Thursday, January 15, 2009

Other People's Blogs

I realize that blogging about blogs is a little too meta...even for me. It's just that I'm relatively new to the blogging world, and I'm having a difficult time wrapping my itty bitty brain around the absolute breadth and depth and width, the vast, ungodly, scope of what we're dealing with here. Do you remember the first time you learned about the absolute crazy expanse of the universe? How the absolute limitlessness of space just completely blew your fucking mind? Yeah, that's what this feels like.

There's literally millions of blogs: humor blogs, Love me/Love my dog blogs, I'm desperate for love blogs, I'm crazy so hear me out blogs, Read by horrible poetry blogs, and Validate me because I pushed a baby out of my vagina blogs. These last are actually referred to as "mommy blogs", but I sort of like my name better. I am just gobsmacked by the amount of reading material people are posting on a daily basis. Is it just me or does it seem like the amount of writing people do exponentially increases with an audience, either real or imagined?

My mind, it is blown. It's not to say that I don't understand that pressing internal need to be heard, to put your thoughts down on paper. Obviously, I do, or I wouldn't be making this lame attempt to become a part of this vast blogging phenomenon myself. It's just that I never realized just how popular it was to sit in front of a computer for hours on end working on a piece of writing while you could be out doing actually fun things like, I don't know, dancing your ass off at a club, or drinking beer, or having sex with a stranger. I mean, I think writing is just as fun as those things are, but I just never realized that everybody else did too. I'm not such a nerdy weirdo, after all. Who knew?

Maybe the truth is that I've been surrounding myself with "not writers" my whole life in order to maintain the delusion that I was somehow special, erudite, and a better writer than I actually am. So I guess I'm getting a good dose of humility about now, because reading other people's blogs is making me feel like I need to just turn in my pen, my keyboard, and admit defeat. Seriously, you all, there are some kick ass writers out there barely being recognized and it makes my heart sick. I want to start advertising for some of these people, because they have amazing language abilities and somebody needs to start reading some of this shit. So I've been served a big slice of humble pie, and you know what? It tastes better than you'd think it would.

I'm not ashamed to say I'm amateur. I realize I need to make massive improvements. I've been putting my thoughts to paper for a lot of years, starting back in the days of antiquity when we used to call blogging, you know, "writing". Back when, instead of needing html, javascript, and flashing pretty packages, all you needed was a 5 rule notebook and a sharpened pencil with a good eraser. I've written my fair share of shit poetry, stories best read by the sharp teeth of a shredder, and unfortunate screenplays that would make your eyes bleed. The biggest problem with me, basically the largest drop among an ocean of many, is that I've never opened my writing up to the critiques of others. I mean real criticism...the kind of criticism that makes you crouch against a wall while bawling your eyes out. Showing your work to your mom just doesn't count. Your friends are going to blow smoke up your ass because, hey, who needs a suicide on their conscience?. When your audience is more worried about your feelings rather than giving an actual opinion on the quality of your work, then you just can't ever grow as a writer.

So I've languished here in mediocrity, having so much to say and wanting so badly to say it, but not doing any part of me justice. It's not that I'm a bad writer. I'm not saying that. I'm self aware enough to realize that there are people out there who write gravely worse than I do. Even people that should know how to do it.

I've been working really hard on a college essay that is supposed to describe "the greatest accomplishment of my life". This essay is the ticket into law school. But guess what? I'm not going to law school. What I have learned is that if one time at work, in a moment of insanity, you "fix" your boss' notes on an appraisal report so that it makes more sense, you will end up being the designated "writer". You will spend the rest of your employ there shelling out intelligent and well written responses to questions like "Why am I most qualified to be president of the condo board?", and, of course, preparing essays for his son to get into Law school.

Why do I do it? I wish I had a really good answer to that but the reality is I just feel bad saying No". I mean I read his son's very lame and very sad final draft attempt at describing his own fucking accomplishment and the essay lacked the sort of coherency and basic writing skill that you'd expect to see from a person who is completing his final semester at Penn State. Like seriously, how does a person get through 4 years of college and not have the ability to put words down on paper in a fashion that doesn't resemble a 5th grader writing a book report on "Bridge to Terabithia"? He actually started the essay out "My biggest accomplishment is...." My heart bleeds for this kid. But there's another part of me that wants to make his heart bleed.

That's the bitter part of me that's having a really hard time enjoying the irony of the situation. The irony, of course being, that I am preparing a Law School application essay for someone who has earned a Bachelor's Degree, and I haven't even managed to earn an Associate's degree from the lame ass community college I attended over the stretch of 9 years. Here's this fucking kid who grew up with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, and here's me who grew up with the literal wooden spoon beating my ass. Here's this kid who is getting a free ride all through university and beyond courtesy of Mommy and Daddy, who can't even prepare a simple essay, going to Law School. And here's me working as a part-time secretary, my life going nowhere, writing his goddamn essay. Yep, here's me: Gwen Jackson, "helping other people succeed since 1975". There's something about this situation that's incendiary;It boils up the blood. But it's my own fucking fault and I know it.

Here's the rub, my boss comes to me yesterday and says, "This is too good. The admissions office is going to assume it was professionally done. They'll think he bought it on the internet." The fuck? Shouldn't the admissions office at a Law School expect their applicants to write an excellent essay? I'm not too hopeful for the future of the legal system in this country when Law Schools have such low expectations for their incoming students. I am just beyond irritated because not only am I writing this kid's damn essay, but now I'm supposed to "dumb it down" so it doesn't look like he's cheating? Well he is cheating. And I'm helping him do it, so I deserve the same swift kick in the ass that he does.

I was talking to Todd about this whole thing last night. Trying to make him understand why I was so upset about the fact that this guy doesn't know how to write, and yet he is going to law school. Todd says, "Well I can't write well either but I think I could do well in law school." I wanted to punch him in his stupid mouth. But instead, I said, "But you're not going to law school. This kid is going to have to prepare briefs, summations, writs of habeus corpus or some shit, and he's not going to be able to do that!" And Todd says the most simple thing in the irritating way that men have of just summing up all the bullshit into 1 succinct question, "So why are you helping him?"

I love to write. I have to write. I'm getting to a point in my life where I need to write like I need to breathe air, and drink water, and take Xanax after a long, stressful day. I know I have a small, but extremely awesome audience. I am so grateful for you people reading my shit, commenting on it on Facebook, offering feedback and giving me ideas. I'm just so inspired lately by this crazy world around me, and by this crazy world within me. I can't let the fact that there are exponentially better writers out there discourage me from pursuing my own dream, from writing my fucking heart out, from cutting open the brutal truth of me and letting the alphabet spill out in organized and, sometimes, lovely ways. This is my voice, and it's the only chance I'll ever get to be heard.

Elizabeth Gilbert's words, which I've quoted to you before, still fill me up, still have the power to push me forward in my puny craft. Because you never know who you will touch with your words, who you will move in some small way to smile or laugh or curse out loud. This is my doctrine, this is my law:

"I believe that – if you are serious about a life of writing, or indeed about any creative form of expression – that you should take on this work like a holy calling...I made a vow to writing, very young...One day, when I was agonizing over how utterly bad my writing felt, I realized: "That's actually not my problem." The point I realized was this – I never promised the universe that I would write brilliantly; I only promised the universe that I would write. So I put my head down and sweated through it, as per my vows." - Elizabeth Gilbert "Thoughts on Writing"


  1. I'm going to read more later(adding you to my reader), because I'm very tired and just happened upon you from your comment on Ask, but I have to say... Why aren't more people here? at least commenting? You are a very talented writer. I will be back.

  2. I second FF about adding you to my reader. Because of the writing, but also because the Alice drowning picture you have on your blog that I also have in one of my blog posts from awhile back so instantly feel a connection. :)

    Regarding getting criticism, I haven't gotten as much as expected through blogging on my writing except through "Ask...". I don't find that other bloggers tend to critique writing, mainly because they don't want to upset an internet friend causing their traffic to go down or they aren't up for reciprocal criticism themselves, or maybe because they think their criticism might hurt another soul's creative spirit. In my case, I know when I read something that I truly connect with and that I love and say so when I do, but when I don't, I don't have the critical voice to pinpoint exactly why I didn't connect with the writer, so I usually just move on without leaving a comment. Although if I felt more writers out there were really into it to get critical feedback on their writing, I would probably do it, but I just don't think that kind of feedback would be welcome in many cases.

    Anyway, sorry for rambling, but the only site I've seen so far that gives honest criticism is Ask, maybe there are other sites out there that I don't know about, but that's the only one I've seen so far.

  3. You are two of the amazing, kick ass writers I was referring to in my blog. I am looking forward to getting cozy tonight and reading your archived work and drinking some wine. I feel like I have so much to read and learn from all the great writers I've recently "discovered". I just archived all my blogs on blogspot about a month ago. Up until that point, I had been posting blogs on Myspace and Facebook. I just didn't realize that this whole world existed. I have to admit, it is terribly exciting. I've never had much in the way of interaction with other people who were serious about writing. I submitted my blog for review at Ask and You Shall Receive. I'm nervously awaiting the "spanking", but also very curious to hear the remarks. In a nutshell, I don't WANT criticism. I need it. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. It means so much to me!