This is the Week of Writing for me. I have two final papers due, and a flurry of blog post ideas that I can't decide between. Yet somehow I still find myself struggling to put words to proverbial paper. Part of it is because I'm going between a number of different mediums: an Independent Study autoethnography, a Cultural Studies exploration of Donna Haraway and Bruno Latour that's serving as a warm-up for my thesis, and blogging about whatever happens to be either on my mind or in my Netflix queue. Focusing on just one of those, when I have so much to do for each one, has been difficult, and switching between them constantly is wreaking havoc on the papers themselves. The scope of how much I have to write is intimidating, as well, so that could account for some of the mental block.
I think beyond those things, however, is the problem I have with writing in general sometimes. Namely, if convincing myself I have something worth saying is so difficult, what makes me think I'll be successful in reaching other people? What do I have to contribute on any of these topics that's worth hearing? Sure, I'm interested in them, and I guess I like writing about them. But what right do I have to even have an opinion on some of these issues, let alone put it out there for everyone to know about?
Part of this comes from the sheer volume of articles I read every day. Most of them, but definitely not all, are pretty fantastic Whether it's Lindy West being hilarious, ("Listen Up, Ladies: Here's Everything Real Men Think Is Wrong With You" is probably the best thing I've read in months. Money line: "Here's my new beauty tip for everyone on earth: Go read a book or something."), or women talking about their struggles with drugs and responding to horrendous comments made by Republicans in an incredibly moving and personal way, it's easy to look at the work of these writers and feel like I don't have much to offer. So why bother? Is this just narcissism at its finest? Is it an addiction to watching the "views" statistic on this blog go up? Because the first day I reached over 10 views I felt like I hit the freaking lottery, so that could be a completely legitimate reason for me.
Honestly, I have no idea. Maybe it's the idea of throwing my lone voice out into the void that is both terrifying and awesome at the same time. Convincing myself I have something worth saying is one thing, but formulating those random thoughts or motivations into something that may make other people think about their own selves is something else. If I help one person become a more critical thinker by bringing up a question they never would have considered otherwise, is that worth it?
I also need to get better about writing more, and I see this blog as a way to do it. Not even about a particular topic, necessarily. I kind of love the freedom this forum has given me to write about anything I found interesting in a specific time and place. But the process of getting something out, editing it, editing it again, and then publishing it for the world to see may be what I need to become more comfortable with my own voice, expressing my own opinion, and recognizing the value in what I'm even saying in the first place. This piece from McSweeney's is something that struck a chord with me for some reason, particularly the beginning:
WRITE EVERY DAY
Writing is a muscle. Smaller than a hamstring and slightly bigger than a bicep, and it needs to be exercised to get stronger. Think of your words as reps, your paragraphs as sets, your pages as daily workouts. Think of your laptop as a machine like the one at the gym where you open and close your inner thighs in front of everyone, exposing both your insecurities and your genitals. Because that is what writing is all about.
However, I feel that there's a kind of danger in having a free-wheeling blog. That means I may be tempted to use it as a place to air issues that affect me personally in some way. On the one hand this would help loved ones know what's going on in my life no matter how many miles we are away from each other. Plus it would certainly keep my readership down and, frankly, I may be okay with that in the long run. Over 50 people read this the other day, and that freaked me out.
And I'm kidding myself that this isn't already a personal kind of endeavor in the first place. For one, I'm here to get better at writing. Also, the post I wrote about The Raising of the Hand (I know it's ridiculous to link to your own blog posts, but people are lazy) was one example of where writing from a place of frustration, hurt and dis-empowerment led to a post that culminated in a feeling of extreme catharsis. I'll probably struggle for awhile about how appropriate of a piece it was to write in the first place, and how good of a piece it was itself is definitely up for debate. But remembering how good it felt to write, and the sense of relief that came when I posted it, is what I will remember the most. The personal is political, and pretending otherwise does a disservice to the interpersonal politics that makes the world go round.
So here I am, talking with myself, in a place where other people can see. This technically fulfills the self-imposed number of posts I gave myself to do in my Independent Study, so everything afterwards will come from a motivation other that Holy Crap Get This Done. Even I can't say for sure whether I'll come back, but signs so far point to "yes."