Scattered Thoughts, for Megan
by Diana Dawson Plattner
Blogging: it’s a stupid word. It’s Gog and Magog and agog. It’s bog-hopping; it’s clog-dancing in boots. I don’t know why I’m doing it, except as a quiet writing exercise, putting words in the world just to see what it’s like to finish things. I don’t publicize it and I’m not enabling comments because I don’t much give a damn what anyone thinks about it. I mean I do, of course, but I believe all the way down into the spongy red marrow of my bones that praise is a faulty motivator. Praise messes with your head, and the absence of praise messes with your head. It’s hard enough as it is to figure out how to do this, and why; hard enough to forget and unlearn the everything wrongheaded I keep thinking I know about it. Craving praise has never done anything for me but make me afraid to write a word.
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I know what you mean about looking up and realizing you’ve missed it. The supposed missing of a supposed chance or calling is only an illusion, but that doesn’t make it feel any less real. Having done nothing with your talent but avoid getting fired for ten years is no more significant in a given moment at sixty than it is at a given moment at thirty; the moment lasts exactly as long in either case, and the space that could be filled with what you have to offer is just as empty.
Of course, it’s the perception of how much time is left in each case that makes the two moments feel so different. Lay a four-by-four on the ground and you can walk it end to end without even thinking about it. Raise it six feet off the ground, it’s going to feel a lot harder. It isn’t; it isn’t one iota, one splinter, one wobbly ankle harder. It’s the exact same four-inch path either way. Raise it a hundred feet and it’s now a paralyzing task. The task is indifferent to the consequences; the beam is the same four inches wide, the same dozen steps long, whether you fall or don’t. It’s your knowledge of the consequences that makes it seem so hard to do.
* * *
Going in there, sitting in that chair: I’m learning to look at it like walking the dog. You don’t want to get up at six a.m. when it’s 29 degrees and walk the dog. You don’t want to stop what you’re working on a few hours later and walk the dog. And this goes on all day, and the last thing you feel like doing before you go to bed is going out and walking the goddamn dog. But you do it anyway, because it’s what you have to do to take care of the dog, which, incidentally, you love. Loving the dog doesn’t make you want to stand out there freezing your ass off while it sniffs around trying to decide whether to pee here or here or maybe over there. Loving the dog just makes you do it anyway.
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When you were born, your rope was tied to the bumper of the world. (Editorial “you,” of course.) If you want to wait until you feel more like doing whatever-it-is, fine, go ahead. The world ain’t waiting. You stop, you just get dragged. I know this but I’ve still been telling myself for years that I’ll try to write later on, that right now I’m just so swamped with this fucking job, or I’m so tired, I work so hard, don’t I deserve to rest a little? And instead of writing, which is hard, I sit there and drink some wine, which is easy and feels like resting. It isn’t resting. It’s just numbing myself to the sensation of being dragged.
* * *
The last few months, I’ve been working on a story. It’s six short pages. I wrote the first draft last fall, and it was huge fun and I galloped through the goldenrod and had a large time. Then I set it aside for a couple months, and when I looked at it again, I saw it wasn’t a field of goldenrod – it was an empty lot full of ragweed. So I rewrote it, and then rewrote it again, and rewrote it two or three more times and then put it down again.
The last three weeks, I’ve resumed chipping at it. I sit there and think about it and spend an hour rewriting a paragraph. A weekday morning here, half an hour there, half of a Saturday. Not as regular as it could be but I’m not putting it down until it’s done. And the shocker is, it’s getting better.
In a lot of ways I’m dumber than a sack of hair. Like with maps: I’ve always known about maps, that you use them to follow unfamiliar roads. But when some friends and I took a road trip when I was about twenty-three, and I was the navigator, and after eight hours we really ended up where the map said we would, I was amazed – like, there’s-Godzilla-stomping-down-Main-Street amazed. Even when I know intellectually that some fact is accurate, I don’t really believe it until I see it for myself. Like this story I’m working on. I’m doing what I’ve always known you’re supposed to do, and I’m in wonder that it’s working out. It isn’t destined for the New Yorker. It isn’t even destined for this blog. I’ll finish it and it will mean as much to the world now as it would have when I was twenty years younger. But it will mean a hell of a lot more to me.