Moving to Freedom, .Org(on)

Low Blow Pimento, Day 26

It’s weird how the day numbers of LoBloPoMo line up exactly with the days of December. I’ve made my lesser goal of 26 posts for the month, so I’m going to quit now.

Stacked Barrels: 'LoBloPoMo Day 26'

That’s not true. I’m not really going to quit. Not on the “Low Blow Pimento” exercise, although it remains to be seen if I quit on the dream of writing. Wait. I can never “quit” writing. I’ll always write in one form or another. So then what is the dream? To be a “working writer,” whatever that means? Do I have to make a living at this? Of course not. I just don’t want to do my day job anymore. Still, I would love for this to be my day job.

But that’s the problem, identified by more than one writer before me: Mixing up the writing and the money concern, and the desire for attention… It will drive you crazy. More crazy than you already are. To the point where you enjoy the writing, but still you feel agitated. You think, “Really? I want to write every day, forever? What the hell am I going to write about? And who’s going to want to read it? It’s pointless, and you’ll regret the time you wasted on it.” And then you write stuff like this post, which does little for anyone. Not for yourself, not for your disappointed readers.

(But please continue on. I’m hoping this one gets better and ends well.)

Well, this is kind of a buzzkill. I meant to sound more positive. The writing exercise is going well. I think it’s been good practice to post something every day. I’ve just made it bigger in my mind than it needs to be. And I’ve been much, much, much too attentive to Google Analytics, looking to see if people are reading, or at least visiting. (Learning how to get over that kind of thing may be nearly as important as the writing practice itself.)

I’ve heard in a round about way that I should stop beating up on myself so much. Be more confident.

Fine.

Fuck you all.

No, not really.

Not at all. I take that back. I love you twelve people that have been reading. Don’t go away! Don’t leave me here all by myself.

Wow. Blogging is dangerous. It’s all so public. And unfiltered. There isn’t an editor there to prevent this type of lapse in judgment from getting out in the wild, and keep you on the near side of the confidence/belligerence divide.

But I think I need more lapses. Bigger mistakes. It’s too easy to become cautious and timid.

I get down on myself and what I’m trying to do here, just a little bit, perhaps, but then I read Brenda Ueland telling us about William Blake in If You Want To Write:

Yet this was the man who said most of us mix up God and Satan. He said that what most people think is God is merely prudence, and the restrainer and inhibitor of energy, which results in fear and passivity and “imaginative dearth.”

And what we so often call “reason” and think is so fine, is not intelligence or understanding at all, but just this: it is arguing from our memory and the sensations of our body and from the warnings of other people, that if we do such and such a thing we will be uncomfortable. “It won’t pay.” “People will think it’s silly.” “No one else does it.” “It is immoral.”

But the only way you can grow in understanding and discover whether a thing is good or bad, Blake says, is to do it. “Sooner strangle an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires.”

For this “Reason” as Blake calls it (which is really just caution) continually nips and punctures and shrivels the imagination and the ardor and the freedom and the passionate enthusiasm welling up in us. It is Satan, Blake said. It is the only enemy of God. “For nothing is pleasing to God except the invention of beautiful and exalted things.”

I love that passage. In the many times I’ve read the book, Blake’s line — “Sooner strangle an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires” — has stood out to me and disturbed me, and I felt like I needed to understand it, but I wasn’t quite getting it. I think now I’m finally starting to comprehend. This isn’t something I can strangle. I have to act on it. I have to find a way to deal with it.

I often aim for humorous self-deprecation that I think is based on the truth. I’m full of fear and self-doubt that I’m confident is shared by many people, whether they want to admit it or not. Although I can understand that even if they’re willing to admit it, maybe they don’t want to read about it, or read the way I write about it.

And what about the self-involvement? The relentless me-me-me-ness of it all? That’s another area I try to treat with humor, but I can see it being just a little off-putting to those that don’t have their heads quite so far up their own asses. (And maybe even to those people also.) Maybe only Vanessa really gets it, although I’m holding out hope for Crazy Cat Lady. For Hot Mama, you should feel pity. I love Anne Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird, but was surprised the first time I delved into the Amazon reviews and saw how many people complained about her self-absorption. I hadn’t noticed. But okay, fine — that was one of my favorite things about the book! Of course, she is “wickedly funny” about it.

Are delusions of grandeur an acceptable substitute for confidence?

Actually, Lamott has covered this for me — for some of the problems I reveal all-too-publicly in this blog — in a chapter titled “Radio Station KFKD” (K-fucked):

If you are not careful, station KFKD will play in your head twenty-four hours a day, nonstop, in stereo. Out of the right speaker in your inner ear will come the endless stream of self-aggrandizement, the recitation of one’s specialness, of how much more open and gifted and brilliant and knowing and misunderstood and humble one is. Out of the left speaker will be the rap songs of self-loathing, the lists of all the things one doesn’t do well, of all the mistakes one has made today and over an entire lifetime, the doubt, the assertion that everything that one touches turns to shit, that one doesn’t do relationships well, that one is in every way a fraud, incapable of selfless love, that one has no talent or insight, and on and on and on.

Do you see why I love the book?

Another challenge with writing is when your family is in the audience, whether in theory or in practice. It’s going to be damaging. Maybe for real, maybe only in my imagination. I think they’re worried I’m going to say too much. And even if I leave them out of it, they’re worried I’m going to look sad and pathetic. They love me and they don’t want to see me that way and have others see me that way. And they think it’s unlikely this could really lead to “something,” so why put too much out there? Good god, don’t tell the truth about yourself, or anything. Especially if that’s the truth. No one wants to hear about that, or if they do, it’s not because they care. They’re probably the kind of people that like Hoarders and other freak shows. Don’t be a freak. This might be fine as a “hobby,” but come on, get a grip. Have some self-respect.

Note that no one has said anything like this to me. They’re probably afraid. Afraid of my (over) reaction. And feedback can be difficult. Tough to give, tough to take. I want to be a better writer, but with things that are personal, it’s hard to know what I should listen to and what I should ignore. My family is supportive of me, but I don’t think they’ll be able to help me find the right path on this one. They’ll tend to steer me toward caution and safer paths. And my instinct says I should follow those paths. But I also want to write beautiful, unsafe things, like Blake’s, “Sooner strangle an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires.” (It feels unsafe and disturbing to me, anyway.) It’s not that I don’t think people in my family won’t appreciate things like that — it’s just that it might be too disturbing to have them come from me.

Thinking about confidence and writing this post has led me to look at the fear. Just a little bit. Trying to observe it without it noticing me. I have a lot of fears. And I don’t know that I’ll ever “get over” them, but maybe I can learn to see and recognize them — “Hi, Fear #18. You’re an asshole.” — and stay with the writing and write something good in spite of Fear #18, or even the especially pernicious Fear #7.

Which leads me to a final bit of quoting. You should thank me for the quotes in these posts since they offer you your best chance at enlightenment while reading my words. Their wisdom shouldn’t be suspect just because I endorse them and I’m still a wreck.

Anyway, from Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao Te Ching, parts of two chapters:

Hope and fear are both phantoms
that arise from thinking of the self.
When we don’t see the self as self,
what do we have to fear?

See the world as your self.
Have faith in the way things are.
Love the world as your self;
then you can care for all things.

This might be helpful. I don’t know if I want to give up on hope quite yet. I like the self love part, and the passage overall, but it’s not what I had in mind when I opened up the text file of the book and searched for “fear.” I was thinking more of this:

There is no greater illusion than fear,
no greater wrong than preparing to defend yourself,
no greater misfortune than having an enemy.

Whoever can see through all fear
will always be safe.

There is no greater illusion than fear. Sometimes I can almost see that, for a moment.

But then I still have bills to pay and a family to take care of and a non-existent writing career paired with an indifferent world, and…

I must love the illusion. I would probably marry the illusion, if I could.

Let’s go back to chapter one:

Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.

I’m all about the manifestations, I guess.

I’ll keep writing.

(You’re welcome.)