Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Is This Thing On?

So you probably have noticed that I am a good deal less active 'round these parts than I once was. I have reasons for this:

1) I am trying to write a novel. Fiction writing does not come easy, at least not for me; the ideas are in my head, but, for some reason, translating them onto the page is very, very hard and seems to require a different set of skills than the nonfiction essay writing I do here. It feels like this thing I want to do requires a whole set of skills that are adjacent to, but different from, the skills I already have, so I need to spend my limited time and energy working on the fiction writing.

2) I ran out of things to say and it felt too hard. There was a time when I could easily whip out a few words on a topic which caught my fancy in what seemed like minutes. But as time passed, it just seemed like I had less and less to say. World events and scientific discoveries did not provide the same inspiration they once did and it felt like I had nothing left to say. Besides

3) Facebook serves a similar function while requiring less work than a blog. I can just post a link to an article and one quick sentence in between playing Words With Friends and commenting on someone's cute picture of their kids. Oh, and people will actually see it, which brings me to

4) No one reads this anymore. I always used to joke about only having three readers (my mom, Tracy, and Fred). And then Fred stopped reading. He will probably be sad that I said that publicly, will think I am criticizing him for not being more supportive, which is so not my intention. I am just saying that one starts to wonder if there is a point to writing when one can't even get one's husband to read one's work. I mean, I have already given up on most of the people who claim to be my friends reading this, but really, if this can't even hold Fred's interest, that is probably a sign that it is time to pack it in, right? It isn't just Fred, by the way. I am fairly sure my mom and Tracy have given up as well.

5) Isn't a blog, like, the most self-centered, arrogant thing in the world? Who cares? I need to spend less time gazing at my own navel, not more time, and I certainly need to get over the notion that anyone else is interested in the lint I may find therein.

All very good, solid reasons, I think. They sound very reasonable, right?

However, if I am being completely honest, the big reason, the reason which can serve as the umbrella under which all the other reasons can huddle under to stay dry, is that my life changed and my needs changed and I fell out of the habit of writing here and lost my nerve.

Julian was a baby when I started this blog. I needed an outlet to the outside world and I needed to put stuff I wrote out for public consumption, I didn't have a lot of time to work on long form pieces and I didn't feel comfortable asking people in real life to read my work, so a blog was a perfect fit. I soon realized I didn't have it in me to create a readership and, as I indicated in my list of reasons, most of the people I know are unreliable and unsupportive, but I told myself it was okay that no one read it because I wasn't doing it for them, I was doing it for me. But something happened in my head. Because I wrote this during the free time I squeezed out of other areas of life (while Julian was napping or before I went to bed) and because it often felt like it came easily, I didn't consider it to be valuable. It's just a blog, no big deal, really, everyone has one, right? I ignored the work I put into it and told myself it didn't matter. I mean, I knew, objectively, that some of the pieces were good, but really, it wasn't as if it was important or anything. So as Julian grew older and I started to have more and more time I could depend upon, I began to think I needed to spend my time doing something IMPORTANT, something people would want to read. 

I stopped writing as much here because I was going to spend my time creating something of value. Except most of the time, I wasn't and that lack of production on my part was making me angry and depressed. What the hell was wrong with me? All writing, not just fiction writing, became too hard so instead of writing better stuff, I stopped writing anything at all. I would try, but with the exception of some fits and starts-a thousand words here, a thousand words there-I haven't really written anything in months. Oh, I am still working on the story in my head all the time, but I have nothing to show for all that work outside the parameters of my skull.

Which is where I was yesterday.

It started out like most days. I went to Pilates, then I showered, then I stared at the computer screen and felt like a failure, then I let the internet do what the internet does best (i.e. distract me from my own despair, but also prevent me from overcoming said despair) and started reading articles. 

I started with reviews of Roddy Frame's Sunday night show (argh! I am so filled with envy for all who were there) and stumbled upon this essay about discovering Aztec Camera as a young teen and how that shapes one's life
I also took the three year gap between Knife and Love much as you might take the extended silence from a girlfriend who moves out of town and ignores all your attempts to contact her. After a while, you get the message and move on. Hence, in 1987, when Love appeared and Somewhere In My Heart took up residency in the top three, I felt happy for Roddy, but also embarrassed. I’d just turned 18. I wanted nothing whatsoever to do with the 14 year-old who had written all those letters, lovingly bordered with hand-drawn facsimiles of the mountain and flower motifs that had adorned early Aztec Camera sleeves.
and I felt I could have written something quite similar myself. I mean, I am a bit younger than the writer, but I remember that sense of embarrassment over a musician one once loved, especially as one enters the age of irony and snark and the music is all hope and earnest honesty. When I was thirteen, instead of writing fan mail to Roddy Frame, I wrote poetry, all of which I am pretty sure I threw away. I am pretty sure my bitchy roommates Freshman year would have eaten me alive if I admitted to liking such "uncool" music (oh, wait, they practically did anyway).

Later, I was scanning Facebook, and found this post over on Rookie
One way to avoid killing your heart is to decide that you will spend your whole life growing up. I am not saying you should aspire to the maturity level of the characters in Hot Tub Time Machine; I am suggesting we resist a life that looks, in line-graph form, like it goes up and up and up and then it stops, and then it levels out, and then it stays on that flat plane until death. I hope to live a life that goes up and up and up until the end, with the inevitable dip here and there. I hope to continue to learn and change.
The whole piece is so amazing and makes me happy, but also a bit sad that I was not so wise at seventeen. Or maybe I was. As I said, I threw away a lot of what I wrote back then because I thought it was too naive and naff. But, more importantly, this piece reminded that a well crafted non-fiction essay can be every bit as important as a work of fiction.

Then, after dinner and bedtime, I was reading a not very good blog ranking the worst Christmas songs ever and found myself thinking "I wrote about that song" and "Oh, I wrote about that song, too" and with the intention of posting links to all those old essays of mine, I came over here and read them and then started reading other essays and, well, I was really impressed by how good they were. Sure, not all of them are great and there are some typos and grammatical errors which I have failed to fix despite having many opportunities to do so, but overall I am surprised. I know that sounds conceited, except, as often happens when encountering something I wrote long ago, it didn't actually feel like mine anymore, it felt like I was reading someone else's work.

I went to bed determined to make a change.

Which brings me to today.

I don't really know what I plan to do with this, but I am resolved to do things differently. Maybe I will start posting more of the poetry and songs I write. Maybe I will post bits of the fiction that is already written and see what you all think (yes, I am going to back to pretending I have an enormous readership who just are too shy to leave comments). Maybe I will just keep writing about music since I never stop having stuff to say on the topic. As I said, I don't know, but then, that is part of what makes this so scary and exciting.

Thanks for joining me on this journey.

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