Why I blog, why I write

So, I’ve been blogging for a long time, but back in the day, my blogging was different. I mean, I’ve always written about books, movies, pop-culture stuff, but when I wrote about myself, I could never write with honesty. I used to present myself in a sterilized way, the way I thought I should look. If I felt something dark, something uncomfortable, I wrote about it in a really roundabout way. I said things without really saying anything. It was so counter-productive to what I’ve wanted since high-school, I want people to know me. I want people to understand me. If I’m to be liked, or loved, I don’t want it to be because I’m censoring myself. The last few years have cured me of insincerity in my blogging and my writing in general.

Back in December, I was astonishingly depressed, genuine suicidal depression, and I wrote the Hell out of it. I always write with the idea that if I don’t feel it, I don’t write it. If I’m happy, it shows in my writing, but in December, all I felt was black inside, dead. So, I wrote things like…

Suicide Party

by: Michael Phillips

I’m a suicide party with no refreshments. I’ve no chocolates with razor-blade centers, no arsenic covered hors devours. I’ve no thalidomide wine to wash it all down. No waiters serving whole-grain crackers topped with a quick shotgun blast to the face. There are no nooses for one to hang one’s coat, or oneself. I’m a horribly under-staffed and under-stocked, poorly decorated wake not to be. I’ve but one lonely guest, and all I have to offer is time, time that they don’t want.

and

Drowned

by: Michael Phillips

I died awhile ago, I think. I drowned in brandy, or scotch, or some sort of exotic fruit juice. I really can’t say anything with certainty, my mind is all dim, my vision fuzzy, like my eyes are covered in a thin veil of gauze.

Maybe I’m just asleep, a bizarre world created in my head. Nothing feels the same, looks the same, everything slightly askew from what I remember. Something obviously happened, must have happened. I just can’t remember, so many gaps. So many Goddamn fucking gaps. Can’t think. Can’t breathe. If I am asleep, I can’t wake up.

Or worse, maybe I’m still alive, alive and broken. A shattered mirror that can’t be fixed. Always covered in spidery cracks, reflecting nothing.

I think I died, though. Drowned, or something. I think, but I don’t know.

This sort of writing definitely upsets some people, especially on a blog. People expect my writing to be uplifting, to be consistently inspirational. Nobody can live up to that standard, and I’ve learned to quit trying. People give me advice, they want to fix me, to save me, though I never ask for any of it. My writing’s not some desperate plea for help, it’s just honest. It’s cathartic. I just write with the material at hand, because the writing suffers otherwise. The material isn’t always dark…

She’s like opium

by: Michael Phillips

She’s beautiful, so smart, endlessly interesting. You tell her these things, because they’re entirely true, because whenever she’s around you’re entirely happy, but she just smiles and looks away. She doesn’t think she’s particularly amazing, but you know she is, and you want her to know it. Talking with her is the most natural thing in the world, you’re both so ridiculously alike in your odd contemplations. Your wants and worries are so the same.

You’re a restless sort, rarely content, often lonely, no matter who’s around. You always feel that you ought to be somewhere else, but that somewhere is elusive, never within reach. These feelings are usually so palpable, but not when you’re with her. Lying next to her, holding her hand, her head on your shoulder, loneliness doesn’t exist. You don’t want to be some place else, there is no place else. Being close to her is like walking through an opiate fog, but that feeling of peace, of contentment is real, not a drugged out illusion. You want to say these things, her lying so close, but you don’t. Her brown eyes are gorgeous and bright, warm and alluring, they make you forget your way with words.

I want people to read my stuff and come away saying that I’m a good writer, that I use the craft well, but I don’t care what people think of my content.

Why do you write? Are you ever afraid to write what’s really on your mind, and why?

Comments

  1. says

    Now that’s a question and a half!

    I’ve never really analysed my motivations for writing in huge depth. I think in a way we all want to be appreciated/accepted/praised and this is what drives to create. That has something to do with it.

    I write because I enjoy it, the narrative craft and also the sheer pleasure of working with words. It’s very satisfying to come up with a phrase that I can be proud I wrote (as rare as that is) and it’s hugely satisfying to have a story in front of me that I wrote from start to finish. It’s never enough, though, until I’ve had that validated by a reader – which I suppose brings us back to the previous paragraph.

    I’ve talked on here before about the catharsis achieved through writing, and it’s something I’ve only really realised during the past two years. Some people like to tackle wider issues, politics and so on, in their writing, but I suppose I’m more oriented toward tackling my own issues, and I just hope that the end result of the process is something other people would enjoy reading. I got the feeling throughout my degree that I was being pushed in the direction of writing works with wider social relevance (MUST HAVE SOCIAL/POLITICAL SUBTEXT TO BE IMPORTANT!) and started to get a little irked by it until one day a lecturer said to me: you don’t have to write about big stories. Your own stories are big, to you. The world’s made up of people and their lives, not just wider events and grand narratives.

  2. says

    Alex: I definitely agree with you on all points. It’s funny, before I began the week here, I asked for topic suggestions from my blog readers. I was really surprised that people suggested that I write about politics, my thoughts on President Obama, the environment. There are lots of writers who are spectacular at writing about those things, but I’m definitely not one of them. I figured I should just stick to what I know, bars, tattoos, suicide, women so beautiful I forget how to type, you know, fun stuff. :-p

  3. says

    I write because I want to have written good stuff.

    As for the struggle with honesty, particularly online, it’s an area of real fascination and concern for me. My blog is as much a portfolio as it is a journal, so I’m wary of posting things there that might keep me from getting hired for a writing gig. So honesty, as an absolute, isn’t strictly possible. I find me editing my work for language and tone (e.g., cutting out some of the self-loathing) for the sake of audience that barely exists. So it goes, I guess.

    Near the end of last year, I stopped blogging for a while because of that fear. Here’s the emo break-up letter I wrote to the world, in all its cringe-worthy not-glory: The Big Blog Question.

    This blog of Jeff’s has caused me to reevaluate my own online presence more than a little bit.

  4. says

    I’ve actually thought about this quite a bit lately, because I want more honesty on my blog going forward. In fact, Michael, one reason I wanted you to guest blog before I came back is to see if your posts changed my perspective on what I want my blog to be.

    When it comes to the fiction, I write on some level from the sheer exhilaration of the *burn*. On another, more and more I find my friends and family appearing in my fiction in disguised form. I think this is because as I get older and older, I appreciate people more and more. Not to be maudlin, but there it is.

  5. says

    Will: I tend to think that honesty and solid writing are a really powerful combination. People identify with self-loathing, people identify with self-confidence, we’re all filled with both. Kurt Cobain once said something to the affect, you should play whatever you want, as long as it’s good and it has passion. I tend to think he was right.

    Jeff: Have I made you want to quit blogging forever?

  6. says

    First, let me say how much I’ve enjoyed your guestposts. As much as I enjoy reading Mr. VanderMeer’s thoughts on writing and process, yours have been an interesting change.

    My fiction writing has stalled, and by stalled, I mean halted entirely. All my stories to tell seem half-baked, doughy things that haven’t had enough yeast. They sound brilliant in my head, and read like they were written by a toddler with a crayon. Terrible. I suspect that is true, in part, because so much of my effort has been going into blogging the past several years.

    I started my blog as a marketing ploy. It was a way to chatter about work and technical subjects while injecting my website with searchable technobabble that the search engines seemed to enjoy. Then my wife left me and, like a drunk who can’t stem the tide, I vomited out the truth of my life. Then, I came down with a slight case of near-fatal lymphoma and my blogging took a darker, more contemplative turn again. The honesty came not because I willed it or desired it, but because it had to come out somehow and my psyche decided the semi-anonymous blog was the best way.
    Now, though, so many of my co-workers and friends have found and started reading my blog that I censor myself quite a bit. Or, perhaps it’s more accurate to write that I censor myself quite a bit more. I was always careful about what I said regarding employers and co-workers and I anonymized friends and the occasional enemy. In fact, I still refer to my ex-wife as the Queen of the Damned. Perhaps now that I’m editing some of the truth out of my blog, I’ll start spouting fiction again, to let that all too essential truth out. Maybe some of it will even be readable. Stranger things have happened.

  7. says

    Hey, Michael. Naw, quite the opposite. I’ve been thinking about different definitions of transparency and how new media cuts through genre like a river that doesn’t care as much about such distinctions. And some other things.

    Jeff

  8. says

    I think it sort of depends on one’s level of comfort as far as their “public persona” goes. For me personally, I don’t equate honesty with morality or quality. Sometimes it can be refreshing and stimulating, at other times I am not sure it is the right way to go. For Michael it clearly is and I can respect that. But there are a number of deeply dishonest writers who I admire greatly. Because there can also be depth in shallowness.

  9. KJ Bishop says

    I write because I have people in my head who want me to tell their stories, or, if they don’t exactly have stories, then represent them in some way to the world, in words. I have great difficulty doing this and am slow as a month of wet Sundays, but the people in my head seem to be a patient lot.

    When I censor myself it’s because I XXXXXXXXXX. :D

  10. KJ Bishop says

    Michael, it’s nice to know that one man’s perfect tripe is another man’s perfection. Hearts to you.

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