall, it was as though we were old friends who just had not seen one another in awhile. It was thus also with Frank Paynter of listics, Tamar of Mining Nuggets, Steve Garfield of Off on a Tangent, Tish Grier of The Constant Observer, others I have met and no doubt any I will meet in the future.

No one can blog for long on a regular schedule without revealing who they are - their values, beliefs, sense of humor, interests, likes, dislikes, passions, all the things that make us who we are. In a sense, we "meet" far more often blogging that we do with our in-person friends whom we might see once a week for lunch or the occasional celebration. And by "meeting" so frequently, becoming familiar with our personal voices, we become friends. In a profile published in the current New York magazine, editor Tina Brown says:

"Blogging isn't a particularly good training for writing. There's too much voice, in a way."

She is wrong and for the very reason she gives. No one can help but become a better writer by doing it every day, and in addition to our blogs being "little First Amendment machines", they are also little op-ed columns where our personal voices shine through the facts of what we are writing about. When we do that well, it is not hard to discern fact from opinion and there is great value in having so many more points of view to consider than only those of the anointed few who write columns in newspapers.

So that, lilalia, is some of what I have learned in 1000 blog posts - from the micro to the macro. What about the rest of you. What has changed in your writing and thinking while you have been blogging?

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Darlene Costner explains how she, a newly-married city person, wound up herding heifers on a Colorado ranch in The Wild Ride.]

Comments

Amen! Amen!!! And I, for one, am glad you started all this! It's been a godsend for me -- not to mention a great way to start the day! Thanks for the friendship, too! You're the best, Ronni!

I have been a professional writer (journalist)for decades. What I like about blogging is I can have an 'attitude' when I write, rather than just report the facts. It also makes me turn out one finished piece of writing each day. That's always a good way to keep your writing sharp and fast.

I notice that I am more observant of the world around me; always on the lookout for blog fodder....LOL...and always thinking about how something could be explained in an informative and entertaining manner. It keeps my brain active (I hope) and the comments and email I get from readers is wonderfully affirming.

When I was alittle girl, I used to entertain myself on my long walk to school, by telling myself about my life. I told myself all the things nobody else wanted to listen to.

I filled up notebooks with the same stuff for years, and cried when they got lost in a move.

I think blogging is an extension of that, for me. I have no profound thoughts, no training in writing, just rants, whingeing and memories.

And I get feedback! That's the kicker! Total strangers stop by and say "hey!"

I have kept a journal since 1974. The most notable difference in my writing in my writing now is that much of the personal things were cut when my journaling became public. I write using a hive site that has a policy of anonymity. Instead of my own name, I use made up names for myself and family members...with a noticeable lack of consistency that my grandkids call me on.

Slowly, because of this, my blog has wandered away from being an all purpose journal to having a focus on photography, architecture, and aging as I care for a friend with dementia and grow older myself. One thing I learned early on was to keep my sentences short and my paragraphs shorter. Words look and act different on the small screen no matter your age or opinions.

I've learned to save in many formats too. I write and save in Word. I save at the hive site, I saved to floppy, ZIP, and now save to CD, and save to an external HD. Everything not only changes with a certain regularity, but also biodegrades. Journals written in Word on my old Windows are not necessarily able to be read on Vista.

Perhaps my edited voice is a better one, but I miss my opinions flapping out there in the wind for all to see.

Keep up the good work ! I enjoy your blog. ;)

I began blogging for several reasons. Most important was that after a lifetime in one city, I was about to uproot myself for the second time in eight years and I wanted a record of my thoughts and feelings about moving. Of course, it became much more than that since life goes on regardless of how focused we may be on only one aspect.

In addition, I wanted to overcome my training as a writer of computer documentation. I learned to do a superb job and it was a spoiler for any other writing I wanted to do. I've been blogging for two years. I'm still working on killing off that technical writer.

I made my move; I have adapted to my new city, although I am still trying to find more friends, and my blog is less focused and tends to be all over the place; a little like my life. I guess I'm still looking for my voice.

Your post has given me much food for thought. So much so, I am going to chew on it for a few days and then post on my blog. Whether it is your thoughts about the quality of your writing, the immediacy and influences of your readers/friends, or, “revealing who you are”, all of these topics started shifting my grey cells back and forth into an excited state… Thank you very much.

I used to worry more about what people might think in regards to my writing. I would delete posts I wrote in the past, thinking them too amateurish or hokey.

Nowadays, I am still fighting that bothersome inner voice that tells me what I write is "dumb", but I am not so overly self-conscious about my prose any longer.

I find myself paying attention more to the many individual styles of writing, both in bound books and on blogs - and this in turn makes me a better writer.

One thing I have come to realize, writing for public consumption is far more difficult that I would have imagined prior to starting my blog.

As Ronni explained:

"...more important is that I think more deeply, thoroughly and clearly than I did before."

A side effect I, too, have experienced.

My vocabulary has grown, my listening habits are better, my ability to grasp abstract concepts is sharper, and my circle of friends has widened - all resulting in mental growth gained through my own resolve to tackle this little pop culture thing called a blog.

I think I'm only beginning to find myself as a blogger. I sorta backed into blog writing, have had mixed feelings about doing so at times, but I realize increasing value from this activity.

My professional writing has focused primarily on factual summaries and behavioral descriptions in medical reports read by a few other select medical eyes. My personal writing has been limited to letter exchanges with family and close friends. Expanding writing to people I did not personally know has given me pause. The thought that my words were displayed so that theoretically anyone anywhere in the world could read them and they would be retained indefinitely by some third entity, a company between the reader and I, has given me even greater pause. However, I persist in writing my blog, however erratically I post. I value the thought provoking comments of those who take the time to read what I've written, much as I appreciate reading blog posts of others.

I want to hone my writing skills, especially in the use of language. I want to develop the ability to be more concise in written expression, more descriptive in storytelling, to consolidate or shorten my posts, to learn how to better edit my own writing. Given that there may be limits on self-teaching for the average person, such as myself, therein lies the challenge.

What a great entry, Ronni--relevant to your writing but certainly, in a way, to my own. I think your blog and your writing is the best of the best and I need to visit daily. Only a few more days to work before my two month summer break, so I hope to be visiting more regularly. I often link to you, however. I really want to do to storyteller thing sometime. I'm hoping to start a sub blog on my own aging experiences when I turn 70 in August. I'll get a lot of my inspiration from right here and the other Elder Blogger links.

I started my blog as a way to journal my feelings and emotions as I was going through a really difficult phase of my life. As I found ways to find peace with myself, I blogged about those things, and now find many people come to my site for my occassionally inspirational quotes and thoughts. But mostly they want to see pictures of my puppy Darwin...

I've also become much more political in my blogging as I realized that the political issues I follow and track were not being covered in mainstream media. So I developed a more active role both online and in my community of spreading information and speaking my own mind. I've become pretty fearless in a lot of ways about saying what I think and feel.

I also got over the idea that I had to be or do any particular thing with the blog - it's just my space to do whatever comes to mind. I don't have to post every day, or at all if I'm away for a while, and people can just deal. I don't have an agenda in my blogging -it's just my life and what happens.


Blogging is like having a best friend who is always there to listen.


I started blogging just because I could and have learned so much in the last two years. The freedom to write what I want is a thrill, but comments from my readers sends me soaring. When talking to others, I sometimes refer to “my blogging friend” in Illinois or “my blog buddy” in Australia. I feel I’m better at condensing and sharpening my posts and I use “elder” over “senior” now. You have been a wonderful, positive influence and I greatly admire your dedication. I sometimes start writing with no idea of where I will wind up, but I know where this is going: Thanks, Ronni, for setting a standard for the rest of us to follow!!!!

I admire the tenacity it must take to write a new blog every day. I do not have the imagination to come up with a different topic each day and, as I told a fellow commentator on this blog, I already spend far too many hours at this keyboard. I will content myself to being a 'reader of blogs'. Keep up the good work you industrious bloggers and I will keep reading and adding my two cents worth.

For me, the change is not so much in the way I write. It's more about what I do with the seed thoughts and feelings that come to me at odd times, especially on my morning walks.
In pre-blogging days I would have grown some of those into articles or essays, shaping them into a form suitable for whatever magazine I thought might buy them. Whatever finished product remained unsold after several submissions would simply moulder in the darkness of my file drawer.
Now those seeds more often grow independently of word counts, deadlines and the requirements of editors, and happily spread their leaves on my blog. It doesn't make me any money but I am loving the freedom of it. And I love it that the feedback comes in while I still remember what I wrote, rather than six months later.
Hadn't realized any of this till you posed the question, Ronni and Lilalia, so thanks for posing it. Blessings, Marian.

As usual, excellent thoughts. I haven't been blogging long enough to have changed very much but I quickly realized this point of yours, "No one can blog for long on a regular schedule without revealing who they are - "

So even thought my blog supports my business, and I try to remain fairly neutral, it is impossible to be just a presenter of facts and not opinions. I told some friends I crossed that line probably for the first time with this post:
http://inrepose.typepad.com/in_repose_blog/2007/06/hundreds_of_peo.html

The idea that there are people who organize and travel and protest at funerals just made me seethe and I could not help but seethe when writing about it!

Happy 1000th!....

I like what Cowtown Pattie said--that's a lot of how I feel about blogging....but also, I feel as you do, that it's just as much about the people I've met as anything else.

Which makes me think that Tina Brown's comments are amazingly "old school." And it's ok for Tina to be "old school"--she's achieved a lot from "old school."

But, for some of us, it's "new school" that's giving us things that "old school" either limited or squashed out of us. And age doesn't matter--it's flexibility of spirit and zest of life and learning. Those are traits that truly have no bounds!

A very stimulating post, thanks for writing about your process.
I started an online journal to write about our travels. I think it was much more interesting than our life now which is revolving around medical appointments.

I am still developing a voice because my job was to write down behavioral observations without any opinions. I find myself doing more reporting and less observing when writing about our health issues. I don't think it is very interesting. The worse the issue the drier I get in my writing.

Been blogging since 2002, and sending a weekly email since 1999. I've learned to write to a word limit (750 words), and ignore many things I used to teach people as a professor of English 30 years ago. I have really joined the conversation, and my friends are all in their 30s and 40s as a result. This is both good and bad. Everyone here will know why. Few people in those age brackets think about mortality and legacies :-)

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