Ethel is three years old this week. I find it difficult to believe anything I’ve written has been read by other people and has found traction for this length of time. Over the hours spanning the COVID pandemic, I have been using this platform to relate how absurd and annoying and absolutely wonderful life can be. As I age, I have come to terms with my faults and failures along with whooping it up over my triumphs (new phone!) through these very pages. To say writing is an outlet for the circus in my head would be an understatement. I am always writing even if I am not sitting at the computer, so I consider my written word as a means of letting go of all the crap accumulating in my attic-like brain so that I can go shopping at the cerebral thrift shop and fill it back up again.
When I tell people I write a blog, they very often ask, “What’s it about?” I usually laugh because I am thinking that they believe I am doing something serious and that I write about some sort of thing. Cooking? Politics? Yoga? My bee keeping, tuba playing, gardening, knitting, skeet shooting, taxidermy-ing hobbies? While I feel all these subjects are up for grabs, whether I know something about them or not, my blog is mostly about life. My life, to be exact, and all the best and worst moments. Once I say this, I think I have lost their interest. So, to clarify, I must say that the blog reflects the hilarity of life as lived by me and that I believe (for no compelling reason other than my own convictions) other people will relate to, or at the very least, be entertained by the stuff in my head which finds its way onto my blog. At this point, they suddenly announce the need to make an important phone call and beg to be excused from the immediate vicinity.
A few discerning people have stuck around. To date, I have 80 subscribers (though two of them are me) and others read it on Facebook, through which I can now post the link. When I started the blog three years ago, my wonderful, trusting tech helper Dawn allowed me to search for my own domain name. She told me where to go online to look and I grabbed one with all the sincerity and gusto of somebody who has no idea what she is doing. The Internal Circus.website page had been intended to be the mother page for any and all writing I wished to post. I did not even notice the (.website) designation or understand that the URL address was significant for the legitimacy of the blog. It was legit, but not very often used. I should have picked up a dot/com name, but I had already paid for the one I chose and I launched right into having a blog with an unusual address, eager to get writing.
Facebook immediately took a dislike to my website and refused to allow me to post the link despite my many pleadings to the mechanisms of their cruel, heartless and anonymous system of justice. I finally gave up and said “Screw them!” but continued for the next year to taunt their marketing department by writing them vicious notes about why I would not be giving them money to “boost” my posts or improve my readership, just to make their online automatic solicitors feel bad. They never replied. I wrote under that domain name for more than two years. It didn’t seem to bother the 78 other people who latched onto my weekly scribblings.
Most writers I know have some sort of process for getting ideas of what to write about. Mine is like fishing. When I was a child, my dad had a boat and enjoyed tossing a line, so yes, I know how to fish. Ideas fishing is actually on land, does not use live bait and has a lot more rejects than real fishy fishing. My mind is like a circus, but also like the sea. I need certain circumstances to promote maximum idea production. Locomotion is ideal. Setting my body in motion is like casting a net into the deepest oceans of my mind. Unlike the often-mentioned uncoordinated people in the world, I can walk and chew gum at the same time, so to speak. Idea fishing is the gum chewing in case you missed that analogy. Something about walking for a couple of hours releases my head from the everyday minutiae of life so that I can see the flow of ideas just under the surface of the water (consciousness) and, once landed with an idea, I may proceed with writing about the everyday minutiae of life.
I write down whatever I’ve caught because I later have trouble remembering them all and exactly which topic I had chosen to expand upon for the next blog piece. Plus, I like having a backlog. I keep pen and paper in every room of my house and in my backpack. At times, I’ll think of something while I’m in bed, trying to go to sleep. I actually write these nocturnal brain fish on my note pad without turning on a light. Sometimes I can even read it the next day. I love going back over my multiple lists of topics and having a good laugh over such gems as “a journey through my fridge magnets” or “that time I fell in a hole.”
Once an idea is securely fastened to my writing template, I sit down in front of the computer and let a stream of consciousness ensue. If I can get one paragraph down, the rest flows like hot lava down a steep peak. Usually. Sometimes not. I’ll be so proud of those first words. It will seem like the best stuff I’ve ever written. Then I realize my idea has been fully captured in that one lovely paragraph and nothing more needs to be said. I love its concise perfection. It is destined to be the shortest blog post in history. Almost like a Twitter post. An awkward Haiku. A Hallmark greeting card. Decidedly useless for the blog. I keep these shorties on my computer. Perhaps I’ll publish them all together as a collection of beautiful failures.
Once my written piece is finished, it needs editing. When I started the blog three years ago, I asked a few friends to look over each story for flaws. I had to point out some instances of poor grammar, repetition and made-up words as purposely executed for maximum fun. I was asking people, who were trusted for their eagle-eyed editing, to overlook the very nonsense I had requested they find and correct. This was no easy assignment. “Awkward phrasing” might be one of the most frequent errors brought to my attention. I tend to write this stuff as it comes out of my head, which may not be the most eloquent or coherent string of words intended for consumption by other humans.
Correcting a confusing (and often long and rambling) sentence takes some patience since I want to maintain the laughable bits without confusing the reader. I might write one sentence ten times before it has all the attributes needed to convey the hilarity of a situation with all the words in the proper order and commas in the right places. But I love a challenge put forth by a clear-headed editor as well as long and rambling sentences. They can live peaceably side by side in humorous, correctly-executed grammar. After nearly three years of blogging, and several edits coming back to me saying “looks good,” I decided to give my friends a break from the arduous task of editing my writing. At the beginning of this year, I also found myself scrambling at the last minute to finish a story, leaving no time to send it out to be edited. My courageous guest editors are getting a well-deserved vacation. I am forever grateful for all their support, hand holding and patience.
I find myself, once again, at a pivotal moment. I boldly changed my domain name to Living With Ethel.com and made plans for overhauling the look of the website. My intention is to give my writing friends an opportunity to become guest writers and post their own stories on the blog. This would give me some time to work on other writing projects I’ve had no time to pursue. I have returned to the place where I started three years ago. True to my hiking style, I think I have just been walking around in a big circle looking for trail signs to the parking lot.
Thanks for being part of this journey,