Do It For Yourself

I mentioned in my birthday post that as part of my birthday weekend, I had the exciting chance to meet Jenny Lawson, aka the Bloggess. (Well, me and at least 500 other people who turned up at the Gaithersburg Book Festival to hear her read from her memoir.) I also got to meet Copernicus, but you already know about that.

It’s pretty cool that a whole bunch of the people who have taught and inspired me about writing released books in April: Anne Lamott (on top of writing Bird by Bird, a veritable writing handbook, she got me to read three books of essays on God and faith), Alan Ehrenhalt (my boss at my first full-time job, who wasn’t shy about giving me back copy where my only original words left were “a” and “the”), Anna Quindlen (no explanation necessary if you’ve known me for 30 seconds), Meredith Goldstein (my editor in chief at the Syracuse newspaper when I ran our lifestyle section and a true aficionado of pop culture reporting).

And Jenny Lawson. I loved her stuff when I stumbled upon it last summer, but I mostly read it for the laughs – until honesty trumped humor. I began to admire not just her wit, but her bravery in writing about many of her most difficult times – the kinds of times that others of us keep quiet about, or at least don’t advertise to thousands of readers.

So I was glad to hear her give a piece of writing advice at the book festival last weekend – after she answered the question of which of her taxidermied animals she’d most want to hang out with if they came to life, of course. Her advice to an aspiring writer: “Write for yourself, because you’ll never be disappointed with what you get paid in, which is your stories.”

That suggestion came at a really good time for me. Just a week earlier, another writer/blogger friend and I had talked about what to do about our blogs – how do we keep them interesting, about things that people want to read, and not just self-serving, navel-gazing posts? We were both struggling with things we wanted to write about – but about which we were unsure anyone wanted to read – and wondered whether we should be doing more to grow our readership.

The Bloggess’ answer: Write anyway. That was enough for me.

So, I did.

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