Early lesson in blogging: my blog writing looks like it was edited by wolves. Snatched up in snarling jaws, shaken viciously, swallowed whole, then yacked, partially masticated, on the ground. Held together by drool.
There are no Maxwell Perkinses for the lowly blogger. (There are no Maxwell Perkinses for anybody anymore, but that’s another matter.) So be it. Such is the bargain I’ve made with myself as I return to writing after a seven-year hiatus. To write without expectations or inhibitions. Or fewer of them, anyway. To accept that brain, eyes, and fingers cannot achieve perfect unity and that trusting word processing editors to save us from ourselves is a little like trusting HAL to pilot the craft. That the act of writing is its own reward. Until it’s not.
I’ve come to believe that the only bad writing is no writing. Okay, I don’t really believe that, but self-delusion is my only defense against my inner Flaubert. After seven years of not writing, plus many more spent cobbling together something resembling a writing life, I’m happy just to be writing something. Anything.
You may be asking yourself, why did she stop? It wasn’t a deliberate decision. Things happened. Both my parents became ill. In the two years between their deaths, I had my first and only child. Other people in my life passed or drifted away. My cats got old, sick, and died. Grief became indistinguishable from depression. I struggled to find the focus to finish my creative writing project for my master’s degree. When I did finish, I immediately took a full-time position at the university, relieved to have a workaday routine and devote my attention to parenting during my hours at home. Writing lost its urgency. In fact, it felt a little frivolous. Writing fiction felt particularly pointless.
And then, suddenly, it didn’t. I can’t even put my finger on when it happened, but one day not too long ago I decided I wanted to write again. First, I began research for a non-fiction project about my maternal grandmother, whom I never met and who was an inmate at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in the 1930s, under a warden who turned the prison into “the Vassar of U.S. Penology.” Then I bought a bluetooth keyboard for my iPad (I’d let my last laptop die, certain I would never again have need of a word processing device), which was–not to oversell it–life-changing. Now, sitting down to write was, in some ways, easier than ever. I wasn’t worried about producing income. My son was now old enough to occupy himself for long stretches of time (coming soon to a blog near you: “Writing and Parenting by Benign Neglect”). I was drunk with relative freedom. And in that state of intoxication and impaired judgment, I began to write a novel.
Given this self-imposed workload, it might seem blogging is not a profitable use of my limited writing time. In fact, it could be argued that it’s another form of procrastination–if I’m writing a blog post, I’m a lot less anxious about the corner in my novel manuscript that I just wrote myself into and can’t seem to find my way out of. And it’s not even a blog about about anything, certainly nothing useful. Fair enough. But I prefer to think of it as cross-training for an endurance sport, a way to keep writing when my inner Byron is trying to convince me to give it up.
I’ll admit, I feel a little tawdry writing a blog. The blogosphere strikes me as a bit like 1850s San Francisco. Everyone has a pan and a prospect, some striking gold, turning blogs into books. All chasing the California Dream and trying not to end up in the Barbary Coast with the prostitutes and pickpockets, getting fleeced of their nuggets while being slipped a mickey.
Perhaps that is too jaundiced a view. My inner Didion, however, is skeptical of blogging: “It seems like writing, except quicker. I mean, I’m not actually looking for that instant feedback.” Sorry, that was the actual Didion. (I actually am looking for that instant feedback and foresee checking my stats page compulsively.) But I’m sympathetic. I’m the sort of person who, absent a deadline, will tweak the same ten words ad infinitum (and still end up missing a typo). Blogging is for the bold, the writer with the I-am-what-I-am and it-is-what-it-is attitude. And while I have no intention of descending into debauched bloggery, I do want to be a bit more devil-may-care in my approach to writing–let the apostrophe’s fall where they may.
Unfortunately, I have a hard time getting past the fact that the word blog sounds a bit like a cat on the verge of regurgitating. Which brings me back to my sticky, half-masticated, virtual manuscripts. They are what they are–a bit of a mess, but readable.