Thursday, July 21, 2011

The virtues of living out loud

My friend Genie-- the one who taunts me about my Homeric odyssey of a commute-- issues a monthly writing challenge on her blog that she calls the Living Out Loud Project.  Each month is a different theme, about which her readers are encouraged to write about in any way, shape, or form.  The goal of Genie's project is to create a digital haven for self-expression:
Having attended many sessions at BlogHer or read online horror stories of people baring their souls and having the Internet collectively spit on them, I wanted to foster something positive from sharing a bit of ourselves.
In this month's challenge, "On Writing," Genie elaborates on the virtues of sharing what she calls 'the mundane magic of our everyday lives.'  I agree with her that, as far as I'm concerned, there's no such thing as too much information.  What struck me most about this post, however, was her opening paragraph about how writing itself makes her feel:
I see my therapist Gary every other Friday. When I come in and sit down, he asks me how I’m doing. Not every visit, but many times the topic of my blogging comes up. I explain to him that the more I’m writing the better I feel. Gary is not a writer. He’s a good man and he’s clever and he has many interesting stories, but he is not a writer. He’s not a sharer. So when I say I feel better because I’ve been writing more, he just smiles politely. 
I've already mentioned the fact that I've had something of an emotionally tumultuous year.  Amid the rollercoaster of normal ups and downs, I have noticed something curious.  On those days when I'm feeling my absolute worst, there is always one common denominator:  I haven't written anything.  At first I thought that this was correlation and not necessarily causation, but the closer I pay attention to this phenomenon the more I realize that it's legit.

Conversely, on the days when I have written something, I feel downright indestructible.  I can't quite explain it, but if I've spent my morning commute lashing words together rather than noodling around with the MBTA's flaky wifi in order to surf the web or, even worse, attempt to answer some work email I get off the train with a bounce in my step and a twinkle in my eye.  Writing makes me feel six inches taller, and I carry that positivity with me kicking and screaming into my workday so that even a bad day at work becomes a good day by default.

This was an important connection for me to make, and I'm glad I made it.  Yet as I drifted through the doldrums after finishing my latest writing project-- Varonian Nights, the fantasy anthology I've been chipping away at for the past three years-- I realized something else.  Writing is more than whatever work in progress it was that I was in the middle of.  It is the very core of my being.

There is a fantastic scene in the movie Sideways where two characters-- Maya and Miles, played by Virginia Madsen and Paul Giamatti, respectively-- are talking about why they love wine so much.  Maya launches into a beautiful explanation of the life, death, and afterlife of the grape and those who cultivated it, then concludes her encomium with what may perhaps be one of the sexiest lines ever delivered on the silver screen:  "And it tastes so fucking good."

Writing is my wine.  But all of this time when I should have been pouring my heart out, I've been bottling it up instead.  Writing became divorced from the rest of my life and sequestered to an hour every weekday morning-- and only that if I was lucky and I didn't end up sitting next to a fellow commuter who had neglected to bring his or her own reading material and watched every single word I typed (at least give me a couple of bucks for entertaining you, willya?).  While this hour was much more than I had ever been giving my writerly urges in a very long time, it wasn't enough.

Perhaps it is only now that I've found my voice as a librarian, just as my colleague Jessica Olin seems to have discovered hers after several years of listening, learning, and making those essential connections.  I was quite the prolific LIS student blogger (chronicling my trials and tribulations as I worked my way through library school at The Library Ass), and although I fully expected that I would continue to write about my first year as a library professional-- working title:  The Librarian:  Year One-- the words just failed to materialize.

Now am I a bit older and wiser, and as I sit down at the keyboard I find I suddenly have an awful lot to say about a lot of things:  about my vocation and its future, about writing...  about life, the universe, and everything.  So this is me, Living Out Loud at long last.  I sure hope nobody shushes me!

1 comment:

Jason Arnett said...

Man, you just nailed me with this post. I've got similar experiences and am finding ways to spend more time writing because I love that indestructible feeling.

Great stuff!