08 June 2018

A new plan

I started this blog when I was in graduate school. The idea was that it would help me prepare for my PhD exams by forcing me to write out some thoughts about every book on my list, something more overarching than the notes I was jotting down while reading. Plus, I figured it would be good for me to hone my skills as a critic by analyzing the various other things I read or watched (there has always been a part of me that yearned to have a regular column reviewing books or movies or maybe restaurants, though that always seemed harder.*). Blogs were the it thing back then, and I wanted to have one, but I was also very determined to have a specific agenda and strict parameters. No self-indulgent musings about my personal life (unless they were occasioned by a book I was reading)! No half-baked ideas about politics or society!

I really enjoyed writing it, and then something strange happened. I was having a hard time with my academic writing, feeling increasingly blocked and frustrated, and then I happened upon some guide for getting un-stuck in your research that discussed writing anxiety. It was really eye-opening, because that was absolutely what I had, and I hadn't even realized it. One of the things that the guide pointed out was that many people who are anxious about their academic writing have no problems doing all kinds of other writing. Why not try to channel that same joy and productivity into your work, the book suggested. A great idea, but I ended up doing the opposite, and became totally self-conscious and constipated about blogging, too. And then I modeled for myself the whole miserable cycle of writing anxiety, with guilt and self-recrimination and mounting insecurity and everything. What fun.

But now I'm starting to come out from under the rock again. For one thing, I increasingly recognize that I like blogs. I have long enjoyed the one written by Mimi Smartypants, whom I have never met, but she lives in Chicago and I think maybe I always imagine that we will somehow meet and become friends. And then there are these people whom I admire and adore who write blogs at varying levels of seriousness and frequency (like this one and this one and this one), and their stuff is totally delightful and fascinating. For another, I've been enthralled by amazing essays written by academics in various forums that have a more personal, intimate angle (like this and this and this). And I've thought, I want to do that.

It's scary. Honestly, even writing this post is kind of scary. It feels embarrassing and self-aggrandizing and unseemly. It might be all of those things. But if I'm capable of being utterly shameless in many contexts where I find that many people (usually women) I know are completely hamstrung with embarrassment,** maybe I can channel some of that sang froid in this direction.

So, a new plan. I'm going to try to loosen up and let myself be exploratory (ie, half-baked and/or straight up dumb) and experimental (ie, incoherent and/or ridiculous). I'm not going full blogger yet -- I still want to retain a link, however tenuous, to things I'm reading/watching/listening to. But maybe it will stray a little (or a lot). And, perhaps more importantly (for my process, anyhow), I might post about things I'm in the middle of, rather than waiting until I've finished and Had Some Thoughts. I always tell my students that writing is a process of thought, not a record of it. I know that, and I've been reminded of it over and over and over as I curse myself for putting off writing until I have some kind of idea, meanwhile slowly losing all the ideas I was actually having but never worked out in writing -- but it's so, so hard. So I'm going to try to make myself do it here, in hopes that it will get easier, and that I'll get better at it. I think that doing it on computer and publicly will help produce the kind of writing that I'm interested in (I've tried keeping a diary -- ahem, journal -- and it doesn't work the same way, it seems). And perhaps people will read it and leave comments or somehow respond, and that might be nice too. We shall see.

(I love footnotes, I cannot think without footnotes)

* I briefly had a gig writing reviews of soups from various restaurants for a website. The only payment was the free soup, and the reviews had to be positive. It was reasonably fun, but I ran out of adjectives pretty quickly. I did, however, have a food blog, about bacon and pork-related things (I'll have you know that I started it before bacon was cool.). It did stray into the somewhat more personal, but also garnered a somewhat alarming amount of attention. I regularly received bacon-related products in the mail to review. But I really didn't care enough about it. Then I moved to Turkey, where pork was verboten, and the whole thing sort of petered out.
I totally forgot that I apparently also had a restaurant blog. It never amounted to much. It really is harder for me, apparently, despite loving food and restaurants and being opinionated.

** A short list includes breastfeeding in public, licking off the plate in fancy restaurants, helping myself to seconds and thirds or to the last bite on a communal plate, changing in front of others, asking questions, breaking rules, appearing in public looking like a mess thanks to being rather clueless about make-up and too broke and lazy for elaborate grooming...  Yes, most of this is certainly due to privilege. I try to use my powers for good (I'm not saying that flippantly). 

1 comment:

00489 said...

Cool. I miss the "it thing" days of blogging -- when you could go online and almost randomly discover amazing original voices. Looking forward to your blogroll.