Before starting: The exercise calls me to write for at least 15 minutes, and however long I spend writing today to be my average writing time for the rest of this month’s course’s exercises. A lot of people have been saying on The Commons for this month’s course that they find the time passes too slowly. Not for me. I have, so far, found myself having to stop myself when I’ve already gone over. I’ve heard the term “bloggorhea” (like diarrhea of the mouth, but transferred to blogs) used to describe tendencies like mine to just write endless posts about what I find interesting. I think my challenge this month will be to find a better “economy of words,” as my friend Nancy (an acclaimed gallery artist and former high school English teacher) from my young adulthood claimed was the only real thing my writing lacked. And here I go doing it again. Time to just do the exercise.
Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?
1. Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata in C Minor, as performed by Vladimir Horowitz on a cassette tape recording made during the early 80’s. Also called “Pathetique.”
I still have the cassette, somewhere. The music encoded on the magnetic tape of that cassette has been fuzzed out by the noise created by having played it many too many times. I would play its movements, then rewind, then play it again, and rewind, repeating these as often as I needed to until the tears would slow down and eventually dry up. I was so often so lonely that I would pity myself my (total) lack of any friend my own age – all my friends were adults, who understood my plight all too well, but they couldn’t take the place of the scoffing, mocking, bullying adolescents who were my peers in school. I often used to say, “I didn’t have friends, I had books,” growing up, but that’s not completely true. I had Vladimir Horowitz’s fingers caressing those white and black keys, comprehending the absolute despair that overwhelmed me, soothing my pain. No other interpretation of that sonata has sounded so right to my ears since, no other version does for me what that one did then. I found another Horowitz version recorded a couple of decades later, but it doesn’t have the same passion, the same skill, it is a faded replica of the older one’s glory.
2. For My Lover – Tracy Chapman
When I was 12 or 13, I was given my first CD boombox. My dad had already started collecting CDs, cassette tapes were still sold in stores but it was clear that CDs were the wave of the future. With that boombox, I was given the three CD’s that were my favorites of my dad’s collection: Joni Mitchell’s “Ladies of the Canyon,” James Taylor’s “Greatest Hits,” and Tracy Chapman’s debut album. All three were rotated and played on repeat, but the latter was the one that spoke to my adolescence in a way the other two did not. It was difficult picking just one song from that album – “Fast Car,” “She’s Got Her Ticket,” and “Baby Can I Hold You” were also top on the rotation of songs to get repeated on my headphones and sung along to under my breath at night, but “For My Lover” spoke to a time of great tribulation when I was 14. I had been dating a 19-year-old, and he got me pregnant. I miscarried soon after, but my mom (shortly after he had left town to go home to live with his parents again) went through my room, found my diary, and read the entire thing to find out what was going on in my life. She tried to have the older boy prosecuted for statutory rape, to which I responded that I would volunteer to testify for the defense and appear in court wearing the sluttiest outfit I could find to prove that I had initiated the relationship and that he didn’t know my age until we were already involved. I felt like I was in prison, I felt like I was being punished for my choice of lover and for protecting him and, in a way, that was true.
3. My Dad’s Gone Crazy – Eminem
This rap song starts out with the sound of someone chopping up lines on glass with a razor and then snorting something with a straw, only to follow with the sound of a toddler asking, “Daddy, what are you doing?” The song speaks to the craziness of addiction, the anger and self-righteousness that goes along with it, the rebellion against society, and the grief at what is happening, what he is doing to himself and those who love him still in his life. ‘Nuf said.
Hi, I’m Venus, and I’m a blogging addict. (Hi, Venus!)
But seriously, a lot of aspects of a successful blog post are similar to a “successful” share at a 12-step meeting.
First, what do I mean by “successful?” I believe that most people blogging want their posts to be read and liked, just like I believe most people sharing at a 12-step meeting want their audience to pay attention an find something valuable in what they have to say. In 12-step programs, this concept is called, “carrying the message.” If each person only shared a self-centered, narcissistic view of what was going on in their own lives or an egocentric monologue about the topic of the day, 12-step meetings could not work as they do. Instead, each sharer (in theory, as they gain more experience in their recovery) is supposed to blend a share from both what is cathartic to say with what will inspire their listeners.
This blending consists of what is called, “experience, strength, and hope.” Say that I’m sharing at a Blogging Anonymous meeting. (Disclaimer: Blogging Anonymous, like 12-step groups for pretty much every type of addiction known to mankind, may indeed exist despite my ignorance of its existence. I am not a member of that group, therefore I am not breaking anonymity by using this hypothetical statement and thereby breaking any of the Traditions that accompany the 12 Steps of that group.) Like all the other members at that meeting, it is generally expected that I will, during my share, do all of the following:
a) Share on my experience of events and situations related to the topic chosen for that meeting.
b) Talk about how I dealt or am dealing with those events and situations in a way that demonstrates or increases my strength as a person, focusing on solutions rather than allowing myself to get mired in the problems.
c) Explain what insights and realizations I gained by working through those problems toward the intended (or unintentional/incidental) solution or other resolution of the central events/situations related to the topic at hand.
If this formula was not fulfilled by at least a noticeable portion of people sharing at a meeting, if each person simply vomited forth their complaints, issues, and problems — this is what is called “sharing the mess instead of the message” — then 12-step groups could not sustain themselves. People would simply not stay at meetings to listen to anyone. Newcomers who start attending meetings need a reasonable motivation to return for the next meeting, to invest themselves in the group, in order to start turning away from whatever addiction is common to the membership of the group, and to eventually find recovery from said addiction. That motivation — to stay, listen, pay attention to others’ shares, and absorb each message for use in their own lives — cannot exist in an environment of selfish pseudo-sharing.
Similarly, if a blog consists only of self-centered and/or superficial diary entries that no one else can relate to, then few, if any, would choose to “follow” that blog, return to it to read later entries, recommend it to acquaintances, or comment on the blog’s entries. These are, I’m fairly certain, some of the main goals many bloggers seek to inspire, in order to gain a regular and expanding audience of followers who enjoy or otherwise get satisfaction from revisiting a blogger’s site again and again, to re-read valuable posts or see what’s new.
When you write a post, read it over before you publish and ask yourself these questions:
– If this post wasn’t about me or my life, would I be interested enough to come back this blog later?
– What about this post relates to many other people’s experiences?
– What can others get out of this post that they haven’t already found somewhere else?
– What information do I present that others can use in their own lives?
It’s alright to write exclusively about your own life, but if it’s all about your own unique life experiences and views of the world, try to include some humor or insights that will inspire others to achieve something better in their own lives. Add some sort of value: a moral to the story, a point that provokes thoughts for others that will draw their attention and make your post memorable. Remember to carry the message.
Note: This poem is written primarily in street slang, so it probably will only confuse you or be irrelevant unless you have an interest in the urban dialect of the pacific northwest. It also speaks of numerous deviant activities, with which I became familiar in recent years. I no longer spend any time hanging out with my former street “friends” but my experiences were liminal and fairly formative in my current inner personality. I don’t dwell on it much lately, this was written during a period at the beginning of the year when I was not clean or sober in the slightest.
If you are a minor, please wait until you have some adult experience before trying to comprehend these concepts. Kids, stay kids as long as you can, some people (like me) never had that option.
Okay, disclaimer done. Read at your own risk.
Ten toes down for that rusty renegade rock-bottom crown
That prehistoric hustle of hips hovering horizontally, they
Numero ocho their way above the ground.
This well-designed dawdle is a marketing ploy, out on the
Bleak blustery razor of the blade,
Saying simultaneously, “Come catch me!”
And yet, “Too pricey for your pocketbook, Loverboy.”
You can only make it here if you
Stay always somewhat out of reach.
It’s unattainable for me to stay in pocket
Me, the potentially top-dollar head doctor
Still intrinsically the same small-town whitey-whitebread reject kluck
Finding over and over that “I got you”
Equates to “I’ll bop you” time and again.
Unlike the other ho’s I was born to the trade
but not to The Blade. I didn’t trick, didn’t have no licks, cuz I was the trick, I was the lick.
Not for my Johns but for those damn gorilla pimps
Who take a “No, thank you” personal and so maneuvered
To be my non-consensual gigolos
Here, where a head-game
Is naught but the time of day (where no one wears a watch)
So I branched out to feed my habit
Boosted bottles and such, switched up those toes
For a few fingers – five, to be exact.
Slung a few rocks, but couldn’t stop myself
From lezzing it up for that cold, hard, White B**ch
More than a little, for
More than a little too long
But because I didn’t also fall for the Midnight Lady’s numb embraces
I was constantly inundated by my emptiness.
The street can only be home when you no longer feel your heart.