Setting Out Again

Growing up across the street from an empty field, I never watched television sports long without feeling the pull to go outside and play.  I wanted to participate instead of observe, to answer instead of listen.

But I didn’t say I was good at football or baseball or whatever games were underway, and so, when I ran from the TV, I only found another sort of escape, fleeing into another fantasy world.  The color commentator kept talking in my head, praising my puny moves and replaying them moment by moment in loving analysis. He placed me very near the top of the greats, and, in my imagination, my name rung like the tolling of time immemorial.

Yet, even if I’d had the self-discipline, unassailable confidence, and drive of athletes I admired, I could never equal them physically. I had no reasonable hope of being 6’5” and 250.  My body would never cover 100 meters under nine seconds or a mile under four minutes.  No crusty coach would ever curse me to the top of the boxing world.

Some years ago, on the first day of my MFA program, the director asked us why we were there.  I answered that I was tired of listening without speaking.  My classmates nodded approvingly—they understood—but I wonder if they did really.  I wonder if, then, they knew the burden of needing to play, of drawing on a dwindling battery of patience as you leaf through collections of poetry, turn another page of a novel…or scroll through someone else’s post.

Turns out, MFA school, like all school, relies on paying attention. If you aren’t interested in watching, watch you must, for what hope do you have of being anyone’s equal if you haven’t the perseverance to listen? Without input, there is no output, and being a writer means standing on whatever parts of giants offer footholds.  It means exploiting every anxiety of influence until you find yourself in uninfluenced territory.

And the need to speak, it turns out, is more curse than blessing, an urge you’d gladly outgrow or exhaust…because no one ever promises you’ll be good at it.  You might never know if you have the skills to excel or ever hear your name outside your own imagination.

“Signals to Attend” is my fourth blog, another resolution for another year. I start it with the same familiar questions, wondering why listening is never enough, why watching even the best grows old, why silence doesn’t become me more.

I guess I can’t help thinking I have something to say.

Dear reader, I hope you’ll find I’m right.


Filed under Blogging, MFA, Writing

5 responses to “Setting Out Again

  1. David, finding you again is the best thing that has happened to me in 2009. Hoorah! I cannot express how much I have missed your point of view, your very uniquely probing mind, your artful, soothing but always questioning voice. I’m just so glad to have you back in this meta space or whatever it is we are dancing on/in/with. I am feeling pure glee.

    You’re so nice. I’ve been walking around the last few weeks thinking of posts I would write if I were still blogging and finally decided maybe I ought to be actually writing them. I don’t pretend anything I’m doing here is vital in any wider sphere–if it were, maybe I’d be out in the published world–but it’s gratifying to think that a few people find my writing valuable. As I said on my other blog, that really keeps me going. Maybe some people do “write for themselves,” but I like to think someone is at the other end of the line…and it’s always wonderful when the someone is as receptive and appreciative as you. Thanks for visiting.

  2. David – your continued subdivision is the best New Year’s gift I could be given. A regular dose of your probity is such a good medicine for what regularly ails me – a sort of dullness of the soul.
    Your reminder of the importance of listening is something I will keep closely in mind. Delightful to have you back! G

    It’s wonderful to hear from you, and I guess it’s good to be back, if I can keep my work here in perspective. I’m hoping not to get quite so worked up about writing (and not writing) this time around. I certainly need the creative outlet in my life, but I don’t need the drama of my last blog. If I can manage is posting once or twice a week, I’ll be happy. Anyway, it’s a good goal and will get me reading wonderful blogs like yours again!

  3. I am glad to see you experimenting with blog forms, subdivisions and incarnations as I have done now on my sixth blog of just short essays on writing and tiny fictions. You’ve known me as The Individual Voice and Writer Reading. Now I go exclusively by Squirrel. I am just begining to start to take some blog material seriously enough to eventually delete and send out for potential publication. Huge step for me. But I realized I can only handle one focused blog and that’s it. And I hope to someday feel free enough to shed this anonymity business, too, but for now I really require it. Welcome back.

    For me, anonymity suggested I was—or ought I be—looking for trouble, trying to say something I couldn’t say in my actual life. Very little of what I was writing, however, fit that description, and anonymity became a kind of pose for me. The pull to be dramatic proved a distraction.

    Like you (I suspect), I have professional reasons to remain anonymous, but I’ve decided I should embrace the circumspection of knowing anyone might visit here. I’m hoping it will keep me honest, and, as I wasn’t saying much that was controversial anyway, I won’t have to sacrifice being myself.

    Perhaps I’m being naive. I know plenty of people have gotten in trouble professionally for activities on-line. With my perspective and my numbers, however, I’m not sure how much I have to fear.

    Anyway, it’s good to be back writing and reading posts. The outlet is pretty important to me. Thanks for visiting.

  4. I’m so glad to have found you here and, seeing as how I’m a month late, now I have a bunch of posts to read.

    And I’m glad you’ve found me! I don’t post as often as I’d like, but I hope you will visit every once in a while. Your blog has always been inspiring to me.

  5. Pingback: Walking Around The Year | Signals to Attend

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