Growth, Photography

How to make your life sound interesting

This blog, like so many, is ultimately a vanity project. Look, over here! Look at what I’m doing, listen to what I’m saying! Isn’t it interesting?

I think it is. I think every life has interesting stories to tell. But it takes skill and practice to become good at framing a life’s stories in interesting ways. Fortunately, after this many years of trying, I’ve learned a few things along the way about how to do that.

Dining table

Not interesting.

I took an online course last year about how to write about your life. I’ve been writing about my life here here for years, but I wanted to be better at it. One key, the course said, was to make each sentence interesting. The other is to be bluntly honest about your life, telling stuff that scares you for anyone to know. Wow, hs it ever been easier to focus on making my sentences more interesting. It’s much harder to tell life secrets. I’ve gingerly shared a little scary stuff lately. I’m not sure how I feel about having done it.

But here’s the key secret I’ve learned about making things interesting: it needs to be about you, the hearer or reader. You need to see yourself in what I write, or learn something valuable from it, or feel deeply touched by its universal humanity. Preferably all three.

Old alignment, US 52

Also not interesting.

I have to work pretty hard to do that. I know easier ways to get your attention. My favorites are to post a pretty photograph or write something that tickles your nostalgia. But those are cheap thrills for both of us.

I share a lot of photographs here because I’m interested in photography and am trying to be better at that, too. Judging by your response, you find my photography posts to be interesting. I get a lot of nice compliments from you about my work. That feels good.

Mulched

Sooooooooo not interesting.

Photography and writing about my life are similar in that both are about finding interesting perspectives. And both involve a lot of experimentation to find those perspectives. Some things just don’t work.

Because I take so many photos, I can choose the best of them to share here. If you were to follow me on Flickr, you’d see that I take plenty of uninteresting photos. I dump into Flickr every photo I take that wasn’t an abject failure. More than 10,000 of my photographs are publicly available there.

Fledgeling hedgerow

Yawn!

I share a small percentage of them here. This is where I curate my photography. I don’t enjoy that luxury when it comes to my writing

While I can take and upload a photo in seconds, it takes considerably longer for me to write a post. And I keep a regular posting schedule, which sometimes makes this blog a beast that needs to be fed. So I post nearly everything I write.

More sky

Booooo-ring!

Your response, or lack thereof, tells me whether my posts are interesting. The series I did about songs I sing in my car didn’t work. I can see it in the stats — few of you read them, and fewer of you commented on them. One of those posts got just eight views!

Fortunately, this blog is just a hobby. Your response to my work affects only my ego. But this is ultimately freeing, as I can openly try new things. I’m free to fail hard.

Car and truck

Yer killin’ me, Smalls.

And so, my advice: if there’s something creative that you want to do, just do it. Critique your own work, of course. But also put it out there into the world for others to see, and then pay attention to and think about the response you get (or don’t, which is also instructive). Keep experimenting and sharing the results with the world.

I’ve laced this post with uninteresting photographs I’ve taken with my film cameras lately. Sometimes the subject is simply uninteresting. Sometimes I didn’t frame the subject in an interesting way. Sometimes my mechanics were off and it robbed an interestingly framed, interesting subject of some of its interestingness. Sometimes I just wasn’t feeling very interested on the day I took the photograph, and it shows.

Bethel Church

Oh lord make it stop!

But through trying things and seeing how they turn out, and paying attention to the feedback I get (or don’t get), and weighing what I think and feel about the outcomes, I get better. So will you, if you try it.

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8 thoughts on “How to make your life sound interesting

  1. How interesting. Sorry. :)

    I am glad to read this, actually. I struggle with the same things in my own writing and it feels good to have some company. FWIW, you have a very good batting average in being interesting. I suspect that your “photographer’s eye” works in your writing too.

    Like

    • I’ve been at this for nine years now, and after that much time the sheer repetition makes you better. And then I find some other blogger at it for six months whose work blows me away, and I fold my hands humbly and go back to my work, hoping to do better.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Christopher Smith says:

    I find all of your post interesting obviously for me the Photography post are most interesting as that’s what I’m into (old Cameras) and I enjoy seeing what others think of cameras I own myself and also try and buy ones I don’t have if the article is interesting.And I often think to myself can I get as good a photo out of the camera as you do and try.
    I only wish I had the time and skill to write a blog of my own. Anyways as long as you keep writing Jim I will keep reading. Do you celebrate Easter where you are if so Happy Easter.

    Like

    • Wow, I’m honored that you think my work is worthy of emulating and trying to beat! Thanks for being such a prolific longtime commenter here. I do celebrate Easter; I’m just home from Good Friday service as I write this. Happy Easter to you!

      Like

  3. I’m glad I read this. Didn’t know you are actually trying to put yourself out their for your writing’s sake. Of course, I like that. Me and Hemingway.

    Like

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