Friday, October 26, 2012

Sound and Fury

I started talking when I was nine months old; my mother will swear I didn't stop until I left her house. This is not to say that I said anything of consequence. In fact, the more important something is, the less likely I am to mention it. This means I managed to get through my mother's entire run of chemotherapy for lymphoma without breathing a word of her illness. I did, however, drone on endlessly about my bangs during that time which, considering I was fourteen, might have actually been as important in my mind as my mother's brush with death and this anecdote might just be confirming I was the most self-absorbed teenager ever and maybe I should stop telling this story now.

Let's start over.

In February, I will have been writing this blog for eight years. Barring this family I've created, I've never been attached to anything that long. I've also written two books during that time and the occasional story for a magazine which caused strangers to hate me. I began it as someone who took great pleasure in telling stories, in relating her stupidity; that I could just sit down and blather for an hour or so and know that for all eternity someone might be able to share in the shame of my freezer. I still take great pleasure in knowing that (and for those of you who are now curious, I finally junked those blintzes but another box magically appeared to take their place). But it's the darndest thing; I appear to have run out of words. Right now, my head is quiet. Don't get me wrong, I'm still doing masses of stupid things (this week, while in line at Trader Joe's, I possibly inadvertently taught a small child an obscenity), I'm just lacking the impulse to move it on to the page. Actually, I appear to be sorely lacking in auditory words as well, as nearly anyone around me will tell you I'm quieter than I have ever been. A friend will call and run me through the details of her life and then ask "So, what's going on with you?" and I think of about twenty things but none sound terribly interesting and certainly not worth the energy of structuring into a story. I say honestly that I'm happy and busy and then ask my friend another question about her life. I am very relieved it appears I'm the only one in my social sphere who is going through a dormant phase because two of us in a room would be awkward.

Is it fall? Am I shedding my summer salad of sociability in preparation for the winter stew of self-reflection? Maybe. Is it having spent more time than usual this summer talking about myself while doing interviews for the book, which caused me to start to loathe the sound of my own anecdotes? A stronger maybe. Is it that I find my creative muse in silence and solitude and it's finally occurred to me after four years of home-schooling that I never actually get that? Well, let's not discount that possibility.

Or maybe part of it is that in this new world where anyone trying to make a living is encouraged to think of themselves as a brand, to set yourself apart from the herd of people scrambling for the smaller pool of money and jobs. And what does one do with a brand? One markets a brand. You could say one flogs a brand. And there are so many flog-venues. There's Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Reddit, among scores of other platforms, plus the three new tools which sprung up since I sat down to start writing this, all of which are touted as the thing which will elevate the brand-flogger into the high-flyer. "Everyone is on there," you're told, "and you've got to be on there or you won't get anywhere." So you get on there, and some of it's kind of fun, but it's relentless and you start feeling like Alice in Wonderland, running faster and faster to stay in place. Then there comes a time when you start thinking your job is to accrue followers on social media and that takes your energy, your words and then you realize you aren't doing nearly enough with Instagram and OMG ALEC BALDWIN RETWEETED YOU! And you're talking talking talking talking and you don't notice you're getting a little metaphorically hoarse until one day you can't speak at all.

[Although I'm still a little gleeful about being retweeted by Alec Baldwin.]

What does this mean to you, the reader? I have no idea. I do know that in the latest book I wrote about several of my more irrational travel phobias, one of which is that a maniac is hiding in the hotel-room closet, which forces me to have to open the hotel closet at least once a day for the duration of my trip. Since the book has been published, I have travelled three times; not once in those trips did I open the closet with one shaking hand, the other hand holding a disposable razor. You know, for protection. It would appear that writing about that lunatic belief might possibly have exorcised it from my head. So maybe writing about how I don't feel like I have anything to say has broken through the log-jam in my head, poured honey and lemon on my strained literary vocal chords, told my psyche to walk it off, your metaphor goes here. Then again, I also wrote about how much I hate the act of flying and the person who sat next to me on the last flight would be more than happy to tell you that hasn't improved. Sometimes writing about something changes nothing.

But I'll tell you one thing; I do everything else online so that I can do this. After nearly eight years, I still feel a flash of joy when I click "Publish" on a blog, see that someone has put up a comment or, even better, writes "Oh my God, I thought I was the only one who felt that!" Social media might be making me antisocial, but writing makes me a better person and I won't let it go easily. Be a little patient with me and I promise I'll find my way home.


Anonymous Lisa said...

Thanks for this. I get it. I love writing, but dislike all of the social media that is apparently necessary to get followers. I don't necessarily want followers, just readers. The best, the absolute best, is comments, because as a writer I'm (of course) completely insecure.

12:59 PM  
Anonymous Robin Raven said...

This was such a beautiful blog entry. Thank you for sharing it. I hope that you feel like sharing more stories with us soon.

A big hug to your fourteen-year-old self. My dad died when I was 10, and the thought of losing my mom, too, was the biggest fear. That part of Notes always grabs me. I am so sorry you had to go through all that.

Your blog has meant a lot to me since I found it one night surfing the web. You have become my favorite writer.

Enjoying your writing has inspired me to write more as well. Although, while your writing is clever and wonderful, mine is simply morose. It still feels good to write more often. :)

Your blog has really brought me cheer and made me think as well. I unfortunately eloped into an abusive relationship during my readership, and am now getting things all back together again post-divorce. Your blog and first book really helped cheer me up in the darker days of that.

Anyway, sorry for the rambling note, but the original point was to say thanks for such a wonderful blog. It's entertaining and enlightening.

1:21 PM  
Blogger sarah said...

Love this post. Feel the same way sometimes (although Alec Baldwin has never retweeted me and probably never will). I am certainly amazed by any homeschooling mother who writes a book or creates a painting or brushes her hair daily.

1:39 PM  
Blogger Mama Bear said...

I just started following your blog in the last year, so missed the wonderful post about your freezer. I laughed out loud at "schadenfreezerfreude" (which got me some very odd looks in the doctor's waiting room). I really enjoy the tone you set in your writing...keep up the good work!

2:15 PM  
Anonymous Amy G. said...

Just jumping in here to say that it's OK-- we get it! We get it. The social media stuff *is* baffling, and a bit much, and I for one would stand with you if you'd prefer to just be yourself rather than Quinn Cummings (TM)(R).

Besides, the holiday issue of Vogue can't be too far from now, and I am definitely going to need some help sorting out what we're supposed to be wanting, and what our loved ones want us to get for them.

3:54 PM  
Anonymous Marni said...

So glad to know you're still there!
This is your comment to let you know how much I enjoy your posts - in each new one I enjoy your witty observations about yourself,our nutty city and life in general.

Thanks for so many great laughs!

4:05 PM  
Blogger Deb said...

Mighty long post for someone who has no words. ;) Glad you're not abandoning us because of a little brain block.

4:54 PM  
Anonymous Korie B. said...

For my sake, I hope the quiet spell wears off quickly. On the days when I am at the bottom of the SAHM well, you always manage to make me laugh.

6:16 PM  
Anonymous Amy G. said...

One more thing: my parents divorced when I was 13. Not only did I not breathe a word of it to anyone (even though I am sure my friends' parents kept them well-informed), my diary of that year referred only to my awesome 80s wardrobe, hair decisions, and junior-high drama. The self-absorption, it is universal.

6:21 PM  
Blogger Cid said...

"Is it fall? Am I shedding my summer salad of sociability in preparation for the winter stew of self-reflection?" Sums up my state of mind perfectly. Time to hunker down, make some soup and get back to writing, be it on or off line.

6:35 AM  
Blogger stash haus said...

Oh my god, don't scare me like that. The way this post began, I thought it was your farewell to the blog. The world seemed suddenly bleaker (and not just because of the waning hours of daylight).

Thanks for the blog. It's always enjoyable.

6:45 PM  
Blogger Sara J. Henry said...

Dear Quinn - what a lovely lovely post. I also pretty much stopped blogging (partly because someone I wanted no contact with was reading my blog, with repercussions) and partly because my thoughts these days (outside of writing, well, books) seem to fit better in short Facebook and Twitter posts.

If you don't come back to blogging we will miss you, but as long as I can taunt you on Twitter, I'm happy. (As if my happiness s the issue here, but you get my drift.) Take care of yourself, your family, your pets, and just keep writing somewhere.

Love from all off us.

8:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We'll be waiting here- when you are ready with more words.


6:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your writing may make you a better person, but reading your writing makes me a happier person.

12:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What she said above. Makes me smile.

2:25 PM  
Blogger Mark Moran said...

Hey Quinn, after reading all the above comments, I can only echo their love of your work. And it may be very personal and goofy and heartfelt, but for a writer, it's still work.

Not sure where I was headed here, except this: "Click your heels three times, and say 'There's no place like home'."

8:28 AM  
Blogger anne said...

Ditto anonymous above me - I specifically sought you out today because I've been having a sad, hard time in my life, and I knew reading your words would make me feel better for a bit. Thank you. And I wish you peace in your quietness!

7:07 AM  
Anonymous ɹǝƃƃolquǝʞoʇ said...

The was an excellent post.

I knew exactly what you were feeling!

2:48 PM  
Anonymous donna said...

I happened to stumble on a copy of goodhousekeeping magazine from october of last year and read your story stickler shock about the librarian and laughed so hard that I had to log onto your blog...Im commenting on this post because I am 53 and for five years I cared for my mom in our home. I am married 32 years and while I loved the experience of being a caregiver there was so much more to me than that. I am a mother of a 25 year old son who is getting married next year, I am a wife of 32 years and I am a friend, an aunt who has many interests so my husband encouraged me to start a website/blog for 50 something ladies...literally a hobby....well mom passed away this past february and at times i find I get writers block now that it is just he and me once again...I dabble with it and Im trying because I really do love my hobby. I dont get too many comments...some none at all...that does get discouraging...but I suppose that should not be my reason for doing it....its nice to see someone as talented as yourself gets writers block too....this amateur will be reading many of your inspirational posts...hope you keep writing for a long time and Im sure glad I found that copy of goodhousekeeping I just did a blog last month on I' i love to hide behind the apostraphe mark versus dragging that W out and making it I will....

2:49 PM  
Blogger Dodi said...

Wait - you were retweeted by Alec Baldwin???

12:19 AM  

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