Farewell, More of This…

One of my favorite blogs came to an end today. It’s not listed in my sidebar, because…well actually I’m not sure why… Maybe it wasn’t public? If you follow this link, does it take you anywhere? If so, that’s her blog, you should check out a few entries while it’s still up.

I read this article from the New York Times the other day about how the word “authentic” has become a catchphrase that doesn’t mean very much anymore. My friend V, in the “about me” section of her blog, talks about “trying to live a more authentic life”–and you can tell from her writing that it does mean something when she says it. Maybe because many of her posts–just about her life–her goals, academic, professional, relationship, fashion-related–never obscured the trying.
As a writer who has spent a fair amount of time browsing job listings, I see that a lot of blogs out there want “content creators.” I get it. It’s a blog about fashion or technology or celebrity mishaps. Writing has to know what it is, and have focus, and, to be successful, it has to attract readers who don’t care at all about the writer. But a result of that a lot of blogs out there have “content” about recipes or pop-culture, and not so many have “writing” about the human condition. This blog was about the human condition. The writer talked about the struggles of living with disability, trying to be healthier and happier, trying to construct a beautiful environment conducive to being healthier and happier. She talked about being queer, she talked about being fat, she talked about sexuality and clothes and making professional decisions…but whatever she talked about, it was thoughtful. There was often an element that went beyond reportage, slipped beneath the surface, and revealed a bit of her. It was a generous blog.
Although I seldom think to leave comments on blogs, I did leave one in response to her farewell post. In it I talked about how that C.S. Lewis adage that “we read to know we are not alone.” I think it would be fair to change the words a bit and say reading helps us feel less alone. But to me, that feels almost flipped on its head today. Particularly if I am reading on the internet, I can end up feeling more alone. But reading her blog was definitely the former experience–less alone feeling, all the way.
It is on my mind today, because V is not the first of my writer friends to bring her personal blog to an end for professional reasons–both because such exposure of one’s personal life can be detrimental, and because, let’s face it–if you are blogging, that means you are not writing material that can be published and will contribute to your success as a professional writer, which is the goal, is it not? Eyes on the prize. I’m writing this right now–and I am NOT working on my novel, and I really need to be working on the novel. (I haven’t been blogging much recently, because I HAVE been working on my novel, so, “yay me” for that.)
My friends who have left behind their journals and personal blogs are, pretty much across the board, achieving more success and publications than I am. I genuinely love seeing that, and I genuinely want that for myself. But this doesn’t change the fact that the professional websites they’ve created, while necessary for their pursuits, are not a replacement for what I have lost– the pleasure of hearing their voices in my head as I read these less important words on my computer screen, of having little insights into their daily lives and inner lives–insights that are somehow different from those I gain with an email or phone call, or, when we lived in the same town, even meeting in person. The stuff that one “throws out there” in a blog has a different energy to it. Maybe because when we speak to a faceless readership, there’s some part of us that ends up just speaking to ourselves, and the readers are just listening in?
I keep coming back to this blog, my blog. I’m not sure all the reasons why. I think one is that I don’t just read to fell less alone, but I write to feel less alone. And while I occasionally check my readership numbers, at least some of the less-aloneness comes from somewhere else…from the sense that out in the world, other people are also thinking and writing, and reveling in the feel of reflecting on their lives. I find that a comfort. I don’t feel the same camaraderie when I’m writing a screenplay and I think of all the other glowing MacBooks across Los Angeles.
This has dissolved into a ramble, hasn’t it? I could try to shape it–but I have to get back to that novel. But to summarize: Farewell to V’s blog. And, for the moment I continue. Stop by. I’ll try to be here.

Just a Sunday Afternoon

I think I’ve made an unconscious but very deliberate decision to blow off most of the things I should be doing today. Things like looking high and low for a lost paycheck (I’ll probably still do that), gathering and copying a dozen different documents required for a loan application to refinance my little condo (maybe I’ll try to do one or two today) and writing (this is as close as I’m going to get.) Strangely, once I’ve decided what I’m NOT going to to–primarily write– the day feels much longer than it usually does. it’s kind of nice. I’ve spend much of it puttering around, trying to figure out how to do a few things to this blog. Notice how I’ve added a new drop down menu for the chronological archives, and a new “by topic” archive as well, although going back and tagging all my old posts is going to be an ongoing project. I’ve also updated my links so they all work again, and updated my roster of “Other Blogs.”

The day has also been made longer by the fact that I’m not going to work out today. Just not. I actually have a bit of a sore two which is more of a drag than you might think. It’s weird how damage to such a small part of your body can be so incapacitating.

Soon I’m going to return some clothes to Loehmann’s with my friend Christine–In a last minute flurry, I bought four possible shirts for my reading a couple weeks ago, and chose one–I don’t need the others. I’ve heard that buying things gives you a little rush of endorphins, maybe like eating. I might be a little bit of a shopping bulimic. I like that rush of buying something, but afterwards, I’m usually happy enough to take it back.

Mostly I’m trying not to be stressed out by a business decision I need to make this week regarding one of my scripts. It’s something that is very secret apparently, so I’m not allowed to discuss it with anyone “not even your significant other.” So I won’t say anything revealing here, except to say that no one is buying it or making a movie out of it next week or anything. It’s just something that could be a good opportunity, or could one of those things that could also go wrong in so many ways. If I choose to do it, I have to take it out of the running–so much as it is in the running–with the people who have expressed interest in it–who are few and informal, but who have been generous with their time and their notes, and whom I really appreciate. The fact that I’m not supposed to talk about it is hard for me. There are good and logical reasons why, but it means I have to make a decision in a vacuum, without much advice–and whenever people want me to do things and not tell anyone, it just feels shady. I mean, have you ever watched a movie where someone wants the protagonist to do something, but not tell anyone, where the surrounding circumstances weren’t shady? I mean except for ransom and spy scenarios–and really, those are still shady, it’s just that they have good reasons. So anyway, in a couple of weeks I’ll fill you in on that.

Tomorrow morning, I go to observe classes at the California International University, where I am going to be on the substitute roster to teach ESL (English as a Second Language.)

Honing

Best thing anyone has ever said about this blog: “it makes me feel less alone in the world.”

The least best, but somewhat thought-provoking thing anyone has said about this blog lately: “I don’t want you to quote things I say on your blog.”
Which I kind of just did–but I paraphrased. And I won’t be quoting the things he said next, which apparently were the items of concern. Nor anything he says in the future about anything, because–I get it.
Really it is a composite quote, of this guy as well as others who maybe haven’t, but I know might like to say the same thing, in various ways. I do occasionally run into folks who emits a real antipathy toward, if not my blog, the idea of a personal blog in general. And somehow, their expression of antipathy hurts my feelings. Which is ridiculous–because it is not about me–exactly. I am not a blog. I am not the general idea of a blog.
But I keep a blog. And my sense is that the judgement I feel is not aesthetic. It’s moral. And maybe kind of aesthetic–because we live in a world where who you are as a person is defined by your taste. If you like Christian Rock–you get put in a box–the world assumes they know something about you as a person. If you wear high-waisted mom-jeans, or love Justin Beiber, or Avatar was your favorite movie last year–these are signs of who you are.
So it’s hard to have either your moral or your aesthetic behavior questioned–at least for me. And the less secure you are in your own beliefs, the harder it is to be judged on things. The whole thing makes me very very sympathetic to individuals and groups who have to create their own code (moral or fashion) in the face of a generous amount of public opposition. Like the civil rights movement, the LGBT community…and Bjork.
People judging inter-racial marriage: I don’t care. Because the idea seems so antiquated, and wrong, and almost everyone I know personally would never think about that, so that criticism would only come from a stranger anyway.
People judging my taste in clothes: I care a little. It’s hard to let go of fourth grade. And watching Project Runway doesn’t help.
People judging my actions that I write about, motivations for writing in public, discretion in protecting or using people in the world around me as subject matter: It’s food for thought.
As I consider limiting my subject matter more and more, I should say that I’ve been fortunate that Paul loves to be talked about, written about, blogged about. He’s really perfect for me in this way. In Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. It’s been a topic of debate whether the character of Stephen Katz –the book’s strong personality and comic foil, was real.
I have my own personal Katz.

Blog Confession

Over time, I’ve been narrowing my own sense of what this blog is—and as I’ve probably alluded to a few times, it’s pretty much just about the world as I experience it, and my experiencing of the world. That seems pretty simple, and so in general I’ve maintained (to myself if not publicly) the idea that this is the one venue where won’t not second guess my writing either because of its subject matter or the actual facility of the writing. If I’ve recorded something that I’ve genuinely observed or felt, then that is part of the “record” I’m creating, and once it goes up, I don’t pull it down. (Although I reserve the right to correct spelling and grammer errors and delete boring bits, etc.) It’s certainly not the degree of social activism of other blogs I read and admire, but it is my own little code—this degree of personal honesty—and it’s what I have to offer.

This is not to say that everything is all serious, or that I don’t just as often post kind of “artifacts” instead of a real post—but these (like my recent cover letter in response to a UTA list job posting), are still indicative of what’s going on, how I’m feeling about things.

A few weeks ago, I posted some items that weren’t quite in keeping with the spirit of this blog.

It started with this job posting on Craigslist:

I am looking to develop a book-related blog geared towards women aged 40+ with teen or pre-teen children, who are avid readers and use the Internet. The idea is to have daily posts akin to 5-mins breathers for an otherwise busy and constraining day. The posts need to be well-written, have their own voice and be funny, provocative, gossipy or just interesting. They must be safe for a work environment and for an environment with children. Each post will be tied (if only loosely is fine) to a specific book. Book genres are diverse and span romance, sci-fi, fiction, non-fiction, politics, children’s etc. ……… A fit with current events or whatever else might make the content relevant to the women reading it would be great.
experience and style. This sounds like you? Please send your resume and writing samples to Xxxxxx: xxxxxxxxxxx@harpercollins.com.

In response, I wrote a couple of samples that were like my style, but slanted–per the assignment, I tried to be a little more funny / gossipy than I am normally. Since the most recent books I’d read had been in conjunction with book clubs, that’s what I wrote about.

I have never received a reply to anything I have sent in response to a job posting on Craigslist, and this was no exception…so after a week or so, I figured I would just put my samples on this blog—and I did.

In the wake of these book club posts, I heard that two of the members portrayed in one of the posts had left book club. I didn’t hear of any reason why. I was genuinely sad, because they were people whom I liked personally, enjoyed seeing, and thought contributed a lot of insight in our discussions. And then I had a horrifying thought– perhaps my descriptions had hurt feelings and caused this. For the first time in memory, I went back to the post and edited out a paragraph.

Eventually, one of the women who’d left told me that what I wrote had not been the cause of her leaving. I was relieved she wasn’t angry with me, but somehow that news didn’t erase my misgivings about those posts, and here’s why:

It’s not that what I wrote was inaccurate in its portrayal of people and events, but at the same time there was an element of dishonesty. I was writing to amuse an audience of strangers. I was writing as a persona—someone funny and gossipy, with “attitude.” The result might have been fine for its original purpose as a writing sample, but it wasn’t really fine to use here, where, according to the unspoken contract I feel I have with readers of this blog, it might be interpreted as a true representation my perspective. I felt like I went to a party where I exchanged witty banter in an attempt to be cool–which was fine, because I do that sometimes–but then I brought it home and used it with real friends, where it rang a little false.

In retrospect, I might still have published those posts, but in context, explaining upfront about my habit of responding to weird and random job postings, and my attempts to be “funny-gossipy-attitude girl.” Maybe I wouldn’t have published them at all.

As a student of writing, teachers often talk about “knowing who your audience is.” I do feel like I finally have a sense of my audience for this blog. It’s me, and people who know me—and even if you aren’t a person who really knows me, from what I write, you should be able to.

I have a lot more that I’ve been thinking about blogging and writing and life that tangentially relates to this, but in the interest of not making a long post to much longer, I’ll save that for future posts and make my ultimate point, which is that I’m sorry. And I get that this is weird, since it’s unlikely you ever even noticed, but I am. I’m sorry for slipping into fakedom. I hope not to do so again any time soon.

Things That Keep Me Away from My Blog

1) Other writing. Or is it guilt about other writing? Largely, I feel that if I am at my computer, I should be working on one of the several scripts with December deadlines.

Yesterday, I signed my first official writing contract, and it was SCARY. It’s for a woman who’s in the producing program at our school, and their thesis is comprised of developing or procuring a feature length script and packaging it for shopping around. I don’t know how much I’ve mentioned before, but she has optioned a novel by a Vietnamese author, which is being adapted by myself and and another woman, T. Right now, the bulk of the burden falls on T to produce pages from our outline (since they can both read the novel, which has not been translated, and I can’t.) But sometime in mid-November, the first draft will arrive on my desk, and I’ll have just under a month to do revising and rewriting. The first falls in the category of not that bad, but, as I am finding out right now in my “rewrite” class, a solid rewrite can be almost as involved as the first write.

So, anyway, often I WANT to blog, but feel I NEED to write.

2)Subject matter. I have certain things that been weighing on my mind, but I haven’t wanted to infringe on the privacy of others…always an issue with a blog, and one that makes me occasionally consider the “private blog”–one of the blogs I read with regularity has recently gone private–or the “live-journal” where you also basically have a subscriber only readership. But as I have said before, if this blog is my own little “witness to the world,” and I assume that my own issues are ones that others can relate to…what am I trying to say here?…that, although often I am just venting or talking about my own life, I am also an example of someone trying to grapple with underlying dilemmas…For instance, my reports about my writing work also touch on “bigger” issues of living with insecurity and vulnerability and the challenges of trying to live a creative life and a balanced life and a good life and how to commit to the path one has chosen and live with the fact that one isn’t devoting equal time to family or friends or saving starving or abused children or protesting for political freedoms and equality, or simply that having committed, one might still just suck…And of course it’s about me striving to be successful and feel worthwhile in my life…but I think that’s got some universality too, right?

So, on the one hand, if I’m really talking about these things, I shouldn’t need to have a privacy shield in order to name the names of people who piss me off on that journey…on the other hand…there is a lot to be said for specificity in writing. A specific situation involving specific people is always more interesting and affecting that abstract discussions about abstract notions. And there is also the journal component to this blog. When I’m old and break my hip for the first time, I may want to lie in bed and re-read these posts…and I imagine I’ll be frustrated if I look at some vague, disguised post, and wonder “What the fuck was I talking about?”

But, for the moment, and if I don’t have time to blog, I certainly don’t have time to shop for and develop a whole new publishing scheme. So here’s less than perfectly framed example of what’s been on my mind.

I’ve recently had to make a decision in a friendship to tell a friend something awkward, in the family of things about people that drive everyone crazy, but no one wants to tell them. Like when someone apologizes constantly, has a vocal tic (like saying “you know” so much you want to stab them in the eye) or wears far too much perfume. These kind of situations are really difficult for me, because the habit has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of person underneath, and yet it creates a circumstance where the person is treated differently and they don’t even realize that some people are avoiding them, or keeping a distance socially for this reason.

But you (I) don’t want to say anything for fear that a) the person might be mortally offended, and/or you will feel like a rude asshole, and/or they might not have the ability or desire to fix the situation, and then you’ve just made them feel bad for no good result.

And you (I) wonder if anyone has ever said anything to the person before, because obviously people do complain when the person isn’t there. In general I have come the conclusion that they haven’t. And won’t. We really, really, avoid these kinds of conflicts as much as possible. Maybe not everyone. But I , and the people I know, do. Is it because I know so many writers and academics? Is it because I know so many white-like, middle-class people?

I want more “rude” people in my life. More people who, if I am doing something annoying, will say, “When you say the word actually, it drives me bonkers. It drives everyone bonkers, and if you want, as a friend, every time you do it, I could just slap you upside the head until you get over it.”

I’m digressing–but it pertains, so I’ll say that that last example is from my own life. I had a work situation several years ago, where, for a couple of months I shared a one room office with three other women. Much of my job, as a coordinator, was arranging things over the phone. Apparently, I’d acquired the habit of saying “actually” a lot. I didn’t realize it until one of the women was traveling and asked me to download something from her inbox, and I happened to see an email to another co-worker in the office, discussing that fact in a kind of mean-spirited way. I’ve no doubt that there were other issues as well, but this particular one could have been resolved quicker if people had chosen to be rude but kind, instead of “polite” but mean. And perhaps from that we might have had an entirely different dynamic in the office for the months we were together, which frankly, were somewhat miserable ones for me in terms of work. Fortunately, the reaction I received there did not extend to my outside life, or other jobs that I had before or after…Of course, after, I purged “actually” from my speech patterns with a vengeance, which I think was an improvement, and so, despite the way I found out, I have always been weirdly grateful to the women who wrote the email for that.

So, to wrap up the anonymous story that began this whole chain of thought, after some deliberation and feet-dragging, I composed an email to my friend with unspecified habit (this could be point 3 of why I haven’t taken time to blog, because such emails are slow and tortuous to compose), then gritted my teeth and sent it.

The result is that the person was very graceful and dignified in their response, and thankful and seemed intent on remedying the habit. I have not seen them in person since the exchange, but we have plans very soon, so I am waiting to see if improvements have been made, and if so, I have very high hopes that it might change this person’s relationships with the lots of people. I’m really hoping the friendship grows stronger from this point.

And if I had to make the same choice again…it would be just as difficult! It’s difficult in every instance with every person.

3) I had more items for this list, but fear I have come to the end of my blog time, and the outside limits of what a blog length should be…so I will say goodbye for today, to my loyal readers, and to the random passerby who will someday find this post by googling “too much perfume.”