Patricia Lockwood on writing now

Snippets from “How Do We Write Now?” by poet and essayist Patricia Lockwood, on writing in our age of online toxicity and distractions:

The first necessity is to claim the morning, which is mine. If I look at a phone first thing the phone becomes my brain for the day. If I don’t look out a window right away the day will be windowless, it will be like one of those dreams where you crawl into a series of smaller and smaller boxes, or like an escape room that contains everyone and that you’ll pay twelve hours of your life for.

The feeling you get after hours of scrolling that all your thoughts have been replaced with cotton candy — or something even nastier, like Runts or circus peanuts — as opposed to the feeling of being open to poetry, to being inside the poem, which is the feeling of being honey in the hive.

That the line in you will one day be memorized by other people, even repeated by them silently as they brush their healthy teeth.

Blogging with a small “b”

A snippet from a post by Tom Critchlow on small b blogging:

But what is lost by following big B blogging? By chasing audience we lose the ability to be ourselves. By writing for everyone we write for no one. Too often I read things otherwise smart people have written for places like Fast Company and my eyes glaze over. Personal identity is necessarily watered down. Yes those places have large audiences but they’re shallow audiences. They don’t care about you at all. Your writing washes through their feeds like water.

Instead – I think most people would be better served by subscribing to small b blogging. What you want is something with YOUR personality. . . . Writing that can live and breathe in small networks. Scale be damned.

I’ve pretty much stopped blogging on my personal site completely for various reasons: apathy; inability to let go in front of an audience; lack of motivation; disinterest in media and tech; unwillingness to stay plugged in and part of the stream… I just don’t care anymore. I work in tech, I work with writers and influencers, I write for a massive audience online for work, blah blah blah. But on a personal level, I’m in a very different headspace.

Still, Tom’s post reminded me of what I used to enjoy about blogging — there was a period of time, about five or so years ago, when I was really engaged and connected to my network, especially on Twitter, and got my work noticed and featured in the Atlantic, the New York Times, and other big outlets. While I’d always written online with an audience in mind, my favorite part about blogging was ultimately writing for myself, reading and learning and deepening my knowledge of things along the way, and documenting a wider web of ideas in my very own online space. I remember doing all of this because I truly enjoyed it — my site was an extension of me. Publishing on it made me feel more complete. And it still exists, but now mainly as a relic. I just don’t need it as I once did.

But anyway, I like what he says about “forgetting the big B blogging model” and not chasing an audience, or scale, or page views. It’s such a simple thing, but somewhere along the way, I completely forgot how to write for myself, how to face inward, how to be me.

h/t @photomatt

Stealing

I recently found and featured an essay, “Stripped for Parts,” by Courtenay Bluebird at Bluebird Blvd. I really loved this part in particular:

You see, writers tend to steal little things off of people—

a complete set of figured naval buttons on a man’s patched pea coat; a certain way a woman pushes back her bobbed silver hair; a child that can whistle with two fingers like a man.

Writers pocket these moments and pull them out to look at later under a lamp with a notebook. This is fine with me—it’s magpie stealing. It is general and gestural and often sweet.

There’s another kind of stealing that happens, though, where a writer will pick the lock on your life story, touch a couple of wires together, and roll your life down the driveway before you even know your story is gone.

“I exist, persistently”

I stumbled upon a post from 2015 on a blog, Chiller, that I’ve read and featured in the past. I remember the writing here to be always compelling, intriguing, bold. But anyway, this bit popped out at me, and now I can’t stop thinking about it:

I let go of the stories, too tired to hold them any more, and now most of them are gone. I don’t have a map of myself any more, there is just this moment. I exist, persistently.

Big thoughts on a tiny screen

It took me days to collect fragments and half-thoughts for a recent blog post. Stringing words together was, as usual, incredibly difficult. I usually promote new blog posts on Instagram, and when I typed up a caption about the post and how I’d had a hard time expressing my thoughts last week, those 206 words came so much easier there.

I think the tiny caption field on Instagram makes the process of writing less intimidating. I type deep thoughts on that small screen without any pressure, while here — on my laptop screen and WordPress editor — it often feels like my thoughts must be worthy of this big blank page.

The cursor

The cursor is many things:
a megaphone,
a friend who listens,
that space deep inside you.

It meets the blank page:
where you ignite,
and change,
and feel your power.

A tool to share your joy:
your highs displayed for all to see,
your lows swept off the screen.

Through it your selves appear:
the enlightened,
the wistful,
the proud,
the vain.

Such a slender thing
through which we are born
over and over again.

Ready for spring

After going on trip after trip after trip, my husband and I always say we’ll stop traveling for a time, so as we entered 2017, we had clear, travel-free calendars through the spring. And then somehow, I agreed to go on a work trip to Salt Lake City last week. And in a few days, we’re driving up to Lake Tahoe for the holiday. Then I’m off to Nashville for a team meetup in April and then a bachelorette weekend for a dear friend in May. That takes us into early summer, when we’ll be off to the Mediterranean.

This is what a travel-free 2017 looks like. And I’m not complaining, but it’s just funny how traveling just happens. There is no need to plan.

* * *

I’m looking forward to spring — these Northern California storms and atmospheric rivers from the Pacific have been surprisingly severe, and while it’s great we’ve gotten so much rain in the past few months, Mother Nature has dumped it on us all at once. Part of a tree fell on our house during one of the first big storms in January so we had to fix a hole in our roof, and we also dug a temporary trench in our yard to divert floodwater from our neighbor’s property. Fortunately, though, our little lot has held up relatively OK compared to all the damage we’ve seen throughout Sonoma County, caused by massive flooding, downed trees, and mudslides.

I’ve started a few posts here and there over the past month that I’d abandoned — mainly about how we adopted two adorable cats last month, or anxiety over the state of the US and the world, or the familiar feeling of apathy in my “professional” life, and whatnot. It’s gotten harder to string sentences together for a blog post, and I’ve noticed I don’t feel that urge to share my thoughts — or my life — online, with both people I know and don’t know. When I sit down at my laptop to post something, whether on a blog or Facebook, it increasingly feels like I’m in a phony, forced moment — like I’m siphoning what’s left of my thoughts, and the words that appear on paper are residual.

I have never really felt this way with Instagram, where I post regularly, which — I suppose — is a testament to its instantness. But even there I find my habits evolving — growing bored with pretty travel and tiny house snapshots and opening up to sharing simple moments around the house and during my week. Perhaps those more frequent mundane shots are a way to fill in the holes created by my thinned blogging presence, I don’t know.

Asleep

What if nobody reads me? But every young, hungry Pinay who crosses your path. Their eyes are so wide; they have never seen a Pinay like you before. You are a brown woman of letters. You speak like you have forgotten the fear of speaking, the harm speaking brings to brown women like you.

“Winter Solstice: Pinay Writing Hard Truth”

I follow over 950 sites in the WordPress.com Reader — something that has happened over the years working at my job. But I’m only email-subscribed to several internal team blogs, and don’t email-subscribe to anything else. I’ve tried my best to keep my personal GMail inbox tidy.

But a month or so ago, while I was compiling stories for a possible Longreads reading list on being Filipino American, I subscribed to the site of Barbara Jane Reyes, a Filipino author and professor raised in the Bay Area, quoted above. So I receive her new posts in my inbox, and while I haven’t read every single post, I’ve felt lately that I’m not breathing all the air that is available to me, that my eyes are shut, that part of me has been asleep. I feel I need to follow a writer like her right now, for reasons I can’t quite articulate. Yet.