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Writing as Hospitality

by Christopher Gronlund on September 28, 2014

Yesterday morning, I finished a big release at work. Of all the writing I do, technical writing pays the most bills. I write for a software company that serves the hospitality industry.

Hospitality

I like hotels.

A lot.

Even tiny motels where people try their best with what they have. I will always remember a motel on a mountaintop in Utah where the owner was hosting a family reunion when a friend and I stopped in, and how we were invited to take part in all the food and festivities in the courtyard. My friend and I were going to a juggling convention in Denver, so we performed for everyone.

It was a great exchange.

I view writing as a great exchange.

An Inviting Read

It’s a lot to ask a reader to spend 6 – 12 hours of their time with something you wrote. With all the other things a reader can do, for them to spend time with your book is a great honor — and I believe writers should be hospitable in their efforts. This is not to say that all stories should be a cozy hotel bed in a luxurious room; it simply means that even if you are writing an edgy story that it be written to the best of one’s abilities and to not be self serving.

It means not wasting a reader’s time.

To not write to the best of your abilities is like leaving a stain on the rug in the lobby. To not focus on the sound of what will be read in people’s heads or recorded narration is like letting the rattling ice maker near the elevators become a cacophony. To not make sure everything is in order is like allowing someone to check into a room that’s not been cleaned.

Doing One’s Best

If I serve you dinner, even if you’re a good friend and it’s a casual evening, I can only do my best. I know the food and drink do not have to be perfect — that my friends are usually just happy enough to be visiting — but I will go as all out as possible, even if I’m just getting you a glass of water.

And that’s what I do with writing.

To not consider the reader and to not make sure my stories are in order is to not be hospitable and value your time. It would be like checking into a hotel to a gum-smacking, “I-couldn’t-care-any-less-about-you; in-fact, I-wish-you’d-just-go-the-hell-away” person running the front desk at a nice hotel.

It’s not just a first impression — it’s care reflected in every nook and cranny, whether it’s a hotel or a novel.

When the visit or read is complete, the goal is to have given someone an experience they feel only you can give them.

Anything less, and you shouldn’t even bother…

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Year Five

by Christopher Gronlund on September 8, 2014

Five years ago, I wrote the first entry for The Juggling Writer. Looking back at my earnest beginning, I hoped the blog would show people how to manage their time in order to get things done (life and writing in harmony). I know I’ve written plenty of entries focused on that very thing, but I’m not sure I can say The Juggling Writer has ended up what I initially thought it would become.

Along the way, I realized there were times I was writing entries because I told myself I’d write three entries a week no matter what. It’s a good writing exercise, but one that is not always good for readers. At some point when that is one’s goal, they put out some less-than-stellar things. I’m sure I’m guilty of some weaker (even outright bad) entries in these five years. At the same time, there are things I would have never written had I never started the blog — things I’m just as proud of as any bigger work I’ve written.

Year Five

I only wrote 25 Juggling Writer entries this past year. I’m not sure if they are stronger because I only wrote when I wanted to write, or if they are weaker because I wasn’t as focused. I know this, though: I am glad I started this blog on September 8, 2009.

I attend a handful of tech meetups, even though I’ve kind of strayed from them in recent years. They are mostly content marketers and people into making webpages with WordPress. There are podcasters and people making online video. They are, largely, people fixated on numbers. If an online effort doesn’t hit a certain level of audience, they scrap it and start a new thing (that is usually just like the thing they scrapped) until the right combination of content, buzz, and connections occur. They are people who speak in excited ways, telling us how they are “rockin’” it in the online “arena” and using “organic synergy” to reach out and “impact audiences.” (I always envision these people punching their audience in the face when they say that.)

In short, they are people who are always on.

I get it: audience is the goal if you want to make a living at things like this. If you’ve read many entries over the years, here, you know I’m not so much into building an audience at any cost. In fact, one could argue that I’ve not done much to build an audience for The Juggling Writer at all. Still, 35 – 45 people subscribe to The Juggling Writer RSS feed in any given month, and many more stumble by. I get email from people I never met, from all over the world, asking me questions about writing I almost feel strange answering because I feel only confident in saying, “This works for me,” — not, “This is how to make a living writing fiction,” because I don’t pay the bills writing fiction. I do pay the bills writing, but technical writing is not known as an exciting creative endeavor.

Friends

Really, this blog comes down to two things thing for me: writing about where I stand on writing and…friendship. If nothing else has happened in five years, I now feel confident in saying I know Paul Lamb, CM Stewart, Lisa Eckstein, and Laura Mills enough to call them friends. They are people I would make time for if I were in their part of the country, just for the ability to have lunch or tea and talk about the years we’ve chatted online.

I can’t say I expected more from The Juggling Writer because I’ve not been so focused on a big audience; if I were, I am a failure.

But in the friends I’ve made through this blog, I’d argue that I’m better off than those who have 10,000 followers they really don’t know. I seriously recently heard a person say they had to shut down an online operation because they only had 60,000 subscribers to what they did online! Going by that logic, I should have never even started The Juggling Writer!

So…for another year, I will write entries when I feel like writing entries. Because no matter how busy, or even rough, everyday life gets, I know there are people out there reading.

Even if it’s only a handful of people, that’s plenty…and I can never thank those regular readers enough!

 

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Why I Wake Up Early (Even on the Weekend)

August 29, 2014
Rise and Shine; Begin a New Day

I’ve written about mornings before on my main blog. It’s no secret that I like waking up early to write. But there’s a reason beyond the quiet that matters to me: if I get up early and make something I want to make before the world hisses to life and churns away, all the things [...]

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How to Come Up with Good Ideas

August 26, 2014
Cottonwood on the breeze

Yesterday at work, I had an idea for a blog entry. It was a great idea — at least that’s how I remember it. Because I was working, I wrote a note in a notebook (instead of putting it in Evernote), but today…I can’t find it. I hear a lot of people talk about keeping [...]

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Five Writing Lessons Learned from Podcast Movement

August 22, 2014
Podcast Movement Swag

Last weekend, I attended Podcast Movement 2014, in Dallas. Over 600 podcasters from all over the world descended on the area. (If you’re interested, I wrote about it here.) If you know me, you know I tend to be shy in groups. Even around people I know well, the moment there are four or more [...]

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My Writing Mix Tape

August 21, 2014
Blank cassette tape

My writing mix tape is blank — nothing but the sound of early morning darkness. Maybe the sound of the air conditioner or the heater, depending on the season. Sometimes it’s whatever creaking the apartment makes after settling and realizing one of its inhabitants is awake and stirring. It creaks and pops like a tired [...]

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Have You Written Today?

July 25, 2014
Have You Written Today iPhone 5 Lock Screen

Inspired by Austin Kleon’s cool phone lock screen, I made the lock screen you see here. It’s not that I really need the reminder to write, because most days begin with writing — and those day’s that don’t…I usually write in the evening. But… Some Days I Don’t Write I will admit that there are [...]

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How Do You Write?

July 16, 2014
Golden Gate Bridge

Getting from one side of a novel to the other… There comes a point in my writing process that I take over the living room for the day. Whether it’s bits and pieces of a story written on note cards, or printed sections of a manuscript color coded and spread out on the floor so [...]

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A Matter of Strength

July 4, 2014
Chisel and hammer

I didn’t get along very well with school. It seemed there was little encouragement for the things I did well and a pile of chiding and force put into the things I didn’t do so well. My schooling seemed fixated on pushing me to put 10 times the effort toward my weaknesses, while rarely encouraging [...]

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Making Writing Visual

June 25, 2014
A sneak peek at A Magic Life

I have always admired artists. They can hold up their work and, in an instant, an audience can tell if they like it or not. I’ve talked about it before: when it comes to a properly formatted manuscript — physically — they all look the same. (Man, that’s a shoddy video! But…it’s how one learns!) [...]

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