The Selfish Writer
When I was younger, I lived my life in expectation of the person I would someday become.
Someday I would gain better control of my mouth so I didn’t make comments that sound stupid.
Someday I would no longer feel like an awkward ugly ducking and would transform into a beautiful swan.
Someday I would be so accomplished that people who had hurt or discouraged me would say, “I know her.”
As I grew older, I was no longer concerned with such somedays. Others might attribute the change to the natural process of aging or to the fact I grew more comfortable in my own skin. Maybe they are right.
Those somedays I’d imagined were about what other people thought of me rather than the type of person I was capable of becoming.
I wish I could say I no longer worry about what people think of me or that my intentions are always humble and selfless, but I can’t. I simply traded my somedays for the immediate gratification of writing.
Writing provides an opportunity to share my thoughts without interruption or disagreement. Writing allows me to arrange and rearrange words like a florists puts together a beautiful bouquet or a musician composes a haunting melody. And writing offers me a stage on which I am the star. In other words, writing lets me share the best parts of myself in a venue and in a manner that I choose.
That makes me feel good about myself and helps the somedays disappear. Even though people tell me I am simply using a God-given gift to share information or to make people think or to entertain, I know that’s only partly true.
I also write so people better understand me. I write because people read what I say and give me attention. I write because it provides a way to share pent-up emotions and frustrations. And I write because I simply enjoy the process the way some people enjoy cooking or making crafts.
In other words, I write because I am selfish.
But if my selfish acts also encourage others to thinks differently or to smile a bit, I’m not going to feel guilty.
Instead I’m going to keep on writing while the wishful somedays fade into my distant past.
Writing is a Very Dirty Habit
Some days, writing simply serves as my own muddled version of confession.
I wish I always came to the keyboard with the honorable intention of making people really think.
But more often than not, I write when people disappoint, frustrate or simply anger me.
Fortunately for others, I don’t usually share those thoughts publicly in writing. I do, however, write about them. I’ve always just been compelled to transfer most of my emotions and all of my opinions into the written word.
I scribble them in the margins of meeting agendas when the person speaking is a blowhard. I jot them on notepads when I’m on the phone with someone who is obviously making excuses. And I type pages and pages when I’m forced to sit on the sidelines while someone blatantly lies, manipulates and abuses his position.
I admit there are times when I’m able to quietly call out these people by surreptitiously weaving them into my blog. But, for the most part, I simply let my written words and the space they occupy clutter my desk, my computer, my brain and my life.
And if that clutter weren’t enough, the time I spend writing far exceeds the time I spend cleaning up those or any other messes.
For the record, I do clean. I simply do just enough to ensure my house will never be featured on an episode of Hoarders or that my family isn’t forced to wear dirty and stained clothes.
To me, the task of cleaning is comparable to cooking. While some people take pride in their spotless homes and fabulous meals (as they should), I only see a lot of time spent doing something that won’t last. Clean houses always require more cleaning, and meals that take hours to prepare can be gone in minutes.
Writing can last forever…or at least as long as someone is willing to read what you wrote (even when the reader and the writer are one in the same.)
I know my life would be less messy if I spent more time cleaning and less time writing. It just wouldn’t be as memorable.
I have a box full of diaries dating back to second grade. The spelling is sometimes amusing, but the narrative is always entertaining. The diaries chronicle my life from the first entry (a meeting with Senator Bob Packwood that ended with a reprimand from my mother for offering him my left hand to shake) to the angst of adolescence and the wonder of emerging adulthood.
I have drawers full of cards and letters sent in a time before emails.
And I have bags of notes that were passed between friends and classes in high school. These notes could be an exhibit about an art form that was lost forever with the advent of text messaging.
These items take up space.
Writing takes up time.
And life takes up emotional and physical energy.
We are all defined by how we spend those resources.
Recently, a friend was recalling an obituary published in the Washington Post several years ago. The name in the obituary had been forgotten, but a description of the deceased was seared in my friend’s memory: “She loved to vacuum.”
This statement and the obituary struck a chord in my friend. “Will people remember me because I vacuum or will people remember me for being passionate about something?” she asked.
For me, I hope the answer is easy. I’d rather be remembered for my passions – and even all the emotions they elicited – than to be remembered for whether or note there were dust bunnies under the beds.
Writing, after all, can be a very dirty habit.
The Art of the Silent Blog
The art of silence has always eluded me.
For some people, a lack of words seems profound and noble. For me, a lack of words is simply awkward and frustrating. For the most part, silence has always been just beyond my reach, ability and even my belief system.
Even though I understand that silence is often a sign of respect, I also know that silence can do more damage and cut deeper than the harshest words.
I’m not alone.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” He also said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Even the dictionary validates my belief that silence isn’t always golden. While the simple definition is “the absence of sound or noise,” the more complicated definition is “the absence or omission of mention, comment, or expressed concern.”
I’ve straddled and struggled with both definitions my entire life. My battle has less to do with my tendency to talk and more to do with my overwhelming need to call attention to injustice, wrongdoing and inappropriate, self-serving behavior.
I’ve been witnessing a great deal of such behavior recently. Yet, for the most part, I’ve remained silent. Even when people have asked if I’m going to write a blog about certain situations, I’ve said, “No, that’s not my role or responsibility.” Besides, my words could easily be misinterpreted as angry and bitter rather than caring and concerned. So I have decided my silence might be more powerful than words.
And so, the silence continues. This change in tactics is also teaching me a new art form: the silent blog.
I think this one says a lot.
Silence is argument carried out by other means. Che Guevar