No One Said it Would Be Easy

Quitter

Wherein I wrestle – once again – with the likelihood that a return to blogging can sustain itself.

The problem, I think, is my compulsion to compare everything I write to everything everyone else has written.  I can’t write a short story and just be pleased with it.  I write a short story, compare it to Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral,” and immediately think, “Holy cow, I suck.”  Because of course.

This is true of blogging, too.  I can’t merely be content to amass a body of work, some of which has been, if I’m going to be completely honest, slightly better than mediocre.  No, I have to compare it to the best of the medium – like this little masterpiece, which two days ago cast me into my latest paroxysm of self-doubt.

So you combine this very real need to measure myself against the very best in any given genre with the raging inferiority complex that infects every other dimension of my life, and it makes perfect sense that  most of my writing endeavors are doomed to failure.

To write, you have to feel like you have something worth saying.  I don’t think I do.

But the guilt persists, and therein lies the tension.  I’m a writing teacher, after all, and a member of a National Writing Project-afililated site.  How can I espouse the importance of writing without walking the walk?

I’m not sure anxiety is an excuse for hypocrisy.

Here’s my current solution vis-a-vis this blog, even if it’s a temporary one (and it’s probably one I should apply to my life in general): lower my expectations.  Not every post has to be profound.  Not every post has to have a point.  Not every post has to hold its own as an essay exploring the political or educational or pop cultural landscape.  Nothing I post here will win the Pulitzer, so stop approaching this like the fate of the free world hangs in the balance.  No more two-hour-long excursions spelunking in the depths of my soul.  It’s no good for anyone.

When I swing for the fences with every post I seem to strike out a lot.

Maybe playing small ball is the answer.   Maybe tempering my goals for this blog will help me appreciate it for what it is instead of what it is not.  It’s a place to record and document, to capture moments in time, and maybe – if I’m lucky – something I write will transcend its humble origins.  Blind pigs, truffles, etc.

If history is anything to go by, we’ll all know within a week.

*****

Current listening:

Lucksmiths warmer

The Lucksmiths – Warmer Corners (2005)

Current reading:

Peter dog

Peter Heller – The Dog Stars (2012)

Tim spectacular

Tim Tharp – The Spectacular Now (2008)

There Is No Ending

I have what charitably could be called a love/hate relationship with blogging.  It’s well-documented on my previous blogs – usually in the first post like this one, so at least I’m a creature of habit – so I almost don’t feel like taking the time to tread familiar territory here.

And yet.

It always feels like the act of admitting my faults as a writer will somehow protect me from falling prey to them again.  It hasn’t worked yet, but hope springs eternal, right? So here it is (again), for better or worse (again), with an added twist: honesty.

First, the facts, for new readers: I’ve kept a blog in various incarnations for almost ten years.  My longest stretch was 2003-2006, when I (along with legions of adolescent girls) recorded my thoughts on LiveJournal.  When I returned to grad school I abandoned good ol’ LJ and picked up on Blogger (née Blogspot), which lasted for a few months.  Sometime after I got bored of that one I started up on WordPress, and I’ve been faithful to this platform ever since.  I’ve gone through at least three different iterations of the blog in the last five years, none lasting more than several months, although when I’m on, I’m on, posting one or two substantial pieces of writing daily.  I don’t pretend the work is of uniformly high quality, but I put in the time because I take the writing seriously.

So what’s the deal?  Why do I tire of it?  Why the lack of fidelity?  Why does my relationship with blogging resemble my relationships with women in college?

One answer is easy.  I run out of things to write about.  With only one recent exception – the death of my mom – I’ve tried to keep my personal life out of the blog.  Anyone who’s spent even a minimal amount of time poking around blogging sites knows the dubious quality of many personal blogs.  No one cares what I had for breakfast, what Harmony said on the bus this morning, or what the cute boy in Geometry was wearing today (for the record: oatmeal, One Direction is “dope,” and plaid).  Treating my life as anything special is self-indulgent silliness.  But without my own life to draw upon, that leaves me with the grist on which I typically fall back: the stuff that interests me.  But as much as it interests me, I soon tire of writing about music, movies, books, pop cultural ephemera, politics, and education.  There are only so many essays I can wring out of my love for Woody Allen or my hatred of the Common Core.  I get bored, as do my threes of readers, I’m sure.

So that’s one reason.  But the bigger reason – the uncomfortably honest reason – is this: I’m a thin-skinned writer, and I don’t function well when it feels like I’m mainly writing for the void.  I don’t need to hear that my writing is great, but I like to hear something.  As I said before, I take this seriously and I put in the time, but that investment starts to seem less and less worthwhile when it seems as though the only person reading my writing is me.  That, as much as anything, is why I run out of gas.  I know what I think about, say, the new stupid Common Core thing or that great movie everyone’s raving about or the latest idiocy from Fox News, but I’m not sure it’s worth the effort to put those thoughts in writing if there’s no ensuing dialogue from readers. Without readership, there’s nothing separating this blog from my old-school pen-and-paper journal … except that these posts take a helluva lot longer to write.

This feels a little icky for me to write because it sounds like I’m putting the blame on you, the reader.  Saying, in effect, “My writing is magnificent – now, comment!” And that’s not it, or at least that’s not it entirely.  Because I usually take the lack of comments to mean that my writing is horrible, beneath response, not worth the time it would take to tell me I suck.  It’s a neurotic little hamster wheel I find myself on whenever I start this thing up again, but I also know that it’s one of the best ways of holding myself accountable for writing regularly. But, in the interest of honesty, it’s also the truth. I’m a fan of instant gratification, but I teach and I write – two endeavors that are often done entirely on faith.

So here I am again, and I have a proposal.

This blog will likely contain the usual business: commentary on education, politics, and pop culture; reviews of films, music, and books; recommendations of whatever happens to be tickling my fancy at the time; infrequent forays into memoir and creative writing.

But.

If you’re good enough to leave a comment – good, bad, or otherwise – I’ll be good enough to take requests.  I don’t have something to say about everything, but if the content is lacking I’m happy to try something different.  It’s not truly collaborative, of course, but I’m trying.  And I’m all about customer service.

*****

Current listening:

Massive blue
Massive Attack – Blue Lines (1991)

Current reading:

Do androids
Philip K. Dick – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)

Graveyard
Neil Gaiman – The Graveyard Book (2008)