Tag Archives: stepping up

Crisis of Confidence & Craft

My day daunts me. I must find nuggets of awesomeness that define me as a person and writer, deep within these stacks of posts. I’ve no idea where to begin. Other than the beginning, that is.

In the next 27 hours, I have to somehow distill all that I have to say, the whole of my dream, into one email.

These past weeks have been an endless parade of “terrifying” firsts.

My heartbeat needs a muzzle.

I’ll tell you more about this another day. Let’s just say I’m learning about feeling the fear and doing it anyway. I’m sure a day will soon roll by where I finally feel like the scales of suspense are tipping in my favour, but this is not that day.

[deep breath]

[sigh]

I swear, though, the biggest lesson I’ll probably ever learn in this life, is that of reconciling how others see me with how I see myself, and striking a balance in there. I’m manic when it comes to my self-image. I’m either all self-love or all insecurity, and seldom in between. Logically, I know the insecurity is stupid, so I can talk it down, and I also know the self-love’s maybe a little over the top or biased.

I wish that was an easier lesson to learn. I wish it was easier to process in writing, too.

I can’t flick off the self-judgey side when I’m reading my old work. I can’t see past some of the stilting dishonesty I’m passing off as restraint. I wish I could undo my hesitations and get fully past the apprehension.

That’s where great writing lies. Ripping off the scabs.

I’ve come close on very rare occasions. Once in a blue moon I can extract all the marrow and get to the centre of anything I’m writing, but it’s so rare that it’s almost a religious experience. I remember those moments with the same intensity as I do a fantastic night of sex. I can’t explain that feeling, but, oh, is it rare.

I blame blogging for that, in some regards.

The nature of writing for such a short-yet-long shelflife is an odd thing. To truly edit well and nail a piece that’s, oh, 2,000 words, a few weeks should pass by. Ideas should be expounded upon or hacked as necessary, emotions redefined, words sharpened, ideas stretched or molded.

Writing’s like wine in that its aging process exposes its weaknesses and challenges its structure. When it’s young, everything gets a pass — it’s quick, in-the-moment, and it’s “great for what it is.”

But…

It’s writing.

It’s not just a second that flashes by. Well, it is… until it isn’t. One day you remember you have archives, you toggle through them. You stop on an insolently average posting and a sigh rises up as your belly turns and you’re forced to acknowledge you phoned it in.

You phoned it in because of some perceived deadline or stress, because some audience you might never know, never make money off of, and never impact.

A little restraint, a little time, a little longer pulling at those threads, and you mighta tamed lightning. But, no. So often have I seen something with promise spat out in mediocrity all because of rushing.

In the fast-moving world of overscheduled lives, pressing demands, and the promise of temporary, we bloggers cut corners and offer up lesser work than we’re capable of.

Or I know I do.

My average posting is written, edited, and up within the hour. Even when it’s pushing 2,000 words.

Excellence? Quality? Pfft, not even. I’m better than the work I churn out here, but there’s a limit to what I think you & this deserve. Deep down inside, a part of me thinks wonders why should I put my “A” game out just for some thieving hack to steal and publish elsewhere on the web.

But that doesn’t mean I need to bring my “C” game.

I’ve reached a turning point in the last two to three weeks, but it’s been a long time coming.

I want the blog to be more content-focused. I don’t want to post because I think you need another meal. I don’t want to care about your needs at all.

I was once told that Robertson Davies, the legendary dead Canadian author, said a writer ought not write until the thought of not writing became unbearable. I’ve never been able to source the quote, but I don’t really care that I can’t, because I love it.

Every piece-of-shit writing I’ve ever done was forced. Any crap I’ve produced has been because I’ve felt obligated and not honest.

Unfortunately, deadlines loom in the world of writers, so waiting for whimsy and her muse to traipse through that door is unfeasible.

But, in blogging? Really? Come on.

There’s no real reason any blogger should have to post more than 3 times a week. These people pushing for 5 to 7 postings a week, if not more, need to stand back and read the crap they’re writing. Seriously.

They need to look at it on a long-view and see just how poorly it’ll hold up in the passage of time.

Because I did. I do. I know now. I’m sad I phoned it in so much in 2007 and 2008.

I did what I had to do, but to whom did I feel so obligated? To you? What have you ever done for me? Really? Most of you sit there silently, paging down, reading.

And that’s okay. I’m happy you do. I’m glad you find worth in this. I want you to! You’d rather I write well than often, wouldn’t you?

But I’m not really obligated to you, am I?

Aren’t I obligated to the craft that has made my life what it is, that makes me who I am, and gives me these eyes I see my world through? Doesn’t it deserve better than the cheap and fanciful flings I have with it? Doesn’t it demand that I really rip into the truth and heart of anything I write on?

Norman Mailer tells how Jean Malaquais once explained the reasoning behind his life of writing: “The only time I know the truth is when it reveals itself at the end of my pen.”

Writing’s kind of this dream I have of life — it’s this place I go where things start to make sense, where the world has meaning.

“In the end, writing is like a prison, an island from which you will never be released but which is a kind of paradise: the solitude, the thoughts, the incredible joy of putting into words the essence of what you, for the moment, understand and with your whole heart want to believe.”

James Salter

Do most blogs feel that way for you? Do they feel like a paradise prison the writer at once loathes and loves their confinement within? Is it a place where journeys are taken and experiences shared? Is where you go to feel like an illicit voyeur with an eye on their innermost thoughts?

I wish mine were. I want it to be.

So I will write less. I don’t sit on posts, so I doubt you’ll see me writing and giving it three weeks’ barrel-aging before I share, but I will be more judicious about when I hit “publish.” I’ll be more considered in choosing themes to address.

I would like to see blogging evolve and become more literary. I think publishing, words, media, everything is changing so quickly that the only safeguard we have left is the desire for excellence.

For now, simply being better and judicious is a fine start.

The Fear of Moving On


One of my guiltiest pleasures is my addiction to the CBS series The Mentalist. I’ve had a girlie crush on Simon Baker for 20 years, and there’s something about a smart, cynical, fun-loving, light-hearted genius crimesolver that taps into my childhood passion for Encyclopedia Brown and the Hardy Boys. (We’ll get you yet, Bugs Meany.)

And you thought you knew me.

Somewhere deep in the caverns of my dust-ridden closet sits a box of past-life mementos that may, in fact, hold the “Police Kid” ID cards and badges my brother and I made when we were 7 & 9, in an effort to keep the order in our very boring white little verge-of-’80s suburban ‘hood.

Ahh, me in my seven-year-old lisp: “Thtop, sthpeeding car!”

If I was a detective, I’d totally be a chill, happy, funny brainiac like Patrick Jane, not a coke-addled-and-moody one like Sherlock Holmes.

So, this morning I found myself wrapped in thought as my TiVoed episode closed out. Backstory? Baker’s character “Jane” turned to crime-solving after his wife and daughter were killed. This week is the first time they’ve opened the possibility of him moving on after his wife, when he finally feels the nebulous sparks of chemistry for a mysterious smart chick involved in the crime-solving.

Oh, how dramatic! That’d make an excellent TV show, huh? I know, it’s cliché. But I can’t be smart all the time, dude.

Naturally, the episode got me thinking about the idea of “moving on” in general.

Me, I’ve had me a little of that this month. In fact, my entire last 6 weeks has been nothing but movin’ on.

I’m never going to be able to make you or anyone understand how 2006 affected me, and on so many levels. God knows I’ll try.

To go from just being some chick trying to figure shit out to being a loudly lauded new sex-blogging voice and getting so much attention was the most surreal thing ever. And I was not my own woman. I was not strong enough to have the sense of self one needs when people start latching onto you for guru-like input into their lives.

It was fucking weird. I can’t possibly tell you. I’m totally fucked up, and you’re turning to me for insight? Yo, WTF?

Walking away when the shit got weird was the only thing I could do. The landscape of my life was more explosive than a wartime minefield. A girl makes her choices, a girl keeps on keepin’ on. That’s what to do when the going gets weird.

When the beginnings of success come so easily to you the first time, though, there SHOULD be this little seed of confidence that grows deep down inside. I did that. Me. I worked. I got results. Me.

I had the confidence but I also knew my life was a fucking mess.

When they tell you life doesn’t give second chances, they’re right. It doesn’t. We create them.

Sooner or later, I knew I’d have to take that second chance. But I had to have my shit together and feel comfortable with life before I got there… because, well, third chances? Good luck with that, chump. This ain’t baseball, there’s no three strikes.

Moral of that story? Don’t fuck up again, bub.

So, I spent the last year just treading water and enjoying a delightfully boring life after I finally got on a somewhat even keel again.

Then I lost my job.

And it made me happy. Worried, but happy.

And I figured, “Hey, well, if ever there was a time to get in the game…”

But getting in the game would require one major thing:

Finally owning that this meek little Mom-approved chick — raised uberCatholic, with Dad & family following on the wide web — had to come out and be public with sex-blogging identity, and use my real name. And, worse, my face. And, like, speak publicly. And stuff.

Moving on, for me, means swallowing whatever I once defined as “pride” and coming up with a whole new brand of it. For me, it means shutting up that meekness and stop my apologies for being blunt, honest, and irrepressible.

It’s all about putting my money where my mouth has long been.

It’s been a really tough and soul-searching move. Scary as all get-out, man.

Oh, I’ve been terrified. It’s the “real, whole life” version of jumping off that zip-line or standing in front of 150 people and saying, “Yeah, so, I’m a sex blogger and, like, I kinda nailed writing one of the best oral sex guides you’ll read online… and…”

But I did it. And I did the zip-line. And the speaking.

However hard it’s been… I’m real goddamned glad.

Open, honest, in-your-face living is easier once you get the hang of it. It means fewer apologies, more shared grins, and it instantly repels all the twats and asshats you used to secretly wish would fuck off.

Moving on from anything is hard.

The fear of the unknown and the infinite chance to fuck up is what daunts us all before taking on new phases, projects, or relationships in our life.

By moving on, we’re officially closing the door on that past, accepting it’s done, and embracing the future.

“The devil you know,” though, right?

Whatever the hurts and failings and stupidities of the past, at least you know it and know you’ve faced/survived it. The future? Whew. Do ya got that in ya, punk? Well, do ya?

I remember my great friend Jon writing to say he was getting married, the big question got popped, she said  yes, and, dagnabbit, they was gonna wed. I wrote him back, “Geez, Jon… that’s awfully optimistic of you.”

Because it is.

Moving on, stepping forward, it’s all about optimism. Or at least the dream of it. The hope of possibility. It’s what we all want, right? The unscripted to get written with a side of awesomesauce?

But it needs that proverbial leap of faith, the big chance, the trip into the great unknown.

Maybe, just maybe, you’ll fail.

That’s okay.

At least you’ll keep yourself warm with the smug satisfaction of being the one with the guts to make the play in the first place, while the pussies who won’t make that leap sit on the sidelines and jealously watch.

Do it. Move on.