I deeply want to delete that first article with an offering to Magnificence.
I want to replace it with a light, flip, frothy bit of nothingness, an evanescent sorbet. Exterminate the one that is heavy. Maybe pretentious. Too serious. Too far outside my usual approach. Earnest.
Here’s my scalpel. Let’s autopsy this concern.
What the fuck am I afraid of here? That my words may have heft? Substance? That they might be… egad… real?
I can’t add “Just kidding!” if you don’t like it. It’s there for you to approve or deride.
Heavy is only a problem if the strength isn’t adequate to the task. Whose strength am I concerned about? Mine? Yours?
Both. I’m afraid that I’m not strong enough to carry my ideas as far as I want them to go. I’m afraid you aren’t strong enough to carry them home and plant them in your garden.
I should have more faith in myself. I should definitely have more faith in you.
This is a fear I shall listen to and then let go.
I feel better already.
A handy word. Sounds so much classier than “too big for their britches”. Or “full of themselves”. “Bullshitter.”
It means “to pretend to qualities we don’t possess”. In this case, I guess that would refer to the quality of, what? Serious writing? (There’s that word again. Fuck.) Lyrical writing? Sacred writing?
That last one is probably the closest. I generally approach the sacred through the mundane. Sure, I use metaphor like a dentist uses that air-sucker thingy, but most of my metaphors are very tactile.
Something is lacking that would allow me to freely talk about sacred topics. Maybe my complete lack of religious background or belief? Yeah. Voila, an instant case of Who Am I To Speak Of This?
The answer is always, always, “A human. Just like everyone else.”
Ah. I am allowed to speak of this, to try to. It’ll likely be clumsy at first, because I am new to the language of the sacred. But I am always permitted – by whoever hands out the permission slips! – to speak.
The jackpot word. I have been saying for years that my approach is “Never take the work seriously. Take it passionately.”
It’s really time I examined what I mean by that word, because it’s one of those cunning bastards that has twenty meanings, at least three of which are extremely problematic.
I don’t want my work to be humourless. I don’t want it to lose all perspective, to crawl up its own ass and refuse to see anyone else’s view. I don’t want my work to be inflexible. I don’t want my work to be grim, did I just repeat myself? Isn’t that just humourless with another hat on? Nope, it’s slightly different. I think what I could have said better was this: I don’t want the work to discourage playfulness. Right. I don’t want those forms of serious.
But I do want my work to be committed. I want it to be intense. I want it to be given the resources it needs to thrive. I want it to be consistent and disciplined. I want it to be brave, to push through discomfort, to crawl through no-man’s-land. I do want those forms of serious.
Clearly, I need better words. I need ones for “good serious” and “bad serious”. (Do you have any suggestions? Please come tell me in the comments!)
And until I have those better words, I can at least ask myself which version I mean whenever I find myself using the word. Cool, I’m making serious progress here. (By which I mean “meaningful progress”. Yeah.)
Too far outside my usual approach.
I wrote that offering as my first article very deliberately. I’m throwing down the gauntlet to myself and saying, “Yes, there’s some writing you can do quite well. *golf clap* Now it’s time to step up your game, sunshine.”
Like anyone that’s been writing newsletters and website articles for a long time, I can write a useful, pleasant, space-filling article with no effort.
I have decided that for this website I would prefer to write articles that are interesting failures over boring successes.
This is goddamn crazy hard: I’m heading off the well-worn track where I know all the landmarks and the likely destination, to cut through primary growth with a machete. I’m going to get rashes and a pout. All my usual standards for judging the quality of the work are getting thrown out (except one: Is this truthful? That can stay.) so I have no fucking idea whether what I’m writing is going to work until you tell me.
But that’s okay. That’s what I signed up for. The trembles are part of the game.
Ah, the uncool one.
Definitionally! To be cool means to be detached. And to be earnest means to be attached. They are mutually exclusive.
This doesn’t, whenever I get away from my kneejerk will-they-love-me-if fear, actually bother me. I’ve never been cool; I’ve always been too much of a geek. Geeks are earnest, whether it’s about which Joss Whedon creation is the most brilliant or which skis are most suitable for a black diamond run.
I want to be earnest. I think when you’re making something magnificent you must be.
It’s going to be interesting to see how I combine good-serious (playful, intense, disciplined) with earnest. Earnestness can have quite a few bad-serious qualities – humourlessness and inflexibility for starters. We’ve all met (and been) Churchill’s fanatic, the one who “can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject”.
But that’s a balancing act I signed up for. No point whinging about the high wire now.
So what am I so uncomfortable about?
’Cos this is new. We’re new, you and I. Even if you already knew me, we’re interacting in new ways.
And this is ambitious. This may fail. This may be embarrassing.
You may not like me once I’m done. And I don’t want to be alone in the woods; there are tigers and behemoths out there.
But this is the part we all endure, isn’t it. To stand, to earnestly say, “This. I give you this.” Without knowing, for realsies, how it will be received.
I’ve gotten through it this time. The article remains undeleted. Score one victory against mediocrity.
Thank you, scalpel.
Thank you, reader. (You’re so very thoughtful in my head.)
Thank you, self.
Love and rue,