That thing I do

Last night as dinner was winding down, I point-blank opened a door with My Sweetie: “Honey, I wanted to be sure you knew that you’re more than welcome to talk with me face-to-face about anything I write on my blog.” “No, I’m good; I already did,” and then we ranged far and wide for the next hour or two.

His biggest concern, which he had indeed brought up before, was my mental health–this time in that not only did I write about Acedia & Me in June, but I have kept on writing about it. The nub, as I understood it: I write a post or two about the book, and then I don’t, and then I do, and then I don’t…why on earth?! Why harp on the topic if I’m not feeling the feeling? Particularly in this non-sequential fashion!

(He knows I’m going to write this, and it’s OK. He didn’t give me authorization for exclamation points, however, so I want to disclaim his participation in any emphatic communication. Nothing he said involved exclaiming; I added all of that myself because I liked how it sounded.)

One of my ongoing life challenges is providing the right amount of context to others so that they can understand me. I have two default settings: cryptic and torrential. Neither is effective, and I dislike the ‘tuning out’ look on people’s faces that ‘torrential’ brings, so in my 40s I’ve stuck with ‘cryptic’ and let the chips fall accordingly. But My Sweetie’s question nudged me–if he asked, perhaps others have been holding their questions in abeyance, too. 

So for today, a little context. Both for my blogging practice overall and my chipping at Acedia & Me.

First off, since I’m using this blog as a venue for musing and an experiment in short form, I’m intentionally trying to get by with the bare minimum of context. When I talk to myself, I have all the context already. And brevity is important to me. So I am betting posts like this will be rare.

Next, my editorial calendar is driven by my gut, whim, and mood. In other places and times, publications will have a particular topic or focus, and will arrive with a predictable rhythm. I’ve read research, I know consistency is a soothing thing for humans, but you won’t yet find that kind of soothing here. Here I have gotten down to “daily,” but there are 13 functional hours in my day and the post may show up during any one of them. My editorial focus? The contents of my brain. Sure, there are ways I could tidy that up and set forth a map of what content would land when. I’ve done it for other publications, and I’m not philosophically opposed. If I had an editorial calendar, I would likely have worked on all the Acedia & Me posts in a row, and even selected a pleasing arc for the book-related topics. But I don’t feel I’m “there” yet. This…blog, process, experience…is still in flux.

Regular readers are no doubt aware that I’m also still experimenting with multiple facets of constructing a writing (and life) routine. Everything’s still plastic: time of day, location, tools. For example, today’s settings are 5pm, living room sofa, phone+keyboard. If I’m in the house, I have a lot more room to choose on the fly…but sometimes I’m not in the house. Occasionally deliberately, often not, but if I’m not in the house, the likelihood I’ll use external resources drops. Especially things that have to be brought-with, like laptops           or books. Especially books (or desktop-stored files) already marked up for using in my writing. Writing away from the house and writing on the fly both raise the odds that what I’ll share that day is the fruit of my brain alone.

Acedia & Me has been a trove of interesting quotes. I like how Norris weaves concepts in and out of chapters from one end of the book to the other while still focusing first on one facet and then on another. So when I turn to share quotes here, I flip through all the tabbed and underlined scraps I’ve marked to choose that day’s jumping-off point and to collect a pile of pertinent quotes. This is something one could do in advance; I hear book-writing-people approach their work like that. That’s not how I’m currently operating, however. I’m lifting myself by the seat of my own pants, focusing down so I can hit my deadline and then dropping it all when I press “post.”

And finally, I keep coming back to Acedia & Me out of a stubborn insistence on completion. I haven’t gone through all those tabbed quotes yet. I planned to at the outset, and I don’t have an actual reason not to. At this juncture, “I’ve taken too long and it might seem weird to keep going” doesn’t strike me as compelling. I am weird, so ‘seeming’ is beside the point. ‘Taken too long’ is as arbitrary as starting to write about the book in the first place. (Notice neither is invalid…merely arbitrary.) And the other reason to quit, “I’m over it”–a reason I thoughtfully entertained a couple of weeks ago–resonates on much the same psychological frequency as “I don’t need a schedule; I can do as I like.” That’s not how I’m currently operating, so out goes the idea of stopping.

As I try to figure out how to end this, to knot this strand and move on, it occurs to me that in writing to clarify my context I might have unraveled it even more.

Perhaps I should have begun and ended with: even though I keep writing about acedia I feel I’m doing emotionally well; at core, I enjoy creating these topically assorted posts; and having a not-very-organized part of my life is in its own way a pleasing experiment. I wonder how long I can keep it up?

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