Saturday, March 22, 2008

Writing When Inspired

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

...Or Not

My friend Riva, who has taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, says she never encourages her students to wait for inspiration. They could be waiting a long time.

In blogging, it has been helpful to me to be liberal with what inspires me. And then there are experiences that are just essentially inspiring; usually, they have to do with dialogue -- either that I've been in, or that I've heard while watching a movie, a play or reading a book. I'm so grateful that my memory has a gift for recalling what people say to one another.

When I was caring for our nine-year-old, twin nephews during part of last week, I realized that it must be genetic: My mother remembers conversations that happened years ago, I do and so do the boys. I was thinking about it while swimming a few days ago: The gift will serve both of them well, if they opt to be writers, and in any case. Everyone appreciates someone, who seems to be a great listener.

While I could never retain facts, I always thought it was because I cared especially about people that I had the facility to remember conversations; a friend, who's a neuropsychologist, suggested that no, it's just a gift I have, just the way my particular memory works, and it's not because I value people as a source of learning more than other sources....I think I've blogged about this before, while in India, after she demystified my memory for me, but can't recall for certain(!)

Spotting, and Being Inspired By, Others' Inspiration

Reading an article by Peggy Orenstein in magazine of "The New York Times" during breakfast, I thought about how memorable the following bit of dialogue was to the journalist, how it strengthened the rest of what she wrote in its vividness:
A few weeks ago, while stuck at the Chicago airport with my 4-year-old daughter, I struck up a conversation with a woman sitting in the gate area. After a time, she looked at my girl — who resembles my Japanese-American husband — commented on her height and asked, “Do you know if her birth parents were tall?”

By contrast, I will not deny the pleasure it gave me, waiting at the stoplight on the corner in Queens with our nephews Sam and Max last week, and thinking, they could pass as my sons, and passers-by might think they are.

A New Anthology Prompted Further Self-reflection

There was another article, in the Book Review, about a book on great blogs of 2005-07. I read it with envy of the highlighted bloggers, and also appreciated the way it began: "Ten years from now, we'll all be inured to blogs....we current adults will no longer concern ourselves with how frisky, naughty, inflammatory, overly confessional or scarily paradigm-threatening these blog things are."

My blog fell into the category of "overly confessional" fairly routinely, I recognized, and that was what made it so delicious for me...that and the sitemeter; I really related to one of the statements from the author's anthology, which was quoted in the review, on what she refers to as "bloggy to the core": "...conversational and reckless, composed on the fly for anonymous intimates...."

And that was why I didn't, as often, maintain a blog behind our firewall at work: The thrill of blogging, for me, was in having a place to come to relax in my writing, and to reflect on any of the humanity-oriented moments of my day, not just the ones that happened at work. My work-blog, "Learning for Fun and Profit," made me feel closer to colleagues, known and as-yet unknown, when I [rarely thus far] posted to it, but it was out here, where I said whatever I wished to say, about any topic.

That was a bit disingenuous: If I admitted it, I did not write whatever I wanted here, as I could not write about IBM projects I was working on, and did not want to write about some topics that even for me, felt too personal for a public blog...and yet, whenever I did write about the extra-personal topics here, those were, most often, the entries that drew comments.

And there is a discussion database hosted by IBM, for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) IBMers and our colleagues that I mentioned here before, from which I pulled selected entries from 1998-2006 and re-posted them here. That database, as recently as last night, contained an entry that I hadn't planned to post here because I felt close to that community, and felt I could afford to post it there....

God, I feel like I'm admitting a double-life, saying that on the one hand, I didn't post much within the firewall and on the other, posted only the most intimate stuff behind our firewall. It was a question of where: Our blog system is populated by technology pundits for the most part, which isn't me, while the GLBT database invited us to build social capital and post on anything within business conduct guidelines, which actually does leave lots of room for freedom of expression.

Earlier this week, a friend kindly thought of me when she saw news on blogging, on how to blog while employed full-time, and it made me feel better, as one of the tips was that bloggers didn't necessarily need to blog daily, but we needed to blog fairly predictably, which I believed I did.


Brian Silverman said...

You have inspired me to create my own blog. Even though I ramble, and not always sure who I want to see it, it has given me a new outlet.
Thanks for the inspiration!

Sarah Siegel said...

Brian, wow, how great to be the agent of another's inspiration. Thanks for adding your voice to the blogosphere.