Wow. That was unexpected. And extraordinary. And a bit, um, embarrassing.
My recent post on how I walked away from this blog and other Internatterings provoked loads of readers to write long and beautiful encouragements in the comments section. I am really touched that you took the trouble.
I feel a little Sally Fieldian that I provoked this outpouring but what the hell. It’s nice to hear from you.
Writing is a funny business. When you read, it feels like the author is talking to you, sitting in your head, sharing the most intimate dialogue. But if the voice coming off the page seems to be talking to someone else or is barking into a megaphone or is distracted or dishonest, it’s a turn-off. So when you write, you have to be appropriate in your tone, pitching your words to a reader you understand. After all, you’ve been together for many pages, you are old friends, and the reader expects and deserves a connection and an understanding.
Sometimes I forget who I am talking to.
Maybe that comes from my years in advertising, when my writing process had to slalom through market research, through layers of agency bureaucracy, through strata of client approvals, through the limitations of the form, character counts and such. And when you write an ad, you aren’t meant to be expressing your point of view (though I was a good copywriter because I usually was trying to express my self from behind the golden microphone I’d been handed). You are there to speak on behalf of something inanimate, a corporation or a product, and not only speak on its behalf but sell it, and often to a reader who was indifferent at best. It’s a weird way to write, especially when you strive for authenticity, which is the core of decent writing.
I forget also because I don’t actually know you. Many of the commenters point out that we are strangers and, technically, we are. I have a sense of you, of your median age, background, various demographic info. But none of that’s really the point. I think I do know you and you me because we are drawn together by a certain point of view and interest. Like me, you are creative, you are thoughtful, you are curious, and that’s what matters, this nexis.
When I think of the writers that have meant the most to me over the years, from Gerald Durrell to Karl Ove Knaussgard, they are voices that reflect honestly and amusingly on their lives and give me heart. They let me know I am not alone in being who I am. They tell me new things but also remind me of old ones. Their voices sound like better, wiser versions of my own.
When I read your comments, I was reminded again that you are not Other. You come here to share what we have in common. And I come here to express that same thing in me so that I can share it with you and know that you share it too. A blog is a web log, a journal, a diary. It’s not a soapbox or a stage or a commercial break. It’s a place for self-reflection, for honesty, for trust.
There are people out there who are Other. Loads of them. But the miracle of the Internet is that we can each sieve ourselves from the undifferentiated mass and find a community of people who are not Other. And that’s what we have done when we come here or go to a klass at Sketchbook Skool. We have found each other. We may not look like each other, we may not come from the same background or education or families, but we are connected by our creative urges and all the joys and tolls that come with these urges.
… alone in a windswept wasteland clutching a single, dog-eared, remaindered copy of the book I toiled over for years, alone but for the monkey toldyousoing in my ear. Not pretty.
I sometimes forget that. When I come here, launch my blog dashboard and start to write, I may have different motivations for doing that. I may feel like I need to be an ad guy and sell the market a book. That’s a shitty place to start a conversation with you and I apologize. I needn’t hawk stuff at you, belabor you with hyperbole, threaten and cajole you. That would be horrifyingly inappropriate if we were having lunch together, so I shouldn’t do it here.
Why do I? Because, to some degree, it is dyed into me, it is my scorpion nature. I am a recovering copywriter and the anxieties and arrogance of my trade are hard to shake. And also because I am prone to anxiety and abandonment issues, to a fear that if I don’t sell my books or kourses, no one will help or care, my dreams will wither, and I will be left alone in a windswept wasteland clutching a single, dog-eared, remaindered copy of the book I toiled over for years, alone but for the monkey toldyousoing in my ear. Not pretty.
I also forget who you are because you don’t tell me. Studies show (that’s a copywriter’s favorite term) that 99% of readers never post comments on the Internet (I am certainly in that silent lurking majority too). But when you do, it is so interesting and helpful because it stops me from blathering like a boring narcissist and instead focus on you as a person.
But I don’t want to lay this at your feet. That’s bullshit. Please don’t feel obliged to comment. That’s not why I lose my way as a writer. If I’m honest with myself, I already know (and well) what you expect from reading my words. It’s what I expect too. Something interesting. Something true. Something funny. Something odd. I get it.
And if I do have something new to tell you about — a book I’ve written, a kourse I’m teaching, a six volume album of my accordion playing — I’ll just tell you. Not sell you. If you want it, you’ll buy it. If not, we’ll get back to our conversation.
Thanks as always for setting me straight, for caring enough to bother, for sharing my life. I have the feeling that what I did and didn’t do this summer will carry me far over the next year and beyond. Thanks for being part of it.