For many of us, reading is a magical thing.
That is why we are so hard on our own writing: we judge it by magical standards, which can be hard to live up to.
I am surrounded by books in this room; if you were to look at them, you would conclude (a) that I have not thrown away a single book I’ve owned since childhood; (b) that I studied philosophy; and (c) that my literary tastes are somewhat eclectic.
You would be correct on all counts.
Reading is an intimate experience: there is just you and the writer. Writing, however, is not: there is you and (sometimes) many multiple readers.
I don’t know about you, but, for me, relationships are relatively easy with one person at a time. Introduce more than that and it is like the “three body problem” in physics – i.e., too complex for us to solve.
So, reading can be less stressful than writing, particularly for the introverted among us. The dynamics are more straightforward.
Blogging attempts to solve this problem by changing the rules: we are, in the original parlance, keeping a “web log”, i.e., a private journal, where there are no other people we are writing for. The inherent contradiction – that our private log will be kept on the web, which is not notorious for its privacy – is one of the casual tricks we play our own psyches to make the dynamics manageable.
I do know, of course, that many people write looking for the widest possible audience: in fact, if you are a person like that, you naturally assume everyone else is.
However, along with the writers who would fill up stadiums or large concert halls with their prospective audiences, there are the writers of chamber music: meant for smaller groups of people in a more intimate setting.
The poets, in other words.
My father used to joke that many more people write poetry than read it. Well, that’s just fine, if so. It’s much less intimidating.
With the crowds come the critics. I hate critics. Almost as much as I hate crowds.
For National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) I joined a group who are supporting each others’ efforts to post on their blogs everyday. This means reading something like seventy blog posts a day as well as writing. As well as working a job for nine to twelve hours a day, six days a week; trying to maintain a marriage; and watching all my sports teams be vanquished on their various fields of battle.
Oh, yes, and eat and sleep.
Reading, it turns out, is every bit as challenging as writing, and I do both fairly quickly.
I tend to get emotionally attached to blogs – I tend to get emotionally attached to everything – so I loyally and doggedly read certain blogs, even after their authors have long since altered these blogs from what attracted me to them in the first place.
I’ve now added more to that list as a result of this month. Which is a very good thing.
Reading and writing, both, are among consolation’s many forms: we read and write for any number of reasons, but at least one of them is to affirm that we are not alone: neither in what we think, nor how we feel.
Life is lonely, painful, disjointed, and loud: sometimes, we need a little chamber music to soothe our souls, allow us to take some breaths, and share the experience with a group too small to risk becoming a mob.
Finally, if you are unhappy with your own writing because the magic doesn’t seem to be there, take heart: there is music in you that no one has yet heard.
So just keep writing.
For Nano Poblano this year, I’m trying a prose post a day instead of my usual work in poetry. Thanks for reading. – S.B.