I wrote this in 2012. I could have written it tonight. Apparently, these are questions that come back again and again. Part of the process, I suppose.
Blankness. That’s where I am now with this writing thing. Pure blank. Why is that? I can look around and see prompts I could start with: a chair, a lamp, a staircase, a corgi, a clock, folded clothes, a mirror and yet…I am not finding myself jumping in with any of these. Why? Because I am now asking myself what possible relevance does any of this have? Why do I have this blog in the first place? Shouldn’t I have an agenda that I am promoting? Or a product? Do people reading want to read some drivel about my life or some bad flash fiction story that I pound out? Honestly, is this the best use of my time or my writing skills? Shouldn’t I be doing something with all of this?
If you want to know the truth, I have no idea what I’m doing with my writing. I love writing. I feel better when I’m connected to people through my writing, but in the big picture the real question is so what? So what I feel better? What purpose is it serving? So what if I like being connected to people? How long will I be connected through this medium and is it a real connection or me just pounding away at the keys?
Let me make this clear: this is not some sad effort to get reassurance. That’s not the goal of this current pounding on the keys. These are the real questions that are plaguing me at the moment and they have to be answered by me in order to make sense out of what I’m doing. Not that I would mind a little guidance if anybody out there faces this same kind of self-doubt and has come up with some wisdom. I would dearly appreciate that.
I know that writers often question what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. “What’s the point?” is a common discussion if you’re around writers very long since the odds of publication from a bona fide publisher are so damn remote. And even with a blog where some people actually do read your work, there is also the question of what are you writing for? After all, I don’t want to waste people’s time with some self-indulgent b.s. At the moment, I’m not sure what I want to do.
I have always been a helping sort of person – you know, the one with the towel to wipe off your mouth when you’ve just thrown up or who takes care of your dog when you’re away on vacation. Reliable. Dependable. Purposeful. I am not used to forcing people to endure my endless ramblings on whatever comes to mind. How self-absorbed that is and I do really mean that. I loathe self-absorbed people. Okay, loathe may be too strong a word, but let’s just say, I’m not interested or attracted to people of that ilk. So, here I am acting like someone with something to say when I know very well I have nothing to add to the general knowledge pool that others don’t already know. So, here we are back to why am I writing this blog? What purpose does it serve?
I don’t know is the truth. I started it so that I could have an experience to point to when I conduct my workshop at the Story Circle Network Memoir conference in April in Austin. “See,” I could say to my attendees, “I wrote on my blog for a minimum of 20 minutes a day for the past four months, and here’s what I learned from doing it.” All right, that is a reasonable thing to do, I believe, and may be part of what happens to most people who blog – except for those who are either ego-maniacs or have some platform they are promoting (which doesn’t mean they are not also the former). Maybe this is one of the legitimate concerns that bloggers and writers in general have, which is basically, “Why should I bother to write?” So, what is the answer to that very legitimate question?
I don’t have a clue. I truly don’t. On a better day, I’d have all sorts of platitudes to offer – you know – the “Do what you love no matter the outcome” sort of crap, but dog-gone-it, I am not in the mood for that tonight. I mean really why should I or anybody else take the time to put their thoughts down on paper whether they make it public or private? Is there value in that action? Does it really make you a better person? Wouldn’t it be better to be doing something more worthwhile with your time? Just how many people’s thoughts/opinions does the world need? And I mean that really, truly with all sincerity.
I am not going to suddenly offer answers to these questions. If I had them, I wouldn’t be posing them on here. I would instead know why I am writing and just write. So, here we are, back where we started.
Okay, I am going to at least try to salvage this time I’ve spent with a few basic truths as they relate to me. Hmmm. What are those? I have no idea. Okay, here goes…
1) I have no idea what value my writing has to anyone, including myself. I am aware that writing is a way for me to express what I think – however under-developed many of my ideas may be – and maybe that is a decent reason for me to write words/ thoughts down = to see that I actually do think about a thing or two.
2) I am good with people, I know this. I love people and their stories. So why am I not an active psychotherapist at the moment? Wouldn’t that be the way to hear those stories and do something positive with my time? The truth is that I have been resistant to going back to work as a therapist mainly because I want to write instead. But there we are back to the original question: why? What purpose is that writing serving?
3) I have always read that people who have “a purpose in life” are happier. They have goals related to that purpose and they form plans to make those goals happen. But how do you make really realistic goals in a field where you can work on a book for ten years (yes, that’s how long my first memoir turned novel took) and then still not publish it? What kind of crazy person are you (am I?) for continuing in a field where the odds are so against the average Joe making it? And yet, I know plenty of famous authors whose first books (or second or third) were rejected and they still kept on going and eventually hit on that one or two or three books that made their reputation. So, I know it’s not personal that my first book has not been published. Still, it sucks. Period.
4) So, you can see I’m discouraged. Or since there is probably not a soul who has read this far, I can say to myself, so I can see you’re discouraged. Yes, I am. Yes, I am.
5) What to do when you’re discouraged? When the truth is that the odds are not in your favor? When the truth is that for your whole life you may never have that big break? What do you do with that truth looking you straight in the face? I don’t know, just like I said. I do know that I will feel like crap giving up. That will feel bad. I guess you could ask, “Who is it hurting to keep on plugging? Nobody is forced to read this blog. I am not hurting anybody with my dream. I don’t take important time or attention away from those who really need me. But am I just fooling myself? Acting a fool?
6) I get annoyed with the whole line of thinking related to acting a fool. That makes me mad to even think about. Why do I care if I’m acting a fool? Isn’t that better than being a stick-in-the-mud no-nothing with nothing interesting to show? Doesn’t writing bring interesting people into your life? Don’t you have a whole slew of writing friends that you wouldn’t have if you played it extra safe? And besides, what else would you be doing at 7:45 in the evening? Watching tv? Eating? Crocheting? (You don’t crochet, remember?) Don’t forget, the kids have grown up. You need a hobby, for God’s sake or you’re going to drive everybody crazy.
7) Speaking of crazy, now it seems that one side of me is lecturing the other side of me. Well, that is for damn sure, girlfriend. You need a good lecture. The truth is that nobody cares what you do and that’s a good thing. Nobody needs for you to write except you and you’re important enough on your own to do it for no other reason than just that: you. You get to do what you damn well please and it doesn’t matter one tick of the clock what “worthwhile” comes of it. Life is about living everyday the best you can and if writing helps you to do that, then just get it done and stop whining about it.
8) I guess that is the bottom line: Get it done and stop whining about it. But…
9) No buts. Just get it done and realize that everybody that’s ever written more than a few lines has felt the same way you’re feeling and if they haven’t, then maybe they’re the ones who are writing crap.
10) So, I can just sit down and write whatever and make that good enough? That is all you can do and don’t ever forget it. What you think is nothing might hit someone right between the eyes, and something you think is great might be the very thing that never gets the reaction you hoped for. You can’t write for that. You can write for you. Period.
All right, so I have answered my own questions with that other part of my brain and that is just fine by me. I will write and let it be what it is, good or bad, and just keep moving forward. Step after step after step. That will be good enough. That is good enough. Good is as good as it needs to be. Nothing more. Okay, that’s is fine and now I can stop.
P.S. I have to laugh. That other part of my brain sounds like a big black woman with her hand on her hips. My sweet childhood housekeeper Lorene shifted around inside my head to be my cheerleader, my coach, my “get off your lazy rear-end and get moving” mentor. I am not schizophrenic, I promise. Though it might be hard to prove with that little interchange!
4 Comments Add yours
Writing because you want to is all that is needed. I enjoy your opinions and the connection you create. Crocheting is for others. Go Len.
Ha. Thank you, Sarah. You made me laugh this morning!
I just listened to the recording from your recent and inspiring NAMW interview. It was a pleasure to read this blog posting as well. I hope you continue writing and talking about writing even when you don’t know why.
Thank you! I appreciate your feedback and support.