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Monday, May 10, 2010

A Little at a Time

My father used to tease me about the way I could make an ice cream cone last forever. He was right. On those lucky days that treats were on the agenda, I’d sit on the maroon bench-seat of our white Oldsmobile station wagon and nibble at my sugar cone long after the hands of the five siblings flanking me held nothing but sticky residues.

My technique with ice cream hasn’t changed, in fact on summer days when high temperatures rev-up the speed at which ice cream morphs to liquid, I find myself annoyed by the rush. I want to draw out the event, to measure the frosty chill as it envelops my tongue, to prolong the velvet sweetness and ponder the echo of taste it deposits at the base of my appreciative throat.

Most times, I’ll stare at a board listing a vast choice of flavors, and mull my options before forgoing Moose Tracks, or Banana Crème Brulee or Mulberry Glace for my old favorite, Chocolate Chip. After handing over payment, I stretch over the counter to receive the confection and turn the cone around in my hand, looking for the perfect spot to start--perhaps the place where an uneven chunk threatens to fall. When I find it, I stick my tongue in, giving a little lick, and twist the cone counter-clockwise one infinitesimal nibble at a time. If I encounter a chip, I run it along the roof of my mouth with my tongue, closing my eyes at the extra burst of flavor, the dark, gritty chocolate-ness of it, before returning to the vanilla cream.

For some reason, this method of consuming ice cream came to mind as I contemplated Middle Passages this weekend.

I’ve plugged away at this blog for well over a year now. It has played a critical part in helping me define who I want to become as a writer, though as with my ice cream, I’m slow to get to the end--a proverbial late bloomer, so to speak. Lately, I’ve been feeling that in the same way I’m the last one to finish my summer treats, I’ll find myself as a writer long after my peers have taken out the Wet-Wipes and cleaned their hands.

Writing is not a race, I know. But as I taste and nibble the flavor of Middle Passages, I recognize that so many writers I read, who started blogging long after me, seem so much well, further along. Here I am, plodding away, still taking those tiny bites.

By far Middle Passages isn’t all I write, but it’s the only place I get feedback, and, sad to say, the notes in my comment section increase at the same glacial rate that my ice cream disappears, which is to say, ever so slowly. A follower jumps on here and there, while bloggers with less time invested and fewer posts written celebrate 100, 200, 300 followers or more. Contests commemorating these multiplying numbers abound in the blogosphere and in truth, sometimes I feel left behind. Like many writers I suppose, I struggle to assess my worth and contemplate whether this, um…sluggish reader pace, is reflective of my skill.

This weekend though, I decided that from now on, when these thoughts plague me, I’m going to shake my head and remind myself of what, in spite of a limited readership, I do have--words that whirl and smooth and drip from me.

Just like with my ice cream, I do the things I like slowly, taking time to contemplate the effects--to value the experience. I let the joy of it move in, assess the space and rearrange the furniture before it blossoms in me.

Sure, I could swallow the cone whole, if you will, by friending a million people on Facebook to give my writing more visibility, by opening a Twitter account and tweeting every time that I post. My fear though, is that this would end up in one giant brain freeze. All the commenting and re-tweeting it would engender would distract me from the real value—the practice of concentrating on what tastes good. Paying attention to what feels right.

And savoring all the chocolate chips I encounter along the way.


Sharon said...

Your blog is pure, delicious soul food in the truest sense. Liza, I never leave here without having been enriched and inspired. I love the comparison with savoring ice cream and savoring your process for writing.

I'm really craving an ice cream cone right now! My mouth thanks you, my hips not so much...

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

If you measure your success by that of others you'll go insane. Continue at your pace. I still have no idea what I did right to hit 100 followers in just a few months, but there's bloggers with twice that many. So, I don't think about it - I just keep doing what I'm doing. You do the same!

glnroz said...

I like real ice cream,, not "mellorine" or what ever that stuff used to be called.. and, the best restaurants aren't the big cafeteria types but the more personalable "niche" eateries,, or at leeast in my opinion. It's your falult my response is about food, you talking about eating ice cream and all that, ya know? I like your writing,, just like you do it now...glenn

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beth said...

Well said! I know that I always felt like it was a race, but have always been happier when I could slow down and worry about myself, not myself compared to others.

Robin said...

There are ways to increase your numbers, but they won't necessarily increase your readership. I don't know if that makes sense. I participate in the Friday Follow Blog Hop, and gain a few new friends every Friday. However, most of them don't actually read my blog. They just want me to follow them. And I will if their blog appeals to me. However, I can tell from the comment that they leave (usually) whether they are actually interested in my writing, or just looking to bulk up their own numbers. Most of the time they are just looking to bulk up their own numbers. The best way to increase your numbers is to start reading the blogs of the people who are on your friends' blogrolls. If they like those people (blogs), chances are you will, too. That is how I found you!

Robin said...

Now, about this post. I really loved the description. It really was an excellent comparison to how you're feeling about your writing here. I feel the same way. Although, I would rather have 15 loyal readers that I admire than 1000 that are name-only. As for me and ice cream, I only like it when it is at the melting point. Even when I scoop it out at home, I let it sit until it starts to melt and then I start to peel it away with the spoon in the melted places.

Helen Ginger said...

Enjoy the chocolate chunks. Go at your own pace and be your own self. That's what I say.

Straight From Hel

Tabitha Bird said...

Well, I for one love your blog and readership is but one thing in the grand scheme of your lovely words here on these pages. Don't ever stop writing. I would miss you :)

Jody Hedlund said...

Beautifully put! I could taste every bit of icecream. Why is it that the older we get, every bite of icecream seems to immediately show up on the hips? :-)

Like I said in my post yesterday, we need to be slow and steady with social media. I bet many of those people you've noticed who have quick growth eventually get burned out or fizzle out. Maybe not. But I think those that last are the ones who savor their blogging experience instead of gulping it!

Zoe C. Courtman said...

I completely understand how you feel - I, too, have that feeling of being left behind sometimes...I just figure, hey, I'm NOT Ms. Social Butterfly in real life, why try to be online? So I stay in my shadow, peek out from time to time and remember that it's about the writing. Not the blogging. Not the social media. Just you. Your words. And how they fit into your life :D Lovely blog, and always beautifully written :)

Simon C. Larter said...

Oh, I think you've the right of it, good lady. Sure, you can invest tons of time in your blog and say outrageously silly things and stalk other writers and tweet all over the multiwebbyverse, but it takes time away from your writing. I know it takes away from mine.

Do things your way, and not anyone else's. You'll feel better for it in the end.

prashant said...

Well said! I know that I always felt like it was a race,
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