Off on the right foot

Today I feel like my life is a series of setbacks and I pass the time in between them struggling to make up for lost ground. I took off from work today to fight a cold I felt approaching. Result: I feel worse, I spent an hour and a half walking outside in the rain, and I feel like if I see my office again I might have to scream. (I whimpered a couple times today thinking about it, but that was purely optional.)

Maybe that doesn’t sound like much, but I don’t feel like drawing the full-detail picture that would indicate its place in the larger pattern I seem to see. Partially because I’m sure I would be ashamed of the inadequate result. In any case, I would never finish it. The cruelest hit I took today was logging into google documents, I saw that I had nothing showing in my active documents: I haven’t touched a single one of my projects for a whole month. Hoping to shame myself into getting back to work, I had the idiotic idea of talking about one of them in a public place. (That’s the idea. If you’re ashamed of something enough that the thought of it immobilizes you, make sure you know that you’ve made as many people as possible aware of it. Then you’ll be sure to want to get up in the morning.)

I’m not sure what I’ve been doing for the last four months, but I haven’t had anything more important to do. Taking stock of my life, like they advise: I like traveling, I like writing, I’m not doing either, and when I realize that, I’m miserable. I know I have my thirties ahead of me, and I know that is a lot of time. I didn’t use to know that. But now I know it and I’m afraid of it. I don’t even have to be lucky to have a long, grey stretch of unsuccessful, small, marginal and useless life left to live.

Writing is painful. That’s a commonplace, like all commonplaces, worse than useless, without the detail. The proverb is known, the neophyte understands the letter of the proverb, defeats the letter of the proverb with easy experience, and hard experience returns upon him and teaches him the spirit of it. Writing is easy, and fun. Having written is horrible. It’s small, it’s limited, it’s pompous, dismissive, arrogant, uninformative, self-centered, witless and graceless, and it’s you. I can edit anything I like about my writing, I can’t edit that out. I wince when I have to look at it. (Or just close my eyes for a minute, until I can involve myself in some local editing issue and forget the larger image of a giant self-satisfied asinine buffoon baboon.)

The project I would like most to work on, that I’m most likely to enjoy, complete, and enjoy completing, is one I’ve been meaning to write for three to five years. I would like to write a book about my travels. Chapters on Moscow, Siberia, and Istanbul. I like Tristes Tropiques as a travel book, and sadly I can’t like anything without wanting to make my own version. (The cluttered world I would produce, if only I had the power, staggers the imagination.) I would like to write a book about myself, about the world, about art, history, religion, society, and did I mention about myself. That’s the book I’ve started on. And I wonder why I’ve stalled.

In the infinite line of innumerable impediments between me and such a thing, I can see a few in more detail than the rest. For instance: my book needs a backbone, to hang its saggy, fatty, watery, endless and interminable extraneous material on. I had a few structures in mind. I could write the book in a series of lessons. Who was I coming into this phase in my life or this place in the world, who was I coming out, what did I learn in between? Then elaborate, show examples. Charts, graphs, statistics. Anecdotes, senses, soft data. Sounds like a plan. Only what did I learn? Who was I? How did I change? Asking those questions wasn’t easy. Looking at potential answers wasn’t any easier. Looking at myself was harder still. Not least because my target kept moving, and my scope was made out of the same stuff, or its shadow, and changed as it changed, or in changing, changed it.

Before allowing myself to get too deep into that, I had to get deeper into something else. What was I writing about? Why would anyone want to read it? Why did I want to write it? Who was I talking to? What, in the end, was I talking about? That resulted in a worthless chapter-long drool I planned to put at the head of whatever thing I thought would be the end product of this unplanned mess, in which I also blew several of the better stories I thought I had by summarizing them and leaving out everything humorous or interesting in them, not to mention eliminating the possibility of extracting something edifying for myself from them.

Remind me, why was I doing this in the first place? Seems a roundabout way of trying to satisfy my crazed ego-fantasies, by humiliating myself in as many ways as I could come up with.

That’s enough. I’m worn out, I feel worse than I did when I started, and my head it pounding. Remind me to talk about something I enjoy next time.

4 Replies to “Off on the right foot”

  1. You’ve gone and made this thing public, and now I want to read it. This want isn’t new – I have in the past hoped that you’d flesh out the blog posts from your traveling days of a couple years back with just a touch of context and narrative, and let the rest of us have a look.

    I find The War of Art by Steven Pressfield to be at turns exhilarating and maddening – and consistently invigorating – in those moments when I’m grinding my teeth over lost time.

  2. This entry gives me a lot of hope. I’m glad you’re writing. I think you should write more. I hate you.

  3. I found you! What in the? I like writing too, but I don’t do it. I make art of other kinds now and then, but it is a constant struggle. May be part of the reason I’ve gotten so involved in collaborating, but that’s a secret. Takes some of the weight off me shoulders. Ailou asked me where you are, and I didn’t know, so I looked for you on this magical interweb. I want to go back to Ulan Ude. Someday. We should meet for a beer. I’m in New York. Write to me!

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