In a good week, I begin my post early. A first line blinks into being during the walk to work on Tuesday and grows, by accretion, until it becomes a paragraph. All week, I rehearse that paragraph and consider what might follow it, but a paragraph is all I can carry before I have to sit down to type. I don’t type until Saturday or Sunday.
I try never to write about writing posts.
“It is not a bad idea to get in the habit of writing down one’s thoughts,” the British writer Isabel Colegate once said, “It saves having to bother anyone else with them.” Most of my thoughts aren’t worthy of print—digital or ink—and I compose them only out of habit. Sometimes, I dress them in words and sentences that make them presentable, more often not. Tuesday’s idea looks banal on Wednesday. By Thursday or Friday, I can’t recall what I thought might be special in saying, “I have an anger no one knows,” or “The biggest burden of modern life is needing to pay attention to so much.” They expire before they ever really live.
Part of my problem is enjoying language, the way vowels roll among the soft bumpers of some consonants and ricochet against hard ones. I begin to imagine that, properly worded and arranged, any idea will ring. Then writing isn’t thinking anymore. It’s elevating sound to music or pigment to painting.
The other problem is endowing momentary brainstorms with special meaning. This week, I wondered if I might make a blog post of the midlife man I see nearly every morning bursting from the gym door, his bag clutched to his side as if he were its courier instead of him its owner, a dab of shaving cream still behind his ear or at the back of his shaved head, crossing to the island at an angle between crosswalks to catch the next L, walking and then running two or three steps at a time as if the pavement were suddenly inexplicably hot and his feet suddenly shoeless. He has become a representative of what’s out of balance in our lives, the way we’ve relegated exercise to a side pursuit and made it another object crowding our lives instead of incorporating and integrating activity into how we exist.
But that’s all I have to say, and, really, I pity him. Plus, short of the shaved head, I am him.
My biggest problem, however, is every blogger’s abiding delusion—I think someone is listening. A career of reading the work of writers we admire has ruined us, persuaded us to believe that assembling our thoughts, feelings, and observations is universally significant. We believe these daily preoccupations reach beyond the readers we’ve scraped together—most of them similarly deluded bloggers—and into posterity. We imagine some future scholar finding our words in a heap of cyber-rubbish and saying, “Here are words.”
When, actually, most of the time we are just looking for something—sometimes anything—to say.
I’m happy I’m alive enough to believe my life bigger than itself. I’m happy some impetus makes my senses more thirsty than most. I’m happy to have a voice needing exercise.
On Tuesday, I suppose that matters. On Thursday, I wonder.