He Said, “No”

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“Is this you following me on this blog?”

“Yes,” I said, nearly one year ago. I’d just started blogging. I got caught setting up a blog with a bad name.

Kamal made me promise to write. For real. He must have thought I spelled enough words correctly to elicit that promise. Promise. What would I write about? Who’d read it? I knew–I’d write about ed reform. I knew education. I set up a meeting with the Commissioner. Soon, I changed my mind. Reform’s contentious…it’d be less painful to stab myself in the eye with a chopstick than to jump into that ring. I like harmony.

“You should blog,” said Kamal.

“Okay. Set me up. I’ll do it.” I agreed. Reluctantly. Who’d read it? Every day?…That wasn’t the point. The point was to keep my promise.  Keeping my promise, I thought, would involve an essay or two. Simple. Blogging was a horse of a different color.

“No, you don’t need me to do that–it’s easy…You can do it yourself…Use WordPress. Take the domain name, too. You may want to do something with it later.” What would I possibly “do later” with a blog no one would read? (Literary folks: enter the element of foreshadowing).

Naming the blog was the challenge. That required me, in some sense, to define who I was and what I wanted to be. Not easy. I’d been institutionalized.

My friend Herb told me never to blog about education. “You’ll get fired. Be careful.” Herb’s practical like that. He’s much smarter than me–I usually listen. But I’d promised. I promised Kamal I would write. I promised Herb I wouldn’t shake the tree too much. I was stacking up promises to everyone but myself.

There were tons of names that were just plain bad. GreenyGal, for example. Maybe I’d write about food-freak stuff and sustainability. “Sounds like you’re sea sick,” my husband, Rusty, said. My friend Slash said “no” a lot, too. Slash sounds like a great name for a copy editor. It’s really a leftover guitar nickname from college.

Frustration. “No, no, no. You can’t do that…” We hear that a lot in life. It usually stops us, doesn’t it? Puts us in a box.

What would I write? Not fiction…not poetry. I stopped writing those long ago. Too serious. Before teaching, I did a lot of historical research…a blog about historical research? Bet that’d go viral…

Finally, I decided. I’d write about everything. If it entered my mind, I’d write about it. Mock it, even. Wittischism. Perfect title. Schism in my mind? Check. Witty? Check. Wit. Schism. Eureka! Turns out, it wasn’t such a good name.

I got caught exactly thirty-two seconds after I pushed the WordPress Button.

“Is that you following my blog?” #$@%*^! tech people–can’t outwit them. I’d done everything quietly, trying to make it a surprise. Truthfully, I was avoiding another “no.”

But WordPress connected me to everyone. It followed my brilliant writer friend Anna and others. And it followed the soul-touching blog Kamal uses from time to time. He doesn’t blog much now that he has two books of his own. If the most recent, Live Your Truth, had been available earlier, maybe I wouldn’t have suffered through some of these lessons quite so harshly. But it wasn’t the lack of the book–it was the blog that got me caught.

“Um…yes?” I could lie. These guys were as magic as Merlin to a tech newbie. They knew everything, developed an app for everything, and had gadgets I couldn’t pronounce. He had an app that saw into my brain. So I told the truth.

“You can’t use that name.”

Apparently you can’t choose blog names that are long, confusing, the public can’t spell, are non-common foreign language words, swears, or have double letters. You should also avoid the vowel “e” when naming your blog on Sunday.

Choosing a name was taking weeks. Frustration built with every “no.”  I should’ve recognized the lesson, delivered in the authentic zen style I knew well from years of study of Japanese sword. Americans expect a direct answer. True learning comes when you are led to, then discover the answers on your own. It’s how I teach. Ironically, I didn’t recognize that I was being taught, even with the lesson two inches from my face.  I wasn’t equipped yet to understand.

If I can’t even name this thing, how will I write? “Listen, do it right, or don’t do it at all,” said the text. I became upset. And out of ideas. He sensed that. The tone softened. “You can have this old blog name I don’t use if you want, but it should really come from you.” Finally, I named the blog. It came from me.

This blog wasn’t just keeping a promise. A year later, I see it wasn’t lessons in SEO or writing. It was a lesson in vision. We get stuck in our boxes.  Sometimes, we never get out. My gift was a friend who knew this, and was willing to power through my objections, because writing had helped him do the same. That literally changed my life. Often people say, “You should,” and the conversation ends right there.

My promise, finally, to myself was to return the favor…in my writing, my teaching, and in seeking out visionaries trying to change the world. It no longer feels like fighting windmills. Now, I’m talking to people who build them, and it feels good. It feels like I can push over the domino that starts a revolution. I’ve seen now, that it’s possible. It’s how I strive to teach–inspiring every student to push that domino.

I stop to think about my friend who cared enough to say “no,” opening up a whole new world of “yes.”  “Yes” is inside of all of us… the only thing stopping me, was me.

 

[This post is dedicated to, among others, DC, who seeks to open up honest conversations … pick a good name for that blog. If you can’t think of one, “Wittischisms” is available.]

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14 thoughts on “He Said, “No”

  1. Congratulations on a year of successfully providing insightful, fun, educational, and inspiring glimpses into your life and the world!

  2. Kick me in the backside to push me through the entropy-well trying to suck my blog into the Dead Zone… I’m serious. Remind me that all I have to do is write. Not think. Not solve world hunger. Write.

      • Read it… what I liked about it, was that it validated the stuff I was doing–writing every day, not worrying about it so much. He has this concept of the “ideal reader.” Basically, you write as if you’re writing for who you picture your ideal reader to be. Ironically, I was taking an awful lot of my more thoughtful content from email conversations. It seemed, somehow, easier to converse with a real person than to just sit and say in the abstract, “I think I’m going to write something earth-shattering right now.” It’s always seemed inauthentic that way, but in a deeper conversation, it comes out. And later, that translates into some type of theme I can write… In the same way as it’s never difficult to write a letter or an email, writing with an “ideal reader” in mind–whether it’s a single person or a group–is something I never did writing history/research, and it’s something that, for me, made all the difference in the scope, content, and quality of my writing. I’ll look at that book…

  3. I am a fiction writer, and also have had some success with poetry. Academic writing *almost* destroyed my love of writing. In some ways, I’m blogging as a way to “steal back” a passion that academia poisoned. I never was afraid of the written word until I began to work on my dissertation. Then my writing developed a sort of “stutter” — an anxious, self-critical editorial voice came to interrupt the creative process and derailed it (For me, at least, creation and critique need to be done separately). Writing without the internal critic is how I write when I write a letter or an e-mail (or an FB post, which is why editor-friends drive me nuts). So what you’re saying makes really good sense to me. I sense a trip to the library coming soon!

    • I find academic writing gives me a different voice. I can still do academic writing, legal writing, formal writing, I wax poetic every now and again… fiction’s never been believable with me…

      I hope to see you enjoying the game more:)

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