Welcome to the August edition of Sourcerer’s 11, our monthly interview series. I’m pleased to have my friend Gretchen Kelly of Drifting Through My Open Mind in the hot seat today. Gretchen is one of my best friends in the blogosphere, and is one of a handful of bloggers I followed when I first started blogging here in 2013. She is an active member of Sisterwives and has been published by The Elephant Journal, Blunt Moms, and Mamapedia.
Thank you Gene’O! I’m glad to be here!
Great! Let’s get down to the questions.
Q1: Let’s begin by talking about your blog, Drifting Through My Open Mind. Can you share a little bit with us about why you started it and how you came up with the concept?
I fell in love with writing in the Third Grade. It’s always been a part of me. But for years I wrote nothing. I began to really miss writing for a purpose beyond my own eyes. I felt like there were things I wanted to say. And I knew I had at least one book in me that I needed to write. I felt like a blog would be a good place to find my voice again.
The title of the blog is from a Beatles’ lyric “Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup, They slither while they pass, they slip away across the universe. Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my open mind” This encompassed everything I felt about writing and the purpose and feel of my blog. And music is one of the biggest influences in my writing. I am inspired by lyrics and music. Often a song or lyric directs me in what to write.
Q2: When you and I compare notes on blogs we like, our conversation often turns to authorial voice. I’m not sure I’ve ever told you this directly, but I sometimes describe you as having a “voice that can break windows.” Which is a compliment. I’m curious about your writing process. Do the words come out all at once, mostly-done but for proofreading, or are you a revision maniac, as I am?
Wow. No, you’ve never told me that. But I find that to be a high compliment.
My writing process varies. Sometimes the words come out effortlessly. Other times I have to tug and pull to get to what it is I really need to say. That is the hard part. That’s part of the reason it takes me days to write one blog post. I usually have to ruminate on the topic for a few days. I write and rewrite until I feel like I’m satisfied with the thoughts. Then I pick apart the wording. I read and re-read endlessly, up until I hit “publish.” Honestly, I could edit and rewrite forever. Writing is the only aspect of my life in which I’m a perfectionist. (And no, you won’t find perfection on my blog. But I obsess over it.)
Q3: Much of the art you create for your blog is brilliant. I like that you often feature your family in the images, but do it so as to protect their privacy. In the beginning, your about page image is one of the things that made me go “woah! Follow this blog, Gene’O.” Can you tell us anything about how the art gets done?
Ha! The art on the “About” page is my daughter’s work. She’s a bit of an artist herself, but that was a photo editing app she was having fun with. She likes to take family photos and add her comedic take. When I saw the family photo she altered I gleefully put it on my “About” page to represent the people in my life that represent my heart.
I truly struggle with finding art for my blog (don’t we all?) On occasion I’ve taken a picture specifically to represent a topic. (My favorite is the photo I took for my Elephant Journal post.) I would love to spend more time playing around with photography for my blog but as it is I barely can squeeze in writing time! I often use photos from Unsplash or MorgueFile and occasionally art from DeviantArt.
Q4: Sourcerer is somewhat notorious for being politically neutral at this point. But we started a #FeministFriday thing here that’s still going, and you were the catalyst. Why did you jump into the Feminist Fridays with both feet, and what has that project meant to you?
I was raised by a strong, feminist mother. She is one of my real life heroes. And it’s a cause I’ve always been passionate about. I knew I didn’t want to write about politics on my blog, but Human Rights, Feminism, Racism, social justice causes aren’t political in my mind. At least they shouldn’t be.
Both you and Diana inspired me to want to write about Feminism. Reading some posts on Sourcerer and Part Time Monster gave me a push and encouragement that there would be an audience for that kind of writing. Between comment exchanges on both of your blogs I felt emboldened to reach out to you on Twitter to see if you’d be interested in some kind of feminism project. It’s hard to believe that it’s been going on for well over a year! And since then, an ebook and a growing group of contributors and an ever-growing audience… it really is exciting. The Feminist Friday Project is the thing I’m most proud of in the two years I’ve been blogging. It has been enlightening and invigorating and I feel it is a really important thing we’re doing. I know for a fact that some minds and perspectives have been changed because of what we’ve all written about (I’ve had a few people who’ve told me as much.) Is there anything more important than that?
Q5: Lots of bloggers — I daresay most — struggle to balance family time with blogging time. I certainly do. Any advice on how to manage that?
It is something I’m still trying to figure out. I try to carve out little pockets of time here and there. I do most of my writing at night after all of the kids are in bed. Some weeks allow for more writing time, others are so busy with life and obligations that I can hardly write at all. Weekends are my protected and sacred family time. I try to be mostly unplugged and engaged with the family.
Q6: You were Freshly Pressed, early on. What was that like?
It was incredibly exciting. Getting Freshly Pressed was my first priority/goal when I started blogging. The idea for the post had been brewing in the back of my mind and it was after reading a post of yours on Sourcerer that I felt motivated and inspired (thank you!) and moved forward with writing it.
The funny thing is, the post almost never saw the light of day. I was editing the final draft late one night, intending to publish it the next morning. Something happened and WordPress deleted my draft. I had written what I felt was the most important blog post at that point in my short time blogging, and I had nothing. It was all gone. After a few tears and a few choice words I re-wrote the whole thing from memory. I had only basic notes and references in a notebook. I almost gave up and didn’t finish it. The next morning I hit publish and later that day found out it was going to be Freshly Pressed! Incidentally it was a feminist piece about women and online harassment.
Q7: What’s the best post, in your own estimation, you’ve ever published?
The best and the one that is closest to my heart is “Lessons From the Worst Day Of My Life” I wrote it about losing my brother to cancer 10 days before my wedding. It was the first blog post that got any kind of response. At that point I had only been blogging for a few weeks and had no blogger friends. But I shared it on FaceBook and it got a huge response. To this day, it is the blog post that means the most to me. I view it as a tribute to my brother and it is a glimpse into what my book (a work very slowly in progress) will be about.
Q8: I know you follow quite a few blogs that I have no inkling of. Can you recommend one single blog other than your own to us, and tell us why you like it?
Oh, this is a hard one. Just one? OK… Sandy Ramsey of An Honest Sinner is one of my favorite writers. She writes real and raw, and her positive energy comes through her writing. I commented recently on her blog that her writing is “like a refreshing rain.” Her writing is gorgeous and she talks about important stuff.
Q9: Any advice for bloggers who are just starting out?
Find your voice. Every time you write something, try to dig a little bit deeper. Then a little deeper. Don’t just scratch the surface. Find other blogs you like. Follow them, comment on them. Engage and connect with other bloggers. You will learn a lot from doing this. You will find support and if you’re lucky you’ll make some great friends. Oh, and know that you will feel like giving up and you will doubt yourself every time you post something (or is it just me?) but just forge on and keep at it.
Q10: Give us your best elevator pitch. In four sentences or less, why should we read your blog?
Ugh, the dreaded elevator pitch! You know I’m not succinct! OK, here goes: A blog that is sometimes serious, sometimes funny, always real. Reflections on life and love and parenting. Thoughts and rants on equality and justice and things that matter. Writing from the heart.
Q:11: If you could own one magical artifact or piece of out-of-this-world technology – large or small – from the simplest magic wand to a Death Star, what would it be?
A time machine. I would only use it to visit the past. I would use it to visit people. I would go back in time and stand stage-side at WoodStock while Jimi Hendrix was playing. I would have conversations with John Lennon and hang out with Janis Joplin. I would pick the brains of inspiring and influential people throughout history. I would go back to meet long lost relatives and see my grandparents when they were in their youth. But most of all, I would go back and relive so many moments with my brother.