Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Writing about the Thing about Which I'm Not Writing

I've been having a hard time blogging lately. Part of the issue is that in the summer I'm out of it - out of the habit of thinking about academic things, out of the habit of writing daily, out of my usual routine that keeps the blog chugging along when school's in session. Also, I find that blogging is generally directly linked for me to the level of busy-ness in my day-to-day life. It may be counterintuitive, but the busier I am, the more I blog and the more that I have to blog about. As I power down into summertime mode, I just don't have all that much to report. I mean, sure, I've got things going on, but one can only recount so many trips to the gym or the pool, so many phone conversations, so many books read or papers written. It's not that I'm not interested in the stuff I'm doing or having a good time - in fact, this summer I've really felt like I am relaxing, but again, how does one write about that in ways that are interesting? There's also the complication that I choose not to write directly about my research, and since I've been pretty research-oriented of late, that means that there are things I probably could blog about but that I choose not to in order to keep the veneer of the pseudonym intact. This doesn't feel uncomfortable - it just means that there's a limit on what I can discuss about certain things, which then leads to fewer posts and more mundane posts.

And then there's the elephant in the room that I don't know how to blog about.

And I want to find a way to blog about it, because I think to do so could be a good thing - depending on how I framed it - but I don't know how. And I've been thinking a lot about it, and I can't seem to come up with a way. So, what's my damage? Why is this posing such a difficulty for me?
  • One difficulty is that I'm resistant to turning a real life person into a fully fleshed out character on the blog, which would be essential for me to blog about this in a non-evasive way. Now, I've turned people into characters on here before, and without any terrific angst, so it's odd that I'm feeling this urge to "keep it real," as it were. And that feeling is connected to a kind of protectiveness - like I don't want to translate what's going on in my real life into a story to be consumed because I feel like sometimes when I do that it can be a kind of violent act - like it turns a person into a "type" that I then control, and I don't feel like that's always in my best interest to do that, even though it is something that I have historically had a tendency to do.
  • Another issue is that I'm not entirely certain what I'm feeling or what I really want to say. And while this wouldn't normally stop me, in this particular circumstance it matters because the person-whom-I'm-choosing-not-to-transform-into-a-character actually reads the blog, and so there's another layer of audience at work, which complicates things. It's one thing when you have a fixed audience in your head, an idea of "your readers" that is kind of a composite of all of the people out there who might happen upon what one writes. It's another thing entirely when there is that audience and then also an Audience-Member-Who-Knows, and who might perceive one's musings as some sort of revelation, when really one's musings are generally not revelatory nor are they intended to be so. One might say that this is what it is to write with accountability, which so often those who choose to use pseudonyms are accused of trying to sidestep. But it's not that I don't feel accountable for what I write here or that I don't think I am accountable under normal circumstances. Rather, it's that because I've chosen to write a blog that has a diaristic tone (though it is decidedly not a diary), I don't want to fall into the trap of being read as if this IS a diary. I don't know, that probably only makes sense in my head. But the point is that I don't want to write something and have it be read as if it's what I "really" think about things. Because the likelihood is that it wouldn't be, or that it would only be a partial picture.
  • Finally, and I think this is the real problem and is related to the previous bullets, there's this feeling of vulnerability that's stopping me from being able to write in a funny way or an honest way or in any sort of way that would allow me to actually capture what's going on. One of the things that I think attracts readers to my blog is that I have found a way to be honest in this space, or at the very least to write in an honest way, even if there is embellishment, etc. And I can't write honestly about this because I can't objectify it - I can't put it in its place in writing. And that's seeping over into the rest of the blog, too, that feeling of vulnerability, and so instead of just writing about other stuff, I'm not writing about anything worth reading. I'm not producing writing worth reading.
And so I'm posting tonight in part because I think that this is a bad thing. I don't want to fall into some sort of blogger's block because there's this one thing going on in my life that I'm feeling uncomfortable with pinning down. But it's also making me think a lot about what I've used the blog to do, and I'm wondering what's changed, or if something's changed, with what I need the blog to do for me or with what I want the blog to be.

When I started blogging nearly 3 years ago, I wanted the blog to be something that articulated a fuller picture of my experiences on the tenure track, something that would flesh out the stick figure of the "single lady professor." I wrote about a lot of personal stuff, and I was angry a lot, and the tone was pretty brutal. When I moved to this space about a year and a half ago, the tone changed, and the blog became a bit less personal, but still, my agenda for the blog was the same, and I've continued to blend my more "academic" musings with more "personal" stuff. But what happens when you have something in your personal life that you don't want to reveal but that is taking up space in your life? And what happens when you don't really give a shit about the more academic stuff you might choose to write about, or at least you're not motivated by anything enough to choose to write about those things instead of the other stuff that's going on? I mean, there are things I might choose to write about. I might choose to write about my upcoming UK trip, or I might choose to write about teaching stuff I've been thinking about, or I might choose to write about funny things I see or do or movies I've seen or whatever. I've got material. But I'm not interested in turning that material into blogposts. I also might abstract the elephant in the room into some broader commentary on somethingorother, but I'm not interested in doing that either because it feels like a dodge.

What's ironic about all of this is that the very thing I'm resisting writing about would probably be most fitting to write about here in that it truly is "crazy" - not in a bad way, but in an "what the fuck?" sort of a way. The entertainment value of it would be HUGE - both for me writing and for all of you reading. But what if I don't want to use this crazy thing as material? And if I don't, what does that mean in the broader constellation of things? In the broader constellation of me writing on this particular blog, and in the broader constellation of the choices I'm making in my life? What (or who) am I trying to protect? What am I trying to hide?

There are no answers to any of these questions, or, there are answers, but they don't really satisfy. I suppose I wanted to write tonight because first I'm trying to write my way out of the block. And I guess I feel like that has value, because I know many of you out there have felt similar blocks and I feel like there's something positive about having somebody who tends to be pretty prolific and who tends to feel like writing comes easily to talk through this sort of thing.

But so I don't know what I'll ultimately decide to do, and I'm not sure how this will all play out in terms of what I choose to reveal or not to reveal here as the summer progresses. I do know that there will be a bit of a break from the blog when I'm in the UK, and that may be a good thing as perhaps a willed break from the blog will leave me refreshed and ready to write upon my return. I'm also looking forward to my trip because I think it will give me a good change of scenery and pace to think through some things without distraction and to figure out what exactly it is that I'm doing, as opposed to thinking, and then not thinking, and then throwing up my hands and saying "Oh, hell, I'll just go with the flow and see what happens!" (which is not my preferred operational mode).

So. You'll all just have to suffer through with me over the next couple of weeks (or not, you could just check back in around the end of July) and I promise I'll try to come up with something that doesn't suck and that's not stupidly vague to say. And who knows - perhaps this is just a little hiccup and two days from now I'll decide that all this writing-angst is manufactured and I'll turn the Person into a character and be done with it.

But now it's time for me to go to sleep. I've got a big day ahead of me tomorrow - lots to accomplish - calls to be made, tidying up to be done, hair appointment to arrange, writing to begin, errands to run, etc.


Hilaire said...

It's interesting what you say about the thing you're not blogging about making you seem "crazy." I didn't blog about some intense teaching-related stuff in the winter - even though the blog was obviously the perfect forum for it, in many ways, because I felt vulnerable and as if I couldn't handle being seen as "crazy." I wonder if putting inchoate, emotional stuff out there is really scary because it defies our control...and we're really all about controlling our writing, as academics, on some level. Even you, who are more a diarist than most. ??? I dunno, just a thought.

As you have said in my comments on more than one occasion, I'll be interested in reading *whatever* it is that you want to post about.

Anne said...

Well, I'm a lot more circumspect in my postings than you are, doc, but I find this stuff on boundaries really interesting.

it would, for example, be really easy for me to turn Fernham into a mommy blog. There are lots of mommy blogs & some of them are good. But I don't. But then, sometimes, I'll write up a pretty well-composed email on some cute or irritating or puzzling thing and I think about posting it on my blot because I spent the day's blogging time writing that email...

I think these questions of economy (of time) and of persona are really interesting. You're a master of it, I think.

And I'm going to keep holding my breath for that novel...


Dr. Crazy said...

Hilaire - Thanks for your comment! Just to clarify, the "craziness" of this particular situation is more of the "wild and crazy" variety, so it's not so much that I'm worried that I'd be perceived as crazy but... yeah, I don't know. It's definitely all about control, though :)

And Anne - you're a dear. You know, maybe the solution is to start writing that novel and to channel all of this "I feel like I can't blog it" stuff into that, fictionalizing to make it all much crazier and more interesting.... Hmmmm..... Something to consider!