Something Left To Say

By guest blogger Jane Koenen Bretl

When I log in to blog, on any given day WordPress enthusiastically shares that there are 376,364 bloggers, 479,781 new posts and 95,964,119 new words posted THAT DAY on wordpress.com.  I find this staggering; that is just WordPress.com, which does not include the .org folks, or the writers on Blogger or Typepad or any of the many other blogging platforms.  Which doesn’t include any of the other bazillion people writing something other than a blog.  All on one random day.

After I catch my breath, awed by these numbers that represent unlimited creativity, I am left to wonder:  which subgroup of people reads these statistics and thinks  “Wow! If that many others can publish their ideas, then I can do it too!”  Which subset looks at those numbers and extrapolates “Really?  Is there really that much worth saying?  And, even if there is, what can I write that has not already been said?”

I discovered blogging two years ago, and early on I was invigorated by the statistics.  Anything was possible in my brave, new, webby world.  I met truly amazing people, writers mostly, whose words inspired me to reach for my dreams and taught me to be a better writer.  I learned that social media is a valuable component of platform building, networking and ongoing learning.  So I joined in on Facebook and Twitter, and soon found so many incredible writing blogs that I started a Google Reader blog list, so I could efficiently check them each day.

There was so much!  A feast of fascinating information for my brain!  Every day delivered a wonderful flood of links in tweets and posts, any of which might be just the inspiration I needed to kick-start my writing that day. Then somewhere along the way, among the blogroll posts and facebook updates and tweets, I found doubt, a voice of uncertainty asking if there was anything left to say that someone was not already saying.

My clever friend aptly calls it the “glittery internet”, and indeed, I was continually distracted by something shiny.  But I was so disciplined, I thought!  No dawdling on cute kitten photo sites or YouTube videos of roller-skating monkeys, not me!  I’m just going to keep up with the writing world.  How hard can that be?  <cue ironic, foreshadowing music here>

We all have that one thing, the thing we seemingly have to keep learning over and over (and over and over) our whole lives.  It turns out I have a whole bunch of one-things, but the one pertinent to this discussion is my propensity to think about writing and research writing and write about writing, instead of, um, writing something. The internet provided so much – too much – advice that could further my career, if I could just stop reading it. Really universe, how many times do I have to learn this same simple lesson?

As any roller-skating monkey could have predicted, I did burn out on trying to keep up.  A recovering perfectionist should not be in the room with her addition.  So I took a break, or five, and now am easing myself back in, on wonderful sites such as this one, to take one nugget of inspiration at a time.  Then write.

When I need a reminder that there is still something to say, I can keep working on the second draft of my 2009 NaNoWriMo novel.   Sure, the story arc is still a hot mess.  But there are also these quirky characters, ones born inside my head, formed from my decades of unique experiences and humor and pain, that no one else could have written. When I reread my stories, I am reminded that no one else could tell them quite my way.  Just as it seems impossible to me that the same notes can be combined in infinite ways to make different and equally beautiful music, the 26 letters hold a glittery amount of possibility.

When I write them.

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Jane Koenen Bretl is a freelance writer living in Ohio, taking one day at a time and writing about it.  In 2009, one of Jane’s essays was published in the anthology “The Ultimate Mom”, which she feels compelled to mention might be the most ironic book title ever.  She is working on a middle grade children’s novel that was born in NaNoWriMo ‘09, and a collection of essays that served as her pseudo-NaNoWriMo ’10 project.  Jane can be found at http://janebretl.com, where she blogs about motherhood, launching a writing career, and myriad creatures that get along like cats and dogs.

10 Responses to Something Left To Say
  1. j
    January 24, 2011 | 11:15 AM

    Those are staggering numbers! As I read your post, I thought, I want to be the one who thinks “I can too,” not the one who lets the stats feel defeating. If writing for publication isn’t a beat-the-odds game, nothing is… and sometimes what separates the ones who get published from those that don’t is blind, dogged, ridiculous determination.

    I LOVE this post!

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jane Koenen Bretl, Milli & j. Milli & j said: "We all have that one thing we seemingly have to keep learning over and over our whole lives." Something Left To Say http://bit.ly/gFcKY3 […]

  3. jane, candid
    January 25, 2011 | 9:50 AM

    Thanks J! The longer I do this, the more it seems that those that keep trying are the ones who succeed.

  4. Joanie
    January 26, 2011 | 7:58 AM

    I’ve often felt that I have nothing left to say, Then I wrote “Defying Writing” on 6/26/10.

  5. jane, candid
    January 26, 2011 | 8:05 AM

    Joanie, I am glad that you keep finding things to say and write about. I enjoy your blog! Jane

  6. Bell
    Twitter: StartYourNovel
    January 26, 2011 | 2:45 PM

    It’s a huge temptation, just reading lots of writing advice blogs to make sure you avoid all the obvious mistakes. Here’s the kicker: you always make mistakes, because there’s about a million of them or more. No amount of great tips on brilliant blogs will change that.

    The moment I stopped going for perfect and settled for good, that was when I started writing.

    And yes, the Internet is glittery and endlessly distracting and reading tons of good advice on writing can, and often does, become an excuse not to write. A real productivity killer.

    There is always something new to say, because there’s always someone who’s never heard it.

    • jane, candid
      January 27, 2011 | 11:47 AM

      Bell,
      You have given me my kicker for today: “Here’s the kicker: you always make mistakes, because there’s about a million of them or more.”
      Trying to avoid all the mistakes, there’s my stumbling block. I will go for good, not perfect, today!
      Interesting idea that there is always something new to say if there is always someone who’s never heard it before. New can be new over and over. Did the tree fall if there was no one in the forest to hear it? Did the story resonate if there was no one in the room to read it? Hmmmmm. Thanks for your comment!

      • Bell
        Twitter: StartYourNovel
        January 27, 2011 | 2:13 PM

        Just glad I had something worthwhile to add.

        Basically we’ve been telling the same stories over and over — that started when we developed language. Analyzing a story, you will always find the same basic elements: protagonists, fear, desire, obstacles and resolution.

        And yet they feel new, because there are so many incredible ways to combine these elements, and there are so many new facts and sources of knowledge at our disposal.

        Every human being is unique. When that human being becomes a storyteller, her voice will inevitably arise from that uniqueness. That’s another reason a story feels new. It’s just like being introduced to someone you’ve never spoken to before. There will be all these little quirks and details found on nobody else.
        Diction is just like body chemistry. It can be studied, but never duplicated.

  7. Boonies Chick
    Twitter: fearofwriting
    January 26, 2011 | 8:36 PM

    I so hear you on this one. And I love the way you’ve expressed it. I recently had to subvert my own addiction to writing advice: all those delicious screenwriting blogs and advice books. Unfortunately I OD’ed on it and it all ended up sounding stale. And some of it made me feel like a wannabe. Bleh.

    It’s amazing how many times we need to relearn the part about “Just write.” Thanks for making the lesson so entertaining! I felt like I was down in the trenches, learning it with you. The fun way.

  8. jane, candid
    January 27, 2011 | 11:52 AM

    Thanks, Boonie Chick! The advice can start to sound hollow in huge doses. Or, just like all the parenting how-to books I poured over in an attempt to get my PhD in Parenthood while pregnant, I realized that I just needed to jump in and get my hands dirty. (Jumping into the writing does not involve actual diapers, but there is the analogy of some s**t to wallow through…)

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