Nothing is more desirable than to be released from an affliction, but nothing is more frightening than to be divested of a crutch. -James Baldwin
Here’s why I’m a lunatic. Last week I was writing in my journal—wrestling with questions about being present in my life, wondering if blogging was actually making me a worse writer by making me less here. And here’s what was going on in my head:
Actually this might make a good blog post, all about the tension between blogging and my “real” writing—wait, a post like that would never go viral, needs to be something sexier—maybe something political? Hillary’s a hot topic, maybe I should write about her—but am I smart enough to write about politics, informed enough? Maybe another vagina post, vaginas are really hot right now—maybe I’ll go get my vagina steamed and write about that…
When your search history includes “Where can I get my vagina steamed in New Jersey,” it’s time to step away from the computer and do some thinking.
It was like the words I was writing were sealed under a thin layer of ice at the top of a frozen pond, and my goddamn thoughts were charging across, cracking and splitting the ice. I could still sort of hear what I was writing but the thoughts were causing too much noise for me to really be there with my journal. And it happens all the time. Since I’ve started blogging (and thus social mediaing), the present seems always to be subsumed in the constant pull toward social media—in the need to stay relevant and grow my following and increase my chances of getting published one day.
And some of the obsession is a good thing—I’m driven and motivated, and am willing to do anything for my writing. Since I’ve started my blog I’ve been writing my ass off, and have even managed to get published a few times. If I think about writing like any other job, then getting a blog up and running is like starting a business, in which case it makes total sense that it would take up so much of my time and energy.
But the question is—as it almost always is—what is the cost to my life and my self? Where is that line between dedication and psychosis? Is there a way of doing it without being consumed by it? And beyond that, is it even helping my writing? If, as Virginia Woolfe said, “One cannot write well if one does not live well,” then wouldn’t my preoccupation with any one, singular thing make me less of a writer?
Oh I hope you weren’t ridiculous enough to expect any answers here–I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. If it was up to me I wouldn’t have to do anything but sit at my desk and just write, and some marketing/publishing fairy would come for the finished pages and take them out into the world. (Ok I don’t actually have a desk because I do my writing on the floor, but I thought that sounded weird and less writerly.) As far as I know, no such fairy exists, and so I’m responsible for both the writing and the self-promotion. (If said fairy does exist, please send me links to all her social media accounts so I can follow her.)
Here’s what I know: I really don’t want to live this way. I don’t want my face in a screen instead of in the world around me. I want to see the people in my life, I want to look at them and understand them and fight with them and come back to them. I want to read long books that I can hold in my hands, I want to look out the window on road trips and let my mind wander on line at CVS. I want to be able to sit with all of it—every beautiful, terrible, heartbreaking, breathtaking thing that happens in my life—and then pick my ass up and walk through it without the constant itch to escape into this bizarre LCD-lit funhouse of scrolling images that leave me glazed and overwhelmed.
Oh, and also—I want to check the fuck out. Of everything. That’s what makes this so hard–I want to be lost and found in equal measure. I’m scared to see all those beautiful, terrible things, terrified of really sitting with myself—in the quiet, without motion, without any coverage whatsoever. And it’s not just about Facebook—I can get lost in a lot of things: pretty pictures on the screen or number of followers or workouts or men or food or sex–and the list goes on. I crave the escape as much as I want to be present.
So it’s all too easy to let myself fall down the social media rabbit hole and focus on things outside of myself to fill some ache inside me—that space where I am vulnerable and homesick and scared that there isn’t enough in this world for me too. I want to live bravely in that space and I want to flee, yesterday.
If it all boils down to the fact that I get to learn what’s most true about myself when I write—that I am what’s most true about myself when I write—then what’s the point of doing something to pursue that writing if it’s going to make me so much less me, so much less interesting, less aware, less alive? I suppose it’s up to me to learn how to move between my digital life and my real one more gracefully—between my ambition and my contentment, my future and my present.
I just want to fucking be where I am sometimes, and I’ve never been less able to do that. If anyone has any ideas as to how that might be possible, hit me up on social media: Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. (See what I did there?)