Tuesday, June 9, 2009

introspection

This is my 64th entry. [An aside: Whenever I see that number, I immediately think of McCartney’s “When I’m Sixty-Four."] The first was posted on July 29, 2008.

I’ve been at this thing for almost a year.

Because I’m a very slow writer, this blog has been as laborious as it’s been rewarding. In many instances, I commence an entry on Monday, only to wrap it on a Wednesday. That’s why I post only once a week. The words never come out just right the first time through, so I revise, revise, revise to avoid offering up a sloppy, incomplete entry. Even now, I find myself correcting posts from four, five months ago. In all things blog, I’m a neurotic perfectionist.

When you factor in the time I spend scouring Flickr for appropriate images, or even the endless minutes tweaking the HTML code (bolding words, italicizing others, spacing out the paragraphs correctly, embedding links/videos, etc.), my blog becomes a part-time job in itself.

I don’t get paid for this. My blog offers zero return, monetarily speaking, and I’d guess that less than forty people read each entry. Why, then, do I dedicate so many of my hours to this thing?

Well, there’s a few reasons:

1) My ego's a paunchy glutton, so I thrive on feedback. When readers take the time to message me, their words make the whole process worthwhile. (Now I just have to get better about responding to their responses. Sorry, people. I’ll try to step up my game.)

2) Like most humans, I want to be thought of as an intelligent person. Since I rarely feel as if I say anything worthwhile in everyday conversation, I’ve turned to the page to express myself more eloquently. See, my brain works slowly. There’s a lotta information crammed up there, but oftentimes it takes me minutes, hours, days to retrieve it. Improvisation ain’t my bag.

3) I enjoy the struggle. Writing, as mentioned above, does not come easily to me. Though I pride myself on the finished product, I’m not blessed with the writing powers of, say, a Lester Bangs [Bangs, a prolific music critic who I previously cited in this entry, would take assloads of amphetamine and churn out six, eight pages of copy in mere minutes. Then, striking the final key, he’d rip the paper from the typer and place it--without a hint of hesitation--on his editor’s desk. Bangs’ coworkers observed this process many times over and marvelled at his speed, since the manuscripts were unfailingly brilliant and required little, if any, revision].

Writing humbles me on a daily basis, but I’m rather proud of the voice I’ve developed. Every step of the process--my choice of topic, the hours spent over a Word document, transferral to the blog page, image selection--is deeply satisfying, and I feel as an architect must when of his own designs becomes a physical, fully-realized structure.

4) Up until recently, I've been a bit of a transient. Since graduation in ’04, I’ve worked for 50+ companies, lived in four different towns/cities, and fallen in and out with countless groups of friends and acquaintances. In keeping a blog, I provide myself the illusion of stability, since I’m posting at semi-regular intervals. These entries neutralize the madness that is New York City and afford me welcome respite from all these urban volatilities. In other words, my blog is a constant in an otherwise inconsistent life.

The next bullet point is the biggee.

5) I write because someday I’m going to die. It’d be a shame to check out and leave nothing behind. Sure, I’d exist in the memories of any remaining friends and family (a thought which provides some small measure of solace), but--frankly--I’m more interested in marking my existence in a permanent, calcified way. (I understand that a blog ain’t tangible, but it will be accessible long after my physical body expires…which, in this digital age, is the next best thing.)

If you think these moribund thoughts don’t frighten me, you’re crazy. Consider: I’m admitting that I write not to convey information and/or provide a fresh take on a given topic, though these are two qualities I'd assume to be pre-reqs for any real writer! On the contrary, I’ve suggested that I’m writing solely for myself, so that I might gain the favor of others by showcasing my talents. Aren’t artists supposed to be above all this? Don’t writers write because they’d burst if they didn’t let it all out? Don’t writers write for noble, worldly reasons, so as to contribute to the betterment of society?

Well, I’d like to think I’m not alone in my solipsism. Surely I’m not the first would-be writer to struggle with this. Perhaps that’s why many writers become nihilistic, self-destructive alcoholics. It’d make sense, wouldn’t it? We’re taught from a young age to be selfless and altruistic. When our actions so flagrantly contradict these teachings (especially when these actions are intimately tied to our core work), what emotion assumes a domineering position in our psyche? One word: Guilt.

That’s not to say all writers are selfish bastards, nor is that to say I’m a selfish bastard. There’s a lot of grey in there. I realize that, in attempting this entry, I’ve painted myself into a corner. To say I don’t care about ideas and information is a gross oversimplification. I do care, just not as much as I feel I ought to. On Sunday, I said these words to a friend: “Sometimes, in order to complete a blog entry, I adopt enthusiasms that are not my own.” I quickly explained myself, saying, “It’s not that I’m lying. It’s not that at all. I believe what I write, but sometimes I seem more invested in a certain topic than I actually am.”

An example might be the Kid Rock entry. Yes, I hate that effing song. Yes, it makes me irrationally angry. But do I care that it’s out there, that it exists? Not really. In order to write a plump, full blog with just the right dosage of embittered snarkery, though, I had to adopt a voice. So I did. And I ran with it. That’s what I mean by “enthusiasms that are not my own.” I wrote that bit for purposes of entertainment and ego-stroking, not because "All Summer Long" was ruining my life. In the grand spectrum, that stupid song doesn't mean anything, and hardly warranted even ten minutes of my time.

I’d assume many of the great writers and thinkers (Nietzsche (pic at right), Joyce, Orwell, just to name a few) cared much about social justice and the order of things, which suggests that I may be more self-centered than most. I’ve created this entry with the full realization that I’m not speaking for writers as a whole.

Why do artists create?

Writers/bloggers/painters/musicians, what drives you? Please contribute…I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

3 comments:

ginger said...

I'd like to say I create things (blogs, clothes, gardens, music, kimchi, bread) because I find some sort of entertainment in them. And am surprised when others are entertained as well.

Otherwise, I try not to think about why, mostly I just create to vent all my energies, and do so very sloppily.

I have a giant poster on my wall addressing these very issues. I made it from the text of a letter I received a few months back. You should check it out.

Jen said...

Love it. I was going to comment in this, but then it got really ridiculously long. So I made it a post:

http://strwbrrycc.blogspot.com/2009/06/happy-tenth-strawberry-cheesecake_10.html

Ashley said...

I love this post. I would respond, but it's too difficult of a question, and I'm short on time.

I would like to say, however, that I am proud of your technological leaps and bounds. When I met you, you didn't even own a cell phone. :)