Thursday, December 20, 2012

I'm in siege mode.

Every year Christmas gets to a certain point where my whole life revolves around surviving work.  This is that point.  I am so far behind, I forgot to make a little entry letting you all know know that I'll be taking off until after New Year's, just like last year.

So I'll be taking off until after New Year's, just like last year.  Then I'll be back.  And I will be full of new stories.  Wish me luck.

Oh, and Merry Christmas.  And Happy New Year.

Monday, December 10, 2012

I don't journal.

2 Corinthians 9: 13-15, Luke 1: 1-4, 1 John 5: 13,

I just forced myself to finish P. D. James' Time to be in Earnest.  And I am glad I did so.  I am not always glad, later, that I took the time to finish a book I was not enjoying for whatever reason, but this one was worth the effort.

Don't get me wrong, I have the utmost respect for James' fiction, which I why I picked up her diary-cum-autobiography, itself a failed experiment in journaling.  But her non-fiction was boring, and even she admitted at the end of it that she left off where she did because she simply couldn't sustain the daily routine of recounting the events, large and small, of her days.

While James was attempting autobiography, my periodic stabs at journaling have always been spiritually motivated.  Also, I have lionized diarists and letter writers, since diaries and letters are  two styles of writing where I keenly feel my lack.  So, ideally, as a writer with a rich inner spiritual life, I should be fantastic at journalling.  But I am terrible at it.  I have been trying since I was twelve, and I have never sustained a journal or diary longer than a month.

But it occurs to me that this blog, that I have sustained for about a year and a half, is, in a way, a journal of my life.  It includes events big and small, but with one crucial difference: time.  I don't write every day, and I rarely write about events as they happen.  Almost every real-life incident I recount for my huge, rabid fan base happened years, sometimes up to a decade, ago.  I like writing about my life with this degree of perspective.  I like feeling wise.  And I like being able to craft my memories in a funny, relatable manner that I believe is both exciting and valuable.  This totally makes sense for someone as controlling and self-protective as I am.  I can fool myself into thinking that the minutiae of my day is interesting, that the pain in my life is instructive for the masses.

This is why James was writing, too.  She reached the age of seventy-seven, and believed that it was time to take stock, that it was time, as a famous person, to go on record for herself.  This makes sense, she is a huge literary light in a country notorious for consuming its celebrities whole.  But her diary lacks perspective.  She is mainly a benignly grouchy, opinionated old lady who travels around England, has lunch with people she likes, buys antiques, and grouses about the state of modern literary education.  She has a respectful, if ambiguous, one-sided relationship with Dorothy L. Sayers (another stunningly popular female mystery writer from England, whom I have not yet read), which provides good segues into her thoughts on the craft of mystery writing and her own work.

This is an unfair characterization.  She is a great writer and the gems are there: I mined for the stories about her time working within the massive post-war bureaucratic expansion.  I was riveted by her accounts of life at Cambridge University during WWII.  Her experiences caring for and finding care for her mentally ill husband could be helpful and inspiring for people dealing with those same issues.

P. D. James has had a wonderfully interesting life.  There is no reason, beyond old-fashioned British reserve, for her autobiography to be boring.  And old-fashioned British reserve is, in fact, the reason her autobiography is boring.  She even says in the introduction, that she is leaving out the most painful parts of her life in the interest of privacy, and a distaste for over-emotional drama.

Which I can respect, but not emulate.  I grew up in a culture of confession.  Talk shows and reality shows came of age with me, and though I rarely partake, I cannot escape.  Wendy Williams is my current guilty pleasure.  I like her because she's dishy, and I respect her because she dishes on herself just as much as on everyone else.  She dishes on herself to level the playing field, and to help and inspire people.

And that's what I want to be like.  Blogging may be my therapy, but I also want to help and inspire my audience.  I am on the record for myself, not just defensively, but offensively, too.  Against pain, against boredom, against futility, and against stagnation.  Confession is good for the soul.  And I confess: I was writing this while eating dinner on the couch (thanks, DH) and I got two little spatters of spaghetti sauce on the cover of my advance copy of Time to be in Earnest.  I'm so sorry.