(gratuitous image of Nigella Lawson because in my mind, I am/look like her, and that has been true since I was 16)
Friends, lovers, countrymen —
I am forcing myself to write this post because I must open up a valve. I’m going crazy. You see, it’s been a while — a long while — since I have written something that I wasn’t submitting to an editor.
On the one hand, wow, what a thrill that I’ve come a long way since last year! I loved writing this blog because this was where I could let myself wander into whatever topic I want, whether it’s opera or art history or poetry, just let my freak nerd flag fly. I always wrote joyfully and freely because I had no pretension of living up to any kind of externally imposed standard. I had it nowhere in my mind that I had to try to be or do anything — I was just putzing about because it felt shitty not to write, not to cogitate out loud. And this blog was read by a few kind friends.
And now, I am writing all over town. In many ways, some of my wildest dreams (that I didn’t even know I had) came true. Now, I am a bona fide book reviewer, which is just nuts because who wants to listen to my crazed ramblings extolling Camille Paglia and pooh-poohing psychoanalysis? Apparently some people!
I wrote for the august conservative mag, The National Review, which was a complete scandal because I thought NR was only by, like super legit super conservatives, and I am neither halfway legit nor a proper conservative. I went to Wellesley and spent my 20’s drinking rosé and smoking cigarettes in Bushwick!
Seriously, the worst. I avoided trying to become a “real” writer for the longest time because writers are a total fucking drag!
And then a seriously questionable character convinced me that I ought to try my hand at fiction, which is the worst idea ever because now I have dug myself into 23948 different kinds of holes that I’ll be clawing my way out of for the rest of my life.
Why are interesting things hard to do?
I needed help. I went back and re-read my bible Big Magic (if you are a creative person in any way and haven’t read this book, DO IT) by the Patron Saint of Creative Women, Elizabeth Gilbert, who said something like, “I entered into a relationship with writing and promised that I would be grateful and wouldn’t complain too much.”
And I was like, hah, okay Liz Gilbert, I grew up a totally sheltered special snowflake under a helicoptering tiger mom, as opposed to a salt-of-the-earth midwestern-protestant farm-bred mom. I don’t know how not to complain. I don’t know how not to be precious.
So here I am. Metaphysical warts and all.
You know what? I learned something super important though. And I am so glad I learned this.
This was totally shocking to me, but apparently YOU, AS A PERSON, ARE ALLOWED TO ITERATE.
And you are allowed to iterate out loud, in public.
If you are Yo Yo Ma, you’re allowed to put out multiple recordings of the same Bach because a later recording doesn’t cancel out the legitimacy of a former recording. We don’t say, “oh great, now that we have the recording of 55 year old Yo Yo Ma, let’s burn all the copies of the one from when he was 30.” That’s not how it works. We’re all living out loud and no one moment is truer or more valid than any other. This is important for creators. (Nugget of wisdom and example relayed to me by the great Marcia Butler.)
It turns out, this is especially important for women who’d been taught all their lives that they have to be good and proper and perfect and unoffensive and unimpeachable and not change their minds or grow. Because if you change your mind or grow, that means you were wrong before and if you were wrong that’s bad and you should have shut the fuck up? Right?
I am a total fraud, I’m constantly iterating, I am totally making it up as I go along. SO IS EVERYONE ELSE! Think about it for a second. If you’re not iterating, you’re standing still. We are all making it up as we go along. Because what is identity anyway? Persona means mask.
I might die tomorrow. Literally. I’d rather have played this game with aplomb.
Or, something, I don’t know. I’m terrified.
There, I’ve finished the assignment to myself. To write something that doesn’t go to an editor.