A friend of mine tells me that we have moved from an era when everyone aspired to middle-management or, rarer somewhat, management itself, to an era when everyone aspires to be an entrepreneur. He does not intend his description to register as praise (nor would he lay claim to its originality). The blog as become, if not one of the most effective, then one of the most pilloried, parodied, and, inevitably, necessary of vehicles in this economy of self-promotion, self-management, and self-production.
Agreeing as I do with the thrust of what my friend says, I ought to say that this blog, and the material contained on it, is not part or whole of an attempt at fashioning or inventing my self. Or if it is, then it acts inversely to the usual techniques, and serves as a means and repository of expurgation.
I do not write to stay sane, being one of the fortunate ones whose “sanity” is considered broadly acceptable and socially tolerable. But I write with a mind to moving a muscle of the imagination, in an extent and manner that is not accounted (and it need not be; I am not judging) inherent to tolerable functioning in the world.
I’ve decided, after quite some time bristling at the thought of what I’d become or seem to have become were I to take the plunge, to start a blog and to include some of my writing here. It feels like a final movement of the imaginative muscle, to put something forward before others, especially when it is a matter–not of communication, expression, or representation (though language does all of these)–but, more basically, of wanting to believe it might, somehow, please or excite someone.
The usual routes would be a) publication or b) emailing attachments to friends. The latter I have enjoyed, though I would rather not impose on the enjoyment of others quite so directly. The former I have attempted, and will likely still attempt, but the thought of the upshot is little motivation, whereas the downside of waiting, of selecting, of putting oneself forward in a cover letter, of facing rejection, of the tingling embarrassment and self-loathing that entails envying others whose work, whatever its merit, has no bearings on one’s one…those discourage. The upshot, which I’ve dismissed, I should address. After all, publication is a happy, socially-acceptable, gratifying completion of the movement of muscle that I’ve suggested this blog will serve. But it brings other upshots too: a wider audience, distinction, status, hopes for future readership, inclusion in anthologies, grants, fame and reputation.
I would lie were I to say that none of them appealed. But do they appeal enough, or for the right reasons? I confess that, thinking of them, I find myself conjuring myself, on my mind’s stage, into quite another person than I am, and one who basks in the glow of recognition and adoration. There are three reasons I am skeptical of those self-imaginings. First, they draw me into a fixation on my own appearance that is conspicuously, helplessly vain. Second, they hide me from the inevitability of my continuing, whatever worldly success I achieve, to worry over what might come next, and how I might aspire to more. Third, I fool myself into the belief that those others will possess a judgment that matters, that their stamp will be the imprint by which my metal is counted as eternally valid currency.
No such others exist, and they exist least of all in the fields of imaginary readers. What would be, in my mind, the zenith of such fame? An ingenious, possibly genius, and generous professor of literature, decades from now, lectures on my works (I ignore here the daunted and doped expressions on the faces of his students); the thought gratifies, but could it provide the feeling that something of my mind has been completed; does it satisfy as the expurgation in the present could? No. What would be the nadir of the best fame? A professor of the insufferable sort, or a modish critic for the NY Times, for whose works I have little respect…but that is too sentimental a cynicism, too easy a route to follow in order to console myself for the likelihood of never making a “mark” on the “world.” (Both words of which must be handled gingerly in the context of literature).
What does complete the movement of the mind, the expurgating act of imagination, is knowing that among my contemporaries those few who matter to me most, being the friends who I’ve been fortunate enough to meet, however well we know each other, and that others still, those unknown haphazard faceless passersby, might read something here and find it worthwhile, a source of pleasure or surprise or whatever else it might bring.
“Might” not “will” because a blog like this is a bottle set out, if not on the seas, at least on a large pond or lake; but I do not need certainty that others have fished it out, only the thought, as it rattles along the shore of lives burdened with business and amusement, that they might.