I used to blog every day. Then I had my son, and suddenly free time was this rare, precious commodity, something first meant for sleeping and then, later, to be fought over. There’s only X amount of time, how do you chose? Write a blog, write a book, write about a book, read a book, read about writing? What about doing dishes, groceries, showering? When will I see my husband? What about my job—student work, syllabi, 2nd Story?
Also, now that I have the luxury of examining this all in retrospect, I was a bit post-partem. Not Brooke Shields, Down Came the Rain, but not that baby blues thing they talk about, either. Something in between. Something messy and complicated, and, in the middle of it all was my little boy. Who wants to blog when you can build a castle out of spice jars?
So the pressure kind of got to me, and my blog was yet another reminder of things I wasn’t getting done. Everytime I’d look at it, the date of my last entry grew further and further away, and one day, after another How come you’re not blogging anymore email showed up in my inbox, I took everything down (I was very dramatic about it, lots of yelling and banging into things. Meryl Streep will play me in the movie). Again, in retrospect, it was more about me trying to find the balance between being a parent and being … everything else. When I’d complain, people told me to cut myself some slack. “You’ve got a kid at home!” they’d say. “It’s okay if you’re not producing what you used to.” On one hand, that’s a really nice sentiment, but the fact is this: my kid is the coolest thing ever. I want to be better at everything because of him: better mother, better writer, better wife and teacher and friend and human being. Using him as an excuse for not getting work done—novel, stories, essays, blog—makes me want to stick a fork in my eye.
My point: I’m taking this blog thing a little bit at a time.
That said, I’m super excited about it. I need it, I think. I’ve been feeling sort of crazytown, which always happens when I’m not writing enough, like, what do I do with all these thoughts? (The only thing that quiets everything down is watching 24 on streaming Netflix. Seriously, I do this every night. It cancels out all the noise in my head which for the record is just a normal-person amount of noise, as opposed to Sookie Stackhouse from True Blood being all telepathic and needing to sleep with vampires for some peace and quiet. Also, I’m currently ripping off 24‘s real-time-countdown stuff for a story which is a total blast [at this point, whenever I talk about this shit, and I talk about it a lot, somebody always asks why I'm not using models of real-time-countdown in literature instead of some implausible TV show about terrorists and I’m all, Have you SEEN 24? An hour-long adrenaline rush! And the technology is awesome! And Jack Bauer ripped some guy’s ear off with his teeth! And everybody keeps coming back from the dead! I LOVE people coming back from the dead!] What was I talking about? Bauer, Sookie [rhymes with cookie], busy thoughts, feeling crazy). Running helps with the crazy, as well, which is too bad because I sort of hate running. I’m reading Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running right now in the hopes of finding some joy in it.
Related: I have these pants. Really great pants. They were expensive, and do great things for the ass. I bought them before I got pregnant, and I still can’t fit into them, and lately, when I look in the mirror, I’m all pantspantspants! and then I’m like, Really? All that women’s lib and positive self image hoohah and I’m STILL talking about my butt? ‘cause the thing is, it’s not about the pants, it’s about feeling bad about myself, self deprecation on a continual loop, and eventually you have to shut up and just tackle the shit head-on. Which means, for me, to suck it up and do the running. I got an app called Couch to the 5K and Murakami’s memoir about running and writing. Two birds, one stone.
I love Murakami. I lovelovelove his story “On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning.” It made me fall in love with strangers. Like, I’d be walking down the street and I’d pass all these people and be all that is totally my 100% perfect person, no wait, it’s him! Or him! What about that guy! I love everybody! you and you and you! And the voice! It’s like the narrator’s sitting across the table from me, just talking, like we’re the very best of friends, plus it jumps back and forth between past and present tense which is a bitch to pull off but somehow it all works, and did I mention that part about love and strangers?
Also: His novel Wind Up Bird Chronicles is on my all-time top-five list of Best First Pages of a Novel Ever.
Also: The title is a play on one of my favorite short stories of all time: Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” I was maybe fifteen when I first read that story, with a very small-town Midwestern girl idea of how love was supposed to look. Something about pop songs and yearning. Reading it was like a brick to the head: people have different ideas as to what love is! You can fall in love more than once! Sometimes love is ugly! Sometimes beautiful, but not beautiful like Pat Benetar’s We Belong Together, beautiful in a different way! Then, about a thousand years ago, in grad school, I had to write a structural parody of it, swapping out LOVE for whatever subject matter I chose, as in: What We Talk About When We Talk About Screwdrivers. What We Talk About When We Talk About Our Mothers. What We Talk About When We Talk About Paris, or Politics, or Technology, whatever, fill-in-the-blank. Best assignment ever. Aside from being an awesome study of dialogue, it’s a blast insofar as character development: what kind of people would sit around talking about screwdrivers? Or their mothers? etc. Furthermore, all the characters in the story are drinking—getting progressively drunker as the night goes on—but everyone gets drunk in different ways. Some of us are chatty, some belligerent, some quiet, so who are these people I’m writing about and how do I show that?
So here I am, getting all excited about writing. Which is the goddamn point, right?
Also: I just picked up the new Carver biography (new to me, at least). I’m a fan of biographies. Mostly because I’m interested in the writing process, and I get ideas from things other writers have tried. Here, I owe thanks to the every student who’s ever sat in my Critical Reading and Writing: Short Story class, studying different writers’ processes and reporting back to the rest of the class. Every semester, I hear about sixteen new writers, and that has had an enormous impact on my life as a writer, the most notable example being: Ann Petry would work for a year and save, then take a year off and write. Year on, year off. So, in 2003, I added two bar shifts a week to my teaching schedule, and in 2004, I moved to Prague for a year.
I might be gearing up for that again.
If I’m being honest, I also dig into biographies because I’d like to know there’s hope. That people can slay tremendous dragons and come out unscathed; or, if they are scathed, at least they’re better for it. They make art from it. They make the world a better place, somehow. I taught a class on Kafka when I was in Prague, and the most powerful thing about his journals was that every other entry talks about how he didn’t get writing done today, not the way he wanted, he’s pissed at himself, how do you find the balance, this SUCKS—but still, he keeps going.
That’s what I’d like this blog to be: an experiment in keeping going. In What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Murakami says: “I didn’t write at one stretch, but rather a little at a time, whenever I could find free time in between other work. Each time I wrote more I’d ask myself, So—what’s on my mind right now?”