A friend recently asked this question on Facebook. I noted that at the very least my own longform blogging seemed to be dead. But the question did get me thinking.
Meanwhile another thought occurred: when I’m writing, I generally feel better. I’ve noticed this before but I’ve never meditated on the problem. Do I feel better because I’m writing? Do I write because I’m feeling better? What the hell do I mean by better, anyway? Isn’t this more clear in my own head than it is when I put it down on “paper” anyway?
The answer to the last question is “Yes.” Not a surprise. I always write for an audience, not for myself, even if, on balance, the audience I have in mind is a whole bunch of identical copies of me.
Lately I’ve become obsessed with chicken and egg questions—what is the cause of this or that tendency or behavior pattern that I want to correct. It’s a very handy obsession, because it’s so easy to convince myself that I can’t take any action toward changing said pattern I want to correct until I understand precisely where it comes from.
This is a load of bull. I’ve been seeing a therapist, just for a couple of visits to sort through some questions for myself. My anxiety is getting worse as I get older and it’s holding me back more than it’s protecting me; I’d like to know what I can do about it. But I feel compelled to start by asking where it comes from. On this question my therapist’s views are clear: what’s the fucking difference?
It’s one thing if you have some hidden desperate family secret you’ve been repressing for ages, but for me, I had a typical, unexceptional childhood, marked out by certain patterns that probably affect my behavior but which don’t rise to the level of tragedy, or even to the level of mattering to anyone other than me. So why does it matter to me?
The bottom line is, it shouldn’t. I don’t need to know exactly whether the egg preceded the chicken or vice versa, all I need to know is that I can fry the eggs up for breakfast and roast the chicken for dinner. What matters is not where a behavior comes from but whether it’s worthwhile now, and if not, how to change it. Change can come without an explicit understanding of history.
So, do I write when I’m happy and feel like my life is going well? Or does writing make me happy and help my life go well? Well, who cares? Can I write? Yes. Do I want to write? Yes. Why don’t I? Um…. . . . . . . . . . . . .
So, yeah, anyway, here’s a low-threat way to face down an anxiety and set the pattern to face down more in the future: write! Something, at least, every day if possible. Why shouldn’t I? I don’t need to come up with a theme, I never had one in the past. I just need to write. And so write I shall.