Hey, look! I redesigned my website for the I-dunno-how-many-ith time!
And no, that’s not what — or the only thing — I’ve been doing since November of 2018.
But I have been away from this site. From blogging. From podcasting. From creating for myself; for you.
I wasn’t going to make a big deal out of it. My plan was to quietly re-launch my site, not even announce anything, and simply start publishing blog posts and Sonitotum episodes again. Like I’d never not been doing just that. Like I hadn’t gone radio silent for five months.
Then, this morning, I was perusing the “your memories” section of that popular, intrusive, evil social network / virtual city-state (you know the one), and I came across a very kind comment about my writing — specifically my blog / website writing — from a decade ago.
“…your writing is so genuine and crystal clear, I could read for hours. It’s a rare thing, so often I read prose that sounds like it is trying to impress, but yours feels as though it was effortless – and I know it’s not.” ~ Phil Clevenger
Now, look, I know I don’t suck. I’ve got award nominations and lots of pretty stars on Amazon.com.
I’ve had people compliment me on my writing before. I’m grateful for the recognition; usually I acknowledge it, and express my gratitude, and everyone goes on with their day.
But this morning… after being away from every one of my creative outlets for ‘pert near half a year… to see those kind words from ten(!) years ago…
Y’know what happened?
I fuckin’ wept.
I don’t have to go too deep or search myself for all that long to really understand why Phil’s generous compliment cracked me like an egg.
It’s these last six months.
It’s where I’m at in my creative and personal life, right now.
It’s that I’ve been here before.
“No sir,” as Mr. Horse once said, “I don’t like it.”
What happened since November 2018?
Well, friends, that’s personal.
I’m all about transparency, but undiscerning transparency is rarely useful and, at its most reckless, erodes rather than strengthens intimacy.
So you, dear reader, get the broad stokes: there was death, and travel, and death again, and betrayal, and friendships lost, and Life Changes (emphasis caps not optional), and transitions, and lots and lots of drama.
I experienced profoundly jarring disappointment in the David Whyte-ian sense of the word:
Disappointment is just the initial meeting with the frontier of an evolving life, an invitation to reality, which we expected to be one particular way and turns out to be another, often something more difficult, more overwhelming and strangely, in the end, more rewarding. — from Consolations — The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words, which is kind of my I Ching… or… catechism.
I’m still working on accepting that invitation. Literally and figuratively, I have not moved entirely into the new reality.
I’m living in a state of unsettled dissonance.
One undeniable and particularly aggravating result is a complete moratorium of all creative writing, music, podcasting, art… everything.
I could look to the upheaval of the last six months and say, “That’s why I haven’t done anything creative.”
But here’s the plain truth: I have surrendered my agency to the vagaries of the last six months.
I joined the chaos parade instead of stepping back, climbing the bleachers, and watching it splash past.
Shit, I built a fucking float.
Toward the end of last year, I jotted down some objectives for 2019. For some of those objectives, I assigned their completion to specific quarters of this year.
The first quarter of 2019, which was fraught with leftover nonsense from the last quarter of 2018 and brand new nonsense, slipped past with my main creative objective (completion of the first draft of Light of the Outsider) not just undone, but untouched.
Instead, when I did carve out creative time for myself, I worked on the new design of this site. This allowed me to do something creative that didn’t require the mental and emotional commitment writing fiction demands. I could justify it, too, for a new site would be an opportunity to refine my online proxy and reorganize my various creative and professional foci. I’ll write more about that in a future post; probably the next one.
Anyway… the site is launched. But now it’s May.
The second quarter of 2019 is one-third spent, and it’s getting to me.
For at least a couple of months, I’ve noted all my usual signals that burnout and anxiety and depression are beginning to accrete around my emotional and mental health.
I shunted them aside. Shit to do. Obligations and expectations, tangible and assumed, to fulfill.
I guess it took Phil’s ten-year-old kindness to really feel the weight of all that orbiting, coalescing detritus.
Because ten years ago, I was similarly miserable, similarly overwhelmed, similarly wobbling on my axis.
I’ve had a decade to figure that shit out and not let it happen again.
And yet, here we are.
But this time, I’m “of a certain age.” There are different definitions for that phrase, but right now I’m going with “the age when your contemporaries start to die from causes other than accidental.”
Death is all around. Yeah, sure, it’s always all around. But the bottom of the hourglass is noticeably more crowded than the top. Anyone could be next, and that includes me.
So. It’s time to figure it out. It’s time to build new practices, intuit new rituals, and recognize new metaphors.
It’s time, once again, to show up.
What does that mean in the context of this site, Scribtotum, Sonitotum, Hazy Days and Cloudy Nights, Light of the Outsider, and all the rest of my… stuff?
It means I’ll address, and incrementally add to, something creative every day of the week. Not placeholder-creative stuff like developing or eternally tinkering with this website. Shippable stuff.
I’ll talk about it here, and probably in episodes of Sonitotum, especially when talking about it can be done in a way that teaches.
Beyond that, though… one thing I have learned is to not promise specifics. I don’t think most folks are keeping track, anyway, and when I announce a personal creative project and it doesn’t play out the way I expected, I end up demoralized and deflated and much less likely to stay positive and productive.
It’s the best I can do. Which is more than I’ve been doing.
Here I am.
By the way, today I began reading Ursula K. Le Guin’s Always Coming Home.
Matthew Wayne Selznick
It’s a remarkable work… and if you want all the audio supplemental material (used to come on a cassette in a special slipcase edition of the hardcover) you can get it from Bandcamp! Hope you enjoy.
So sorry for everything you’ve been going through. I’m around if you wanna talk, always. Glad to hear you’re “on the mend”, and good to see you back at it.
Matthew Wayne Selznick