My goal was to post at the very least once a week. I note that I last posted on the 18th of April. As today is the 26th, I missed my self-imposed deadline by one day. I must have rested on the seventh day. A venerable custom, to be sure. The biggest thing is having something to say. Those of you who know me know that’s not normally a problem. The problem is “say.” Saying is easy, writing is hard. The maelstrom of bullshit that I call my active mental processes is not lacking for material, just lacking in structure and clarity. Imposing order on chaos feels a bit like work, and I hate to work. Being retired, I don’t have to!
So is writing work? It feels like work, but only because it’s hard. It’s not work unless you are a professional and get paid to write. I’m not just a hack, I’m an amateur hack! No one has ever paid me a nickel to write anything, so I’ll leave off equating writing with work. Novelists and journalists and copywriters have to work. I don’t. That ought to be liberating. I ought to be able to spew whatever I want on the digital page. Or the printed page for that matter, digital is just more convenient, less messy, and a lot cheaper. But I can’t. I can’t always herd the proverbial cats in my mind and get something worth typing out of it. Truman Capote was right—it’s often not writing, merely typing.
That’s the rub there, my notion of “worth.” What’s worth it? Given the spectacular number of blogs out there in cyberspace it seems almost anything is worth blogging about. Add in all the posters and commenters on Facebook and that’s a lot of writing about any and all things. Wondering whether or not something is worth posting about on my blog is folly. The digital world is proof that anyone can write about anything. And at any time and from almost any place.
So what’s my problem? Fear. Fear of doing something lousy. Fear of looking stupid. The usual fears. I used to be afraid to ski off-piste. I’m not anymore. Mostly I conquered my fear which was between the ears and not between the poles. Sure, my technique is better, and so is my equipment, but getting better was mostly mental. And there was a feedback thing going on: because I took the risk and skied off the groomed runs and into the trees and untracked mountainsides I learned how to do it better. The freedom found with a little dose of courage opened up the technical improvement.
The risks with creative acts, like writing, are different. With skiing if I fall down and look bad, that hurts nothing but my pride. Maybe I hold up the group, that’s not a fun feeling but it’s small stuff. I could hurt myself in an accident, maybe even seriously, but it’s a mostly controllable risk as I can stay away from dangerous places. But when I write I delve into myself. It’s personal. I start learning about myself. I’ve been writing about baseball, specifically the San Francisco Giants, for ten years now, and that’s hundreds of blog posts, I’d guess around fifteen hundred or so. I’ve learned a lot about baseball, but even more about myself, and the experience has been transformative. I don’t think about things the same way, my view of the game and my relationship to it is very different than what it was. What started out as fan fun morphed into something else and it changed me along the way. I’m better at it, too. The posts sound better and come out more readily because I found my “voice” as part of the process.
When I started teaching I used to put on my mask and costume and go to work as my alter ego “Mr. O’Connor.” Over time I embraced that person more fully and the gap between real-life Mark and his on-the-clock version narrowed. Eventually the schism was healed and I could be both Mark and Mr. O’Connor. The teaching part of a teaching job is creative and requires you to reach inside yourself in order to connect with the student and be their guide and helper. (The job part of a teaching job is just as crappy and mind-numbing as any other job.) That creativity helped me grow as a person.
I’ve fiddled around with writing half of my life. I’ve never pursued it with the zeal and passion that professionals exhibit because writing is hard. And I already spent a bunch of time in this life working hard. Maybe I just need to remember that all the writing things I’ve done that I feel good about were, in the end, fun. Sure, they caused me sweat and anguish, but overall they were good times. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it has to feel like work. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.
That’s a long-winded way to say sorry to my fan club for not keeping up with the regular posts. I realize my fan club could all meet comfortably in a VW bug, but I’d be happy with a fan club that could fit in bathtub. Even one reader makes it worth it! I’m getting back on the train and will have new stuff at a minimum of once a week, I promise. Twice if I want twice as much fun!