Reemergence

I apologize for how quiet it has been here of late. I did not intend for this long of a break between posts, but the world intervened. Or, more specifically, it quieted my mind—at least in certain ways.

The societal convulsion of the last few months have not left me in a place for easy blog posts or essays. Partly that is my own doing, as I have a tendency to pay too much attention to news and opinion during times of strife and change (not to mention other times, as well). I have done much the same during the events of the last couple months, and as the national dialogue here in the U.S. has suffered major upheavals, it has been a challenge to quiet and redirect my mind enough to write of other subjects. Meanwhile, I have little interest in writing on the upheavals in question, either. This is not a place where I intend to dive into politics for the most part, and so that has helped lead to the silence of this new blog.

That does not mean I’m not writing, though. The other reason for this blog’s dormancy is that I have been hard at work on other creative outlets: namely, finishing and performing final edits on my story “Almost Home,” slated for publication in the upcoming final issue of Into the Ruins (which, yes, really is going to be published this summer—promise!) as well as working on “The Face of the Deep,” another story set to debut soon that I am finally putting the finishing touches on. I am very pleased with both stories; with luck, my readers will be, as well.

One of my shortcomings, however, is that I am perpetually optimistic about how long projects will take me to complete. Another reason I kept failing to make an update of this blog a priority is because I kept thinking that soon I would wrap “The Face of the Deep” and then I could update with that story, provided free in installments. From its outset, I intended it as a publication for this website, as the first original work of fiction to be published here, serving as something of a formal launch for this project. And yet the story kept taking a bit longer than expected; and then the edits kept proving a bit more extensive than originally thought; and now as I tentatively print out a copy of my third draft of “The Face of the Deep”—hopefully the final draft but perhaps not—I have realized I left this place quiet too long.

The problem, in my estimation, is that sometimes I still have trouble thinking my own thoughts. I know, that seems a diversion, but let me explain. It’s an idea I have been spending a lot of time mulling of late, the question of which thoughts are mine and which are not. And it’s a question that holds important emotional stakes for me, because I have spent so much of my life being contrary, and it seems to me that an honest contrarianism means thinking one’s own thoughts. Therefore, the idea that I more often than not simply think other peoples’ thoughts is something of a threat to the very core of who I am—or who I think I am, anyway.

Now, some parts of my life have been more contrary than others, but at all times I have taken a certain pride in being contrary, even when it’s indulgent and undeserved. And it often is undeserved (and probably always indulgent) if I’m being honest and blunt with myself; after all, my contrariness as often as not is simply the parroting of thoughts of someone else who is not in the mainstream. Therefore, my contrarianism is perhaps not so much a contrariness as it is simply my thinking the less popular thoughts. Sometimes I wonder what thoughts I’ve ever had that were my own.

Of course, that’s a deeper subject than the past two paragraphs suggest, and a more complicated one to boot. Honestly, I’m thinking of writing an essay on it, should I ever get back my own thoughts, and should I figure out enough of the subject to make an essay worthwhile. In the meantime, my response to this question of whether or not I am thinking my own thoughts has been to focus on fiction rather than nonfiction. Because if there is anywhere I think I get to what’s really going on in my own head, rather than what other people are putting there, it’s in the fiction I write.

That doesn’t mean that I think my stories are wholly original, and I sure as hell know they are influenced by the writing of others. I would expect nothing less. But it’s in the fictional worlds I create that I seem most able to grapple with the ever-present undercurrent of my own thought and uncertainty, of my own contemplations and considerations. Often the way it comes out clues me in to what I have been thinking, but as often as not it remains something of a mystery to the end, evoking a sense of familiarity and emotional response without coalescing into any unabashedly clear and transparent realization. I am okay with that; I think many of the subcurrents I use my stories to explore are more emotion than rational thought and do not lend themselves easily to clear sentences and straightforward statements. They are a relationship; a dance; fuzzy-headed revelations. They do not easily reduce. Honestly, that’s what I like most about fiction.

And so in times like these, I find it particularly helpful to write fiction, even if what comes out of my keyboard has nothing to do with the uprisings of the time. (Perhaps a story down the line will, but it seems to take a lot longer than a month or two for the wellspring to manifest.) It may sound like an escape—and in some ways it is—but what I get from a story is far more honest and far more a manifestation of my true self than any thought I have about the issues of the time. More often than not, those are just the parroting of others, a nodding along with a well-stated opinion. That’s fine for what it is, but it’s the sort of thing I take little satisfaction in and that as often as not leads me to trouble. A deeper consideration is what’s called for and that typically takes a certain amount of time and silence and a hidden flow of thought, working its way slowly through the landscape to an eventual useful destination. It’s just a long process.

Sometimes so are stories, and sometimes so are essays, and sometimes so are blog posts. So forgive me the recent quiet. Just know that it has been a productive one, despite how it may seem, and rest assured that I really, really am now almost done with “The Face of the Deep” and ready to share it. Expect that soon, right here on this blog. I will be publishing it in two or three installments spread out over a week or two, with an additional option from day one to purchase a PDF copy of the full story for a small fee. I’m excited to share it and see how it’s received, and I hope you’ll find it worth the wait.

In the meantime, I am working to get back my thoughts and I think I may be getting somewhere. I have a few essay ideas in hand; we’ll see what comes of them. But with luck I will have more for you soon, and the quiet will be less deep going forward as it has been the last few months. If it is, though, just know that it does not mean I have nothing to say, just that I am finding different ways of saying it—and that eventually I will share it with you.

I hope summer is treating all of you well and that you are finding good new ways of being in this tumultuous time. Take care.

P.S. If you missed out on the launch of the Fragments section of the website back in May, check it out for some original, very short content, including the fragment “Above the Waves.”

P.P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list if you haven’t already. You’ll receive occasional updates about new blog posts, stories, essays, fragments, and more.

2 thoughts on “Reemergence

  1. I really enjoy reading your posts, and I identify strongly with some of the issues that you write about. I want to respond to the issue of having your own thoughts or thinking others’ thoughts and ideas, or an tangent of that.

    I have been thinking about how much we become what we think about, particularly what we oppose. I have a wonderful quote from my favorite author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, that addresses that issue, in the succinct way he does, although it took my a while to understand it. He is looking at pictures of Puritan ministers in an old mansion:

    “These worthies looked strangely like bad angels, or at least like men who had wrestled so continually with the devil that somewhat of his sooty features has been imparted to their own visages.”

    (Nathaniel Hawthorne, Selected Tales and Sketches, 3rd edition, “The Old Manse”, p. 557.)

    My take on this is that if we focus on something, especially if we are passionate about it, we become it. Right now that idea has special importance to me

    Keep on thinking for yourself. Kathy

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  2. Thanks for the comment, Kathy, and your kind words. The Hawthorne quote is a good one, and the idea that we become, or mimic, what we focus on is definitely another idea that I’ve grappled with in recent years–and that feels pretty accurate to me. That feels particularly relevant to me since I have something of a mix of personalities in that I can be kind and forgiving, and pretty optimistic in many ways, but I can also get disgusted at the way we humans behave, how the world works, and the destructive tendencies of many of the systems we’ve set up.

    But I do think there’s a lot of truth in the idea that focusing on these negatives helps to perpetuate them. As someone who has tended to be on the left in politics, I have seen that a lot, and I think it’s a huge mistake that so much of the rhetoric on the left (though, to be fair, very much also on the right!) tends to wallow in injustices real and perceived, and with the vast majority of proposed changes focusing more on what’s wrong and how to mitigate rather than how to build something different and more positive.

    I have tried to work to become better at that myself, but still find myself falling into old patterns. At the more personal level, though, I feel like I have made major strides in that area, and I see the benefits–with the work finding its way onto this site being one of the major ones!

    Anyway, thinking our own thoughts and focusing our attention on what we want to be/manifest rather than what we don’t strikes me as a good lifetime of work. It’s one I plan to keep plugging away at.

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