WHY, OH WHY INDEED
“Why are you doing this?”
It was a simple question, surely. Referring to something I’ve been doing continuously for nine years, but why, WHY? What do I hope to get out of it?
That was his next question.
He and I were sitting at a bar in a swank LA eatery enjoying drinks and nibbling tea sandwiches. A rare, rare time alone, we had the chance to talk about the things we don’t usually discuss. Why? What? How? Where, where, where are we going? And Good God, how will we get there?
Metaphysically of course.
Eventually, the conversation turned to blogging. Probably because in between smoked salmon bites, I obsessively checked Twitter and posed my plate for a picture I’d soon share with hundreds of people in the online universe.
He cupped my chin and turned me towards him. “Why?” Then: “Look at me, not your phone.” Finally: “Why are you doing this?”
I knew why I’d started blogging. Way back in 2001. I wanted to write. I wanted to be goofy. I wanted to be introspective. I wanted to have a forum where I could express myself and feel beholden to producing something readable. Because I just couldn’t seem to do it only for myself. But it turned out that from 2001-2008 no one read my blog. Not a soul save for my brother and a random reader whose name I never did catch. I didn’t promote myself. I didn’t leave links around like strands of a web. I didn’t pull readers toward me. What freedom that. Because? I didn’t scratch my head for post fodder. I didn’t feel the pressure to be funny, or insightful, or informative. I just was. Worse, or better? I didn’t concern myself with branding. Positioning. Fitting in. And thank God for that…because I wouldn’t have spread my writing wings otherwise.
So in 2008 I decided to get more serious. I wanted to sprinkle my writing seed and see if I could pick up some gigs doing what I loved — writing about nothing. And everything. Maybe, just maybe if I developed a blog that was purely, 100% ME — the silly, the obsessive, the occasionally delightfully random — and this time let people read it — someone would see something in that and ask me to write for them or it. You know, because my voice was so unique and special. I was following my bliss, which was the simple act of molding words and stringing them together. Expression. That’s what it was pure and simple. Expression. With a side of please notice me and tell me I can write, then hire me to do this same thing in other places for money. I wanted to be a little like Dave Barry or Erma Bombeck. Just writing my life my way.
So that was naive. Somewhere along the way, I began to second guess my voice, my purpose, my one reason for beginning to blog in the first place. I started to care too much what people thought. About if I fit in a genre, and if so, which one? About if I were popular enough. About if people knew who I was, and did they care. I’m also supposed to give thought to how I look to potential sponsors and advertisers, right? I mean, that’s what the conferences say. I need to worry about what the conferences say.
Except that doesn’t feel right to me.
Well, I’m working on a book. Have been since 1999. Blogging has taken me away from it somewhat. I do believe that blogging can be writing, but not always. When I spend my time posting here, I’m not getting words on my manuscript. Blogging is an adjunct to what I want to do: WRITE. Still, I can never give up blogging. I can’t ignore the lure of instant writing and feedback and expression. BUT: It’s OK to not care about packaging myself, isn’t it? It’s OK to just write and not have to put it in a box, right? Do I really need to be strategic here? I mean I have a strategy: it’s to write because I love it and eventually get paid for it because I’d like to make a living being ridiculously in lust with what I do. BUT the more I do this, the more I find myself moving away from why I began blogging in the first place. Now I’m drawn to making this person like me, or that person, because it validates me on some level. I need to be everywhere at once, that’s how it feels, or people will forget me. I don’t want people to forget me. Everything I’ve begun to prioritize is outside myself, external. I’ve been to paradise, but I’ve never been to me.
As a result, I’m scattered. Unfocused. More insecure than usual. I worry about being left behind in this blogging game. I’m all over the place, but I’m not in the center. I need to be in the center. Grounded. Anchored. Not pulled apart by zero comments, slights from the A-listers, mama drama. What’s important? What’s important? What’s important? The core. Always the core?
Is the writing for the sake of writing, my family, my dream.
And that’s what he wanted to hear.
We had a great weekend.