Tag Archives: writing

blaugust #31: the last day.

What I want to put here is the >It’s over!< picture from the end of Teen Girl Squad, but that belongs to homestarrunner.com so just go see it there. Ok.

Here we are, Blaugustinians, August 31. We made it! There have been a couple of days when I complained mightily, but this has been a really great month for me. I’ve had some good interactions, found some new friends on Twitter, and gotten to know some existing friends better through reading their blogs.

I’ve set myself daily posting challenges before, but this is the first time I’ve ever participated in a group challenge. The sense of community has been wonderful, cheering each other on through the days when it felt hard, and digging into a conversation when we had things to say. I’ve enjoyed it, and I’ve been inspired by how many people participated. Big thanks to Belghast for sponsoring Blaugust, managing it, and encouraging us along the way! That’s a huge task, and I’m grateful to have been a part of this.

I’ve had this blog for several years, but there are times when I let it sit idle for long stretches. There’s a funny thing about a dry spell in writing, for me: I feel like I lose my voice. It’s not that I get writer’s block, but when I sit down to write, I don’t sound like myself. This mostly has to do with me being a shy person. Over the years, I learned to cope with that by becoming a pretty adept social mimic. It’s a useful skill, but also one that can feel fundamentally dishonest, and I’ve been trying in recent years to do without it. But it’s hard to turn off a coping mechanism that I’ve used for so long with such versatility, and it creeps back in the subtlest of ways. Like the way I write. If I haven’t been writing for a while, my voice will absorb and reflect whatever I’ve been consuming lately – an author I’ve been reading, or a tv series I’ve just marathoned, or a group I follow on Twitter. It takes a little while to shake that out and hear my own voice again. It takes a while to think of what I really want to talk about, and longer to talk about it on my own terms. This gets much, much easier when I’m writing frequently. So even when it feels like a huge obligation in the day (and I’m not going to lie to you, there have been several days this month that felt that way), it’s a good practice for me to have. I’ve never aspired to being a post-a-day blogger, but after this month, I’m feeling much more comfortable with just posting something without over-analyzing it.

When the month started, I had great plans for reading at least five other Blaugust posts a day and commenting on at least one. There, I haven’t done so well. There are several blogs I’ve followed and come to really appreciate, but I have come nowhere near reading them every day, and I’ve definitely not commented once a day. I have done a lot of liking, and some retweeting, but I feel like I’ve been the recipient of more post interaction than I’ve done. Thank you to everyone who’s commented here, or started a conversation on Twitter, or used the like button on Anook – I’m grateful to all of you, and I look forward to following you as we carry on past Blaugust.

Great work, everybody! I’ll see you on the internet.

(This is my 31st and final post of the Blaugust daily blogging initative.)

blaugust #01: how does your blogging grow?

I look forward to August. It’s when the plums and apricots start coming in, and I daydream about making jam and pies. Back to school advertising starts in earnest, and I also enjoy thinking about pencils and notebooks and plaid shirts. It’s my birthday month (I will be the answer to life, the universe, and everything this year!). And this year, it’s also Blaugust, a daily blogging initiative started last year by Belghast. The challenge is to post every day in August, at least 10 sentences per post. I’ve done daily post challenges for myself before, but never with a prescribed minimum or a community commitment to keep me honest and afloat.

A few months ago, I wrote a little bit about intending to blog more regularly. I’ve been keeping this blog since May 2007. Sometimes I write a little, sometimes I write a lot. My focus tends to be two-pronged: I use this space to write about my life and who I am, but I also use it to talk about what I’m making and to promote my work. On my very best days, those two purposes work hand in hand, but that’s a rare achievement. Looking over my archives, I’m pleased at how far back they stretch. But the inconsistency of it nags at me a bit. I like using this space as both a life archive and a wrestling mat to work things out. Writing through a problem or a feeling is generally a productive approach for me, and I always intend to make that more of a habit. So when I learned about Blaugust, I hemmed and hawed for a few weeks, but then I bit the bullet and signed on. For the last month, I’ve been posting a bit more often, trying to get my blogging muscles limber. I’m confident I can do this, although I’m not sure about the quality of my content. This is a good exercise, and I’ve made a deal with myself to not sweat every tiny little thing. Just write, and keep writing. I have a vague list of things I’d like to write about, and a couple of days when a scheduled post will be necessary for calendar reasons. But for the most part, I’m planning to take this day by day, and I’m looking forward to following the rest of the Blaugusteers, and to seeing where I am at the end of the month.

ow, my blogger.


Just a few short weeks ago, in this very space, I resolved to start blogging more often. I then, true to form, vanished without blogging more often. My intentions are always good, but my list of excuses is legion.

1. Right after I finish prepping and shipping these orders.

2. Only I swore I was going to the gym today.

3. I will just finish one of the 47 draft posts I have sitting on my dashboard. Just as soon as I finish the top three or four books on my pile so I can add them to that one about what I’m reading.

4. Oh hey there’s a pint of ice cream in the freezer and new episodes of Brokenwood.

But Blaugust is just around the corner, and I really, really want to participate this year, because I really, really want this habit back in my life. I’m not going to make it if I don’t take some kind of running start. I’ve had a look round at the inside of my head just at the moment, and it’s like the back side of a botched embroidery in there. This is not going to be pretty. It’s going to be choppy, and stream of consciousness, and there will be a lot of days when I only get my ten sentences by denying my inner run-on sentence and lopping my thoughts off at the knees. But I’m going to give it a try.

So, where to begin? I went to the gym today on my way home from work. This would not normally be a momentous event, but for the last two months I’ve been either really sick or literally had somewhere to be for every minute I was awake. And with one thing and another, I haven’t worked out in almost 10 weeks. The trainer called me last weekend to make sure I was okay. So I got my shit together today and went. It was horrible. I’m out of shape there as well as here. Normally when I go back after a period away from cardio, the first workout is this glorious, easy, lung-expanding, blood-pumping affirmation of life and wellness. Not today. Today, the best thing that happened the whole time was when a woman got off the elliptical next to me, fished the TV remote out of a bucket on the wall, and changed the channel from basketball to Cake Wars. I salute you, cake lady. See you Wednesday.

To a Frustrated Poet

I think this may be the only poem R.J. Ellmann has ever written, but when you’ve done this well first shot out of the box, why mess with it? Delight.

Click the title of the poem to listen.

To a Frustrated Poet

This is to say
I know
You wish you were in the woods,
Living the poet life,
Not here at a formica topped table
In a meeting about perceived inequalities in the benefits and
     allowances offered to employees of this college,
And I too wish you were in the woods,
Because it’s no fun having a frustrated poet
In the Dept. of Human Resources, believe me.
In the poems of yours that I’ve read, you seem ever intelligent
     and decent and patient in a way 
Not evident to us in this office,
And so, knowing how poets can make a feast out of trouble,
Raising flowers in a bed of drunkenness, divorce, despair,
I give you this check representing two weeks’ wages
And ask you to clean out your desk today
And go home
And write a poem
With a real frog in it
And plums from the refrigerator,
So sweet and so cold.

R.J. Ellmann


Phil has been following and contributing to my National Poetry Month project since the first year I did it. He lives in Hull, Yorkshire, which is a city with a great history of gritty, mouthy, sharply brilliant poets. When he discovers something new that he likes, I file it away to share during April. They’ve been some of my favorite posts over the last few years, and I particularly love this one. Russ Litten is a local Hull poet, and he teaches a creative writing class in a prison (read a little more about that on his website). Phil is guest reading today.

Click the title of the poem to listen.


Every Monday morning I stand up
before twenty or so disinterested faces
slouched around library tables
and tell them
about the possibilities of poetry
and the prospect of escape.

It’s a poor joke, and some mornings
it goes down less well
than others.

Like this morning,
one sullen soul flinging rancour
from the back of the room:
What’s that for then?

Yeah, but what do you get at the end of it?

Do you get paid?

So what use is that to me?

And I said
(quoting Scargill quoting his Dad)

“…the quality of your life depends upon
your ability to manipulate words…”
Does it fuck, he
thus proving
both of

by Russ Litten