In the spirit of a fourth-grade public speaking presentation beginning with the dictionary definition of whatever the kid is talking about, I thought it might be interesting to see what comes up when one does a Google image search for ‘ambivalence’— voila! (See above!) So, yeah. I see and read and hear about a lot of people who fall out of the groove with writing on blogs and Twitter and whatnot and most often it seems to me they blame it on laziness, lack of being able to follow through every gee-dee day, to commit to writing in a serious way.
For me, who (as you can see from all the time-stamped glory of my posts across various thingies) has been absent from sharing things in a public way for quite some time, it’s definitely a little bit of the laziness but if I’m being honest it’s really more the result of a mix of emotional exhaustion and ethical ambivalence I’ve been dancing with for the past however long.
First, probably in the most practical way, I was just so completely emotionally and social-media-y pooped from shilling the shit out of the book I co-edited that came out last fall. For years I’d toiled with my co-editor and the authors to put out this thing that I, literally, do not think I could possibly have cared more about. I poured everything I had into that damn book and thank god it turned out to be something I love so much and is of such awesome quality (thanks to the writers and publishing team at Feathertale). But after throwing my heart into this thing, which I actually believe(d?) was more than a book but rather a concept, and argument and a social movement, I desperately needed to connect it with as many receptive souls as possible. (I’m such an earnest cheesehead, I know. Embarrassing but true.)
I spent hours and hours developing and editing podcasts and blog posts and promotional concepts and maybe from the outside it looked like I was trying to ‘move product’ but— how can I say this in a way that folks will believe me— I never actually expected us to make money on the thing (because I have a working knowledge of the publishing industry), and so I can only hope that you’ll believe me when I say that it was, instead, a labour of love. I just thought the book was so excellent, the writers’ pieces so moving, that I was willing to spend hours and hours of my life trying to get it into the hands of people who would care about it too. Who needed it, even though they didn’t realize it. Who would read and go, ‘YES! This is a place for me!”
And so I know that on one level I just totally sapped any interest and ability to share publicly because, I think, for a certain amount of time I shared and shared until I extinguished the impulse and ability to do it.
But then, too, was the emotional and ethical weirdsies of it. Once the book was released into the world, once I had more book concepts on the go, I could no longer get my head around the concept of ‘sharing’ for the sake of sharing… myself. This is strange, because I am a writer, and had no problem continuing to generate ideas in a private space. Instead, it was like, well if this public space is for selling things… then what am I selling?
And I knew what I was selling— me. My ‘platform’! Trying to get enough Twitter followers so my agent will finally trot out my book concept to publishers with a sure argument that I have enough supporters to buy the god damn books. Trying to translate my personality through places like this Tumblr so when editors do a Google check on me they see me fully, spread everywhere, open and full of energy and edge and spark and connecting with audiences. And I think because I was so emotionally exhausted from the EAT IT experience I was like, ughhh, no.
There wasn’t really a way for me to just ‘be’ in this public space anymore that was divorced from marketing. And that made me feel gross but it also felt like it was something that I could never return from.
Back in the day I would just write stuff in the public sphere that, like, came to mind. Now I can’t even imagine what that would feel like to just so genuinely say these things through a broadcast. Argghh but I want to! I want to go back to that place where I could just have the impulse to share without having an end goal, but unfortunately I chomped the apple and now I live in the age of knowledge and I don’t think I can go back to that blissfully ignorant place.
That said, I feel like even though I’ve broken my own trust in what sharing oneself is (trust… or belief… or motivation?…) in the act of public sharing, I also feel ashamed that I’ve been so inward-facing since I left the public space. Like, antisocial, almost? Or just… hurt. Yes, hurt, but in this embarrassed way. Like from a really cringe-worthy self-inflicted wound resulting from hubris and sense of self-importance and understanding of oneself as a commodity. I feel like hiding in private silence was a way to try to repair my belief in ‘the community’ out there— all the writers and readers and people I once broadcasted to and connected with so freely, before I allowed myself to believe it instead to be a metric of my abilities as a writer— a self-injury in the first degree.
And I don’t want to choose to be that cynical person who hides away because she’s afraid of being judged as not good enough.
So this is me dipping my toe back in the water. And we’ll see what’s what.