Thursday, January 20, 2011

There are mornings when I can scarcely bring myself to begin writing to you . . . not because of you but because of the cloud of why-bother that settles on me like gloom or bees. I think this sensation is an epistolary given, that it's not a contemporary ailment peculiar to electronic communication. Some of Keats's letters read as if he produced them with great difficulty; many of Woolf's do as well. As much as one wants, one needs, to reach into lonely space for a friend's invisible hand, there's a heaviness to the obligations of letter writing.

But of course, this blog note is different from the letters that Keats and Woolf wrote: it's not for your eyes only. Anyone can open this envelope, though I think not many people do. Nonetheless, here the letter sits, with the world's address on it.

When I glance at other literary blogs, my why-bother cloud often thickens. So often they seem to function as public slates for early-draft work, or diatribes against writers whom the blog owner dislikes, or self-promotion, or repetitive musings on the politics of success . . . and God knows I have done every one of these things myself--except for posting early-draft work, an approach to publication that I find unbearable, but only because I am so private about raw, tender, new pieces.

None of these tendencies is necessarily bad, or wrong, or foolish: really, they may, as a trend, be good insofar as they staunch a kind of communal loneliness, as they battle against the futility under which every artist labors in the back rooms of her own mind. I know about that battle against futility. As a serious writer who is also nearly invisible, I often undergo frantic surges of anxiety about marketing myself, about making myself look like a "real writer," as if real has any definition at all.

So today, in my why-bother state, I'm trying to remember that what does have definition is my daily interaction with this word, and now this word, and now this word, which I am typing out to you on my silver lapdesk, which hums on the scratched cherry table in my bedroom, which fills the attic space of my little red house in the snow-ridden woods. This is a terrible approach to self-marketing, and not even very interesting as prose, which is why the why-bother mood overcomes me, but, like all block-headed obsessives, I keep trundling along.


Maureen said...

I read your posts every day, though I don't always comment. And I identify with some of what you say here. I don't think it matters especially how many visit a blog, especially if one is confident about her reasons for writing it. It's great to have a "room of one's own", even if only in the virtual world. Sometimes it's even possible to hit on one place where everything comes together in a wonderful back-and-forth of thoughts and ideas; that one for me is, most recently, A Year With Rilke.

Dawn Potter said...

I know you, too, keep a daily blog, Maureen, though it's far more broad-ranging than mine. But I suspect we do share similar feelings about the daily task of posting. For anyone else reading this comment, here's the link to Maureen's blog so you can see how she manages the job. Part of her solution is to follow a regular weekly pattern.

Ruth said...

The feeling of having to write an entry everyday seems daunting to me, especially as I sit here for the 3rd day, trying to compose a letter of recommendation that just won't flow properly. I, too, read your post everyday and I like thinking of it as a virtual visit. Maureen's decription of a virtual "room of one's own" is appealing. It puts me in mind of sitting and chatting about "stuff" in your kitchen or after hours at The Frost Farm. I am cetainly glad that you do post everyday and I miss those days that you are elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Why bother? If just one person reads your "daily interaction with this word, and now this word, and now this word...," as I did (and you did) on January 19, 2011, and several others now again today, your pottering (like Plath's comets) and trundling (like Lampedusa's Father Pirrone) through anxious moments on a "silver lapdesk ... in the snow-ridden woods" IS real writing for those who experience, not your own sense of futility, but a patient and tender affinity with your labors.