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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

What I'm afraid of

Some of you (ahem, Tyson) have asked me why I don't do more on my blog, or why I don't do "that writing thing" very much. These people (Tyson) give the same couple of reasons every time they mention this: sometimes I say clever things, I know and use lots of words, I like writing, etc, etc. But when it comes to what somebody once called the "ass in the chair" principle, whereby a writer parks his or her ass in a chair and actually produces written material, well, that's where the whole paradigm sort of breaks down for me.

Why?

There was a time when writing seemed very important to me. For three semesters in a row I enrolled in creative writing workshops in college (two semesters were with Penn-Faulkner Award-winning professors, one helpful, one pompous). I faithfully kept a journal for about six years, not just the standard, unimaginative, sparse "dear diary, today was a regular day" kind of stuff, but lengthy diatribes, descriptions, conversations, poems, and so on.

You know what I think it is? My first semester in college, I fell in love with a man 10 years my senior and had an immediate, intense need to feel like an adult, like a fully developed real person, not a person-in-progress. Curling up on my bedroom floor with my spiral notebook, a handful of cigarettes, and Bob Dylan on the stereo just seemed so--adolescent. Coming up with theories about how the material world exists only as a manifestation of our thoughts, feelings, and memories about objects now just seemed dumb. Then I took a philosophy class where basically what I learned was that no matter how great your idea sounds on paper, and no matter how many years you devoted your career to refining it, somebody somewhere (or a roomful of somebodys) can tear it to shreds with barely a flex of their mental muscles, and if your logic has a hole in it anywhere, then, by default, it must be wrong.

I do want to make clear at this point that T in no way made me feel like this; he did not belittle, was not condescending in any way (except maybe once about Bob Dylan. And those of you who know Tyson will say that he is fairy adept at poking holes in theories, whether he does it maliciously or not.). My internal critic, always by far the loudest voice in my head, just kicked it into high gear.

The other thing I'm afraid of goes back to way before this: I am sometimes embarrassed to call attention to myself in the brains department. Maybe it is partly left over from college, too, but I hate that guy who raises his hand every five minutes and delivers well-reasoned answers at length. (Maybe that's why I prefer the short-n-pithy approach, you know, so it's like, not a big deal or anything. Very non-threatening.) To this day, I don't like playing Scattergories with most people because I hate feeling like the giant, overeducated nerd who has to explain answers because people don't know what they are.

What that means for me now is that, as a writer, I find myself all but crippled by insecurity. My poetry is, at best, sophomoric, my ideas are pedestrian, and there is nothing I can say that the next person couldn't say better. I figure, if it's not "good," then there's no point in my doing it. I hate bad poetry; that's why I don't write it. I get bored almost instantly reading most small-time comics, so I all but refuse to finish my own comics. I hate reading the same old trite "this is what I did today" schtick online, so I wait and wait and wait to update my blog. Then I just sit around in smug self-satisfaction until somebody else posits what I was kind of thinking, so all I have to do is agree with them and pretend I "just didn't have time" to come up with something like that. (I also think that ties into my penchant for self-sabotage, but that's something I'll take up later. Maybe.)

Secretly, I know that for me, "hate" and "am jealous of" are sometimes interchangeable, as in, "Man, I hate all these skinny rich people you always hear about that get to jet-set all around the world kayaking and rock-climbing all day long. These people will be the downfall of Western Civilization, I tell you what."

Anyway, I hope this clears up some things for you, and for me.

6 comments:

Elaine said...

I read your blog... and re-read your blog. I don't know what I could possibly add. But, it is deserving of a response. I'll bet your writing is better than you think. Or maybe not... but sharing thoughts (holes and all) is what makes us so wonderfully human. I am sounding way to "the world is a happy place," which I am not at all -- just ask B. But anyway, our musings are what make us different, both as a species and as individuals...

Tammy said...

Dammit. The world's not a happy place? Why didn't anyone let me know? I feel so out of the loop!

Erin, do you know what my first impression of you was? An impression, by the way, that was developed days before I ever met you? It was a vision of you as this amazingly strong, beautiful, and independent woman who, on a solo rock-climbing trip (wow), had a grand adventure involving some very precocious porcupines. This vision of you, by the way, was supplied to me by your husband who, when telling me the porcupine story about you over some good Pad Thai, had the most amazing glimmer of pride in his eyes. He called you his "soul mate", Erin, and I thought "wow".

Because, honestly, I never really thought that Tyson would ever marry anyone --- love someone deeply, yes, but marry her, no.
But when I met you, Erin, I got it. I totally got it.

Lurking on your blog, followed by the grand fun of partaking in Audience Participation Monday, was the catalyst by which (and I'm sure we would all agree here) most of us started blogging (or blogging again) in the first place. Darlin, you're the domino that started this whole fantastic chain reaction! And for that, I say with my whole heart, thank you.

Now get outta here, dammit, and go listen to some f*cking Dylan. :-)

Elaine said...

There is no phone in Groovyland. Much like my cave, unpleasant intrusions from the outside world are not welcome. Except in in Groovyland, there is sunshine and flowers.

Erica said...

I think you should do NaNoWriMo with me, well virtually anyways, this November (http://www.nanowrimo.org). By the way, congratulations on your new job!

Tammy said...

Elaine, does your comment mean that you were trying to call me? My phone was off -- so sorry! Please try again. :-)

Tammy said...

Audience Participation Monday! Audience Participation Monday!
It's Audience Participation Monday!