Despite thinking of myself as a reflective person and despite the rather large gap in my #reverb10 posts (the last one was December 13) I didn't realize, until today, that I'd opted out of writing #reverb10 posts - hello!
(In the post on December 13th I did mention being stuck, but I was actually referring to writing in general - not #reverb10)
On some days I told myself "I'll get back to it tomorrow" on others "I'll write a quick catch up post to combine all the ones I missed". But I never did - I never got back to writing #reverb10 posts. And below you'll find the reason - I had a gripe (or two). I wish I had noticed this before December 31 (the last day of #reverb10) - and shared my struggle here - sigh.
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There's a big difference between last year's Best Of 09 blog challenge and this year's #reverb10 (or Reverb 10, if you'd rather).
To explain further I'll need to delve into a little backstory:
Last year I met a woman who calls herself a personal historian; she helps people write stories about their lives for progeny. When we talked I told her I couldn't imagine asking the elders in my family to talk about their lives.
But, I was talking about getting my family to discuss BIG stuff (feelings and other sources of denial) while the lady was talking (she kindly explained) about gathering small bits of info - like: how many kids were in your class at school, Grandmother? or Where were you born, Uncle Festus?
From the small bits stories might bloom. Whereas going for the big stuff (like feelings), by asking questions such as: What was it like to move every time you made a new friend, Aunt Olivia? or Can you tell me how you handled being an outcast because of your stutter and elephantiasis, Grandpa? would be more likely to cause folks to shut down - and then - no stories!
(end of backstory)
The Best Of 09 prompts asked for the name of your favorite book, best packaging, favorite tea - the small stuff (and out of that many stories did bloom - and many friendships and acquaintances as well).
Reverb 10 prompts have mostly pushed us toward the big stuff. The kinds of things that, maybe, you'd talk about over a pot of tea - with a dear friend. Depending on the depth of friendship - and whether the tea was spiked.
They have not so much dealt with the small stuff - what you'd shout across the aisles in a convenience store when you spot Sally (whom you haven't seen in 5 or 6 years), the aide at the library who used to read to your (now adult) kids on Toddler Reading Day - and try to catch up on the intervening years.
It's hard to go deep when you've had no real introduction (nope, I do not consider the Amazon link to an author's book an actual introduction - more on that later) and you're offered a short (couple-sentence) set of instructions.
I was waxing lyrical* about this to Slightly-British Daughter when she reminded me that I adore talking or writing about feelings and deep shit - and asking after others' feelings and deep shit (if the friendship is of a certain depth and the tea's spiked) - and rarely need to be coaxed into it.
So why was I bitchin and moanin about #reverb10 prompts (she asked)?
I wasn't, actually. I was just saying that you have to be a pretty skilled writer to leap into the deep end of the writing pool (remember the lesson from the backstory? You get to story (to depth) easier when you start with something small and specific).
*(For the record: I wasn't WAXing in any literal manner - while discussing #reverb10. Ew. I was chatting excitedly.)
As a #reverb10 crew member I've been pretty diligent in searching for, reading and commenting on people's responses to the prompts. And what I said above (about having to be a pretty skilled writer to leap into the deep end of the pool) has proven true in my readings. It's been hard to find engaging writing (not to say there was no engaging writing, just that it was harder to find than last year).
The bloggers who've taken the prompts and ran with them (oops, I mean swam with them - don't want to lose the delightful pool metaphor) are gifted writers - they shine, and I'll be eternally grateful (praise! praise!) to #reverb10 for introducing me to a number of incredible new (to me) writers/blogs.
For the general blog writing public, though - it seems like the water's too deep. There's been no chance to acclimate - it's "here's the high dive, now leap!" Which has led to some flailing (writing wise).
Last year's prompts elicited better writing - the kind that drew me to explore people's blogs. I'd read a Best Of 09 post and want to see what else the writer had to say. I'd hang around.
This year there have been many times when I've read a Reverb 10 post through and left the blog (ne'er to return). One "off" post (the kind that, keeping with the pool deal, seems to need a life preserver) and I don't look further. And there goes the opportunity for getting to know the writer better - forming an acquaintance or friendship.
It's not that the prompts were bad (necessarily), just that they were too much, too quickly for a lot of folks. It seems that the majority of bloggers do better writing when they start from a small, specific prompt.
And now I'll bitch about the Amazon thing. Why couldn't we have been treated to the author's blog or site links instead of their Amazon link?
This felt worse than used-car salesman strategy. It was like being accosted by the guy in the raincoat who flashes his coat open (no, not that guy!) to expose his wares and ask: Wanna buy a watch?
No, thank you! - or, if it's been a bad day: No, fuck you! Because really! - more of that too much, too quickly stuff. For starters - who are you?
All in all, this year it was harder to find good writing. BUT, there was some writerly brilliance that I'm glad to have found through #reverb10 (including a few new-to-me wildly incredible writers who mindfully took themselves out of the pool early on - but not before I bookmarked them!).
There were also re-finds: bloggers whose writing I'd learned to love last year (but failed to bookmark!) and the general fun of a big gathering. I'm grateful for all that - and for the work that our #reverb10 fairy godmother, Jeanne - and #reverb10 HQ - put into the experiment!
Despite my bitchin' and moanin' I truly look forward to the 2011 version.
And now for that spiked tea...