Starting a Blog in a world that appears to have gone blog mad is intimidating to say the least. What is there to say that a million others (factually 25 million others) have not said already? Will anyone be interested in your passions? How can your voice find a unique niche, when every crevice is packed with words? What on earth would my niche be?
The last question is the one I struggled with most. The pundits advise you to find a niche and stay with it. Well, right away my natural instinct is to protest such limitations even when the advice makes a tiny kernel of sense. How do I straightjacket myself into some preset boundaries when I want to have free rein?
The Question of Niche
I resolved that question, as so many others, through a process of serendipitous, apparently unrelated events, which lead one late night to an epiphany that set off small explosions in my head.
I relate these threads to illustrate a universal process that works within all of us, on a spiritual level, when we strive to reach that undiscovered country where reality and our essential dream merge.
One of the first threads began in a Costco store in November when I bought a Franklin Covey Day Timer. I wanted to improve my organizational skills at work. A tutorial with the course helps you map out your mission. You do this by writing out key values that you hold dear to your heart.
I have done similar exercises so many times; I rolled my eyes but did the tutorial. Out of the answers to the exercise I actually came up with my mission statement, one that is uniquely my own. It goes back to a childhood memory, of an early summer morning, with the sun shining in on my bed and the sounds of the day coming alive around me and the thrill that this long, beautiful summer day was all mine to do with as I pleased. I can still smell the first notes of promised heat carried on the fresh cool breeze. I can hear the birds chirping, the dog barking and my mother’s voice calling up to us, “breakfast is ready”. A wonderful soft golden glow suffused my room. I understood with out conscious thought the true definitions of peace, contentment, and joy. I made a postulate that I would live everyday as if were that amazing summer morning.
Life of course intervenes. However, by doing that exercise it allowed me to turn my unvoiced intention into a conscious effort to live in that moment.
The next thread comes form failure. Having wasted time and money on yet another attempt to earn a living from home (time and money not really wasted in the end), I felt the need to take an inventory of my life and distil what its essence was to me. I used a very simple process. After my detours, what was it that I always came back to?
The answer boils down to three elements: Reading Writing, and Food (both the growing–gardening–and the eating—cooking.) All my life those have been my underlying passions.
Okay from now on I intended to stick to those three keys, as I call them.
The Next Thread
The next thread that emerged from the milieu comes form a series of books that I have been reading over the years, called “The Cat Who….” series by Lillian Jackson Braun. If you have not read any of her books, you need to. Critics refer to them as “light” entertainment or fiction, yet I challenge anyone who claims her stories are simple fluff. Her books center on a character by the name of Qwillerian. He writes a thousand word column twice a week for a small town newspaper. Part of the series charm is Qwill’s, as he is affectionately call, search for the subject matter for the column and his pride in his ability to pull this off every week.
Since I wanted to increase my writing output, and since so much advice is based on the simple axiom; if you want to write the best thing to do is, write. I launched my 1000 word exercises folder in My Documents section of my computer, and pronounced my two New Years resolutions: 1. I would attempt to write one thousand words a day on any subject that came to mind. And… 2. Don’t sweat the big stuff.
The final thread in this current sequence is a book called “A Thousand Days In Tuscany” by Marlena Di Blasi.
I’m still not sure how to characterize this book since it defies all common pigeonholes. You could say it’s a travel book, or maybe a cookbook, since the thematic material for the book springs from the Italians’ passion for food. Yet as you read the book a much more profound observation on the human condition transforms the book into a work of genius. Characters come alive to converse with you on the most intimate passions of their lives in a totally unexpected way. The subject of food becomes the subject of life itself.
The light did not go on right away.
One of our early family traditions for the changing of the year and the celebration of the season was to work together on solving a jigsaw puzzle. At various times during the holidays we would work at the pieces sometimes together sometimes individually. Then comes the celebratory moment when the last piece falls into place. That moment is magic.
The changing of the year, this year, presented me with one such puzzle.
How could I squeeze my rather large body into a tiny little niche?
Finally, the magic happened and the light went on.
My niche would be Italian food (my #1 food passion): the reading about it, the growing, making, and eating of it, and finally the writing about it. My thousand words a day would revolve around that niche. And by doing that I fulfill my Mission statement and lived my days as I promised myself so long ago in my own private Camelot of a beautiful summer morning with unlimited potential before me.
Life is always the canvas no matter what your niche.
PS The word count for this column is just over 1,000 words. That’s no accident.
Written by: Nick Grimshawe
About the Author: I have been writing in one form or another most of my 57 years. My interests range widely but I focus on my Three Keys, Writing, Reading, and Gardening (or food in any form). I publish a newsletter Health News Notes and a website, http://www.beautifulsummermorning.com devoted to improving our passion for life.