A few weeks ago I had a realization: I haven’t been writing. To most people, this probably does not sound like a bad thing. But I’ve always felt like I have a talent for writing and a potential to do good things with it, and not following through on that is a kind of self-betrayal. This knowledge of my failure to write is always in the back of my mind, but my new realization/kick-in-the-pants came in part as I attended the BYU Symposium on Books for Young Readers and gained knowledge from the fabulous authors and illustrators that spoke there. Then, that Sunday in church the cognizance of my dereliction was again brought forward when my Primary co-teacher in our class of 10-11-year-old boys gave this lesson. The time had come to think seriously about writing again, and develop a plan.
As an undergraduate in college, I was somewhat sure that I would go forward to obtain an MFA and PhD in Creative Writing, and become a poet and college professor on some fine campus somewhere. Although I did well in creative writing in college, after graduating I failed to follow through on this goal. I didn’t make the networking connections I needed to make, and I didn’t say the right things politically that I needed to say, and I didn’t apply to enough schools, but far more essentially, I failed to follow through and continue writing poetry after graduation.
Later, while working as a substitute teacher in public education, I wrote myself halfway through a novel meant for middle grade readers, became frustrated and unsure of where I was going with it, and put it aside. I stopped writing again. In intervening years I’ve made a couple of abortive, guilt-ridden attempts to participate in NaNoWriMo that led only to stress and failure.
But I discovered blogging. I never was that great at it, from a standpoint of consistency, popularity, or monetization, but I did it occasionally. A couple of my blogs have come and gone before the establishment of this site, Josh’s Froz-T-Freez. One of my reasons for having this site is to provide myself a motivator to continue writing as well as a venue to share that writing. As it turns out, it only sort of works to these purposes. Although I don’t post regularly on this site (and although I do occasionally make these grand bogus claims that I am finally going to commence doing so), I still think about what I might post on here or hope to post on here a great deal. It takes up a significant piece of my mental life, even if it never converts to actual posts. My mind is filled with albums I feel I need to review, restaurants I want to visit or visit again and write about, mixtapes I want to put together, pictures to take, random ideas I would like to explore through essays, etc. All of this stuff, even if it’s only half-baked, half-finished, and never posted, still takes up a lot of time. It is also crippling in its failed ambition. Self-expectations that my site be filled with reviews that are thorough and comprehensive have prevented me from even posting so much as a list of my so-far-favorite albums of 2011. My idea of what would constitute a “written blog post” has become in my mind somewhat overblown and unwieldy to do on a regular basis, and because of that high expectation I rarely follow through.
As I considered my desires to write and my failures to do so, I began to question the amount of mental energy I devote to this oft-times derelict site, and to social media in general. If I truly think about my aspirations in writing they have little to do with the content of this site. I have the aforementioned half-finished novel that I set aside four or five years ago, ideas for other novels, and a desire to try writing picture books and maybe get back into writing poetry, which I haven’t done for years but used to love the most. I’d maybe like to try my hand at some well-crafted personal essays. These are far different projects than writing lots of reviews, regardless of whether I am reviewing drive-ins, middle grade children’s novels, or rock albums that I like. There are plenty of people out there writing book and album reviews, most of them better at it and/or more successful or persistent at it than me. My true aspirations are not necessarily to become a great record reviewer, but to write some things that no one else in the world would write.
Writing regularly requires dedication and planning, so I recognized that I needed to refocus and re-prioritize some areas in my life, and let some things go that are less important to me. So in my mind I tried on the idea of killing this site and pulling away from social media in general. I told my wife that I might do it, so as to instead make a plan to devote consistent time every day to this other writing I have been neglecting – the extended, laborious process of writing novels, stories and poems that must occur off the grid. Unlike writing on a blog, this writing has no easy payoff from hitting the “publish” button, sometimes receiving one or two comments from family or other nice people. Instead it is a commitment to work in total darkness and obscurity for months and years, only then to undertake the stressful endeavor of convincing someone to read and hopefully buy and publish your manuscript. Scary.
But the day after I had this discussion and declared I might unplug, I went bonkers on Twitter. I wrote mini-drafts of record reviews. I made threats that I would blow up the Internet if I could not figure out a way to publish my every idle thought easily, stylishly, instantaneously, and simultaneously to all the various social media networks in current or future usage. I thought of all the other intended items I had yet to post on this site. I did not dig out my old novel. I did not write a poem. And furthermore I didn’t feel that badly about it.
My conclusion from this experience of the past week or so is that I’m definitely not ready to give up on social media, and particularly on this site. I’m just finally ready to simplify it and streamline it in my own mind, so that I can share the things I would like to share easily without a lot of pressure or expectations for myself, writing-wise. I will devote most of my writing energies to those other types of writings, and leave this as a casual sharing of interests when I have time.
For example, it turns out I don’t need to feel bad that I never wrote that exhaustive and now hopelessly untimely review of the Springville Art Museum’s Spring Salon that I had intended to write; I can simply throw up a picture from the show every now again with a quick shout-out to the artist, and that will probably be more fun and interesting for everyone anyway. I don’t need to write an exhaustive review of every restaurant I like – I can just throw up a picture or two and write a simple paragraph or sentence highlighting the place. “If you’re interested you go try it yourself.” Basically what I am saying is that the Froz-T-Freez is going into more of a curation mode. There may still be longer written pieces from time to time, but this will now morph into a place for me to quickly highlight and share things I like and that I think other people might benefit from.