Notes on a Static Front Page

I am sitting at a cafe on a lovely tree-lined strip of Calle El Conde in Santo Domingo’s Zona Colonial, reading, sipping chilled red wine, and writing this post in a notebook. I brought two small books with me to the Dominican Republic — books assigned during my MFA program, in my semester with Diana Hume George: Dorothy Allison’s Two or Three Things I Know For Sure and Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones.

The latter has stuck with me, much like Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird; I remember bits of writing advice here and there — just write or lose control — but I can’t recall the specifics. There’s just the overall sense that there’s magic here, in these pages, which I think describes my writing process well. Rare spurts of automatic writing and freedom from the self. I read Goldberg’s words just now and caught myself thinking AHA! in a moment of clarity: when thinker and writer are one, and all is good.

Early on, she writes:

Don’t identify too strongly with your work. Stay fluid behind these black-and-white words. They are not you. They were a great moment going through you.

I smiled as I read this passage because I’d highlighted these lines years ago. It’s not surprising to be drawn to the same ideas again; as an often blocked writer, I relearn these practices over and over, constantly battling the inner voice and editor in me that says I’m not good enough or relevant or have anything important to say.

After reading Frank Chimero’s thoughts on digital homesteading, I’ve been thinking more about evolving as a writer online, and figuring out where my writing lives — and where I live. I recently pruned some of the weeds of my internet to define its spaces and levels. I removed a number of connections on LinkedIn, for instance, so it better reflected my work network, even deleting close friends because we’d never actually collaborated professionally in some form. I also unfriended 200 or so people on Facebook — generally people who aren’t family members, close friends, or not in my primary or immediate network, simply to help cut the noise and try to get Facebook back to a state that feels comfortable and makes sense: a house party of familiar faces, rather than a public space, which can be awkward and random.

So, I’d like to cull and control the various streams of my internet; I know I can only do so much, but I realize it’s my space — an extension of my world, and a large part of my life. So why not? But I think loosening up when it comes to writing, and what I publish here, is important. Allowing myself to let go, to show (what Goldberg calls) these moments of me, and to not get attached to certain pieces of writing. I’ve been wondering what to do with this blog, and I’m leaning toward creating a static front page, pointing to category collections and posts I’m proud of — and moving away from the blog format completely. Preserving the best moments of me, with my posts acting like exhibits in a museum.

A timelessness on a space I call my own.

But this is the opposite of what Goldberg encourages us to do, isn’t it?

So there’s a balance to strike: having just the right amount of noise, randomness, and fragmentation in my internet — one that allows the stream to flow, and also includes my own ever-evolving narrative.

The static front page defies this.

There needs to be a way to create the ideal online home: one in which I feel comfortable, but also truly reflects me, flaws and changes and all. I’m not sure what or where that is — maybe it’s Writing Through the Fog, but maybe it’s not.

Published by Cheri Lucas Rowlands

I am an editor at Longreads. For over a decade, I've worked on curation, editing, and storytelling projects across Automattic, including

14 thoughts on “Notes on a Static Front Page

  1. First off, I like your page. It’s very clean and elegant. The title Writing Through the Fog is poetic at the same time that it’s ironically clear in terms of what this blog could – and I see is – about. Good job!

    I will have to second, third, fourth, and then some what other commenters have said about relating to how you feel. It can be challenging to see through the fog of your own thoughts and especially criticism. Add to this that there is so of life occurring on the internet, everyone is online, everyone has something to share and say. And yet we all want to be significant. But add to this the complication and doubts that plague a person who is a writer first and then the various expressions of writing, like blogging. I didn’t always want to be a writer, nor did I think I ever would be but now I’ve published my first collection of poetry and like you am trying to write through the fog , especially of blogging.

    At the moment, as a new writer, I want to share my writing life with people, let you know who I am so far as a writer and what gets/got me going. But that is not where I started my blog or even the trajectory that it’s taken since I started it. I’ve changed my layout again and again and I continue to hunt for the perfect composition to represent me. How do you do this really when you’re always changing? One day it’s the squirrel you saw drinking from the lake, a week later it may be the flower from your garden (hm, but which one!), and then really you never know because tomorrow may capture a new image all together (and I hope it does). So, in my opinion, static is a hard thing to hold, eventually it causes your hair to stand on end and you have to act (frizzy hair is not fun!).

    It’s interesting to look through the windows of other writers/bloggers/artists and find yourself looking in a mirror. Here we are all strangers and yet at once feeling connected. Just as the internet confounds it bonds us. I found this as well in a book I’ve been reading that I think you’d enjoy – and I would like to look into the books you’ve mentioned here – by Dani Shapiro called “Still Writing: The Pleasures and Perils of a Creative Life”. She talks about a lot of the same things we’re all feeling here and even as an accomplished writer she still understands so much about the self-deprecating doubts we have about ourselves. She, and myself, know well what it feels like to drop your pen or stretch your fingers away from the keyboard with that feeling that you’re wasting your time.

    From all the comments I see here, I’m pretty sure you didn’t waste your time. I’m glad I found you! 😉 Good luck with everything and cheers!

    Take care,

  2. This post made me write down the name of the Goldberg book – I feel like that is something I struggle with so much – trying to write while my inner monologue is screaming “you’re boring and this is boring.” Thanks for the Tip!

  3. I am so glad I’m not alone in my thoughts! I feel the same way… I struggle with wanting to feel that flow of self through my writing and yet, I keep struggling to contain it all to a cohesive narrative of who I am. I’m not sure if it’s the pressure to make myself understandable to readers or if it’s my own desperate need to contain myself in a way that helps me to figure out who I am. I recently switched to a theme that displays each of my recent posts like a little museum archive (in my mind). It helps me to feel like each post is just a subcategory item under the main category of myself, and keeps me from worrying too much over how the current post reflects upon my evolving “theme”.

  4. I recently deleted about 350+ people from Facebook: same reasons. If I didn’t know them well, actually network with them, or if they weren’t clients that I keep in touch with. I also do this every so often on Instagram and Twitter. I have also thought about doing it on LinkedIn… but am not 100% sure about that one. Since LinkedIn is purely business based, and you never know what connections can bring to you. In business, weak ties actually can bring more your way that strong ties. Anyways, I’m looking forward to what you bring to the table. I just recently subscribed to the blog. 🙂

    1. Of all the comments I’d received last week on my holiday, this one stuck in my mind. I really liked your thought that “weak ties may actually bring more your way” and I’d have to agree with you. In a similar way, I realize sometimes the most random and weak ties — acquaintances and friends-of-friends on Facebook, as another example — are the ones that lead to unexpected connections and collaborations. Thanks for your comment!

  5. “the ideal online home” – truly an interesting concept and one I want to reflect on. I suppose I’ve been inching along in that direction without actually consciously thinking about it..

  6. We write for purpose, to exercise meaning. Hopefully to lift up others. But how many are willing to see and hear? Some people can waste a lot of our time and effort. I stay away from the social networks. Plus, I believe the internet will be heavily censored or even turned off in the future of America.
    I remember reading some “stream of consciousness” poets and others. Freedom in expression is wonderful. Building up others in love is satisfying.
    Thanks for sharing.

  7. Thanks for this. Thanks for the reading references, but also thanks for your comments re a static front page. I struggle with this a lot with my blog. I have 2 static front pages –where is home and navigating geofoodie– I’m never sure which is best to point people toward. Where is home is the soul behind the blog, while navigating is a practical place to jump off of. And then sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to let people start by jumping right in.

    You comments regarding the writing process, for me also resonate with mindfulness practices. The words, as thoughts, pass through us, they are not all that is us. If we are aware of the moment we are in then the words will come. I think the same goes for taking photographs –it requires an awareness of where we are in a moment. I’ve found some places make this process easier than others. I wish you luck on your efforts to call that place into being.

  8. Hmmm…lots of thing to think about here. I am of a mind that the interwebz and especially social networks have a sense of futility about them because they have no end: we humans like our confined spaces lest we drift into the uncomfortable sense of the UNKNOWN. In a place where there is no end to the story, how can one develop the plot?

    1. Miro, I respect your thoughts on the “interwebz/social networks”, but I am one of those that think, since there is no end the possibilities are endless. And I am certainly one of those who do not wish to be confined.

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