Wednesday, November 4, 2009


I don't know what I'm going to write about today.

This is abnormal. I am the sort of writer who writes because I have so much to say, and my craft is forever trying to catch up with my enthusiasm. But I'm starting week two of posting every day, and suddenly I find that the drafts in my list of posts are all finished, the ideas for posts that I've had swimming in my head are all used up. My posting has caught up with my thinking.

In the "psychological experiment" category, it's a plus that I can't sustain essays like the one I wrote yesterday: several pages of carefully crafted prose that support my chosen course of action, decorated neatly and tied with a bow. We both know that it isn't really advertising revenue that drives the clanking, clinking Internet machine. It's us. I'm here, and you're here, and we came to see each other.


Lisel said yesterday that the internet makes her feel like a hypocrite. Here we are, representing ourselves in real time, like conversation, except I don't always know who the "you" is in my conversation. I don't know if "you" is understanding me. Maybe I misspoke, or hit the wrong key, or didn't give context, or in any of a hundred other ways failed to communicate. Maybe "you" is just in her own place today, and she can't hear me anyway. But whether I reach "you" or I don't, my attempt is printed here in black and white, and it's easy to interpret it as fact.

I recently alarmed myself by dashing off an email -- on my way to take Milo to the library, with him climbing over my chair and chanting, "liberry, liberry"-- and realizing when I got back that the heartfelt statements that I made in that email could be perceived as quite extreme. Doesn't that happen to us all the time these days? We deliver unprepared address, in the moment, and then there it is on the screen, already sent, made permanent in cyberspace. I think it is accurate to say that the most harmful misunderstandings in my life to date have emerged from a careless email. I know that the cruelest thing I've ever said was via text.

I have an Emile Zola quote that I live by, that I have on my Facebook page (and isn't that proof that it's important?!) Slightly paraphrased, because I'm here, now, and doing it from memory, it says, "If you ask me what I came here to do, I, an artist, will tell you. I am here to live out loud." And I have made every effort to do that.

In the context of the theatrical movement of naturalism, which is how I studied Zola, that quote is about having the courage to reveal truths that others might leave hidden, like poverty and suffering, and -- even more alarming -- unkempt kitchens and boring lives. At least, as an artist, I've always thought of it as courage. I am courageous enough to reveal the truth of my condition, to share with you the reality of my imperfections in the interest of a deeper, more meaningful shared experience of life. But in the context of the internet, it doesn't seem to require any courage at all. Now everyone is doing it. Now it's the way we interact. There are no rehearsals. You don't carefully compose your naturalism so that it's properly lit and you can hear the actors. You just turn on the tap and let it flow.

I'm flirting with this now. By committing to write something every day for a month, I'm not always writing because I have something to say. I'm coming up with something to say so I can write it. Pro or con? I don't know. I haven't thought about it.


Anne said...

Your last two paragraphs really resonate with me Esther. I've always been most comfortable as a "let it all hang out" kind of person, rather than a "put your best foot forward" kind of person. I find that while it makes me feel vulnerable, it also makes my relationships feel genuine.
I also identify with the problem of "coming up with something to say so I can write." That's when I fell off the songwriting wagon. I just couldn't dedicate myself to it, and I'm sorry. I miss writing, but it was too hard for me and felt to false to write for the sake of writing. I fear I've lost my craft and I'm regretful about it, I feel less... special.
Sorry for the novel! You definitely struck a chord with me on this. :)

Esther said...

Anne, that wasn't a novel at all! It makes me want to know lots more. And that's one of the things about the internet that I will really miss. I said something that you relate to, and then I get to be enriched because you're saying something relevant and meaningful, and that I couldn't possibly have known if you hadn't stopped by.

On the loss of the craft, my sister told me once that great artists are in a perpetual state of hiatus, with only occasional bursts of genius. More time is spent off than on. :)

Kiki said...

DW had recommeded a book to me: THREE STEPS ON THE LADDER OF WRITING by Helene Cixous - its a series of lectures she gave in Irvine in the early 90s. As a writer you will find it fascinating, intellectually stimulating, and at times, emotionally unsettling (in a good way). Its about why we write. She discusses three schools; School of the Dead, School of Dreams and School of Roots.

Esther said...

I just ordered it, Kiki, in my last few weeks of access to AbeBooks. :) Thanks for the recommend.