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Writer’s tunnel vision

April 27, 2011

One of the best things about moving to Vietnam is that I am able to take writing seriously. I would say that it’s because I finally have the time, but the truth is probably closer to – I don’t have any excuses now. There isn’t a job getting in the way, and I don’t have to worry about how I’m going to pay rent.

I’m not an aspiring novelist. I have no desire to write a play or movie. I have never written a poem. When people ask me what I write, my best answer has been, “I like to travel and then write about it.” I’ve learned that it’s more than that. I am not really a travel writer. I’m more interested in people’s stories, the differences in cultures, good food, and the crazy things about real life that you just can’t make up.

Right now, my job is to learn to be a writer. Since I don’t have what writers call a work in progress, my blog is where most of my writing goes. Therefore, I read everything I can about blogging. (Kristen Lamb’s blog is one of the most practical and informative ones I’ve come across.)

Looking back through this blog, I cringe at a lot of my posts. I was all over the place writing about whatever I felt like that day. If your blog is an online journal, great, but if you want to attract readers and keep them, this isn’t going to work. It makes sense to me; if I like to read about a certain topic but it only comes up once a month in someone’s blog, it’s not going to take me long to quit reading.

So, I’m trying to focus my writing. Trying to figure out what I like to write about, what people like to read, what themes I can maintain for more than a few weeks or months. I don’t want to pigeonhole myself so I have nothing to write about when I move back to Atlanta and need a job. (My kept-lady status is going to expire then.)

But, I fear that in all my focusing my lens has gotten too small. I go too many days without writing because I don’t have the time, energy, photos, or information to write a fully developed post about the night market on Langkawi or what it’s like to be a shaved headed woman in Asia. I leave out so many details of life (which I’m pretty sure we would all find interesting) because I don’t know how they fit into my categories. I feel like I can’t write about more than one thing in a post.

I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to go back to rambling about what I had for lunch (though it is generally much more interesting here than anywhere else), but I don’t like how things are going right now.

While I’m waiting to figure all of this out, though, I’ll do a brief, real-life catch-up:

I’m leaving on Sunday night to go home. I bought a ticket to Bangkok, and from there it will be Delta standby to Narita and then JFK. I added JFK to the itinerary when I saw that the flights there looked better than the ones to Atlanta and that I could squeeze in a side trip to see loved ones.

I’ll be leaving four days earlier than planned and my mind races between the excitement of seeing everyone and everything I’ve been missing for the last eight months and the sadness of leaving Jonathan for almost a month. Funny how quickly you get used to seeing each other every day after years of seeing each other whenever you can manage it.

Tonight we said goodbye to our friend Charity, the 18th person to enjoy our guest room. We had a great visit – went to Phu Quoc Island for a night, ate a lot of tasty food, got massages, and tackled the Ben Thanh Market. I’m so proud of her for coming all this way (first time across the pond) by herself.

Prior to Charity’s visit, the last month or so has included three weeks with Jonathan’s parents (including a trip to Malaysia,) a night with my brother Israel on his third pass through here, and a few days in Hong Kong visiting Jonathan’s cousin.

It’s 3:08am and Jonathan is making coffee before work. I haven’t slept – partially from thinking about going home, partially because I was near the end of a good book, and partially because I had to get words out on paper.  I broke my rule and wrote about two completely unrelated topics in one post.

I need advice from readers and writers. I need to find a balance between my free yet disorganized posts of the past and my organized but often restrictive and sporadic posts of the present. I know part of it is lack of discipline and good writing habits, and would appreciate your tips on improving both of these things. I know it’s going to be hard to keep writing while I’m traveling for the next month, and I think that figuring out this glitch in my system will help.

I have a feeling if I wasn’t doing so much of this I might get more writing done :-P

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Grandpa permalink
    April 27, 2011 20:40

    We certainly look forward to seeing you when you return. But we don’t want you to take precious time from your family to do that. I wonder if you will be back for Joy’s wedding. As with your wedding, we wouldn’t want to miss that. As family patriarch, I have a responsibility to welcome Xavierian into our expanding family. Grandpa

    • April 28, 2011 19:06

      I love your comments, Grandpa. I will definitely be at Joy’s wedding. I am planning on seeing you in May as well. It is just as important to visit you as it is to see my immediate family. I am proud to have a Grandpa like you.

  2. April 28, 2011 00:40

    Hi Gace – this is Jilly’s mom, Naomi. I have no advice, or criticism, to offer, but I’ve been wanting to tell you how much I enjoy readng your “Sweet dreams and flying machines” blogs, and I look forward to, and wait for, the next one to arrive – they’re so interesting. It doesn’t bother me if you talk about different things in the same blog. It’s your blog and you can surely do as you please – ramble on, if that’s what lights your fire on any particular day.
    Must get to bed – it’s late. You take care, and I’ll be eagerly waiting, in anticpation, for the next one.
    God Bless, Naomi

    • April 28, 2011 19:08

      Hi Naomi, I’m so flattered that you’ve been reading along. As long as my readers enjoy them that is all I care about. Thank you for the encouragement. I will try to relax and write more about daily life. Thank you again, Grace

  3. April 28, 2011 00:46

    Hey, Grace. I’m like you in that I need to focus but I like talking about different things so I’m designating one day a week to talk about whatever I want. At least two other days will be about a specific topic. For instance on Wednesday I talk about writing. Mondays will be the day I talk about what I want and the other day I’m deciding what I want to discuss.

    • April 28, 2011 19:09

      I like your idea a lot. I’ve already come up with some ideas for certain days, but it would be nice to have a day where I just caught up on what’s going on in our lives or talked about something that wasn’t so structured. I guess then if people are only interested in travel or food, they don’t have to read that day, right?

  4. April 28, 2011 13:25

    Just keep writing. That’s my advice. I look forward to your blog because of the way you write. I feel the more you network online (twitter, facebook, etc), your style won’t matter as much as the friends you make that support you. I personally love the stories you share, and the pictures. Enjoy your trip, and don’t worry so much about style…

  5. karen permalink
    April 30, 2011 12:03

    I have not read one of your blogs yet, that I did not enjoy! Food, travel and all the interesting sights you have seen and the adventures you have been on, have all been of great interest to me!!

    Keep them coming!!!
    Glad Charity was able to come see you!!

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