The other day Karl Saliter asked me a few questions. I gave a few answers. His whole article, which has a ton of guidance for bloggers and writers, is here, and draws on the wisdom of many great writers and the experience of many elephant writers.
But I thought to share my full replies, since I don’t like to write anything that I don’t offer up in some way (there’s a blogger’s tip for you right there).
Here’s Karl’s questions:
I’m writing a piece interviewing “the best” elephant writers on, well, writing for elephant.
So you qualify. Want to play?
1) answer any or all of the questions, or
2) write and answer your own.
What part about being an elephant writer has been a surprise benefit?
What questions do you ask yourself before you hit “submit for review?”
What do readers who want to write need to know?
1. Here’s a “yogic answer” for you: completely and not at all, both. Since I’m the founder, I guess it wasn’t a surprise per se, but I certainly didn’t plan, 10 plus years ago, on co-starting “Yoga in the Rockies,” then turning that into elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com. 10 plus years ago, I’d just retired from working at Shambhala Mountain Center, was attending Naropa University, and wanted to be a novelist. I tripped into Yoga in the Rockies because of my training and experience in magazine journalism.
I love writing, so I love my life (well, now that we have a great if small staff and I’m no longer in foreclosure, etc…now that we’re sustainable). I love writing what I want to write, when I want to write it. I love sharing the mindful word and trying to get folks to give a damn (it’s easy to get clicks on something with Hope, Bliss, 10 This or That, Sexy, or Kittens or Veganism [always controversial] or in the titles…but try getting folks to care about gerrymandering or Citizens United or climate change).
I’m surprised at how much I learn, and have to learn, and how endless that process is. I’m surprised at how vulnerable I feel, 10 years into this path. I guess that’s better than feeling jaded and selfishly uninspired..!
2. Depends on the blog. If it’s a blog that involves criticism, I’m careful with every word, and try and place said critique within a constructive context. On the other hand, after 1000s of blogs, literally, I can put up a simple, inspiring video or news share within minutes, and rarely do more than edit as I go. It’s a joy to craft writing and social media on the fly.
3. Readers who want to write, like those who say of art “Oh, I don’t know how to draw” or whatever, need to know that they have valuable stories. That the more personal, genuine, and thoughtful they are, the simple we are in sharing, the more helpful we can be to others and our world. I interviewed Lester Brown years ago, and he said to me, “media is the key to saving the planet, and us.” Communication, whether in a relationship or via a web site like ours or small blog or one’s Facebook page, can be the opposite of hype, PR, discursive BS. There’s a Somee card that makes fun of society’s rampant oversharing: it has a picture of someone saying “Instead of interacting with my friends, I’m going to share a quote on their Facebook Wall.” We can do more—and less—than that. As Kerouac said, to paraphrase, “it’s what we least want to admit to that the world is most bleeding to hear.” Once in awhile, something genuine and real comes up. Share that. For me, most recently, it was this: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/12/im-alone-youre-alone-theres-space-between-us-thats-loneliness-love-like-fire-requires-oxygen-i-love-you/
Finally, as Pema Chodron says, if we’re waiting to be perfect, we’ll never start. Start. Write something. Share a photo. An instagram. We can make a powerful independent media community, together. And we need people power more than ever, these days.