Tuesday, February 02, 2021

the bottomless sea

Sometimes, being a writer is rougher than others. In a weird, terrible time for the world in general, perhaps my only respite is my petty (self) centeredness .  The same centeredness that saves me is also the same centeredness that occasionally knocks me off course and leaves me feeling blue for no good reason. This usually happens particularly when I am writing a lot, when the flow is good and the words come regularly and better than I expected. When I'm really excited about a given piece of work or series or project. In "the zone," or the flow as many people describe it. It's a great state to be in, but it also feels like the loneliest state. I often liken it to dropping a stone down a well or into the ocean  and waiting to hear it hit the water or the bottom but it never does.  This very blog has felt like that sometimes. You post things, put words out into the world and really have no idea if anyone is reading.  There are page hits, and occasional likes and hearts, but you wander if people are just being polite or if all those stats are just lonely bots trolling the internet.  Yet still, you throw stones down the well and sometimes those stones are poems, which feel even heavier than just blog ramblings.  You keep waiting for the splash, the certainty, but it rarely comes.

This feels even stupider a thing to be worrying about when thousands die every day.  When people are struggling. I sometimes have to go offline and quell the chatter of writers doing the exact same thing that I am of course--worrying about rejections, about word counts, about success and writerly drama. The chatter is only an echo of what happens in my own mind, of course, and while I don't always say much of it aloud, it's there and I kind of hate myself for it.  Worse, the tantrum of the poet who is screaming "Look at me!  Look at me!" and arranging deck chairs and playing in the orchestra while the ship lists and rolls and may very well end up at the bottom of the sea.  

At the same time, the act of writing is a raft, a life preserver.  Or maybe the violinist can only save themselves by playing hymns as the water takes them--ankles, knees, the bottom of his coat. It's maddening to know how ultimately frivolous it is, but then also be disappointed by the fact that everyone is too busy saving themselves or dying to listen to you play. For every great piece or project I write, there is this feeling of disappointment that it too will be another stone dropped into the ocean with no splash. Lately that feeling sometimes comes within seconds of writing something, even before any feeling of accomplishment settles in.  "this is great, but does anyone care? "  Or more importantly, SHOULD they? 

It also makes me consider the difference in creating visual art.  If I make a collage or a painting or a print, it exists, and if only for me, makes the world a lovelier place.  Some of my best work (hell, my only work in this dry spell) from the past year is hanging in my apartment or tucked away until I can properly hook up my scanner at home.  It's existence, even if only I've seen it, is justified by it's decorative purpose. The boat itself is enough.  The sea.  The stars.  If someone sees it and likes it, that's just icing on the cake. Words, though, are a communication.  A point of meeting and intersection. Do they even exist without readers?

So I find myself on a raft in the wild sea, dropping poems like stones in the waters that churn and get darker at turns and I dare complain no one is listening. Or is listening enough.  It sounds foolish, but I can't be the only one.. 

1 comment:

Rita said...

You are not the only one.

These days, I can hardly stand the cacophony of us all.

Thank you for helping me understand my deep wish that I could have been a visual artist instead.