Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Secret Word

 Publication date edited to reflect date of actual writing. Posted much later on 6/24/2022. Also believed to be incomplete.

Remember the show “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse?” Remember the “Secret Word?” Whenever someone said it, the room went all crazy and everyone danced around and laughed and probably more than a few people watching at home had panic attacks or seizures? 

Imagine if there were no big party that happened when you said the secret word. Instead, anytime someone thought you were supposed to say the secret word, and you didn’t, you got an electric shock, or someone flicked your ear from behind, or poked you in they eye. Or someone else paid for it instead of you.

Sometimes, that’s how my job feels.

My biggest fear, professionally and maybe even personally, isn’t finding out that I’m not as smart or as talented as I thought I was. I am actually okay with that. Many if not all of my leisure pursuits actually involve finding and tripping over the limits of my abilities - and then trying it again. Popped off the wall and hit the mat on that v4 boulder problem? Try some different moves. Blew the exposure on that nudibranch photo at 75 feet underwater? Pay attention to your aperture next time. No problem. Back in you go.

What I am constantly worried about is that I won’t be as smart or as talented as someone else thought I was. Got hired because the CEO really enjoyed talking to you and thought you were brilliant? Turned out your particular brand of brilliance runs as hot and cold as your pool game? Damn. Now you suck. And it cost people. 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Why I Don't Write

I believe strongly in the power of writing. Arranging one's thoughts to emerge through the pen or keyboard changes them, and causes the writer to actually examine them and, often in so doing, refine them. If you’re exceptionally fortunate, they do something for a reader as well.

The act of writing engages my inner critic. I compulsively backspace and re-type sentences, often multiple times. It takes me forever to get to a thought - much less through a thought - often to the point that it escapes into the ether as thoughts do before I get to a point. By now, this is already becoming self-evident.

Writing requires time, of which I have little, discipline, of which I have less, and a certain arrogance that people should know what is in your head (of which I have plenty, but it’s too busy fighting with the opposing self-doubt to be bothered to generate any motivation). 

See? See why I don’t write?

There’s a deeper reason though. The writing I want to do would create a great deal of vulnerability. The writing I find most valuable from others is that which exposes the core of their humanness - that thing we all share, that ultimately connects us. To share our fears, pains, and failures alongside our victories and glittering moments of joy with others is to connect ourselves and our readers to a truth that is both inescapable and profoundly hopeful - and can kindle deep gratitude for the privilege of experiencing even the adversities we face in our lives. 

I would like to write these kinds of things. Okay, but….

Truth is connection, and connection is truth. Connection involves others. My vulnerabilities are connected to those of others. To tell a meaningful truth makes the teller vulnerable, surely - but it also makes vulnerable those to whom the story connects. I don’t know how to tell my truth without exposing those I care about, and I haven’t got the right to do that without their permission - or maybe even with it.

Shrouding it in fiction depersonalizes it, and in some ways shields the writer from accountability. Attempts to preserve anonymity are paradoxically flawed - anyone to whom the truth would matter will probably figure out the person involved, and to anyone who wouldn’t figure it out even the name would be effectively anonymous.  

Ultimately, I don’t write because I’m the king of excuses - and I know that. This is, in fact, basically one long excuse that I’ve written. And now my brief window of time is closing, and with it this piece of what is certainly not writing. 

Because I do not write.