Blog Hop Part 1: Peering into the Lit Window

Whenever I’m walking down the street at night, I can’t help but look into the houses I pass–the light within standing out in the darkness so that you can see the furniture, pictures, plants, and sometimes people–a view obscured in daylight. There’s something irresistible about peering into the private workings of these spaces, getting a small peek into how other people live and exist when they don’t think anyone is looking.

Creepy? Maybe, but I’m sure I’m not the only one guilty of some casual peeping. In fact, I know most people relish the ability to see what’s normally unseen; some of my most popular posts are the ones that discuss the daily schedules and work routines of famous people in history such as Ben Franklin. So often we only see the finished product, the exterior structure whose walls cover the beams that hold them up. Seeing all the effort behind the finished structure can make it feel more accessible.

I was recently nominated by a fellow blogger to participate in a “blog hop” wherein I answer a set of questions and nominate some other fellow bloggers to participate. My nominator, Briony Potts, has been a frequent and thoughtful commenter here on the self-styled life. She writes a lovely and not at all morbid blog, Fear of the Reaper, where she works out her determination to make the most of her life, a drive we share. We also share experiences of living as expats (she from England to Switzerland) and having travelled to Southeast Asia. I am really enjoying digging into her blog, and I highly recommend you head over there–if you like it here, you’ll enjoy Briony’s writing as well!

The questions in this blog challenge offer one of those lit windows. Since I love peeping, I thought you might, too…

What are you working on?

  • With my toddler, we are working on potty training, numbers and colours, and not feeding the dog.
  • With my blog, I’m working on creating some weekly features in an effort to post more frequently. I’m also developing a submission guideline to open up the self-styled life to guest posters; I often get requests and I know that guest posters can help me with that first effort, putting out more content.
  • As a writer, I’m working on getting comfortable using that title. Many writers seem to struggle with this. At what point can you call yourself a writer? When you get published? When you get paid? When you have a degree? When you have a job title that includes the word “writer?” It’s a fuzzy designation, and I think maybe one just has to decide to call herself that at some point. I write this blog, among other things, and I take it seriously, so there you have it.
  • In an effort to own the title more legitimately, I’m looking for other opportunities to put my work out out there, and to get paid for it. That’s a goal I hope to accomplish by the end of the year!
  • I’m always writing and editing for SEEK Safely, my family’s non-profit organization. My mother and I are also beginning to brainstorm more ideas for sharing our experiences after my sister’s death. We’ve got at least a book’s-worth of material on loss and living with grief. I am also still pushing my letter to Oprah, so feel free to share it!

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

Briony’s answer to this question was so good that I’m having a hard time saying anything different. She discusses the discouraging realization she had early in her blogging experience, that the words she thought were so original were actually not. And yet, people still seemed to appreciate her writing, and she came to understand that the value of sharing her thoughts is in the uniqueness of her perspective–something that will always be original because it’s hers and no one else’s.

I’ve had similar moments of self-doubt–wondering what value I’m offering here, knowing that I’m not breaking any ground Plato-style or something. But there are a lot of instances in life in which something is known, and yet getting the right perspective on that truth somehow blows the whole thing up so that what you thought you knew becomes suddenly more tangible and real to you so much so that you realize you never really understood what was right there.

One of my favourite covers is Joss Stone’s version of The White Stripes “Fell in Love with a Girl.” Stone’s soulful treatment highlights a melodic groove in this tune that’s harder to feel in the White Stripe’s frenetic and roughed up version (though I love that one, too). A good cover should do that–make you hear what’s already there. (For bad covers, see Rod Stewart’s “Have I Told You Lately,” and NEVER play that version in my presence.)

So, with any luck, I’m giving old ideas the Joss Stone treatment, not the Rod Stewart one.

Why do you create what you do?

Though my life circumstances have changed somewhat since I began the self-styled life, the driving questions are still big in my mind–challenging the value of the “American Dream” model for my generation. In fact, becoming a parent has only solidified my belief that this model isn’t working for a lot of us. So many young parents I know are facing what feels like a lose-lose decision between raising their kids themselves or building a career. Many of my peers are making huge moves, away from their families and friends, just to be able to afford a home. Many of us are pushing against the consumerist forces that send us into debt and fill our life with meaningless junk.

Because I know that I’m not the only one feeling frustrated by trying to work within the “system,” I continue to share my perspectives on this topic, and ideas for building a new model.

Of course, this exercise is for me as much as for anyone who’s reading. I’m not wholly awkward in person, but I get my thoughts out with a lot more depth and clarity when I’m writing them down (unless there’s a toddler begging for cat videos as I’m trying to “work”).

How does your creative process work?

I spend a lot of time thinking. In bed, during walks, while my kid is napping. I try to listen to the radio and read other blogs and good writing to find inspiration. I try to pay attention to what’s around me and how it makes me feel.

Usually, a post begins as one idea, and if I’m lucky, I’ll peck it into the permanent “blog” note on my iPhone before I forget it:

As you can see, the bad ideas will just sit on the list for a while...

As you can see, the bad ideas will just sit on the list for a while…

From there, sometimes a fledgling draft will emerge and kick around for months before I complete it, if ever. But other times, if I’ve ruminated on the thought long enough and I feel clear on what I want it to say, the writing happens quickly. And then I edit, edit, edit. Even if I write the draft and publish it in one night, it will still go through about 10 micro-edits. Rereading, moving sentences and paragraphs around, deleting waste, polishing verbs. Then I’ll add in the gravy bits–pictures, videos, the bolded text, links. And then I’ll preview and edit it again, a few more times. The final version is usually VERY different from the first draft, which is often total rubbish, of course.


I hope you’ve enjoyed peering into my lit window. As this post has gotten very long, I will share my nominees in a Part 2 later this week!

Am I the only weirdo who likes looking into other people’s houses at night? Please tell me I’m not… 

2 responses to “Blog Hop Part 1: Peering into the Lit Window

  1. You’re not the only weirdo at all! Every time I drive through a small town at night, I love that peaceful feeling that “every one of those lights represents a life lived.” And seeing the occasional detail of that life–a TV on, a Christmas tree, a toy on the windowsill–makes me quite happy 🙂

    Another question you raise–when to call yourself a writer? I have always liked the adage that “writers write” and have tried to make that my motto when I doubt calling myself a writer.

    • Yes, I like that advice, too. It’s still just hard to embrace sometimes. Most job titles are given to people, so there’s always something a bit uncomfortable about proclaiming yourself.

      Glad to hear I’m not the only creeper…

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