A Post Gains Weight

Where does a blog begin?

For me, it starts with something that catches my attention, nothing big usually, just the seed of an idea, but something interesting, or confusing, or intriguing enough to rouse me from the quotidian and bring me to my desk.

I try a few lines. A few more.  I make a couple of notes.  Hey, how’s this for a working title?

I go away. I do other things, get some distance, water, fertilize, dig around, understand the concept more fully, and feeling feisty, feeling hopeful, come back and write a little more.

And if the idea still holds up—

1. a concept worth telling

2. a discrete, single thought

3. an interesting way to go it

—I bang out a first draft.

Refine, delete, stake, feed, rearrange, revise, pick off the bugs.

And at last, a plump little blog post emerges.  

But here’s what I never anticipate and what surprises me still. Over time, it continues to gain weight. Readers check in. Tweets accumulate. Comments. Pingbacks. Trackbacks. Rankings. Mention. Lists.

I might be done and even long done, but that little blog post keeps growing. That’s the wonder of the written word: it takes on a life of its own.

How Much Does it Weigh?

I know an artist who works in metal, using tools like anvils and a blow torch in an unheated warehouse studio. Hard-tipped shoes are a good idea if you’re going to hang around and watch.

Sparks fly, and the racket of her creation can be heard halfway across the field. In that field, by the way, are giant metal cloves of garlic—so soft looking, you touch, and she doesn’t mind. She likes the feel of metal herself. Paper, she says, just crumbles in her hands. But metal can stand up to her process. This artist likes to wail and command. And yet, remarkably, she can turn out delicate things like her series of pin-up girls—Whoopsie girls, she calls them—ruffles flounced and hemlines lifted a la Marilyn.

Hers is a genuine vision: no deceit—just a woman, all female, all attitude, who loves her tools.

Watching her, I am reminded: we writers are in the same business as these visual artists.

We, too, have a vision, strain against obstacles, and want to push our medium to do things that seem impossible. We, too, in our flailing and banging, seek to produce something strong that matters.

How we pull it off—our skill, our wit—is irrelevant to the reader. And what we might mean by it—our message, our purpose—is the booby prize. All that matters for us, as is true for the visual artist, is how a finished work sits with a person. Does it have weight? Does it have resonance?

As writers, we can achieve this just as we see this metal artist go about it: by pursuing something that makes sense to us, by following process, by having a really good time with it, at least on a good day, and never mind the noise, or the dangers, or least of all the outcome.

Photo credits: welding torch – Alejandro Macias, sxc; anvil – Andrea Brancaccio, Italy, sxc.