It’s nearly the end of the year and, sadly, I’ve been finding it harder than usual to write this blog. I haven’t posted that many pieces in a while.
Partly this is just that late-semester-feeling, the effort to get my students’ papers marked. Partly it’s the aftermath of my PhD Comprehensive exams, which, although in the grand scheme of things were not that bad, not that grueling, and which, on paper, I did very well on, were at the same time pretty exhausting. Even, in an intellectual sense, somewhat traumatic.
I finished the reading and preparation for those exams in a buoyant, fertile state of mind, grateful for having my perspectives broadened. But I finished the month of the exams themselves in a much less positive mood. I’ll say more about this in a later post, but, in short, it was a bit like being taken to the doorway of the temple’s inner chamber only to find, as in the tarot card of the High Priestess, that the chamber remains covered by a veil. An enchanting, fascinating veil, but a veil, nonetheless. At the end of the quest, the original purpose of the journey seems opaque.
However, the exams weren’t that bad. Other people, I’m sure, have had far worse experiences with their comprehensive exams than mine (if you’d like to share in the comments, I will happily read!). There’s a third reason for my reticence, one I find trickier to talk about–but maybe when I describe it, you’ll recognise it, too. I call this feeling “Blog Disconnect.”
All writing issues out of a specific persona. Each piece of writing, even though they all bear the same physical’s author name, issues from a specific voice, a controlling vision, with a particular imagined reader. I write one way for my students (I use a lot of short, declarative sentences) and another way in my current novel. I use yet another language and stance in my short fiction.
And, increasingly, I’ve felt disconnected from the voice that writes this blog. There are more things I’d like to talk about than my blog persona knows how, and the result, to an extent, has been silence.
Now, compared to the disconnect many writers experience on a daily basis, mine is hardly anything at all. Other people have much bigger concerns, and face far greater risks expressing themselves — I think of a writer like Roxane Gay, who routinely speaks on subjects that bring hateful trolls screaming from the woodwork. She is brave in a way I can, at this stage, only admire. And more than that. The voice she writes with feels, on a very deep level, to be her. That when you are reading Gay, you are reading someone who has taught herself to be careless for everything but her words.
I often think, too, of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ great declaration: “I am a writer.”
I think now, four years after watching that video, and having read A History of White People, that I am a writer. And that is not a hustle. And this is not my “in” to get on Meet The Press, to become an activist, to get my life-coach game on. I don’t need anymore platforms. I am here to see things as clearly as I can, and then name them.
Similarly, if you read Andrew Sullivan’s blog, one reason The Dish has become so successful is that Sullivan’s voice feels so him, so multifaceted and deep-welled, so equal to all occasions. There are few subjects where Sullivan’s voice seems awkward with its grip on the pen–rather, it is like hearing someone for whom every event, every rebuke and embarrassing error produces the response: “More! More!”
Now, for myself and this blog, I’m thinking of something almost trivial (it feels absurd to invoke such great essayists in relation to myself.) I’m planning to write about only small-scale, local things: a short series of posts, here on this blog, which will be a step more personal than I’ve lately been. No enormous confessions, I think — rather it will be about glowing screens and distractions, different writing software, the wonders of Asheville’s restaurants, frustrations with academia. All very minor.
Things I’m Grateful For and Things I’m Not Grateful For — that’s the series. It starts tomorrow.
Let’s see how it helps to clear up this feeling of “blog disconnect.”