One of my favorite things is a framed picture by Matt Mullenweg of an old set of mounted binoculars. The eye pieces are worn and the blue paint on the metal binoculars looks like it’s not the first coat of paint it has seen. It’s wonderful, and I find new meaning in it every time as I look over my computer monitor at it hanging on the wall.
I often wonder what I would see if I could put my eyes up to those binoculars and look at the great beyond. A peaceful golden grassland rustling in the soft breeze, the song birds singing songs of joy and love. Maybe a glimpse of a lion taking down an antelope in the safaris of Africa. Dark storm clouds coming over the horizon, a threat that makes us turn away and run for protection. Some days I don’t see places, I see dreams. Wishes. I’m free to let my imagination pass through those lenses to see a new world of possibilities.
Clearly my perspective is influenced by my moods, but also by my character, my personality, the events and people that sculpted the definition of who I am and what I do, and my view on the world around me.
What Do You Do that Influences Your Work?
I’ve been reviewing a number of responses to one of the first Blog Exercises called “What Do You Do?,” the second step in these exercises to help you define what you do, specifically what you do on and with your blog.
The purpose of the exercise was two fold. First, able to quickly and professionally respond to the question “What do you do” at social and professional gatherings. The better you can concisely explain what you do with your blog, the more likely you are to engage the person’s interest and create a memorable connection.
Second, put it on your site. You can put it on your About Page, the bio that defines who you are, what you do, and why we should trust you on this site, your sidebar, footer, and author description, anywhere it is needed to help clarify your purpose and value to us, the reader.
In my Prove It! article series, I worked with several people to improve that statement on their sites with strong bios, author descriptions, and statements. For some it was easy to see what lens they used to view the world around them on their sites. For others, it was like looking through a vast fog.
One of the participants in this blog exercises series, Marion Winall, came to me frustrated because her view is unclear about what she does on her blog. She is and does many things and writes about many things, from relationships to historian to naturalist to storyteller.
Here is one attempt:
I have been thinking about exactly what to say here…what are my qualifications for being Me? I have been: Wife (several times over which will lend itself well to some very funny stories), Office Manager, Realtor, Property Manager, Civil Clerk, Mother, Historic Shopping Center Manager, Legal Assistant, Entrepreneur, The Boss, Married to the Boss while at the same time Working For The Boss, Perpetual Student and Last but certainly not the least of these is Mimi, our affectionate word for grandmother.
There is one thing that a reader wants from their blogger: focus. Focus and commitment. Focus to stay basically on topic, and commitment to stay focused and keep publishing as we want more, more, more!
I advised Marion to point her mental binoculars toward her blog, and defining the lens she is looking through as she blogs about her world and experiences.
The View of the World Through Your Filtered LensOne of the largest tags on her site is Chickahominy River, an 87-mile long river tributary off the James River that literally divides the state of Virginia north and south, once home to the Chickahominy Indian tribe and a critical obstacle in the American Civil War (1861-1865). Before that in 1607, Captain John Smith of the Jamestown settlement nearby was kidnapped by the tribe warriors, which eventually led to meeting the famous Pocahontas (Matoaka), a part of Americana lore. As a river, it is swamp and marsh, a flood plain, and provides transportation, recreation and drinking water to Richmond, Virginia, and surrounding areas.
A river like that defines the lives of the people who live by it. There are bugs and wildlife, some of them harmful to humans, but mostly annoying. It’s hot and humid near the swampland. Movement around the area is hindered or helped by the river. Floods test the spirits of its residents. The river literally divided an army in the American Civil War, and sometimes rivers divide communities. With all this history and the impact of such a river, that river defines their character.
Consciously or subconsciously, Marion has been influenced by that river, so maybe that is the lens she looks through, that of a riverside dweller, someone whose connection with the pace and its history. It influences what and how she writes. She writes through the lens of a river dweller.
I recently watched the movie, “The Decoy Bride,” a delightful, light-hearted comedy of fame, fortune, writers, and romance confusion featuring David Tennant, Kelly MacDonald, and Alice Eve. The movie’s setting is the Scottish island of Hegg as seen through the different characters, comparing islanders to off-islanders. Without the lens of Hegg Island’s history and generations of residents, the story wouldn’t have worked as well. The place defined the story, acting as the lens influencing character behavior. There are many such movies and books which do the same. Think of Mark Twain’s Tom and Huck and the influence of the river life on their lives. Without the river, it would be a different story.
Places define us, as do our experiences and education. Families define us, too.
I grew up in a modern divorced family. Two parents who vehemently hated each other, justifiably, but pretended to be best friends “for the sake of the children.” While they did their best, their little revenges trickled in, turning each other against the other with tiny stabs. “Oh, that’s just like your father.” “That sounds like your mother.” “I’m sure your father will get you for Christmas morning.” “Why can’t your mother do Christmas on another day?”
Harmful? Not singularly, but decades later, they all add up to a perspective.
When writing about family, I see through that lens, people pretending to be nice to each other while stabbing each other in the back. It’s a dichotomy, thus my filter. It keeps me cynical, which keeps me open to a wide range of experiences and possibilities.
We all have such filters, and today’s blog exercise is about yours.
As you work on your bio and author description, and the answer to “what do you do,” check which filter colors your world vision.
Sometimes it is easy to identify the filter through which you blog. For Marion, it is likely the river, but that will be her call. For me, it took a backroad and a few circular twists before I could identify my personal lens on the world through this blog.
Growing up in such a family, I didn’t feel heard. Everyone was talking but few were listening. Combined with some other life experiences, writing became a way of not just expressing myself but being heard. If I wrote it, someday someone would read it. Maybe they would understand.
Blogging lit a spark on that dream. Here was a place where I could share myself with others – but I realized that I didn’t want to share me. My real dream was helping others be heard. Giving them a voice.
As I write about WordPress, blogging, web writing, all of this, that’s my filter. How do I help you have a voice but not just any voice. The kind of voice that is heard the moment there is a lull in the crowd noise (hopefully not saying something stupid). The kind of voice that rings with clarity, clearly heard from within the folds of a site’s design. The kind of voice that is a butterfly that causes a hurricane thousands of clicks away.
What is your lens on the world? What do you see as your eyes pass through those binoculars to hone in on your site.
Once you identify what it is, tell us. Share it here in the blog comments or publish a post with a link to create a trackback or leave a properly formed link in the comments so we can thrill in your self-discovery.
Note: Thank you to Marion and the others I used by example. It is through your efforts in these blog exercises and the joy of our virtual friendships working together that gives me the enthusiasm to keep going. Your willingness to open yourself up to criticism and help others learn how to blog better is much appreciated. You are my heroes!