You know how the old saying goes… how can I miss you if you won’t go away?
I don’t know what has happened to my desire to blog.
Ok, not exactly true. I listened to Marketplace this evening while I was on my way to pick up my daughter. It was an interview with Beau Willimon, the guy in charge of that show, House of Cards. The Netflix folks don’t share any stats with him and he likes it that way. Here’s why.
Those numbers can lead to either forced choices that have nothing to do with the creative process, or, conversely, coming from the creative side, a form of pandering. Because you become obsessed with those numbers and try to cater to them. So, I don’t have to deal with any of that… You can’t get addicted to heroin if it’s not available to you.
Most of my absence can be explained away by the common business of life, but since I discovered this interweb thing, I’ve been battling my own Demons of Pandering.
I’ve struggled throughout my life to figure out where I fit in, what my purpose is. When you feel a bit lost like I tend to feel, having followers and commenters and retweeters can seem like a dream come true. Finally — I HAVE ARRIVED.
A couple of problems with this. First of all, a gal like me can conflate this with real relationship. When she figures out that all these people (vast majority at least) are using her blog to build their own brand, she can get a little despondent and bitter.
That happened with Uneasy Pink, my old blog that examined issues surrounding the culture of breast culture. I thought my connections were friends and in one sense of the word they were, but not in the way I wanted. They wanted to link to their own blogs, promote their own stuff, and in one particularly embittering instance, promoted a blog they had just started under assumed names without letting me know they were behind it. Apparently I wanted BFFs, slumber party peeps.
There’s a language too, a system of communicating on the internet – clever (it’s full of awesome!) and snarky (most everything at jezebel) and confrontational (everywhere) – that has become formulaic and boring. To be to verbose or complicated is to be ignored, unless you’re David Simon, who can get away with writing these amazing blog novellas while remaining entirely engaged and one can only guess, genuine.
Further complicating the issue, there are site statistics. I can track the sort of post that garners the most attention. The types people love are the trainwreck posts, ones in which I provoked leaders of breast cancer not-for-profits into doing battle with me. People cheered my confrontational ways and I’m good at it, so when I needed a little boost, I’d go after the Feel Your Boobies people. I’d check the site statistics and VOILA, I’m popular again.
Until eventually I realized how utterly drained I was. Resentful too, that I was being expected to be a circus monkey. Angry with myself for playing the role.
All it takes is one good divergence from the party line and the ensuing epic confrontation to remind me that the price you pay for pandering. Along with the utter loss of integrity that comes with playing to your audience, you have to stay in line. Or look out.
I know I’m being vague here, but I’m way too classy to go into detail.
It’s a love/hate thing. The basic human need to connect with others vs. abandoning who you are to get more readers. There are rules of engagement, both stylistic and substantive. And there are consequences, of course, for violating rules. As I told a friend just yesterday, it seems I’m just not cut out for sorority life.
So while I work out my existential angst, I’ll leave you with a quote from a great essay, Still Just Writing by Anne Tyler.
I have learned, bit by bit, to accept a school snow-closing as an unexpected holiday…When there’s a midweek visitation of uncles from Iran…I have decided that I might as well listen to what they have to say, and work on my novel tomorrow instead. I smile at the uncles out of a kind of clear, swept space inside me. What this takes, of course, is a sense of limitless time, but I’m getting that. My life is beginning to seem unusually long. And there’s a danger to it: I could wind up as passive as a piece of wood on a wave. But I try to walk a middle line.
I was standing in the schoolyard waiting for a child when another mother came up to me. “Have you found work yet?” she asked. “Or are you still just writing?