Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Why I blog

Richard Ford, in his novel Independence Day, writes:
"Sometimes, though not that often, I wish I were still a writer, since so much goes through anybody's mind and right out the window, whereas, for a writer--even a shitty writer--so much less is lost."
I just finished reading Larry's Party by Carol Shields, and realized as I read about the fictional Larry Weller going into a coma in his early forties just how frightened I am these days. My days are assignment-sized (presentations, papers, and class participation), my hours are lecture-sized, my minutes as long as a page, and my seconds do not so much as tick by as get tapped out on a keyboard.

I was standing in London Drugs today, waiting in line while an old lady dug out her change. A fierce-eyed man behind me muttered about "saving money while you hold up the goddamn line." I imagined replying, "being an asshole for the sake of saving 20 seconds is a far better thing." And then I had a flashback to standing in the aisle of the general store in Fox Creek, which in its entirety was no bigger than the length and width of the checkout area I was standing in.
I remembered being only a year or two older than Gunnar, and standing in that store: looking at the toy section, filled with the sort of nickel and dime junk you find in small town general stores. I recall it being a wonderful place though. I bought Star Wars trading cards there. Comic books. A plastic gorilla who I was convinced was King Kong. A G.I. Joe, the kind that was taller than Barbie, the kind with the kung-fu-grip.

And suddenly, I wanted to be home. I wanted to be where my son is. I want time to move differently. I don't want to be turning 38.
I'm finding it hard to age gracefully, it would seem.

So reading a book about a man in his mid-forties having a coma seems like a cruel and unusual punishment to inflict on oneself. But, like my time, I have no choice in the matter. It's required reading for my Canadian Women's Fiction class. And I need that class to get through my coursework. And I need that coursework to get my PhD.

And somehow, I'm convinced I need that PhD. to get beyond my past. My resume reads, "Only ever really done church work or retail." Which is effectively the most useless resume one can possess. I heard the inside scoop from an HR manager who told me that former pastors are about as unpopular a potential hire as one can find, outside ex-cons.

Yet every day, I ask myself if it is worth the effort. Every day, I wonder if the price is too high. And every day, I am reminded of Winston Churchill saying "if you are going through hell, keep going." Or as Trent Reznor put it, "The Way Out is Through."
Thankfully, Larry's Party doesn't end with the coma. And its central metaphor is the hedge maze, or labyrinth, which is described in the book as "a complex path." If ever I identified with a metaphor, it's this one, at this time.

So why blog? It's 10:53 on Tuesday night and I have another novel to read before class tomorrow. And half of D.H. Lawrence's The Rainbow for Thursday night. Another presentation due next week, along with a short paper on a presentation I did last week.
I blog because my chest hurts. I blog because I find myself occasionally short of breath. I blog to remind myself of the things I'm doing this for. I blog to remember how to write with fucking citations, or pedantic obscurancy, or proper punctuation or grammar.

Just to write. If I were an athlete, I'd go for a run. But I'm a writer. So I must write. Even if it's only for 15 minutes. Even if what I've written makes little sense.

To make sure that not everything I'm thinking is going out the window.
To remember.
And reflect.
And rant.


  1. Anonymous6:51 AM

    Just wanted to leave a word of support. I think every doctoral candidate (at least all the ones I've known) have hit the "is it worth it" stage at some point. In my case, that point came three times. The first during a required "Research Methods" course and the other two during the actual dissertation (once from one committee member being, quite frankly, a bit of a jerk and once from another telling me I can't write . . . I think she was "kidding" and pushing me). But stubbornness and perseverance help, and eventually - I think - it is worthwhile. Of course, I say that as a recent PhD who is still working as an adjunct because the job market's in the proverbial porcelain god.

  2. Thanks for the supportive words Taltos. I don't think I've reached the "give it up" stage -- I've come so far..but I am tired of leaving things that feed me emotionally on the backburner.

    Proverbial porcelain god. I need to find a way to use that in the next week.

  3. Anonymous7:58 AM

    Hi, Mike! Like Taltos, I leave a word of support. I have missed reading your blog for a while. I hope everything is going well. Write when you can, I'll drop by and read when I can. Deal?

    I hope you finish Josh and Caleb soon, unless I have been under a rock and it's already done. Hehe. But I'm a patient woman. You take care of yourself and your family.

  4. ah, ranting. ranting is good. gets the crap out of your system (so to speak) and we are human, and, ranting is a human thing to do. not sure where i'm going with this, but wanted to also leave a word of support. I think you have found your true calling, as you are an excellent teacher, and have the ability to make things relevant, even if it is a stupid scene from a movie, or a random thing that happened during the day.

    your reasoning for blogging is exactly why I draw. I need to. To reflect, to process and record the many things going through my brain.