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Linda’s prompt for Stream-of-Consciousness Saturday: hot /cold 

When I first wrote a blog post in June 2014, it was sheerly related to the desire to use my love of writing in some way. Emily had started a blog herself while she was in the United Kingdom, and it was difficult to comment on her blog unless you had a blog of your own. By accident, I ended up creating two blogs—sappy as a tree and one that later became What oft was thought.

I wrote a post about our trip to San Francisco that summer (specifically, about our trip to Muir Woods), and then I let it go. Then in August Bryson, David, and I went to the Carl Sandburg House for the first time: I was fascinated by the astounding collection of books, furniture, memorabilia that we saw there, and, in particular, the way it felt like walking right back into the house as Carl Sandburg’s wife and daughters had left it after his death. Blog post number two was done.

But, at that point, I was mostly feeling cold towards blogging. Lots of things were going on in my life then, like Thomas starting his freshman year of college and Samuel starting his job in Durham, not to mention that I was supposed to be homeschooling David. Then I stumbled upon Blogging 101.

Have I ever mentioned before how I liked school? Blogging 101 was kind of like school with assignments, deadlines, and classmates. The only difference was that now school wasn’t the primary focus of my life as it had been when I was in college or working on my Masters; now taking care of my house, husband, and kids was supposed to be my primary job, and the blogging bit was just a hobby.

It was hard to make the blogging just a hobby, though. I was learning so much about how to set up the blog and making friends literally all around the world at the same time. I’m thankful for those memories (which are recorded in my blog posts, in a way). Definitely, I had switched from cold to hot with blogging. But there was a problem: I just wasn’t able to keep up with assignments, and I had to drop out of Blogging 101.

Ouch. It’s not that this was the first time in my life that I ever dropped out of something–hardly. I guess you could call me a grad school dropout, although my abandoning my mostly completed degree at Chapel Hill was more a result of two things that combined with a powerful force: we moved to a different city, and I became pregnant with my first child. I went back and took my Ph.D. written and oral exams, but something seemed to happen to my academic drive around then: I became cold where the degree was concerned.

It’s definitely been a pattern all my life, the hot/ cold thing. The middle ground of moderation (is that redundant?) is almost impossible for me to find.

February 2016 weather extremes

February 2016 showed me some weather extremes: Top, Carlisle, PA. Bottom: San Diego, CA.

With blogging, I finally decided in the winter of 2015 that I needed to back off completely–go cold, if you will. I find that when I’m in the middle of a creative project, I tend to obsess about it: I’ll tweak my words and pictures practically to death. Meanwhile, the ship of my household is sinking about me: dishes pile up, clothes go unwashed, emails aren’t answered, my body doesn’t get its daily walk. When my creative energies are hot, my practical energies seem to go cold. In particular, I felt that the blogging was negatively affecting my youngest son’s homeschooling. So I stopped that spring, pretty much cold turkey. It was hard and yet it was easy because it was the right thing to do.

That’s what I thought at the time. Then, last Friday, I found myself unexpectedly at home with just my oldest son. I had thought to go out of town to see my parents, but Friday afternoon I didn’t feel good–achy, sore throat, low-grade fever. Friday also happened to be September 22, the date that J. R. R. Tolkien designated as the birthday of Bilbo Baggins and Frodo Baggins, his nephew and heir. The day before, I’d seen a post or two on Facebook about The Hobbit having been published on September 21, 1937, which struck me as ironic, since it was only one day off the well-known birthday of Tolkien’s famous hobbits.

Before I really knew what was happening, a creative fever had possessed me: I logged into my Word Press account, clumsily began to construct a post about the Baggins’ birthday celebration (incorporating birthday celebrations of family members that had honored The Lord of the Rings), and realized with a sense of both joy and concern that I had rekindled the blogging flame.

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Never in my life have I felt as hot as I did at my first–and possibly last–IU football game. A sleeveless red sweater was a mistake. And IU lost to Wake Forest.

Even though I can’t say that my post on What oft was thought met with overwhelming acclaim (exactly two bloggers liked it), it felt great to have written my first blog post on that site in over two years. But now that the creative juices had gotten going, it was going to be hard to stop–especially since I hadn’t posted on sappy as a tree in nearly a year. I’d been mentally composing a post about Irma for the last week or so anyway. That post–about the tree that Irma downed and its impact, both physical and mental–almost wrote itself. In my opinion, the sweetest part of blogging is when posts do magically flow from your head into your fingers and onto the screen of your laptop.

Posts aren’t always like that: sometimes, I have an idea, but it takes me a while to warm up into my writing. (I just finished a post like that, although I don’t think I’ll identify it by name. Wouldn’t take much detective work to find it.) Eventually, the words started flowing, but I wasn’t sure what to do: should I lop off the introduction, which didn’t work quite as well as I’d hoped it would? That’s always been one of my struggles as a writer: cutting out unnecessary words or extra modifiers is a tiny bit painful, but I can do it. In the last two posts I wrote, I managed to make myself get rid of sentences that were fine in themselves but really didn’t help develop the main idea. But to axe an entire introduction? I couldn’t quite make myself do it.

I have to remind myself that it is my blog, in the end. Of course, if I choose not to use wise writing practices, I only have myself to blame if the reception is cold. But is the point of writing about the reception of a post? Or is it the need for me to exorcise my brain of these mini-essays that will insist on composing themselves?

This post was written for Linda G. Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt “hot/cold.” I didn’t write it on Saturday, so I might be cheating? Maybe she’ll cut me some slack since I haven’t done an SoCS post in over two years. At least I didn’t cheat on the stream-of-consciousness part or the editing part except for adding links. socs-badge-2017-18-e1503097084778

Title credits to Billy Joel’s song “I Go to Extremes