It’s been two months since I wrote a blog, which isn’t surprising. My work life has been cartoon crazy, but I finally got through the worst of it. I knew in early October that it would take every bit of two months – not that seeing it coming made it any funner.
I don’t really want to write about work though – and actually, I realize I don’t really know what I want to blog about. I felt like my last blog was pretty dickish, frankly, which I’m going to chalk up to being way in over my head at work.
But it got me thinking about what this blog should be, and about the utility of an online presence. I’m not so sure it’s intended to be personal. I’ve already realized this on places like Facebook and Twitter, where I tend to just say impersonal, non-controversial things – or just adopt a “gosh, wow!” attitude. It strikes me that the more avenues we have to express ourselves in front of people, the less personal it feels – but that could just be the way I see it.
So, if this blog is meant to chronicle what I’m doing with writing – ok. But writing isn’t something I can easily separate from the personal, since no matter how oblique something I write is from the facts of my own life, I see myself all over it.
In a writing class I took with Karen Bjorneby at the Writing Salon in Berkeley, she gave a lesson about the “Secret Life” of the author – the way the facts of an author’s life don’t necessarily make their way into their fiction writing, but the truth of their inner, secret life, does. I remember that at the end of this discussion everyone in the class was quiet, contemplative, and I remember that I made some kind of asshole joke to break up the intense discomfort I was having, since that’s one of the ways I deal with my feelings.
Anyway, this is just a super long run up to saying that I’m starting up the next revision of my book. But the reason I’m remembering that lesson from Karen is that this book feels intensely personal to me; I feel naked talking to anyone about this work of fiction, even knowing that there isn’t a single fact of my life within the book.
The idea that it would be anything other than intensely personal seems foreign to me – because no matter how alien the context of the story is, every word of it is a choice I’m making. Writing is hard, much harder than I thought it would be, and I can’t imagine putting this effort into something that didn’t tickle my psyche. Right or wrong, I’ve learned that when I recognize that I’m going to those places in the writing, that I should dig deeper, make it more resonant with that naked feeling it gives me. That others wouldn’t write this way seems strange to me, and it may be that everyone writes this way. What do I know?
When I was fifteen I decided I was going to become good at baseball. The reasons aren’t important, but it became something I was determined to accomplish. And I did, at some level, I learned how to pitch and hit, and within a couple years I was on the varsity team for my high school. I practiced a lot, I learned multiple pitches: a two-seam and four-seam fastball; a change-up with multiple grips for different movement on the ball; a slider and a curveball. I developed (I thought) really good control, consistently locating each of those pitches where I wanted, changing speeds effectively. I worked on my mechanics until the pitching motion was uniform and fluid, watched videos, games, and read books.
I don’t remember it the way someone would remember it in a work of fiction, it was more of a creeping realization, but eventually that realization took hold – no matter how hard I worked at it, no matter how rote the mechanics of the act became, I would never throw a baseball 90 miles per hour. Because throwing a baseball really fast is not a function of the mechanics of the pitching motion; it’s an act of physical alchemy. You either have it or you don’t. And when that realization struck me, I knew I was what I was: a pretty good high school pitcher.
I’ve been working on writing for a few years. The process of writing this book is probably one of the longest periods of sustained effort I’ve committed to any one thing in my life. To use a sports term: I’m leaving it all on the field.
So, knowing that I’ve written something that I care about a great deal, and knowing that it’s something I’ve worked hard to make as personally resonant as possible – to make it my own – what do I do if nobody is interested in it? I feel like the next revision will make it better, but by degrees; it isn’t going to become something brand new. It already is, in all the ways that matter, what it is.
Who knows. As my mom sometimes says, “Teams are always looking for left-handed pitchers.”