November did spawn a monster; it was a good thing to call this project thus instead of going with a portmanteau. I have so little to say these past few days; my brain is a little island in a fog and all the idea-boats sail right past it. I'm uncreative and I'm craving stimuli--feta and gorgonzola, viscous port, even the cold on my arms. Sensation feels good right now. I couldn't find enough of it to write anything last night, which is ridiculous because have you seen these posts? They are not exactly deathless prose here. It's not like I have to meet some high standard. Still, it's more writing than I've done in this space in a year and if I've missed a few days, well, I've missed them. Today the monster has a thousand tentacles and no head to speak of.
The thing I have thought about today, in between every other passing non-thought, is the article that went wide yesterday, Claire Vaye Watkins' essay at Tin House called "On Pandering"--it is, I have to say, required reading for everyone, whether you write or not. Even if you do not write, you have a voice and you interact in the world and you shape your own experience--the telling of it to yourself, your own memory--both purposefully and accidentally, you shape it. And if you do not write, you read (or I would probably not know you), and you should know how the sausage of our current literary world is made.
(I write this, knowing that there is practically a 100% chance that if you are reading this, you are a woman, that I cannot imagine even now, while I am thinking generously about myself and my writing, a man arriving at this space and giving it more than the most cursory glance. It makes me feel vapid and insignificant, even after reading the article.)
The reading of this made me think of so many things, not least of which is the question of whom I write toward, whom I expect to read my writing. I am not talking about the blog, which is a weird hybrid thing that has both all audience and no audience, an echo chamber and a stage and the little closet in my childhood bedroom that was all of about two feet wide. I am talking about the writing I do that goes nowhere at the moment but into Scrivener and to a couple of beta readers. I once wrote toward a short man with an epic beard and cowboy boots, the man who first treated me like my writing was work and not a pastime. (I haven't done his memory honor; I haven't written enough or hard enough or carefully enough.) There was a time I thought I wrote for Annie Dillard, but I was wrong; I could not see enough of her to know where to aim these words even though I have read as much of her writing as I could find. (She knows how to keep secrets, Annie Dillard, and I respect her for it.)
I cannot write for everyone. I have to choose. In my heart, I may have done so, invented a mental reader who would get it the way I want her to, who would be generous where I find flaws and critical where I'm indulgent. That ideal reader will only take me so far, and so I widen my view and put you in there, you who have reading desires I cannot fathom, you who will pick up a book for any one of a thousand reasons and give me the benefit of the doubt for a few pages, weigh her engagement, and read on or close the cover and walk away. I am rolling dice when I think of what might please you, and I have spent all my luck on being born in the first world in a healthy time with white skin, with parents who didn't damage me to excess. But how incredible will it be to please you, if I can? This is a thought that makes me want to work.
And now the music: