26 January 2016


At the beginning of the year, I posted that I'd use this space to reacquaint myself with writing (long form writing, anyway, which I've neglected since completing a dissertation on Decadent writers). I began with short posts, but they were regular. Then David Bowie died.

The Internet, of course, is well stocked with pieces written by people grieving for this man, and I sat down on a Wednesday at 6:30 AM to commit my own eulogy to the WWW. Unexpectedly, I ended up researching an AM radio station in the Idaho panhandle--my only musical source in the 1970s--which lead, in turn, to writing about that station's effect on my interior life (pretty much the only "life" I had as a child). I grew confused about chronology ("when did we move from Arizona to California to Illinois?" "What year did 'The Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A.' come out?" "How old was I when they filmed Heaven’s Gate?"). I opened a old, empty notebook and began an outline. I wrote out each calendar year and proceeded to fill the outline with generalities, question marks, and some details. I texted my mom and asked about key events. I looked at dates on old photos, and finally, some order appeared. For the first time, I can see my life, and, for the first time, I've started writing about it.

I've spent some time every day writing. My writing schedule is time consuming, but it works for me. In the evening, while my partner writes (he is a poet), I curl up in a chair beside an Ikea Jansjö lamp, open my moleskin, pick up my Black Warrior, and write for at least one hour. Each morning, I boot my HP Pavilion desktop and transcribe the previous night's longhand. I add details from memory, my mother's memory, and from what I research. So far, it's been a stimulating and kind of astonishing experience.

I've blogged  the occasional personal post, but largely I've avoided "confessional" writing, and I think it's because I've always chosen to believe that the personal past is best left unexamined. The terrain is too awful. It thunders with isolation, bleakness, and physical pain that can, at the very least, debilitate you before you're half way across the territory. I saw confessional writing as the domain of those unwilling or unable to "let go" of trauma, and maybe I've accused them of wallowing in it, enjoying the crash of misery. My philosophy asserted: “It’s done, move on. Can’t change things. Forget it.” Such ideas emerged from my own unwillingness to frankly address the various choices I’ve made. Writing about them means focusing on shame, anger, addiction, poverty, pettiness, vanity, jealousy . . . essentially each one of those miseries that flew out of that Greek woman’s jar.

To this point, I fail to see my writing as "therapeutic." It doesn’t relieve or provide previously-unknown insights. My goal isn't to force my life into some narrative arc (life is more episodic than narrative, isn’t it? Well, it seems so to me). Actually, right now I don’t know what the goal, what "the point" might be. Perhaps, right now, the only “point” is that I’m writing. And I am certain that, eventually, a “so what” response will emerge.

At least, I hope.

TL; DR: I’m writing again. And this time it’s personal.

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