"The text on a computer screen," says Mr. Wendell Berry, "and the computer printout too, has a sterile, untouched, factorymade look, like that of a plastic whistle or new car."
In other words, it lacks any semblance of a personality.
He goes on: "The [human] body does not do work like that. The body characterizes everything it touches. What it makes it traces over with the marks of its pulses and breathings, its excitements, hesitations, flaws, and mistakes. On its good work, it leaves the marks of skill, care, and love persisting through hesitations, flaws, and mistakes. And to those of us who love and honor the life of the body in this world, these marks are precious things, necessities of life."
Well I loved this passage so much (and his essay as a whole, whose link I'll post at the Preface's end), I decided to finally give this scribbling business a real try. For the readers' note, my writing alters a hundredfold--structurally, stylistically, you name it--when I alter the physical instrument, as if ownership falls upon two completely separate people. Historically I've pretty much renounced anything I've composed from ink; it's been shoddy and shitty work, to be perfectly frank.
I've much preferred the strokes of my keyboard, and admit to fancying the delete button like it were a lover who is much, much too easy. For you see, on a computer it takes all the will of the galaxy to write a thousand decent words, and absolutely nothing to make them all go away in a single swipe. As a keyboard artist I've been hiding behind my dear Delete, black and opaque that leaves no trace of its prints on any document. That single button is the perfectionist's best friend. Oh, did I mention that with words I'm as perfectionistic as Hitler's army was meticulous?
Which suffices to explain my terror in composing with the pen anything I deem important. Deletion becomes deleterious. Rewriting, which in my case means rewording every single sentence a million times till it reads like God Herself wrote it, is now an impossibility. I simply can't rewrite slight variants of "Which suffices to explain my terror in composing with the pen anything I deem important" a hundred times on paper; on computer I can leave the document a seemingly inexorable mess and like that! Delete! What remains for sight is only the most perfect version of that sentence. You see? I'm constricted by the permanence of ink. Not enough freedom with the college-ruled, and conversely, a sky too much with the computer, to the point that writing anything good enough seems totally beyond my mental capacity.
But, all this being said, here goes. Apologies in advance if you, the readers, find these words ugly, incorrigible, a cause to cringe violently wherever you are. Just know I'm far from my comfort zone here, and that in my very trying to write longhand I'm taking steps to bean the perfectionistic beast from my being once and for all.
(As promised, the link to Wendell Berry's fantastic article entitled "Feminism, the Body, and the Machine": http://www.crosscurrents.org/berryspring2003.htm.)
How many blogs I've tried to get going to no avail over the years, I really can't say. It's sad really; each is born in the online world breathing anew, full of life and hope and boundless possibility. Then poop. Death by negligence, malnourishment, suffocation, strangulation, what have you. I'm both the father and the murderer of five, maybe ten stillborn blogs. Shouldn't there be some sort of trial for my inoperability? Of course I'm guilty! Arrest me! Lock me up! Punish me in some way, for my own sake as a writer! But alas, no slap on the wrist. Not so much as a temporary holding on my (ad voice) Blogger, powered by Google.com, account. I'm free as anyone else to birth yet another blog. And reckless, promiscuous as I am, that's exactly what I've just done. Antipriety version two, bastard blog to the world's worst blogger in human history.
But before I vow to become a new man, to faithfully nurture and feed APV2, I think what's first necessary is to confront all that has stood in the way of my keeping a successful blog all these years. In other words: my own shit. My own grand, stinking shit. And trust me, there's a lot of it. I'll do my best to compartmentalize the shit into manageable chunks. The reason for all this: I believe that in wholly admitting, then coming to terms with, my own shortcomings as a blogger/writer I'll be able to escape the vicious circle of quick death for good this time, and begin afresh. For real. For real-for real, I say.
MY CHUNKS OF SHIT:
1) A surplus of laziness, and a deficiency in discipline.
So much of my life has been motivated by impulse. Unfortunately impulse operates almost entirely in spurts, and rarely endures the test of time. The result is an offensive amount of unfinished projects, from blogs to stories to half-rearranged rooms, etc. I tend to feel like a million bucks at a project's inception, then give up immediately once the elation has run its very short course. Laziness invades like a merciless tyrant. It seeks discipline, if only to destroy it so thoroughly, so irreparably that when I eventually find the poor thing lying broken, shattered in the dormant dormitory of my mind's shell, recognition is nigh impossible.
2) Anyone can blog.
As someone who's chosen the hammering of ideas into clear, expressive and luminous words as his calling, I find it bothersome that anyone with internet can publish hir* thoughts online and be called a writer. Don't these people understand how painful the process of REAL WRITING is? That it takes everything you've got, and demands more still? I've been resentful, though at the same time I know I should be anything but; blogging allows for self-expression in ultimate convenience, so that anyone can do it and be successful. As a writer, shouldn't this inspire me? The answer, of course, is that it hasn't. I've been inwardly bitter, reasoning that if anyone can blog, I want nothing to do with it. Say I to myself in the most pompously superior manner, "I'm a REAL WRITER." I told you these chunks of shit were big.
3) Fear of vulnerability.
Writing is something like being naked on stage for all an arena to scrutinize. If you are a good writer, then perhaps you don't mind the exposure. Perhaps you love it. (Actually one can look wonderful naked and still be embarrassed.) But if you're a bad writer, well then those may just be some of the most horribly mortifying moments of your life. In any event, whether you're good or bad, the truth is always the same: a writer is to be exposed, s/he's to be vulnerable, and s/he's to be judged by people who really have no business judging hir work.
To complete my analogy: the first time I saw a naked woman, it was my childhood friend's mom. I was seven. And oh boy, was she beautiful, and was it awesome! Though the entire thing was accidental, and though she covered herself up nanoseconds after, I can still recall the scene quite vividly. Whether my friend's mom knows it or not, she gave a little bit of herself up to me on that day. As with any naked man or woman I've seen in my lifetime, it isn't difficult to recall their nakedness, so long as my working memory permits the occasion. And so they've all given a little bit of themselves to me. And it works vice versa. I say it is very similar with writing, except instead of body, you are letting them see bits of your soul. But to recall such vulnerability one does not need memory, for the words are right there on the paper. All you have to do is desecrate them with the eye.
Doubtless these are scary prospects for any writer, artist, or creator. Which is why so much of my writing has stayed veiled from the external world.
4) A scarcity of topics.
My stillborn blogs all suffered from the same weakness: specialization. They were either designed to focus entirely on my struggles as a writer trying to make it, or on defacing propriety and policy, or on thinking outside the box, etc. They all had a single focus in mind. But as time went on I found myself strapped for content, trying to dig through the shallow ditch that would sink no deeper.
So there's the shit. I've admitted, acknowledged, and taken responsibility for all of it. And that's that. Now I'm free to create and fulfill on a new promise:
No longer will I let laziness govern my life. I will write--to start out--a blog every two weeks. That is the measuring stick for my discipline. I will stop resenting the fact that anyone can blog, and that it takes little to no talent to be successful. For blogging encourages millions of people to self-express by writing, and that is truly a beautiful thing. I will continue to feel uncomfortable exposing myself--but I shall not let this stop me any longer. If the goal is to become a professional and top-five writer of all time, well then I better accept the fact that for this to happen my work needs to be physically accessible for consumption. And last I will blog about whatever comes to mind: whether it's a complaint of propriety or a book review or the best way to tell if you've got a good sock underfoot (it must slide up your foot and past your ankle smoothly, with no jarring stops). This, dear friends, is The Vow.
I look forward to our time together.