Betty and I will soon be off to Elko, Nevada for the annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, a celebration of the American West and an effort to preserve our western heritage.
This year we are going early so that I can attend a two day blogging workshop taught by writer Teresa Jordan. Teresa is noted for her books of non-fiction. My favorite is Riding the White Horse Home: A Western Family Album, which is a memoir of her younger days on the family ranch north of Cheyenne, Wyoming. Sometimes I think that those of us not out rounding up and branding calves think that cow folk have vastly different lives than we do. Teresa’s book shows us that though they may have a hard physical life, ranch people have all the same issues the rest of the world deals with. I like knowing that our trials and tribulations tie us all together.
Teresa is also a great blogger so I am hopeful that attending the workshop and hearing more experienced bloggers talk will spur me into writing timelier and better blogs. I write two blogs and like most things in my life, when I began them I had lots of torment and anxiety to write about and I think some of the blogs were pretty fair country writing. But after two years, my energy has waned and I am tired of the routine, the demands I have created for myself. So…on to Elko
I recall reading in a book that a lot of the academia responsible for educating America’s writers is concerned about the level of writing and reading in America today. People aren’t writing nor are they reading, or so the conventional wisdom goes. But after becoming a blogger, I have discovered an immense community of young people out there both writing and reading blogs. It’s not Jane Austen or Ernest Hemingway, but a lot of the stuff I have read is very well composed, whether in a technical vein or something more in the creative non-fiction milieu. I suppose blogging doesn’t match up to Homer or Virginia Wolfe, but I still think that since people are writing and reading that writing, discourse and democracy and thought and discussion are still going on and that’s what matters. And some of the blogs are really well written…downright exciting.
Some things about blogging are technical. How to set up a page and put in plug-ins and widgets and compose in HTML. A lot of the technical stuff is beyond me. In my earlier years I would have crashed into the technology head-on, but these days, if I can’t figure it out ricky-tick (as Michael Deede, one of my sergeants in Vietnam used to say), then I hire a pro or flounder around.
But a lot of things about blogging have nothing to do with technology and everything to do with story. Is there a compelling conflict, or obstacle the blogger or someone the blogger writes about must overcome? How that conflict or obstacle is tackled is what makes the blog work, or not work if the writing doesn’t meet the challenge thrown down by the task. It is not so important if the obstacle is overcome or not, but how it is written that matters.
Besides obstacles, are the people in the blog interesting? Can we see the people through the images the writer chooses to describe them? If there is a setting, is that visual and are all the five senses involved in the writing? We are visual critters, but words that evoke smell, sound, touch and taste also add to the complexity and rich texture of a blog. Is the language peppy and musical and appropriate to the mood of the piece?
Is the blog about something important? When I say that I mean does it delve into the essential questions that we encounter in our lives. I’m not saying it has to be composed as if the blogger is Plato or Francis Bacon or George Santayana, but we often read to discover how someone else solves the common problems we all deal with: love, hate, war, death, and the wide array of emotions that rise from the bottom of our cowboy boots to the tops of our Stetsons, every single day.
Just standing here composing this is energizing me to get down to Elko and work with Teresa and the rest of the people who will help me become a better blogger. While in Elko, we will also be taking photographs, talking about making films, talking about music and poetry, listening to music and poetry and prose, talking about the past and future heritage of the American West. And yes, I will do some blogging.