The half-dozen people who still bother to return to this site once in a while will have noticed that it’s essentially been dead for a long time. The reason is simple: everything has become too complicated for me.
It’s not that I don’t have ideas or things to talk about. Ideas, as anyone who writes (rather than just wishes they wrote) knows, are a dime-a-dozen…and that’s true without even bothering to mine the Twitter stream or pluck the strings of any of myriad social networks. Among the scores of lesser thoughts that come to mind every day worth thinking about are at least a few really meaty morsels. But I no longer know where to start with them and no longer have the confidence that it would benefit anyone, including myself, if I did.
It wasn’t always this way. Back when I was “young, dumb and full of…” (you get the picture), I not only thought there were answers out there but was naive enough to think I possessed some of them.
Now, enfeebled as I have become, I find myself with nothing but questions. Questions that exponentially multiply in an ego-crushing, soul-sucking web of infinite complexity. My collection of fetal blogging ideas grows larger every day, but I can’t figure out how to nurture and grow them.
My entire intellectual life has become an overwhelming version of what happened to me on a smaller scale in college. I loved writing, literature and literary theory ardently when I was an undergrad. For a while they all tumbled about, fitting together in different–but happy and illuminating–ways. It was an exciting time. But my brain just wasn’t big enough. Eventually my three loves started feeding on one another. Literary theory made sense-making of literature impossible. Analysis of literature made creative writing impossible.
The weight of history, theory and analysis paralyzed me to the point that I couldn’t write or enjoy reading anything creative for years. I’m not talking about a merely abstract quandary. I was sick. I remember coming home one night and lying on the floor with my head between my stereo speakers blasting at full volume in a vain attempt to drown out the mental noise, wondering if I’d have to kill myself to make it stop. I cried while writing long emails and letters to my much smarter friends begging for some answer that would allow me to keep functioning when there was nothing solid in the world: no meaning, no means of communication, nothing that wasn’t contingent on a hopelessly large number of compromises and assumptions I could never hope to understand.
I got over it. Mostly. I resigned myself to the reality that I didn’t have a first-rate mind and tried to get on with life as a shade of my former self. I recovered, but in the limited way some cancer survivors make it through their treatment–yay, cancer free!–but never come close to being who and what they were.
For the last few years I’ve been back in that same headspace when it comes to pretty much everything, most obviously every part of my professional life. Education, culture, technology…it’s just all too fucking complicated to even know where to start.
An example: a few days ago, the awesome Giulia Forsythe posted two Tweets that caught my attention:
I love the Atlantic and I'm glad my drawing is not being used on some link farm but I worry that I'm taking work from a legit illustrator.— Giulia Forsythe (@giuliaforsythe) November 8, 2013
Five years ago I would have jumped all over this topic. Now all I can come up with are questions that lead to more questions and so on (Isn’t this always a worry? Every time something we share is used, whether by a big media publication or not, we’re potentially taking work away from someone else, aren’t we? How do we distinguish between good sharing and sharing that perpetuates the problem of working for free? What about when working for free is a good thing that I want to do? Does the NC CC license attribute actually make a difference? etc. etc.) until I decided to make a sandwich and re-watch some Red Dwarf episodes.
Or, just a day earlier, Tony Hirst, data storytelling wizard/madman, posted Confused by MOOCs, Still…, which intentionally raised a bunch of interesting questions…but which Tony contextualized using some of his earlier, deep, rich writing on the subject. And so begins the chicken-and-egg problem that all I have are questions which I can’t productively approach without some writing on them which I can’t seem to write because of the endless stream of those very questions. And back to the couch I go for some IT Crowd viewing.
Obviously, I have no answers. I’m just trying to work it out in my head. Or more precisely, work it out of my head. For now I’m just (re)dedicating myself to the advice I’ve always given students (and friends, faculty, co-workers and employees): just write; every day; no excuses; no tricks; no matter what.
This is day one.