Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Trying To Do This: Part I.

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately, and by "thinking" and "lately," I actually mean "the exact same stuff that I have always thought about forever." Which is: What do I want to DO with myself? Should I devote my life to education and teach? Can I actually teach? Or should I quit everything and devote myself to writing until my fingers cramp and my eyes bug out of my head and I need to take breaks to walk around the neighborhood just so fresh air can re-enter my brain?

Something about Maurice Sendak dying, combined with a few other things, has unexpectedly whipped up a frenzy of thought about the latter part of this equation this week, even moreso than usual. I feel focused in a way I haven't in a while. I DO want to write more. I want people to READ what I write. I want people to frantically agree with what I write. I want people to despise what I write and tell me I'm an idiot. I just want to write.

So. How does one do that?

There is nothing quite as irritating as writing about writing, but I'm going to try to document my process with this on here anyway, because right now I feel like a child who knows nothing about how to Do This. But I WANT to know more, and I think documenting my process with it will help. Because the one thing I already know about trying to get people to actually read what you write is that it can be really, really frustrating and stupid, and in order to stay sane I need to get back into my own head space and sort things out. If it doesn't work, I will be able to look back and at least tell myself that I tried.

So far, I've been lucky enough to write for After Ellen, where all the editors I've talked to have been wonderfully supportive and kind and encouraging. They are Good People, and I think I'll be able to continue doing Good Things with them. Yay, all around. Yay yay yay.

But sometimes, I will want to write things that don't fit After Ellen. For instance, in a fit of sudden emotion over North Carolina's passage of Amendment 1 last night, I wrote a thing about how awful it was but also about how personally disappointing it can feel for people to perpetually and stereotypically give up on the South, how people's reactions are full of honest hurt and rage but also full of these prejudices we have against each other. I hadn't really seen anyone else writing about this event with this perspective, so I wanted people to read it. So I started doing a brief research project on Blogs On The Internets Where I Could Possibly Send My Shit To. Within a half hour of this research project, I felt annoyed.

I: The Problem With Blogs On The Internets Where I Could Possibly Send My Shit To

My thesis from my brief research project is that, from my perspective, there are three main Big Fancy Blog (Like-The-Kind-That-May-Possibly-Pay-You Blog) Types. 

1. Snarkfestopolis. Listen. I like snark. I like snark a lot. Often, these are my favorite kind of blogs, because they're smart and witty and often offer new perspectives and things that make me laugh are my favorite type of things.

But the problem with Snarkfestopolis blogs is that they walk such a fine line between smart/witty and obnoxious/exhausting. Especially as a writer, writing for them seems like such a daunting and possibly-soul-killing task. Who can outsnark another? Who can be more indifferent or alternately pissed off sounding about such and such random cultural tidbit? Who knows what random cultural tidbits are even worthy to snark about? Who can be the funniest and bitchiest funny bitch?

Even when the Snarkfestopolis is firmly on the smart and witty side though, or the random and goofy side (which is actually my favorite side), I enjoy it as a reader and a writer because sometimes I feel like being smart and funny. But sometimes I feel like just...telling people things. Is there space on the Internet to just...tell people things?

2. Factual reporting and/or brief commentary from people who know facts. These make up the majority of Important Blogs, really, and as they should. It's good to know stuff. One of the main reasons we go on the Internet, other than finding out what our friends are eating and reading and looking at and thinking, and other than watching videos of animals being friends who shouldn't be friends on YouTube, is to know stuff.

But, right, so, you see, I have no experience in the, like, finding of resources to, say, get the facts, and get the facts first, and stuff, and if you don't get the facts first no one cares. So.

3. Highfalutin Blogs for Successful Writerly People.  I love these blogs. They are producing wonderful, important work. But. I'm not going to get published in the Paris Review, not going to get published in the Rumpus, not going to get published in McSweeney's, probably wouldn't have a good chance with Thought Catalog, not going to get published in Whatever Else There Is And I Know There Is A Lot. This is okay! But like, are there more blogs out there for, say, mid-falutin people? Mid-to-lower-falutin? Dreaming-of-falutin-someday?

II: The Trouble With Figuring Out What My Shit Actually Is

1. I learned very quickly when I took an Intro To Fiction class in undergrad that I cannot write fiction. I really can't. It's painful, guys. So count those submissions-for-short-stories openings out.

2. I've actually written quite a bit of poetry recently, but this doesn't even feel related because I haven't written poetry since the 8th grade and my knowledge of how to write poetry, or how even to read or understand what makes poetry Not Suck, has not advanced since the 8th grade, and it's only been happening recently because it felt like the only way to get things in my head out of my head, so anyway I don't even know why I'm mentioning it.

3. What I spent most of my time doing in undergrad were lengthy personal essays, lengthy because they were supposed to be but also because it's hard for me to NOT be lengthy with a personal essay. There are already so many more succinct, eloquent, and unique personal essays out there, folks. Does anyone REALLY want to read my tome about my grandma dying of Alzheimer's? Probably not. I mean, especially not when there are gifs of kittens hugging stuffed animals to look at instead. That's not being snide. Seriously, I would rather look at the gifs.

4. Most of the random things I've written in the last few years which aren't for a specific purpose are bits of personal stories combined with some opinions and a lot of Thinking Out Loud.

So what I'm saying is, this is what I probably need to do: 
1) Find a place that will want to post my random Stories Combined With A Lot of Thinking Out Loud, or,
2) Refine What My Shit Actually Is, and then Write That Shit. And go from there.

In conclusion, my brief research project, and writing this, has made me feel pretty pooped, and I will just post that thing about North Carolina on here later.

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