Tag Archives: me

I Write for Me: A Manifesto Of My Self-Importance

I write a lot, but not for other people.

I write mostly to and for myself: journals, poems, notes, etc. I enjoy being engaged in the writing process, and I want to write about what I want to write about, and these aren’t always things that I think other people would care about.

I write these blog posts to be read by others, whoever you are. I mostly write these for myself as well, but I want to let you know, Readers, that at least I’m thinking of you. The thought is what counts.

For years, I’ve wanted to turn the things I wrote into things that others would want to read. But that hasn’t been going so well. I mean, unless I’m writing to a specific person, I don’t know who I’m writing to. I suspect that I’m writing to others like myself, which could suggest that what I’m already doing is pretty great! I needn’t change a word! But do others who are like me need to hear what I’m saying, or do they already know it?

So, I’m considering changing my approach and just embracing whatever the hell it is that I do. I mean, if there are no standards — and in creative work, why would there be? — then I can do whatever I like.

I have, over recent days, been reading some emails I wrote 5 and 6 years ago to a friend, and while I was conscious of writing to him, I was also just writing to air my own thoughts, explore my own ideas. And I remarked, in an email, upon that tendency of mine. And as I read that remark today, I thought, hell, why not?

Why not come out and embrace what I have been doing, but not acknowledging to myself, all these years? For years, I’ve been thinking that I had to be something other than what I was: I still expected myself to one day write things that would be for other people, wonderful, witty texts that would impress, entertain, and instruct my readers, and that would establish my reputation as a Writer Worth Reading.

But I’m not sure I need that kind of validation anymore. Or, let’s say, I’m not sure that I want to work for that validation (but I’d take it if it came!). I’m coming to terms with who I am: a self-centered writer. I love to write about my own ideas and experiences. I want to write whatever I want to write and not worry (as I so often have) about whether a text is good enough or not to share.

Some of this worrying has prompted me to write merely charming or clever texts, and some of this worrying has prompted me to overedit the texts that I share. I’m not sure these are what I want to be doing.

I will accept that I may never sell a book, or even write one, and that such a lifestyle is gonna be OK with me. I don’t have to achieve Authorhood. I am already a writer. I don’t gotta sell nothin’. I’m willing to be subversive, as described in a recent New Yorker article by Andrew Marantz: “In our data-obsessed moment, it is subversive to assert that the value of a product is not reducible to its salability.”

My books won’t be salable, because I won’t sell them — or, let’s say, I’m not sure why I myself would care about sales, since publishing is not a creative act but is a business act, an ego-act, and it’s also a business that seems terrible for a lot of writers now. I’ll give away on this blog whatever I feel like giving away. If I feel like it, I’ll make single copies of books.

I don’t need to sell products to strangers in order to feel good about myself (or so I’m still trying to convince myself — maybe I’m not quite there yet, and maybe this mini-manifesto is pushing me to get there). How wonderful that we live in a time where we do have this Internet available for instant, world-wide distribution! I’m not gonna fret about getting paid — I’m an Artist, dammit!

A summary of my fundamental (and temporary) beliefs

Every so often, I define what it is that I’m really interested in. Somehow, these definitions don’t feel right for long, or they feel too dull. But I’m still trying to get a grasp on what I really want to do and enjoy doing, and tonight these are:

*  I’ve posted several times recently about my frustrations with fiction. I think I can save readers a lot of work by saying that my current perspective is that the ideas we have — the ideas we’ve learned in school, received from family and friends, read from the great wise elders, and even those we came up with ourselves — are insufficient. (OK, I realize I’m trying to drag others into this with me by using “we.” Correct this to “I” and “my ideas are insufficient.”) I feel lately like there are books-full of ideas, and I have a mind-full of ideas, that model the world and try to explain reality but actually pull my attention away from direct experience of my present surroundings and my present thought and from even not-thinking.

* I don’t feel I’ll be done with this re-evaluation anytime soon, or ever, because part (not the whole, but part) of being alive is letting go of all things I’ve ever already done or thought. I just don’t care that much about things I’ve written or photographed or done or thought in the past. (I used to think I was dumber in every moment of the past before now — I try not to think that way now. I try to look at stuff I did in the past as just different from now, but not necessarily worse or less accurate.)

* Corollary: I had an idea today about how maybe all my prior writings — notes, journals, poems, blog posts, etc. — are perhaps not meant to be published (since I don’t usually feel like doing that, but I tell myself sometimes that I should, and then I feel guilty that I haven’t) but instead are meant to be just ideas that I could go back and read and write about again in the future.

* Any work I’ve done feels dead to me. I feel no real connection to anything I’ve done, especially writing from more than a few months ago. My journal notebooks are no longer viable, unfinished, once all their pages are filled. I put them on the shelf and start another, unfilled one.

* I think lack and absence are judgments I make only in the abstract, and likewise, when I judge anything (as adequate or inadequate), I’m comparing it to an abstract standard. Problem is, I think standards and comparisons are arbitrary, and so judgments are bullshit, and that when I actually look at the real things around me, I see only fullness, wholeness, completion. Even the worn stocking cap on the desk in front of me now is “worn” only in my judgment. The hat is the hat — it doesn’t even need the words I’m using to call it the hat.

* Words are arbitrary. Words are abstract. Words are bound to fail to capture or even fully reflect reality. Reality is beyond words, outside of words. If words and reality were infinite lines, they would neither intersect nor be parallel.

* Metaphors are comparisons, are simultaneously right and wrong, and so are also bullshit.

* I tend to look at the world in human terms, in my terms, so often. It’s easy to say that a tree’s branches are “reaching for the sky,” but that’s what a person does. I have no idea what a tree’s consciousness looks like, or what would even be comparable.

* I have no idea what any other creature’s consciousness looks like. I think I catch my dog doing some things that resemble human consciousness, but that’s probably because he lives with us and, to some extent, may not fully have an animal’s mind anymore (as I once heard someone say that dogs aren’t quite people but also aren’t quite animals anymore). So whenever I write fiction that attempts to imagine what, say, an animal or inanimate object thinks, I’m basically turning that thing into a person.

* I like trying to imagine the inner life of a tree or a dog or a chair because, basically, human characters bore me. I’m aware that this position may indicate a certain misanthropic or autistic tendency in me, but I’m also aware that I seem to be as human as most others, so there. But these others tend to bore me, with their fascination with ball-game-playing and beer-drinking and sex-having.

* I’m also aware that I sometimes am fascinated by these things as well, and that I’m not elevating my own human status by criticizing others. But it’s lonely being a humble genius, too.

* I’m almost 40 and I realize that such abstractions as number-counting are also bullshit in terms of having significance. I have awoken and done things each of the previous nearly 14,600 days, and I’m aware that I have some limited number of days to continue to be conscious, yet I’m not sure that any of these things matter. In a way, I completely fulfill whatever it means to be alive by being alive. There’s nothing I have to do before I could die. Could happen anytime. But it’s pretty nice to be alive, and I hope to continue to do so for many thousands more days. But I just don’t think it matters — I don’t see any importance in an amount of living measured in duration of time.

* I also don’t see any importance in measuring a life by money earned or titles granted or projects completed. I’m not sure we need to measure life at all — that could be another bullshit idea. I’m not interested in what the measurement of life, or of a life, is — but I am interested in the measuring.

* I’m kinda interested in writing as if I were a wise sage, a brilliant guru, a Liver of Life — but I’m humble enough to know that I’d be bullshitting others, and I’m also humble enough to know that I don’t really care whether what I write is of interest to others. I don’t mean that to be rude — I’m glad to have people read what I write, and I’m glad if it intrigues or inspires others. I’ve been much inspired and intrigued by others’ work that I’ve read. But I also know that thinking about what others think of my work doesn’t help me to do my work. It’s bad if people dislike my work; it’s worse if they overpraise it. Being ignored is something I can live with, and do my work with.

* I’m aware that this summary has gotten far too long. But I’m a complicated person (or like to think that I am) and I’m certainly a wordy person, and nobody had to read this far, even me.

* I’m aware that there are other smart people who have said and written many smart things, but I’m feeling like it’s OK for me (at least, at this stage of my intellectual development) to ignore others. Maybe it’s more valuable now for me to cut out other ideas than it is to try to take it in and argue with it. This reminds me of something I read in the past: an essay by Richard Hugo in which he advises his students to ignore what he says if it doesn’t help them — your important arguments are with yourself, he wrote. (I just checked with this source: it seems Hugo was quoting from Yeats. When I was young, I wondered how writers could quote each other so easily, offhandedly. Now that I’m older, I realize how off-hand it is. Certain ideas, certain writers’ words, stick in my brains, become part of that world-model I carry around in my mind.)

* I’m aware that that previous paragraph, if it isn’t exactly self-contradicting, is sorta that way, and I sometimes believe that there’s truth in paradox.

* I also don’t believe in truth. I’m not saying that a person shouldn’t try to be as honest as one can be when testifying in court, but that if truth is some sort of correspondence of a word-statement to reality, that’s bullshit because words and reality don’t intersect, as I said above. I just wanted to be clear about that.

* Finally, I realize that I need to finish this up because I’m getting tired and that I kept writing because it felt good to write, though this text may not feel so good to me tomorrow, but I think it feels good enough (in my memory, at least — I haven’t re-read it, and probably won’t before posting it) to post tonight. I feel like I’ve been laying down some charming prose (which is, of course, not charming to admit), but I could be fooling myself.  (I might always be fooling myself, or is that false modesty?) I could go back and cut out all the bad parts — but then, eh, this whole thing would fall apart. It’s just a text, after all, and it doesn’t matter what it says so much as that I enjoyed spending some of my life-time’s consciousness writing it. That seems sorta bombastically profound — I don’t mean it that way. I don’t mean anything that way — or, let’s say that I meant what I wrote as I wrote it tonight. But I might think of these things in different ways tomorrow.