After six years of blogging, I count 66 items in my “To Be Posted” folder. Duds. Unused quotes, started essays, finished posts. Stuff I forgot or abandoned. Yet I’ve run with many a notion and hated it. Or uploaded flops.
No need to pick scabs here. Well, maybe one—my February 2014 post “Art and Suffering,” in part concerning Philip Seymour Hoffman, which helped me decide I disagree with its implication. I doubt his tough roles contributed to his emotional burden and thus his death from a heroin overdose. Writing can be clarifying if only in that way. State something and see if you agree with it.
Yet I can’t abandon completely the sense that there’s often some relationship between troubles and talent. (What about the sensitivity that made Hoffman an actor in the first place? What about all his money and his acres of down time?) All the same, I heard a writer say this recently about a poet who took her own life:
“Writers don’t kill themselves. People kill themselves. Writing is what kept her from killing herself for years.”
My conflict about this old issue, explored at book-length in Edmund “Bunny” Wilson’s classic The Wound and the Bow—the title refers to the gifted Greek archer Philoctetes, who suffered from an unhealed wound—caused me to abort a similar effort after the Hoffman post because it depressed me too much. And I figured readers would hate it.
After my previous post, about quirky personal posts I recall fondly, my blogger friend Shirley Showalter asked me to discuss the benefits and difficulties of blogging in my life. In the past year I’ve struggled for the first time to post—the long energy-producing effort of drafting my memoir over. Plus having to face the What’s next? question. For most people, probably me too, blogging is a phase. For all I know, this is my last post.
So that’s the difficulty part. But the blog has helped me as a writer—kept my prose and my persona down to earth, underscored obsessions, given instant gratification. It has forced me to create something on the fly that turned out to please me and has inspired me to laboriously craft a post that has likewise surprised me. Sometimes I’ve thought, I should have done that for a real publication. But the truth is, without an existing affiliation, like this blog, I wouldn’t have.
The blog made me do it. Paul Thorne, the Mississippi blues-soul-rock musician says it best: “Whatever expression you have in you, instead of thinking about it all the time, do it. Make it tangible, you know? That’s what art is, it’s creativity made tangible.”