writing

Introspective Lesson No. 1

I was going to be a writer when I grew up. I was going to write about everything. I  was going to write about everything I experienced and noticed about the world and its’ occupants. I was going to create compelling stories and powerful essays!
But mostly I was going to write about THEM. I was going to write about all of THEM who thought I wasn’t smart or smart enough. All of THEM who thought I was weird. All of THEM with whom I did not fit in. All of THEM who couldn’t understand me because I was, actually, smarter than them, better than them! They were shallow and cookie-cutter. They were such sheep. Nay, lemmings!  Conformists all. They didn’t realize how incredibly simple minded and crass, ignorant and, yes, shamefully mean, they were. And I was going to reveal it to them. I was going to SHOW THEM ALL.

I was going to shame everyone who made fun of my love of reading, everyone who teased me for being quiet, everyone who called me a bookworm, as if that was somehow a degrading thing, everyone who said I had my head too much in the clouds. I didn’t consider at the time that since they were not avid readers themselves, that this particular form of revenge would be essentially ineffective.  All the stupid, random, bigoted and boorish utterances that fell from their mouths I would document. I had a special fondness for Harriet the Spy.

They would get “theirs” – oh, ho, ho, yes, they would!!! And in doing so, I guess that I was also searching for those who would, in fact, “get” me. Who would understand and appreciate me. I think I wanted to entertain people too, which was strangely contradictory to my mostly shy nature. I also had a special fondness for Carol Burnett and Erma Bombeck.

And, somehow, this writer’s life was going to be an inherently exciting life. Full of travel balanced with hours of fascinating research in really cool libraries. I was, of course!, going to live in a book lined apartment in New York or Paris or anywhere in Germany. I wanted to “make something of myself’ – on my own terms. In other words, with something that I, myself, held in high regard; something creative and interesting and not the same as everyone else around me.

I was different from THEM.

I was therefore BETTER than THEM.

This has always stuck in a nook in my brain, from one of my favorite books:

“But the thing is, you raved and you bitched when you came home about the stupidity of audiences. The goddam ‘unskilled laughter’ coming from the fifth row. And that’s right – that’s right – God knows it’s depressing….But that’s none of your business, really. …An artist’s concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else’s. You have no right to think about those things, I swear to you.

But I’ll tell you a terrible secret – Are you listening to me? There isn’t anyone out there who isn’t Seymour’s Fat Lady. That includes your Professor Tupper, buddy. And all his goddam cousins by the dozens. There isn’t anyone anywhere that isn’t Seymour’s Fat Lady. Don’t you know that? Don’t you know that goddam secret yet? And don’t you know – listen to me, now – don’t you know who that Fat Lady really is?…Ah, buddy. Ah, buddy. It’s Christ Himself. Christ himself, buddy.

Zooey. Franny and Zooey , J.D. Salinger

I was a snob.

Madness

This is madness. The idea that I’m going to keep a blog.  Who am I kidding?

It’s happening to me again. I get this surge of ambition and hope and resolution and then trip over myself and land face down. And it always happens when I declare my intentions out loud. I automatically doom them that way.

Time. Time is my enemy and always has been. I don’t manage it well. Deadlines wage holy terror in my head and slay me in my tracks. I know that no one has put any deadlines upon me here, except maybe myself. I know that there isn’t any impatient, pointer wielding, red-marker carrying, instructor around to shame me about lack of productivity or poor phrasing or grammatical errors or “lack of originality” or “lack of a thesis statement”. I don’t really have any particular goals or ambitions with this thing I’m learning how to navigate. I’m not doing this for a grade. 

I should insert a short, general, disclosure here: I am seeing a psychologist and have been for a few years now. We discuss lots of things. I had a moment about a month ago in which she enabled me to see that what I choose to do doesn’t necessarily have to have any purpose other than making me happy. If I’ve always wanted to write – well, then – write! That was such a freeing revelation for me. The thought of writing – just for me. Not for a certificate, not for an assignment, not for money, not for a profession, and now that I’m remembering that, I’m starting to feel better….

This morning I was starting to feel remorse about telling a few people, with tipsy camaraderie, that I’d started this blog. Why? Well, because now I feel the obligation to keep it updated. 

(Okay. It just struck me between the eyes that I’m not being entirely truthful. I’m feeling remorse because I feel the obligation to myself to keep it updated.) 

And here is where I circle back to my idea that it’s madness. 

I want to write well. And, maybe, okay, I’d like someone else in the world to say “well done!” (again, I realize I wasn’t being entirely truthful before). But to write well, to do anything creative, really well, you have to devote the time to it. A LOT of time. You have to dedicate yourself to it. Commit TIME to it. Every day.

There’s more:  I also love to paint, to knit, to sew, to craft, to just make stuff! Be it with words or colors or cardboard or metal or marker or you name it.  I could spend every waking hour happily doing those things, every day, all day, and into the night. As long as there isn’t a deadline. Or someone looking over my shoulder. 

Then, of course, there are people and animals who depend on me to clean up after them, and feed them, and play with them, and chauffeur them, and supervise them, and teach them, and exercise them, and just BE with them….and the guilt comes back and stares me down.  

“What do you think you are doing spending hours in front of the computer? What do you think you are doing getting lost in knitting that project?  What do you think you are doing, sitting at that table playing with beads and wire for so long?”

And I’m back to madness. Mad at Time, mad at my past, mad at my surroundings, mostly mad at myself. Just generally mad.

Second Thoughts

The drudgery of a new day. Gray, cold, wet, muddy, mucky day. Facing the knowledge that I’ve set myself up again with my wine-fueled, manic, grand, intentions to write everyday. One more lurking thing to hang over my head, ready to vomit guilt all over me the minute it goes unattended.
I woke up to the blather of the television set, checked in on the blather of the internet, and asked myself if I really thought any good would come of adding more blather to it all. The answer was an ego-deflating “Absolutely not”. (Not that my ego was huge enough to emit much air as it decreased, mind you…)
And yet, here I am.
Right.
Waiting for the other unattended, too long neglected, things I have hanging over my head to spew their bile over me for ignoring them to do this.
And what, exactly, IS this that I’m doing?
Just thinking out loud at the moment. Listening to one of my cats snore contentedly behind the computer screen and becoming envious of him. Wishing (my sincere apologies!) that I had not drunkenly mentioned to a few dear friends of mine that I’d started this thing that will, most likely, go absolutely nowhere and provide absolutely nothing interesting or enlightening to anyone’s day.
And yet, here I still sit.
Right.
Snippets are all I can handle right now.
I’m off in an attempt to wash away some of the spewage (that’s right, auto-correct; it’s my blog and I’ll make up words if I want to) that’s dripping down on me.

Grand Intentions

I’ve always been full of them. Great plans. Resolutions. Grand intentions.

I sit here wondering where I am going to go with this blog. What I intend to do with it. Do I even need to have a plan??

Last night, when I was full of my nicely rounded, masterfully blended, dark red liquid courage (with “just a hint of vanilla and mocha”), I resolved to write everyday. To creak open the rusty hinges of a wish to put words together.

After I had a chance today to wash away the remaining fuzzy film of late night recklessness with a cup of bracing, dark brown, full bodied (“with a hint of caramel undertones”) reality, I look around and wonder how the hell I am going to do that.

How the hell am I going to do that with kitchen counters full of dirty dishes (because I was on the computer) and bits of chewed up dog bed scattered everywhere (because I was going to get to that as soon as I was off the computer) and piles of mail to go through, and loads of laundry, and a bedroom that I need to finish painting, and fur balls that need to be vacuumed, and….and the list goes on.

I used to think when I was much younger that writers sat down and the words poured forth onto the page. In High School, I realized that this was not true. Writing was more effort than that. Writing involved so much more than that. You see, to me, writing was all-encompassing. It had to be true, and it had to be genuine, and it had to be original, and it had to be unique, and it had to be special, and it had to be perfect. It had to be your soul, Your Self, on that page. And the realization of what writing was to me, how much effort and time – oh how much time!! – that it would take to accomplish that, roared up, fangs bared, and like Medusa herself, turned my mind to stone.

I was vanquished.

Here I am now. Facing her again.

Backstory 1

Why am I blogging?

Why am I writing?

I don’t know. It must have something to do with being “Yappity”, as my father nicknamed me that one night. 

I will admit that when I was about, oh, twelve years old, I decided that I wanted to become a writer.  I was a total bookworm.  I was a complete story junkie.  I even wrote a poem around that age about books that expressed how I felt about the world of literature.  I would spend hours playing with my Fisher-Price toys making up all sorts of scenarios.  This family in the yellow dollhouse had a feud with the family that lived above the barber shop in the village.  This boy in the schoolhouse had a crush on the girl who lived in the chalet. Yeah. I had that many Fisher-Price toys. And I played with them until I was eleven. At which time, my friend’s older sister started making fun of me for it, and I reluctantly packed them all away.

I was an introvert.  Very much so.  I am an only child.  I used to think that this particular circumstance factored into my avoidance of social life, but now that I’ve had two children of my own, both of whom detest any sort of attention whatsoever, I see that it may simply be a genetic tendency. My husband, too, is an introverted person. Double whammy for my offspring.

Wait. A “yappity” introvert? 

Um. Yeah.

I might have been a bit of an introvert (my mother, an extrovert, was constantly trying to get me to be more “social”; pushing me to play with other kids in our apartment complex; pushing me to get out of my room, out of my books, out of my “selfish” playing alone with my toys.  I think she now regrets it; now that she knows those kids were most definitely NOT good influences…) but, still, I wanted to be able to express myself somehow. I wanted to write. I wanted to be an artist.  It was the perfect solution.

 

So, I had this idea in my head from a pretty early age that I was going to write. I was going to write about all sorts of things – because I also had an innate sense of justice/injustice that I wanted to address. I didn’t have the confidence to vocalize it to those around me, so putting it in writing seemed the way to go.

Becoming A Writer became my secret identity.  (Is it any wonder that “Harriet the Spy” was one of my favorite childhood books?) I began keeping journals (which are no longer in existence; a subject for a different post).  But somewhere in Junior High, that hope, that dream, of being a writer, and the confidence that I would someday achieve it, started to crack apart.

Ms. Baker. Yep. I am going to use her real name. Ms. Baker and her red marker and her red question mark next to the A that she – oh so reluctantly! – gave me on a story I was formulating in the writing journal that she assigned us to create.

She questioned the authenticity of the story I was writing.  “Original??” she wrote in the column – next to the “A”.  I was called in to talk to her after class. A humiliating, confusing, interrogation.  And that interrogation stayed with me, followed me, haunted me, the rest of my life.  It made me question my ability to be original, to have an original idea, to be able to write well enough, to be good enough, to be “true” enough….

It was the beginning to the end of my ambition.

It was also an unfortunate coincidence that I had the makings in my brain chemistry at that time for the development of Depression. Clinical Depression.

 

Yeah. Couple that with puberty and what do you get?

A hot mess.