Friday, January 8, 2010

Blog Slog

Some bloggers I regularly enjoy reading are getting away with some terribly phoned-in boloney. They are squirting out some very tiny posts. Like, they throw up one paragraph with a photo and this is supposed to count as work. Some little dingle berry about how beautiful their new baby is, or a link to someone else's brilliance in their blog.  This, while I am in the vortex of existential malaise about the future of Chagrin and Bear It - can I continue, should I, does it really matter, does anyone care about my complaints, my observations, the silliness that is me - I am but a speck on the digital horizon.

I'm feeling bitter because I've been so stuck and miserable about writing lately. I'm whiney, and crapped out, itchy and dry. I'm busy with things that seem as dull as an NPR fund drive. I'm not cute or funny, I have no perspective on the little things in life that will crack you up or make you think.  I'm an asshole on wheels. My heart is hurty with the effort.  I've sat down half a dozen times to try to reach out to you, my beloveds, and its all been terrible, and empty and so full of obvious effort you can see the seams straining in every word. 

Sure, I could write a paragraph a day about how cute my kids are, and you'd all cough up a hair ball and drive into a ditch.  I'm not saying the posts about my bathroom are that much better, but let's all agree, they're longer.  There's a quantity there that I think is meaningful. If you can't provide quality, then I think length is vital. Unless your blog is a photo-journalism thing, well then, actually its not a blog is it? Its a website, and that's a whole other matter.  A picture with a caption is poo.  Unless your blog can be found at, I think you need to be typing some shit into the computer. This is harder than it looks.  If it were easy everyone would be doing it. Oh fuck, everyone is doing it. This is definitely part of the problem.

Its far too easy to compare yourself to others. Many people do it with things like thigh tautness or skin dewiness, tooth whiteness or hair silkiness. I don't care about those things. Or I do, but I realize my fright wig is beyond the reach of conditioner, my belly flab is two c-sections deep; its hopeless and so I help myself to another baguette. But I care deeply about reading and writing and its impossible for me not to, occasionally, slip on the banana peel of my own flawed ego, and compare myself to far better writers, writers who can write plot, say, or lengthy descriptions of flora, knowing all the botanical names for the things in their yard.  Good writing fills me so far up, that everything else drains out of me. Not all the time, but sometimes, great writing makes me feel like a big fountain pen has been poked into my flimsy cartoon bubble writing.  It makes me feel like a phony.

Of course I'm an addict too, so there's really no hope for me.  I can't stop reading, and I can't stop loving all those brilliant writers who make me feel both so hopeful and so completely inadequate.  I'm talking to you Lorrie Moore, Jim Harrison, Elizabeth Strout. Damn you Richard Russo, Tim O'Brien, Anne Lamott. Pat Conroy, you lovely bastard, how could you? Don't get me started Alice Monroe, I might have to kick your ass.

And yet, where would I be without you? All of you driving around with me in my dirty van. Collecting socks from under the couch with the help of Roddy Doyle. Dropping off movies with Cormack McArthy. Eating my sack lunch with Ruth Reichl. I love you, I hate you, I need your help.

Come to me friends, lovers, enemies. Do not poke me with your pens, but rather prod me, guide me, bring me home. 


  1. oh the irony, a brilliant blog post written on the troubles of being a writer. Jess, you are among those you listed, in my book at least. And, you beat me to the deadline. I only have 367 words and I don't stop until at least 700. I;m with you on the quantity factor... cough, duce...

  2. Heh... You cant lose!
    Have you seen my photo blog?

  3. There's lots of different blog approaches, but the most important thing is your voice. That's what brings readers back. It's fine to post less frequently if it's good, geniune stuff -- doesn't have to be Alice Munro's voice or the range of what she would cover in a novel or even a short story.

    I've chosen to blog daily, which I've done for nearly four (can't believe it) years. The upside is that my very "select" readership can always find a new post in the morning, and sometimes there's a dialogue in the comments. The downside is that, yes, sometimes it has to be a quick quippy post, or a video with a comment, or a beefy quote from some other blog with a quip or opinionette.

    But that's just my approach -- I can't see collecting my posts into a fantastic Erma Bombeck-subverting book someday, as would be the case for chagrinandbearitall.

    Maybe you need to give yourself permission to post even when you're not feel particularly amuzing or funny?

    We'd all still read!

  4. Those you admire have felt the same about their heroes. And being prolific ain't everything (says she who wishes she was). Slog away when you can, and keep that brain alive for us all to peer into.

  5. Hey, what's with the guilt? Frank Rich takes a vacation. Jon Stewart does the same. TV series go on hiatus - why shouldn't you? Hang out a sign: Gone sewin'. Gone nuts! Back in a few...

    The writers you admire fall silent from time to time. There are many others I wish would do the same. Seems to me we're awash in BlahBlah. Texting ain't writing. Not every thought is "breaking news".

    We love you because you can WRITE.

  6. Thanks to you all. No more whining. I promise.

    Thanks for your support and love, without which, I whine only more.


  7. I came to Canada for the Winter Olympics. Ordered up the passports, packed up the tribe, checked the luggage, filled their little backpacks with real candy and let them get classic coke's on the plane. Go world! say all the VISA commercials and Vancouver shines like a diamond. But you fair writer, you are the one keeping me up late this night in spite of my hockey tickets and curling tickets and THINGS to do and see at a mind-numbing clip in the Olympic city... your writing brings me back and makes me laugh and gets me through and I know you are there. In Chagrin Falls for Gawd's sake.

  8. Jess, every one of your posts is golden, though I have to say this one hit me right between the metaphorical eyes. My husband and dear friends have been begging me to write in one form or another (when I read my husband some of your choice posts, after his laughter subsides he cries "she sounds just like you!" But -- in addition to being a lazy bum -- the awe I have of truly great writers (and you named some of my favorites) makes me aware of my own shortcomings so I fail to put out the few gems I actually have to offer. I gotta get over that, just like you do. Because even if you only post once every couple of months, Jess, what you do throw up there brings me and and others delight often beyond your hilarity -- you're pretty goddamn insightful, woman.

    "Use what talent you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best." -- Mistakenly Attributed to Thoreau or Van Dyke But Who the Hell Cares Who Said It Because It's Just a Great Philosophy