I've been dissatisfied with the way my attempts at blogging pan out for a while now, which probably explains why they all fade away after a couple of months. It's not that I am not capable of dedication to a writing project. But I couldn't put my finger on what it was until very recently.
I am afraid.
The writing you get on this blog is a lot like the version of me that shows up for dinner at my Mormon grandmother's house. I still have things to say, but I've sanded off all my edges, dropped all the cuss words, tip-toed gently around any opinions I hold that might possibly upset someone. I've presented you with a G-rated version of myself.
The truth is, I am opinionated. I am profane. I am a fan of filthy jokes and "unladylike" conversations. Yet you don't see any of that here because I blog under my real name, and as a result, I always have lurking at the back of my mind this worry that some day, a future (or present) employer or agent or whatever is going to Google my name, then see some opinion or language that offends them, and then I'll lose out on whatever opportunity because I didn't exercise sufficient caution in expressing myself on the internet and then my life will be over because - omigod - I said the f-word on the internet and I didn't have the decency to be ashamed of myself.
You know what I'm talking about. I know you do. Don't pretend like you don't.
Fear, and its cousin, self-consciousness, are the enemy of all great art, because it causes you to hold back and reconsider for the sake of propriety and social convention, when the truth is that all good art is good because it is honest. Art that tells the truth about our lives is powerful simply because so few people are willing to do it.
Take the field in which I do most of my writing, which is memoir. Memoirs are insanely popular these days, despite snobbery that dismisses them as the literary equivalent of "The Jerry Springer Show," because good ones will shine a light on that which we refuse to acknowledge in so-called "polite society."
I don't mean tragedy porn, because those truly are little more than trashy talk shows in book form, but memoirs that speak honestly about doubts, fears, anxieties, pain. These are all things that make up a big chunk of the emotional rainbow but get little play in our culture that expects people to be nothing but deliriously happy and upbeat at all times (and if you can't manage to actually be happy, then you damn well better fake it lest you bring the rest of us down.)
It never fails to strike me as sad and perverse, how we insist that people keep their true selves under wraps for the sake of public sensibilities even as we devour art made by those who tell the truth. We are like starving men who, when given the opportunity to sit down to a feast, turn our backs out of pride instead.
Anyway, the impetus for this rant is the rebirth of Roger Ebert, who was once one-half of the most famous movie critical dyad in the U.S. but is now poised to take residence in the pantheon of American literary icons. And rightfully so - have you read the man's blog recently? It is consistently one of the most wonderful, beautifully written corners of the internet, and I am not just saying that because everyone else is saying it too. (Although it makes me happy that everyone else is saying it.)
I am sure that part of the reason why his writing has moved to another level is because of the physical limitations his battles with cancer have imposed upon him, but I suspect that the motivation behind his brilliance can be summed up in one sentence, quoted from a recent Jezebel post about the man: "Roger Ebert doesn't give a shit."
Now, I'm sure there is a lot that Mr. Ebert does give a shit about, like his wife, movies, politics and Chicago, but what he does not give a shit about is what others think of him. He does not give a shit if his words piss people off. He does not give a shit if someone reads a blog post and thinks less of him. He just does not give a shit. He writes without fear, and it shows.
I aspire to be like that, and I hope that I am able to attain such freedom of expression without having to be rich and famous or deal with life-threatening medical conditions to get there. Because I know that when I tie a gag in the mouth of my internal censor (who has been well-primed by a decade of life as a Mormon and another as an abused wife), the words that come forth from my mind and out through my mouth or my keyboard are much closer to who I truly am than any false Caitlin I could concoct in my attempts to be acceptable to those around me. I feel faster, lighter, freer, as natural as a seagull coasting on an ocean breeze.
This is what I am supposed to do, and anything less is not only preventing me from forming a real connection with those who read my writing, but it is also stunting myself as a person and as a writer.
So I am pledging to myself that I will write - and live - without fear. I will cast off those self-imposed restraints and I'll let you see who I am, even if it is embarrassing or distasteful to some. One day, I hope I can be like Roger Ebert, and truly not give a shit.