Picking write back up where you left off

The “blogosphere”, to use a terrible term that hopefully never makes it into the OED, is kind of a graveyard, littered with abandoned websites and barely tended diaries.  It’s an odd feeling to follow a random link and stumble onto one of these mausoleums of narcissism. Here you are, reading the thoughts and happenings of an individual who appears to have stopped being interested in their own thoughts and happenings.  Like a corpse frozen in the act of mastubating.

And you wonder, why?  Why did this person one day just….stop? Were they hit by a bus? Are they dead? In an era of online personas that threaten to be eternal despite the mortality of our bodies, it’s feasible that these sites were abandoned only because their authors shuffled off this coil. But in most cases, the writer didn’t stop breathing — they just stopped writing.

As a sporadic writer myself, I’ve contemplated why I simply stop writing from time to time, and I suspect my reasons are universal:

Shit got real.

Wildlife documentarians occasionally have to put down the camera and run.  Sometimes it’s just no longer possible to spend time documenting life because life involves a (metaphorical) charging elephant.

Looking in the mirror got hard.

Writing is a wonderful outlet for reflection and self-analysis  But when there are truths about your life or yourself that you don’t want to confront, avoiding writing is a good way to avoid facing those things.

Life got dull.

Correction: You let yourself become a dull person.  A slack-jawed drone of post-modern civilization, mindlessly vacillating between obligation and passive entertainment. Creative efforts are well beyond your capability in this state (see also: mild depression).

Readers got interested. And some of them are assholes.

Having a blog is like having a sex tape.  Of course it’s meant to be seen.  Kind of.  Maybe not by so many people. Especially not everyone you know.  Writing is a lot easier when the idea of an audience is an abstraction.  You start blogging the way people start singing in the shower — it feels good and it’s fun. Singing in the shower would be a lot less fun if you knew your coworkers were listening outside the door. Likewise, blogging becomes a lot less fun when you realize that at happy hour your coworkers are talking shit about things you’ve written.  If you’re feeling a little thin-skinned, you may not have the heart to keep putting yourself out there after the sting of judgment.

Nevertheless. 

But I come back to writing because it’s who I am.  After I lick the wounds inflicted by life or failure or haters, I pick up my words again.  And when I come across a site with an old latest posting date, I feel compassion for its author and hope that page is not the grave of their desire to write but the ashes their future writing rises from.

Curiouser and curiouser

It’s funny how often main characters in suspenseful stories are journalists. Journalists and cops. It’s like writers don’t know how to manage the narrative of unraveling a compelling mystery unless their fictional lead characters are employed to do so.

 I guess that’s because random people digging into strange happenings is just not believable. We just don’t do that in real life. Dead body found in our neighborhood? Oh well. We assume the guys with badges who showed up will do something about that, and then the reporters with cameras will tell us all what happened after they talk to the guys with badges. Or not, in which case we forget and return to our televisions and novels and the fantasy worlds with fantasy badge-wearers and fantasy reporters.

 The only exception, maybe – kids. Meddling kids. Kids want to know what’s up; they’re still more curious than apathetic. They don’t like being told what to do and they haven’t yet learned to find relief in being told things they could just accept. Kids want to question things. Adults don’t want to find fault with the answer they’re given. It’s too hard and it leads to strange places.

 Kids love strange places.

 So. If you want to write a story and you want any of your characters to have any driving curiosity about the unusual things that are happening around them, then you’ve got to make them either a kid, a cop, or a journalist.

January resolve

January has arrived, and now all of our excuses are invalid.

One of the things I love about the holidays is the free pass not just for indulgence, but for the postponement of asceticism.  The indulgence of procrastination.  That diet?  Starts January.  Cutting back on booze?  Not until January, you aren’t.  Start working out?  More like think about starting to work out…in January.  Eight hours of sleep a night and eight glasses of water a day?  Those kinds of heroics will have to wait for the next calendar year.

The holidays are when we go easy on each other and easy on ourselves, when we strive to establish peace on earth and goodwill toward that next plate of cookies.  We instinctively give up our battles, and we allow ourselves not to feel terrible even if those battles are just wars.

I think this is good and appropriate.  Lent needs it’s Mardi Gras.  And if we’re going to have any hope of effecting changes in the new year, we need to spend the last few weeks of the old year allowing ourselves to get away with doing whatever we want.  Because when January 1 hits and you’re staring at a bowl full of kale, you’ll be glad you took the opportunity to double-fist gingerbread back in December.

January is when we tell ourselves things will change, that we will change.  New Year’s Day is probably the only day of the year when most people spend more time thinking about what they can do differently than about how their problems or shortcomings are someone else’s fault.  It’s a brief triumph of optimism and personal responsibility over defeatism and blame.  I say brief because we all know that New Year’s resolutions are the teenage romances of resolve, passionately launched and short-lived.

That’s why I don’t make them. But still, along with everyone else, I sense that January is a time to buckle down and work on the things that aren’t working for me.  To start doing things I’ve been meaning to start doing; to stop doing things I’ve been meaning to stop doing.  And one of the biggest things I want to stop doing is “meaning to.”  Resolutions are nice.  But moving past intent and launching into action is much nicer.