Two weeks ago, I lost my coat. The event, arriving as it did amid various other stressors, was at once frustrating and galvanizing: Though I was angry—at myself, at the experience—I sat down that night and wrote a post about it.
But where is that post? It hasn’t appeared, you say, and in fact the blog has been quite for… a long time. I know, I know. The problem is twofold: time and perfection.
1. I don’t have much time. I’ve been very tired of late, very busy at work, and I’ve had library books due that I’ve been scrambling to read. My wife went to Virginia last week for her class reunion, and I merely relished the time alone, binge-watching all of Freaks and Geeks and Top of the Lake, with a quick fright film (the excellent The House of the Devil) thrown in for good measure. I definitely could have been more productive, but this TV splurge was in itself a win, imo. I relaxed.
2. Did you already forget that I finished the entry about losing my coat a few weeks ago? So where did it go? Part of it is that the busyness, combined with a recent ennui, makes it hard to find even five minutes to upload the post. It’s sitting untouched on my “local” (as they call it at the software company where I work). But the other part, the real road block, is that I’m a stickler for “getting it right.” The post is simple enough, artless even. If I just posted it, no one would be the wiser about the faults I perceive in it. But the reason I’ve not had much internet presence before this blog, the real reason in fact that I’m not more published, is that I rarely “send out.” I’m cautious to the point of worrying a post or a story or a poem into the ground, to the point that the writing never goes out, never gets uploaded.
Well, not “never.” I’ve successfully published twenty or so entries, including this one, and my tale of the lost coat will be posted tomorrow.
I wonder if perhaps this makes me not a great blogger. I’ve thought a lot about what a blog is, how a blog—whether an online diary, a public intellectual’s soapbox, a platform for fame, and a launching pad for a book (Julie and Julia being just one example)—can serve writers and readers. Regardless of their differences, their undeniable similarity is that they all depend on the writing being published. Success never arrives for the silent.
In starting this blog, I made a contract with myself to keep the words flowing, with an unstated goal of 78 entries per year (1.5 per week). While a tough quota (and one that I’m currently failing at), it’s a goal that has pushed me to write—and publish—more words than I’ve written—or published—since getting out of graduate school. And the drive to publish has changed my writing process. I tend to write messier first drafts, nearly illegible drafts that I keep safe from the light of day. I am less critical while throwing words down onto the page, bereft of structure but confident that I’ll find jewels in the rubble during revision. And yet, I’m just as finicky on the back end, sifting the rubble with an archeologist’s pick and brush, shaping and reshaping each sentence, often drastically, before putting the post into print. It’s like what I’ve heard said about Joseph Powers, among others: “He works all morning on a single sentence, deciding ultimately to replace the period with a semi-colon. Then he debates all afternoon whether or not he should take the semi-colon out again.”
Perhaps the phrase could be twisted into a compliment in some circles, but in my current position, I’d rather learn to chuck things over the wall faster, throw caution to the wind and see where it lands. A story unwritten is a story unread is a story unloved is a writer undiscovered.