Wednesday, August 30, 2006

When I decided to give up on writing for a living (thank you Emerson College and your Master's Degree in Print Journalism!) the world opened up to me and didn't close in and suffocate me like I envisioned. Everyday was a battle, questioning myself, questioning my writing. My writing didn't match up to my peers in grad school, let alone the rest of the literary world. The outlook was bleak. My decision had nothing to do with giving up. If anything, it was overcoming a frightening obstacle. I am now able to pursue careers in nearly any field, experiencing places and people without having to sit and write for an editor. I write for myself and that's all I really ever wanted. I'm not Pepys and I don't intend to imitate any such personal journalists, diarists, essayists or even modern bloggers. I've written about this before, but the past few days have been trying, stretching my will to points unknown.

"All writers read, but not all readers write." I don't know exactly who said that and it doesn't particularly matter. In fact, I'm repeating myself, because I know I've written a piece on this before. But the point is, I read. I'm not a critic or reviewer. I'm not articulate enough. I'm a reader. It's what give me breath each morning and keeps me awake at night, listening to the creaking of the window panes. It is what I've become.

Last night, I continued reading Allen Ginsberg's journals from the 1950s. It is this experience that has reinforced my decision. I could never compare to genius. He was about 30 years-old when he started these journals in 1954 and his mind grasped words, concepts, structure and history as well as anyone. I'll be 30 in three years, by then, maybe I'll be able to understand half of what I read. Ginsberg knew he was to be a 20th Century Whitman. It was his destiny to write of a life, his life. It was his salvation. My salvation comes in a form of voyeurism, where I get to sneak into his bedroom late at night and steal through his journal. My salvation is in this reading. My nirvana comes with the crafted printed word.

(For a related article, check out Emily Barton's review of Francine Prose's new book on writing in the NY Times.)

12 comments:

May said...

Did you deliberately take off the title from your latest posts?
When I read, it seems that something is missing.
Of course it is your choice.

M. Barresi said...

May, I haven't changed anything on my blog. I didn't notice the lack of headlines. Maybe I'll try and remedy that and put up some headlines if I can figure them out.

May said...

I don't know if it just me who can't see them but I've checked and there are no titles, not even in the archives.
Perhaps you could take a look at your blog template. If you haven't modified it, you could just download the template again - the content won't be deleted.

The other day, I found the sidebar of my blog in the wrong place and had to change the code to put it back in the right position (by reducing its width).

Ella said...

Mike, I have a lot of the same ambivalence towards writing as you. We're the same age, and I keep thinking, "If I was going to be a great writer I'd have written something good by now." Hard to take, some days. Usually, though, it's OK to just be a good reader.

M. Barresi said...

Hey Ella, you're a much more polished writer than I am. You know how to tell a story and write a hook (turn a phrase sounded to cliche.) You have a distinct writing style that it is endearing to your readers.

I'm a 27 year old single guy and I turn in every day for a story about you taking the baby to the library. That's a credit to your writing.

By the way, why aren't you publishing?

Dorothy W. said...

I love the freedom that big decisions and recognitions can bring. I'm beginning to feel the same way about my scholarly writing (although I'm not fully there yet) -- if I can find a way to avoid doing it, I'm going to because I'm not good enough at it and don't enjoy it enough to keep at it. It's wonderfully freeing to say, I don't have to do that kind of writing -- it doesn't matter that I'm not that great at it -- I'll enjoy myself in other ways.

iliana said...

This is a great post. One which I think will resonate with a lot of readers. I've known a lot of bookworms who harbor the desire to write (I go through phases) but ultimately we fall back on just writing for pleasure and reading as much as we can.

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