A Poetry Priority

View from Jones Knob near Highlands, NC Fall 2012 (Photograph: Ross Peters)
View from Jones Knob near Highlands, NC Fall 2012 (Photograph: Ross Peters)

“Ross All Over the Map” has been a powerful tool for reinvigorating my writing and for refining much of my thinking about school change, travel, photography, and music. It has pushed me and it has rewarded me. That said, I have felt its limitations more and more over the last six months or so, in particular as I have been pulled toward writing that requires a longer period of fermentation than standard blog entries. In early December I wrote about my goal to reinvigorate the blog, but alas, I have fallen short.

Interestingly, it was the blog that led me to take what felt like the brave step of sharing poetry I had written, and now it is my work with poetry that has kept me away from the blog recently. Over the last couple of months I have been giving the same amount of time I was devoting to the blog to work on a collection of poems.  As I have been working on them, it has become clear to me that the pressure of continually posting work creates the potential that I would rush them and that their quality would suffer as a result.

So here is my plan: for the near-term, I will give full priority to my work with poems, and I will be committed to finishing the full collection I have outlined. I will also maintain the blog though I will not maintain the same commitment to posting as often or as regularly. In the blog’s first full year I averaged over two posts a week. For now, I am adjusting my goal for posts to something like one post every two or three weeks.

When after the first couple of months of its existence, I started to refine my vision for it (“Finally, A Name for My Blog”), I already knew that I wanted the blog to be malleable.  From the start I have wanted it to meet a personal need far more than it would create an additional obligation—my life like everyone else’s has enough requisite demands already without adding another by choice.

I am excited to continue work on the poems and to see how the blog continues to evolve. Here’s to the new plan!

The poems I have posted on the blog are collected here.

A gravel road with ice-covered trees near Highlands, NC, December 2012 (Photograph: Ross Peters)
A gravel road with ice-covered trees near Highlands, NC, December 2012 (Photograph: Ross Peters)


Finding a Purposeful Place for the Blog

Prayer from The Westminster Schools Thanksgiving Service
Prayer from The Westminster Schools Thanksgiving Service

The blog went dark over the last month, and I plan on rebuilding its momentum.  For over a year I had at least an entry a week, but I have not posted since late October. It is not that I haven’t been writing, but somehow I slipped out of the routine of posting.  I wrote a prayer for our Thanksgiving service, I wrote a brief devotional on Psalm 23 (that I may post later this afternoon), I wrote letters, and I have been working on a longer poem—it is far from ready for public display, however, and in fact, it may remain forever private. All the different purposes for which I write have temporarily ceased to intersect appropriately in blog entries, but I feel an intensifying drive to get back to it. I miss the discipline the blog takes, and I miss the demand it places on me to organize my thinking on a number of different topics.  The blog has helped me to be more purposeful in my work and in my living—perhaps I have been a bit adrift without it.

That said, as I have been working on the poem, I have been reminded time and again of the necessity of not feeling obligated to share everything or to share something before it is ready, before it has a purpose that includes an audience.  Interestingly, I have been good at telling my students about the powerful role of expressive writing—writing we do to think, to sort out, to leave unfinished; however, I have not been as good in the last year and a half or so of taking that good advice. Some personal blogs seem to seek a space that lives between writing expressively and transactionally—writing that has an audience such as is necessary for transactional writing but yet is still without a polished form or function, as is characteristic of expressive writing.  For me, however, this blog, Ross All Over the Map, is full of transactional artifacts.  While blog entries can be personal, having an audience is essential to them.

I guess this all leads to that conclusion that I need both forms of writing.  Some of it is not only “not ready for prime time,” but it is never intended to be ready for a wide audience, while other writing that I do benefits from the recognition that others will see and evaluate what I have written. I am looking forward to get back on track with the blog in the coming weeks.

“Ross All Over the Map” Turns One: Time to Get Off The Lounge Chair

Two Lounge Chairs. Lanikai, HI June 2012 (photograph: Ross Peters)

Today is the first anniversary of “Ross All Over the Map.” For the last month or so I have posted very little—I have taken a short sabbatical of sorts; however, as I begin to set my sights on a new school year, I am ready to get back to it. I am ready to get off the lounge chair.

Actually while the blog started in July, but it didn’t get its current name until September after a number of weeks called simply “Ross’ Blog”—a not-so compelling title. In the last year it has stayed true to its original intent, that is, to stray widely from the narrow confines of an education blog, travel blog, folk art blog, music blog, photography blog, or barbecue blog. I wanted a blog that could any of those things one day and another a few days later. It wanted it to go wherever I wanted to go. I liked the idea that it would be a blog by a generalist and for generalists.

Here are some things I have noted:

  • I have written far more for the blog than I would have ever expected on July 26, 2011. That in its first year I wrote over 100 entries astounds me.
  • I have found it to be a useful tool for reflection on my profession, as well as on other aspects of my life.
  • I have found that it has allowed me to refine and extend my thinking beyond the boundaries that may have limited it before.
  • It has made me read what others write more carefully.
  • It has, at times, made me brave—at least in my willingness to share some of what I write.  For instance, I would not have believed that I would publish any poetry, and yet I wrote and posted four or so. I see now that the blog has reignited my interest in writing more poetry.
  • It has been a means by which I have connected with people far afield from Atlanta.
  • It has added drive to my desire to learn more about: photography, art, poetry, education, and music.
  • It has been, at times, a unique and positive means of communication with many members of the school community where I live and work.
  • In the school community it has helped me be defined by more than my job description.
  • It has given me an ever-expanding archive of my engagement in the world around me.
  • I have appreciated every bit of feedback I have received from readers.

By both necessity and purpose I have rejected the approach of over-planning what’s next for the blog, so I have little idea what it will become in its second year. I can only hope I find it as useful a tool in year two as I did in year one.