On Writing

I have recently be reminded of how important writing is. I have forgotten, perhaps been distracted, and I have stopped writing. Of course most people who write—I’m guessing in any capacity, from a novelist to a blogger to a journaling tween—go through phases of writing and not writing. I looked at my journal a few months ago and saw that I only wrote in it twice in 2014.

I’ve recently realized that I’ve been in a writing drought, and I want to return to writing as a practice and as a kind of meditation (albeit public in this forum and not necessarily a mediation at all). I had started this blog as a way to communicate with people about my experiences living in another country, and somehow I haven’t gotten rid of it. I’ve flirted with the idea several times: I’ve looked at the link in my bookmarks and questioned myself as to why it remains and why I’ve failed to act towards its elimination. Some stubborn loyalty to this blog is at work here. And then there are things like this:

During those years I was traveling on what I knew to be a very shaky passport, forged papers: I knew that I was no legitimate resident in any world of ideas. I knew I couldn’t think. All I knew then was what I couldn’t do. All I knew was what I wasn’t, and it took me some years to discover what I was.

Which was a writer.

By which I mean not a “good” writer or a “bad” writer but simply a writer, a person whose most absorbed and passionate hours are spent arranging words on pieces of paper. Had my credentials been in order I would never have become a writer. Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write. I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.

I think I used to want to be a writer. When I say that, I mean it as a profession, as something I would dedicate my life to which would simultaneously provide me with an income and a secure sense of purpose. As my life has continued on the path I’ve created, I’ve often looked back to think not about what it was but what it might have been. In some ways, I think my choices have not made my affinity for writing diminish—they’ve simply allocated my time elsewhere. I’ve come to realize that I am a writer, but not in the way I meant it above. I mean to simply say that I identify myself as someone who finds passionate joy in “arranging words on pieces of paper” (or on computer screens). I love words, and I love language and its sounds (which, admittedly, doesn’t have much to do with writing necessarily, but that’s for another post). So I’ve returned to writing, or, rather, I’ve recommitted to writing. I’m not going to do it to become anything through it (at least not intentionally; I’m not quitting my day job). But I’m recommitting to my belief that writing is a necessary activity for me. I know that writing is a part of who I am. I don’t know what is going to come from it, but I do know that.

Shared Reality, or On Being Online

“Take away comments entirely, and you take away some of that shared reality, which is why we often want to share or comment in the first place. We want to believe that others will read and react to our ideas.”

From: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/elements/2013/10/the-psychology-of-online-comments.html?utm_source=tny&utm_campaign=generalsocial&utm_medium=twitter?mobify=0&intcid=full-site-mobile&mobify=0

I’ve found this to be true enough as far as online communication is concerned. I started blogging or writing in a public forum on MySpace, a venue not well suited for what I was trying to communicate (most people I interacted with on MySpace blogged surveys asking their friends which profile pic they should use or quizzes asking what their top ten favorite things are. It largely wasn’t used to write anything meaningful). I wanted people to read what I wrote, to think about what I was saying, and to maybe engage me in a dialogue about it. I would generally post the same kinds of things I have posted in this venue: benign snippets of my thoughts, random things I find interesting, half-articulated musings, pretty much Stephane’s recipe for dreams:

“People think it’s a very simple and easy process, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. As you can see, a very delicate combination of complex ingredients is the key. First, we put in some random thoughts. And then, we add a little bit of reminiscences of the day mixed with some memories from the past. Love, friendships, relationships, and all those “ships”, together with songs you heard during the day, things you saw, and also, uh… personal…”

You get the idea.

But lately I’ve been wary and have avoided what I call Being online. Perhaps it has to do with my increasingly time consuming profession; perhaps I’ve simply lost interest in engaging an audience or of keeping some sort of public record of what I sometimes think (it is a heavy burden, dear reader, to keep you entertained). More likely though, I think it’s the way in which we exist online and the penchant for selectively revealing who we are that’s got me down.

The article I quoted above focuses mainly on anonymity in online comments and how we feel the deliberate hiding of our identity allows us to flout the social niceties we would normally observe in face-to-face interactions. Indulge me for a moment. Imagine standing in line at the bank—which I find myself doing less of—with several polite people who hold doors open for one another and who perhaps even allow each other to cut in line to go to the next available teller because they’re not quite finished properly filling out their deposit or withdrawal slips. As cheery and respectful as these people seem to be, when they go home—or worse, as they stand in line next to you on their smartphones—these same polite individuals are tearing a YouTube video to shreds, posting a snide series of comments on a Facebook page, or writing an offensive tirade on some obscure blogging site. Or they may be saying things about people in a very public place that they would never say to them directly in person (oftentimes, and I’ve experienced the brunt of this personally, anonymity need not be a precondition to such mudslinging). In short, we are not who we appear to be when we’re online. And that’s my qualm, or at least that’s part of it.

I’m not alone in maintaining a false belief, a delusion, that what I post here or what I have posted in similar venues in the past—DeadJournal being one good example— is public enough to be ignored, that the internet is so vast that my little speck is, for all intents and purposes, invisible. At the same time I am unnerved by the fact that this is not true. This delusion is especially made obvious to me and my interlocutor when what I write here is brought up when we’re talking IRL. How does one respond? When that happens, I almost feel like my privacy has been invaded, that someone has been watching very private moments of my life, that all is known about me and who I am. That somehow they know my identity better than I do. But then, because I am aware of my delusion, I know that if there has been any violation of my privacy I have given the culprit the key to the safe. If I am made upset by this, I have no one to blame but myself. Agenbite of Inwit. Inwit’s agenbite.

Still my delusion remains, but it’s weakening. I haven’t been writing much of anything in any public place. I’ve stopped sharing. In fewer than five years I have gone from participation in blogging and other Web 2.0 type activities to a near complete closing of all accounts to a steady climb in social media participation. Each change in my participation and engagement in Being online has been different. Right now I’m at the point where I use thinly disguised usernames for accounts where I’m technically deemed a lurker since I rarely contribute beyond a reblog, retweet, or an innocuous favoriting of someone else’s post. I’ve been made uncomfortable by any full and unadulterated participation in social media, and I’m still trying to discover why as I navigate an increasingly complex online identity.

One reason I know I’ve curbed my online Being is the miscommunication allowed through social media. I have often participated in what I initially considered harmless dialogues with people for whom I have much adoration and respect. In many dialogues, my responses are mistaken, my meaning misunderstood—which is probably mostly my fault in underestimating or misinterpreting the effect of my words—and the topic is eventually abandoned for want of clarity. I’ve temporarily given up on and lost faith in my ability to realize for others what exactly is going on in my head.

I’m not sure that I have a point to this rambling; I’m not sure that a point is even necessary anymore. The medium is the message, as Marshall McLuhan once said. I suppose most of what I’ve said is pointless, and the fact that I’ve written and you, reader, are reading in a forum wherein you can also articulate your thoughts in abstractions and respond to my abstractions is the whole point at this point. So let’s all go to the science fiction disco and misunderstand misrepresented parts of each other. That’s how the internet is changing the world, right? We’re all sharing selective realities more than ever before.

The Widening Gyre

“It’s like a giant, f’d up selfie,” Martel has said of the “We Can’t Stop” video. But at this point, when the self become a selfie — when people start approaching themselves and others as things, to be posed, bartered or possessed, rather than as beings with rich and infinitely various inner lives —morality becomes destabilized, making it difficult to determine the difference between a playful risk and real one, or even between violation and fun.


This has been a topic of conversation in my Adolescent Psychology class this week. We discussed media literacy and the impacts on adolescents of the Raunch Culture of the early 2000s, the Rape Culture of today, and the prevalence of violent sexual imagery in the media. I don’t know why I’m always surprised things like this are popular. If anything, this has reminded me that it’s (still) not cool to think, to actually think, about what one does, how one acts, and how that represents things larger than “fun” or the idea that “it’s just a joke”.

Where are the Darias of today? “People call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute.” Where are the youtube videos with 97,000,000 views gone viral that say things like this to 13 year-old girls? 


You don’t refuse to breathe do you

Light     clarity     avocado salad in the morning
after all the terrible things I do how amazing it is
to find forgiveness and love, not even forgiveness
since what is done is done and forgiveness isn’t love
and love is love nothing can ever go wrong
though things can get irritating boring and dispensable
(in the imagination) but not really for love
though a block away you feel distant the mere presence
changes everything like a chemical dropped on a paper
and all thoughts disappear in a strange quiet excitement
I am sure of nothing but this, intensified by breathing

What can you possibly learn from her?

Ingrid: God, how can you stand to live with poor Claire? Did you know there’s an entire order called the Poor Claires?

Astrid: She’s a genuinely nice person. You don’t know what it’s been like. If you love me, you’ll help me.

Ingrid: Help you? I would rather see you in the worst kind of foster hell than living with that woman. What can you possible learn from her? How to pine artistically? Twenty-seven names for tears? 

All I can say is keep your bags packed.