Because I always start out trying to be inspirational and end up being discouraging and overly ironic, I thought I would add a little something to my last post and not be so evasive this time.
For a long time I didn’t do my blog. I was embarrassed. I felt ashamed of what I’d already written and of what I might write. Strangers could see me in all my unbearable colors (i.e., earth tones). Worse still, friends and acquaintances could find me and scrutinize me through the aquarium glass of the Internet like I was some scaly, immobile thing in the Reptile House and they had to figure out if I was dead or not.
But that is all in the past. I no longer care what goes up and whether my visitors think I’m such a poor specimen that the snake handlers have forgotten to feed and water me. I am committed to busting loose. Here is what happened:
- My friend A started an art project. Every day she forced herself to post one item of work online. One picture per day. It doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re sad or cranky or down on yourself, it’s everything. And now she has this badass portfolio that no one would ever guess she created with a gun to her head.
- My friend X has kept a LiveJournal since 2006. She doesn’t publicize it, but it’s there and it’s wonderful. She’s been published in lots of prestigious journals, but writing something secret online every day makes her feel less lonely in her art. Right now I find her quiet URL to be the most powerful place on the Internet.
- I read the book Show Your Work which basically told me to get over myself.
- I let go of projected opinions. That snobby old writing professor is not looking over my shoulder, judging me for my attempt at online relatability. David Remnick is not sitting in his corner office at Conde Nast thinking, “I’d give her the fiction centerfold in the next issue if she weren’t such a blogger.” Nobody gives a shit. Besides, my mom’s opinion is the only one that matters.
- I finally found my visitor stats, which indicated that no one was reading my website anyway.
- My therapist started working with me on being more assertive. Being assertive is not only about saying, “Hey buddy, it’s not okay that you’re stepping on my toes.” It’s also about saying, “Hey buddy, here are my toes tra-la-la-la-la and when I wiggle them the sparkle nail polish catches the light and yes I might have a mild case of athlete’s foot but only angels are immune to fungus.”
- I realized how unhappy I was not participating in the world, even in a little, whispery way.
- I’ve changed my mind about so many people. On too many occasions I’ve judged as I’m petrified of being judged myself. And yet I’ve often found my judgments to be wrong—or at least pliable. A writer I thought was a talentless hack eventually wins me over by her unapologetic hackiness. A novelist’s second novel makes me go back and read his first with new eyes. Someone on Facebook whose feeds I once found obnoxious starts posting about whales or something and I’m like, “Hey, this guy’s actually pretty cool.” So even if I annoy the shit out of someone one or one hundred times, there’s always a chance I can redeem myself later. If Gawker.com can eventually come around to Lena Dunham, a handful of people can eventually come around to me. (Gawker hasn’t done this yet but I imagine that one day maybe they will under duress from their advertisers.) The important thing is to keep making people sniff your fungus until they finally realize that they’d miss it if it disappeared. Never stop itching. Never buy the Tinactin.
- Whatever I put online does not affect the sanctity of my work in progress, which will not see the light of day until it’s absolutely ready. In my novel I can indulge the perfectionism that would make blogging unthinkable. Whether I have a complete mental breakdown if that novel is ever published remains to be seen.
Finally, the only person I hurt when I’m in my hidey hole of embarrassment is myself. I like to write. I like to throw various foods on the wall—Twinkies, spaghetti, whole cabbages—to see what sticks. And in my limited time on this earth I’d like to be the party guest who tries to add to the conversation rather than run to the bathroom where I pretend to wash my hands for an hour. In the long run, being embarrassed is more embarrassing than doing embarrassing things.
Now if I could only stop crapping my pants.