I didn’t plan to devote so much of my Second Act to writing. I thought I’d spend a lot more time watching old movies or re-reading Dickens. I always thought I might start writing someday, but when retirement came, I didn’t think that was Someday yet.
When I was a kid, I did think about “being a writer,” and I did study Literature in college. Unfortunately, I found the actual act of writing to be exceedingly painful, whether writing papers about Faulkner and Woolf or, later, trying my hand at fiction. I always got As on the papers, and everyone who’s read my fiction tells me it’s pretty good. But it didn’t want to come out without a fight. I agonized so much over every description. I couldn’t get the hang of dialogue to save my life. So I gave it up and in one instance worth sharing, I even gave a pretty good Star Trek fan fiction book, abandoned at 250 pages, to my writer spouse who used it as the plot for her outstanding science fiction novel, Night Vision.
Meanwhile, I contented myself with lengthy fascinating analyses in my corporate job and was constantly whacked on the nose for being unable to limit myself to short, subject-less bullet points. No one who formerly worked with me is surprised that I am now so prolific. Except me, apparently.
This 52 weeks does come as something of a surprise, though. When I retired a year ago, I did put “Writing” on my Things To Do plan. But I also put brushing on my piano skills and taking classes, and though I can mash through a couple Bach inventions now with fewer errors and I can expound with great expertise on Opera and Philosophy, I wouldn’t call either an avocation. Nevertheless, I started writing every week, with a voice that was neither fiction nor drily analytical, and it seemed to flow. By now, this writing bug seems to have gotten into my blood. Even worse, I want to do it.
It was not a dark and stormy night, but instead a sunny January afternoon – seemingly a contradiction in terms – but northern California always seems so, conjuring images of icebergs crashing into scantily clad surfer beach bunnies as the floes sweep down from the Arctic, ever more so due to climate change, which Northern Californians are, incidentally, very much against.
How do you get started Writing?
Blogging seemed to work for me because I think about it as the intersection between lecturing and telling jokes. I’m rather infamous for waxing lyrical on arcane subjects, whether I notice the listener is yawning or not. This also started because I enjoyed writing fairly lengthy holiday letters that evolved, over time, into an annual paean to life. I wanted them to be more than just a list of where we traveled and the extracurricular things the kids were doing, but a real letter in the old-fashioned notion about what was going in the world. And I discovered that I like to try to inspire people. Friends and family told me they felt inspired. So you can blame them for me now.
When I wrote my first blog on January 17, 2016, I didn’t know if I had the discipline to do it. The notion of continuing it weekly forever wasn’t what I had in mind. But producing it on a weekly basis, if I was going to do it, seemed like the right way to do it. Even when we were traveling – because we were traveling – even when I’m running around with other deliverables, I decided to keep this going. Every Wednesday. Rain or shine. And then the seasons changed, and a year went by, and here we are.
Some weeks I am more inspired than others. Sometimes a topic comes to me weeks in advance. For example, I knew more than a month ago that I should write a year-end blog. On the other hand, last week I didn’t realize I wanted to write about Star Wars and mythology until Carrie Fisher had died, so that blog sprang into whole cloth pretty much within a couple of days. One thing I do know is that if I haven’t planned very much, they tend to be longer. That’s always been one of my fondest excuses, which I used to try at work all the time:
I didn’t have time to be brief.
I tend to think a lot about the building blocks, the paragraphs and phrases, while I’m doing something else. All the real writers will laugh knowingly at that. The best inspirations come – as they do with almost every discipline – when you’re not doing the Thing, when you’re doing something else. Mostly when I’m swimming. I’ve had to learn to put paper and pencil in my car or to tap that brilliant turn-of-phrase into my phone before I leave the parking lot of the gym. Many bits and pieces of today’s entry came to mind yesterday while we were reviewing the elements of IRS law as I’m training to help low-income seniors with their taxes. Nothing like a lengthy analysis on the distinction between the American Opportunity Credit and the Qualified Tuition and Fees Deduction to make the mind wander.
What’s your Blog About?
My original inspiration was the newspaper columnists that have made me laugh and go hmm for so many years. They were the predecessors of the bloggers. Many made names through political columns, editorials, or personal advice, but the best ones were the locals who just reflected on life. Jon Carroll here in the Bay Area was my favorite, and I followed him and stories about his cats, his diabetes, his daughter who works for Cirque du Soleil, and his encounters with the world until he retired just a few months before I did.
That’s what the blog is about. My encounters with the world. As a friend said, early in the year, kind of like “The World According to Maria.” If you don’t know me, then it becomes a bit circular. What is the World According to Me about? Well, read the blog.
I have three rules of thumb.
- It needs to be worth your time. Hence, I try to share something that you can keep, either a fact about history or science, or a really good memory of mine.
- It should make you feel something. Mostly amused. Because we can’t laugh enough in this life.
- No politics.
I don’t promise to avoid all reference to current political events; that’s impossible. But we get enough ranting via social media in plenty of other forums. I like to think of this space as a safe haven away from it.
Where do you get your Ideas?
WordPress suggested doing a word cloud, as a year-end nudge to a summary. I took ten of my entries that had officially been visited the most and pressed the WordCloud.com button. That should pretty squarely answer the question of What’s your blog about?
I’m a straight arrow when it comes to data; I cannot tell a lie. I really didn’t make that up!
My blog is about People. Of course, it is!
I also apparently write a lot about “time” and what I “know,” what’s “good,” and how “much” of it. And “Waterloo” and “Einstein.”
This is exciting. I’ve decided to take the plunge into the deep end of the pool. I’m working on a book. Which is a completely crazy notion, like this blog, like the idea of just sitting down and starting to be a writer, like doing it every week for a year and beyond.
If you were reading my stuff in the late summer, you know what an Olympics nutjob I am. Some of you are, too. I was very inspired by the athletes of all sports and particularly by stories that I watched on the international NBCOlympics.com feed that did not come on the primetime NBC we all watched every night. In fact, about a week after the Games were over, I was still watching the feed and came across a young American wrestler named Kyle Snyder. I was flipping through the wrestling tournament, wondering exactly how he lost – because I’d never heard of him and surely such a strong athlete would have made some sort of headline — and he beat all his opponents, won the gold medal, and became the youngest wrestler EVER to win a gold. I was incensed. Somebody needed to tell that guy’s story.
The inspiration I had about these untold stories has led to a book project that I’m calling The Triumphs in Rio You Didn’t See. I’m pulling together fifteen of these accounts – all American – all medalists, some individuals and some team, and all of them butt-kickers in their own disciplines whether it’s cycling, BMX, fencing or boxing.
I don’t know if anyone will pay money to read this stuff. I have it on good authority that most writers don’t. They write it anyway, which is what I’m doing. My initial inquiries suggest that publishers want writers of nonfiction material to bring their audience to them – from previous publications, national newspaper audiences, subject-matter expertise, or hundreds of Twitter followers. Just being a big fan of the Olympics doesn’t seem to be a convincing platform.
But I gotta start somewhere, so I am forging on. While I’m pulling the whole project together, I thought some of the stories were compelling enough to stand alone, so I’m self-publishing a handful of them as ebooks (both in Kindle and EPUB format). Two are already available – Kayla Harrison’s astounding judo performance on her way to winning her second gold medal and Kyle Snyder’s achievement as the youngest gold medal freestyle wrestler. If you want to read more about the project or how to acquire copies of the starter stories, click here: Maria Kaj Writes.
Whether you want to pay a little money to read about the Olympics or whether you just want more from me for free about sports – movies – getting older – holidays – the world at large, I do have one message:
Thank you for reading.
I wouldn’t have kept going for 52 weeks if I hadn’t had your eyeballs and your Likes, your Comments and your confidence, your feedback and your encouragement. I’m planning to keep the weekly blog going in addition to other writing projects. Y’all seem to like it. And I seem driven to it. Whether it was planned or not.
But that reminds me. I better go work on the plan for my New Year’s resolutions — watching more old movies and reading more Dickens.
Brought to you by the DailyPost Someday. Because when it comes to writing, someday has to be today, otherwise it’s going to be never.