starting over and over again
I have been hiding from my own website for ages. The pattern of writing, and committing to writing, and shirking the commitment, and feeling ashamed for the shirking, was the background for my 2010. This past week, though, I became convinced by a handful of things to give it a try again: a friend who said “I wish I could write like you,” a conversation with Nick about something he wrote and the attendant web of feelings and opinions that we both have about writing on the internet, and why we each value it, and why we do less of it or do it less well than we could. There was a moment in that conversation, as we sat with our beers in a corner of the bar, looking out at the surreal messy aftermath of the snowstorm, that felt like being handed down the dang old stone tablets of commandments from on high: we wanted to create the antithesis of small talk. Small talk is so easy, so safe: how about that weather, anyway? It’s a ritual, but it can’t be the only thing. What’s worth writing is risky, which involves a difficult silencing of the natural incessant editor in me that threatens to whittle down my words (when they come) to a needle-thin inanity.
When my friend said “I wish I could write like you,” I was a little stunned because it feels like so long since I’ve written, like I’ve exiled that part of me that was once the main thing. That thought became utterly terrifying: what’s a writer who doesn’t write, or a photographer without a camera? Writing, reading, and taking pictures are the most essential selves I have; they’ve been so long hidden by a veneer of busyness that I’m trying to chip away. It turns out the thing that prompted the compliment was my initial post for thing-a-day, an insignificant paragraph that I barely even considered.
The thing that I realized (while writing this, actually) is that there’s shame with utility and shame without utility. The shame I felt for not writing (and the flip-side of its coin, the shame I feel for expecting people to read this unedited word-spew): there’s no utility in those. They’re a kind of lie I use to be lazy, to efface myself in small talk, to hide. If I hurt someone and am ashamed of it, there’s utility in that. Certainly there’s a risk of useless shame leading to actual shame, but being a writer who doesn’t write is much worse than that kind of pointless safety.
So I am in here. I’m listening to “Words and Guitar,” and I’m making the clackety noise. It makes me grit my teeth and breathe a little differently, and, feeling that tension, I think I did it well. I am trying to disentangle myself from useless shame and small talk.