The first two mistakes I made when I started to blog
In this post:
At first it felt just like a hobby but it became almost a job though no one wants to pay me to do it. It doesn't really matter, this blog has been a lot of fun for me and has really motivated me to write and learn. And as a bonus, I already have four complete stories on RantInElla.com I already wrote a book and drafts for many other stories so that they no longer live as ghosts imprisoned in my head. I cannot complain.
After a long time—six months or so—trying to learn the art and exercise of blogging, I have developed a deeper appreciation for popular wisdom. I have found that it not only serves to socialize children and adolescents, it can also be applied to many other things in life. Today, specifically, I refer to that saying that goes: “Echando a perder se aprende,” which roughly translates to learn things you have to break things. That's timely! Tear things apart to understand how they work or tear yourself apart by incorporating what you do not know in a framework that contains that new piece of ignorance and can turn it into acquired knowledge.
The command center of my head.
But this whole concept is too destructive for me; the conceptual framework that I prefer when learning new things is a bit more Anglo-cultural. In English they call it "trial and error,” a slightly more charitable way of describing this process; not as something spoiled, but as an iteration that has been carried out, an experiment that generates the necessary data to improve.
The first mistake I made was underestimating the amount of time and effort it would take to launch a blog. Until I was fully involved with the details, it was not clear to me all that I had to learn and the obstacles that I was going to encounter. The second mistake was more of a weakness (or strength) of character: having too many interests and enthusiastically chasing after all of them. After all, the world is full of interesting things to think about: books, science, aliens, history, magic, academic and popular philosophy, psychology, plants, cats and all the people that going about their normal lives manage to look strange. Like those two little blue and brown men on the neighbor's roof. Or her majesty, the regal cat who calls me from the front of the house to ask for milk when she is thirsty, and would not eat canned fish. Hallucinations? Maybe, but those are stories for another day.
My blog and my fiction are not the same thing but they go hand in hand intellectually, things that affect one affect the other, at least in the command center of my head. I have been ruminating about writing books for many years, and for many years, I've had notebooks full of bits and pieces of things that never ended up anywhere except, sporadically, in the trash can. A blog was something that I had not considered before because I had never read one, and although I knew of the existence of the blogosphere, for me it had less substance than dark matter or a parallel universe. So much so that once, when a friend suggested that I should blog about my travels, I thought, “And who the hell would be interested in that? My few friends can easily chat with me and find out everything they want."
As you can see, even mature people can be naive! Now I understand very well that almost no one in this world, no matter how much they say they appreciate you, is interested in talking face to face and exchanging ideas. What everyone wants is for you to entertain them, without having to think too much or invest too much of their scarce attention. And even if as a real person you do not have bright colors, or gifs, or lights that flicker at Christmas, when you appear in the same medium as the Harry Potter memes, man, you have to be something interesting. Or at least that's the theory, otherwise you better show up with an easy phrase, some catchy tune, or at least a goat.
"A blog," I told myself. “The idea is not bad, and I’ll have a place to express myself to the world. It's almost like buying a megaphone."
As I said, the blog and Roxanna's fiction have the same weakness: leave it for later, plan it better, think about it. Thinking about something, dreaming about something with intensity is not the same thing as accomplishing it. Sometimes the popular wisdom is powerful, other times it is pure fantasy. Pure fantasy or fucking fantasy? Like those easy little quotes that say you must follow your dreams, or be patient and your dreams will come true. That's nonsense! Dreams do not come true by themselves, one makes them come true by working, persisting, but above all, by learning. One may think that flying in everyday life is as easy as it is in the imagination, it is simply a matter of time to memorize the rudiments of flight. But flying, like writing, is not easy at all and you need, apart from talent, time, and knowledge, two things more important than all of the above: discipline and stubbornness. I discovered that the day that full of inspiration, I bought a web domain (RantInElla.com), I looked for a slogan that seemed appropriate and funny (“When life gives you onions”) and I said to myself “Tomorrow, I'm going to publish my first blogpost."
Showing up with a goat.
And almost three months went by...
It was not all laziness, the reasons for the delay varied from trivial to puzzling. First, launching a blog, even one with a very simple design, is not difficult but it has a series of steps to follow that are essential. Those steps come with almost fool-proof instructions except that they are in the mysterious language of internet nerds and if one is not fluent in that language it is quite difficult to decipher the instructions. So I spent about three weeks learning what a webcrawler, a widget, a pluggin is, that your web platform provider is not the same as your web hosting service although they can be if you want, that you should have an anti-spam pluggin, an authenticated Google analytics account and that if you want to program in http it is better to have WordPress pro than the free version. I still don't know what program in http is but I have managed so far and I hope I never have to learn because it sounds pretty complicated.
The second obstacle in the way of my dream blog? The same as for the next great contemporary novel: generate original content. In principle, one can spend half a day on the internet and collect photos, opinions, and articles from other sources without any problem, as long as plagiarism is avoided by providing references and awarding appropriate credits. But if my purpose was to simply repeat what others say without any intellectual input on my part, I would not have to spend money or time, for that I have my Facebook page. And clicking on FB, although fun, does not make you a writer, much less original.
There is a funny thing that happens to many people who aspire to be writers, they want to write but are ashamed of what they write. Nothing is ever right and free from mistakes, nothing is ever good enough to share with the world. And so they spend entire ages of life accumulating piles of notebooks full of poems, short stories and unfinished novels. You become Schrödinger's literary cat: as long as no one reads what you write, you are and are not, simultaneously, a great writer. Fortunately, literary history is full of famous writers who went through those times and lived to tell, literally. My favorite is Marcel Proust, a guy who wrote a collection of six novels, "In Search of Lost Time," describing even the smallest detail of the bullshit—I got through the last of the novels and I know they are bullshi —in which he spent his life before finally dedicating himself to writing. Proust published the gossip and impressions of his social circle and is famous to this day more than a hundred years later. Long live Proust! Someday I will also publish a shitload of gossip and people will admire me for it. I still do not lose hope.
What at first seemed like just a hobby became almost a job even though no one wants to pay me to do it. This blog, focused on forcing myself to write and entertain myself in something positive during my time of crisis, has been a lot of fun for me and motivated me to learn some interesting things. Now I realize that I should have planned it better and have several essays ready before taking care of everything else. After all, having a nice website with wonderful photos of Puerto Rico and some other, not so wonderful, of Qatar is not the only thing that is required to launch a blog or write a book.
Anyway I have survived, full of doubts, these first six months and I have managed to write some things and put them online. And now that? Well, now to the following: to keep looking for the deep meaning of life, to keep writing, to keep learning new things, to keep dreaming and let dreams fuel my creative journey. My first full story “Lizard-Monkeys” is now available on my blog, RantInElla.com. How exciting! And what happiness to have a complete story! It's like seeing your first child trying to learn to walk, sometimes joy, sometimes fear. In the meantime, I'll keep writing to see what happens. Maybe nothing will happen, maybe something good will and maybe, if I am brave, another of my dreams will come true.