120th Blog = 10 Years
Sometimes I wonder why I have held onto the above salutation. It is decidedly old-fashioned – most blogs I read, the writers jump right in, without the formality. I see it differently: without a greeting, it would be like seeing a friend on the street and launching into a monologue. “Dear Reader” still feels comfortable, in speech or in letter writing.
Ten years of blog writing– a lot has happened. No surprise there. One theme emerged after I began my draft: How much I owe to my teachers, especially Donald M. Murray (1924-2006). His book A Writer Teaches Writing influenced me decades before I met him at the University of New Hampshire. He encouraged reflection as a tool for writing and his weekly Boston Globe column was a fine example. In those days, it was called the personal essay, and its cousin is the blog.
Murray’s work ethic was admirable – “Write first each day. Complete one writing task every morning. Know tomorrow’s task today – Nulla dies sine linea.” Because of him, I am always on the prowl for the next self-imposed or by-invitation writing assignments. He handed me my writer’s identity with these simple words: Writers write. Judy’s Journal is inspired by him in so many ways. As each month progresses into double digits, a topic had better be brewing. When I whine about this self-imposed deadline, I can hear Murray: “Go sell junk bonds instead.”
“Write what you know” was one of Murray’s mantras. No matter what the topic, that is how I find out what else I need to learn. Gone is anxiety over “writer’s block” or facing a blank screen or sheet of paper. Empty the brain, deposit what’s in there, study it and see if anything feels warm. Murray taught me to make maps of different subtopics from the main topic. New questions rise from the old knowledge. Some of them will end up in the final draft, many will not. It’s no surprise that two other Murray books are titled Write to Learn and Expecting the Unexpected. Inspiration is not a miracle, although it may feel like one. It is about doing the work cycle and the gift writers receive from it. No mystery there. Our mood is driven by flexibility and openness during the writing process.
The moment I feel most like a Murray-ite happened in the writing of this blog. My initial plan came to me as I was driving. It started with a question: What can I write about my 120 blog benchmark? Possibilities came to mind and sorted themselves out. I could read each Judy’s Journal and see if there was a pattern worth comment. Or I could read the index and consider the titles. I chose the second and then the wonderful thing happened. I started with a “ten things I have noticed” draft and just wrote. The writing took on a life of its own and decided things for me. I realized that I was writing another tribute to Donald M. Murray, something I did in 2007 February, soon after he died.
Donald M. Murray’s greatest legacy is more than his books about how to write: it is the legion of writers who were his students, at work every day practicing their craft.
This ten-year anniversary cannot pass without acknowledging Patsy McCowan, my friend and web designer, who has made my work look good all these years. When we began, I knew that I was ready for a web site, but had no idea how it would become a presence in my life. Patsy has patiently taught me about the ways in which a web site can present my professional self to the world and encouraged me with her comments. Response from her is high praise, in my book (or blog).