So you think you can write

Next month I’m attending my first ever blogging/writing-related conference – the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in Ohio. It’s an event for humor and human interest writers. I’m looking forward to it, but I’m also a little unsure about the whole thing. There will be people at this event who get paid to write – for blogs, media, books. They are legit and profesh. I, on the other hand, have written more than 10 blog posts about a masked baby doll.

She's pretty much my third child at this point

She’s pretty much my third child at this point

A very large portion of my brain has been questioning this decision since the moment I registered. I think that’s why I’ve had a mild case of writing paralysis lately. I love to write and I love to laugh, but it’s hard to justify that as something worthy of a cross-country trip with travel expenses, not to mention 3+ days away from my family. Especially when I have never left my kids before and OMG I HAVE NEVER LEFT MY KIDS BEFORE.

But at this point I need to quit doubting myself and embrace reality because I bought a non-refundable plane ticket. Ain’t no stopping me now.

The main reason I’m going to the conference is to learn and be inspired. I tend to look at writing as my guilty pleasure. My secret pastime. My excuse to tell fart jokes on the internet.

But the truth is that I often enjoy writing silly stories more than I enjoyed my 13-year career. And I invested a lot of time, effort and energy in that career. So why not put a little effort into my writing? After all, maybe there’s a better way to tell a good fart joke?

Ok, so perhaps I’m a little confused about why exactly I’m going to this conference and what I will gain from it.

But I do know this – writing is and has always been a passion of mine, and I blog because it’s fun. Going to this conference feels indulgent and selfish and weird and exciting, but I’m not going to overthink it or beat myself up for being a small fish.

Instead I’m going to soak it all in, appreciate the opportunity to meet and learn from people with similar interests, savor the chance to get a full night of UNINTERRUPTED sleep, and enjoy meeting fellow bloggers in real life for the first time (including Leigh Ann, who convinced me to attend. If it sucks, it’s all her fault. I kid!).

And if I start to doubt my reasons for attending, I will remind myself that I do have at least one legitimate, non-Creepy Baby piece of writing to author.

A few months ago my mom mailed me an obituary she had cut out of the newspaper. It was for a woman named Margaret who passed away at the age of 92. I didn’t know Margaret and neither did my mother, but she sent it to me because she thought it was well-written and peppered with an appropriate touch of humor. She wanted me to see it for reference, to serve as an example of the tone and content she would like in her own obituary – which she has tasked me with writing.

To be clear – my mother is healthier than I am. She just has a deep appreciation for good writing, a morbid desire to plan ahead, and a disturbing fascination with tributes to dead strangers. I don’t foresee needing to pen her obituary anytime soon, but given how important it clearly is to her that I get it right when the time comes, I think it’s only prudent that I attend a workshop on ‘human interest’ writing.

So you see? I kind of owe it to my mother to attend so I don’t let her down. And because I couldn’t find a conference for obituary writers.

Lessons from my freshman year of blogging

I just had my one-year blog anniversary (no gifts, please) so I have spent a few moments reflecting upon my magical blogging journey. Join me, won’t you?

I had no idea what I was getting into when I started this blog. I just wanted to document my attempts at domesticity because I was personally interested to see what the hell was going to happen to me. Could I actually become more comfortable in the kitchen? Would I be able to cook a meal for my family other than the frozen ‘bag meals’ that had become my forte?

The short answer – yes. I’ve made progress. Hell, I made gyro meat. Once. But overall it’s slow going. And nowhere near natural for me. But I’ll keep trying. Because damnit that gyro meat was good.

It never occurred to me that someone other than my husband or sister might read my blog. In fact, I was so naive about how blogs worked that I didn’t realize if I linked to another blog within my post, that blogger would know.

So like a total idiot, I linked to a few talented, energetic craft bloggers in my early days, praising their creations and productivity, but also saying things like, “I wonder where she buys her cocaine?” Geezus, Amy. It’s a wonder you have any friends.

Then one day I linked to a kiddie craft project and whined that it was kind of lame because it didn’t work for me, and I got this weird message saying I had a comment on my blog. A comment? What’s that? So I logged in and saw a message from that craft blogger, politely pointing out that I had misunderstood the directions.


I was HORrified. I remember checking to see where she lived to make sure she couldn’t come kill me in my sleep. I changed my underwear, took some deep breaths, and eventually realized you can connect with other bloggers and build a sense of community (you know, as long as you’re not talking trash about them).

Despite my social and technological gaffes, I’ve found blogging to be rewarding in a few ways. I’ve met some people who’ve started to feel like real friends, make me laugh, and are supportive.

The first blogger I connected with was Lillian at It’s a Dome Life. We started at about the same time, which is comical because she now has a zillion times more readers than I do. But she has answered my dumb questions, offered words of encouragement, and just seems like a genuinely kind person. (So help me if she turns out to be a serial killer I will be SO disappointed.)

I’ve also learned stuff from other bloggers. About parenting. About cooking. About writing. About the dangers of hand soap. It’s been nice to have an outlet where I can connect with other adults who share my interests and/or sense of humor.

Not to mention, there are some super talented people writing in cyberspace. I love finding blog posts that tell a great story, make me think, or make me laugh until I pee a little.

But inevitably all that online noise – blogging, tweeting, instafacing – can become a bit deafening, and hard to keep up with. And all the other fabulous, successful bloggers, who post ten times more than you and have 10,000 times more readers than you, can make you feel unsure about your own blogging style or worth. And then you get self-conscious and wonder why the hell you’re even doing it in the first place.

Blogging can be like a competitive sport if you let it. And I am, and have always been, terrible at competitive sports.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Heck, it wasn’t that way when I started, just writing about how I was burning cookies and ruining craft projects. So why did I let those insecurities creep in and start tarnishing my experience?

Because I’m normal, I guess. And I have a tendency to doubt myself. And because writing anything – whether it’s about your beliefs, your kids or your new toilet – can make you feel exposed, vulnerable and sweaty.

But as I was struggling to get anything done the other day, it occurred to me that I was allowing myself to be weighed down by this stuff. I realized that I could instead choose to not pay attention to it.

Just be yourself and do what you like to do, how you like to do it, Amy! After all, isn’t that what you would tell your daughters? Lord knows I don’t want to be a ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ parent.

Those Negative Nelly thoughts – whether it’s about a blog, a job, or some other passion – not only suck the fun out of things, but they are such a huge waste of time and energy. They take your attention away from the stuff that really matters, and can bring your productivity to a screeching halt.

I battled demons of fear and self-doubt from time to time in my career, but it surprised me to find myself doing it again with my blog. A blog where I talk about creepy dolls and have an average of three readers, mind you. C’mon, self – you’re not exactly saving lives here.

But the truth is that I like my weird little blog enough to care. And it’s the only thing I do these days that is really just for me, about me. So maybe I drudged up my old job insecurities and said, “Hey! You can come do some damage over here now instead!”

When I quit my job, I told myself it was an opportunity to start doing things that scared me. To challenge myself, to be more adventurous, and in so doing, to hopefully teach my kids not to let fear hold them back (something I have not always been great at).

My little existential blogging crisis has been a good reminder of that mission.

So as I enter my sophomore year of blogging (no gifts, please), my goal is to blog when I’m feeling creatively inspired, or when using my words feels therapeutic. I won’t blog if it doesn’t feel good.

And I’ll try not to stress about whether or not to share my posts. Sometimes I let that self-promotional part freak me out too much. It feels bragadocious. But what is wrong with being your own cheerleader from time to time? (another thing I have not always been great at)

So I’ll pimp a post if I feel like it, but not if I don’t. Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t.

I’ll keep tweeting when I’m feeling chatty, punchy or in desperate need of a mental break.

And I’ll continue to ignore my Facebook page, unless I have an odd photo that I feel like sharing but have nowhere else to put it. My apologies to the nine – yes, 9 – people who have liked my page. I will try to do better by you – the few, the proud, the brave.

Ooooor, I might just need to dump that Facebook page in a van down by the river because as I have said before, I cannot master more than three things at once, and I just rediscovered Instagram the other day and OMG LOOK AT THIS AWESOME PICTURE I TOOK OF A SNAIL.


Thanks for reading.


If you ever find yourself being swallowed by a self-doubt sinkhole, I recommend this video. It resonated with me when I first saw it last year, and again when I re-watched it now.