October 12, 2020

Dear Sue, October 12, 2020

Dear Sue,

A number of things have happened since my last letter to you. Most (or perhaps least) important is this: I turned 57 this week. To put this into some sort of middle-aged pity-party perspective, I graduated college the year my dad turned 57. I can't imagine me, right now, being old enough or mature enough to have a child who's graduating from college.

By the way, I made it through UConn with a music degree and a solid low-B average, thank you very much.

Musicologists (a cohort whose membership I once pursued with something approaching a luke-warm zeal) like to play something called the Mozart Game. It goes like this: Mozart died in his mid-30s. A young music historian will upon turning (for example) 27 reflect on what Mozart had already written by that age. For example, in the case of our hypothetical 27 yr old, Mozart had already written his Haffner Symphony and "The Abduction from the Seraglio" by then. A few sad glasses of wine and or beer usually follow such moments of Mozart-inspired self-realization.

Upon leaving one's mid-thirties, however, the option playing the Mozart Game is obviously gone.

For those still interested in doing such things, there's about two decades more to do in the very similar Beethoven Game. (Beethoven died at 56.)

But now that I'm 57, I'll always be older than the man who wrote this.

Oh well. Maybe I'll buy a little red sports car to compensate - that'll make everything right, right??

Thinking about how we mark the passage of time, you and I have been blogging for a while, haven't we? My first blog post at 2PJ is dated September 9, 2004 and I know that you were blogging only a few weeks (months?) later. So we're looking at about 16 years as bloggers. A blog-life that's one angsty-teenager old.

I am curious about your writing process. How do you do it? On the one hand, to what do you prescribe your blogger longevity? And on the other, what's the process for each blog post?

For me, there've certainly been ebbs and flows. Early on, I could be counted on to blog 6-7 times a week. Now, I think it's 4-5, if I am lucky. For me, the political picture is always changing so the topic of discussion is always changing. Early on, it was Bush's Iraq war and his other shenanigans (constitutional and otherwise). But as bad as they were (and they were) they're nothing compared to our current orange-tinged shitstorm. Part of my slowdown, I think, is the realization that there's just too much to deal with. Where does one begin? How deeply can one pursue a topic knowing that in a day or two some other completely different shitstorm will be overshadowing the previously overwhelming shitstorm? Some days are better than others and reducing the focus to something local (Wendy Bell, Guy Reschenthaler) helps.

Then there's the writing process itself. I can remember in college hearing advice to young writers that went something like this: "Discover your voice." I can also remember thinking how silly that sounded. As if this "voice" was in there all along and all the writer had to do was to "discover" it and not "create" it.

Now, I'm not so sure. As I am typing these very words out, I AM hearing a voice in my head reading it back at me. Sometimes the voice rearranges the words I just typed and sometimes it reads ahead. Same thing happens when I am rereading the text afterwards. The voice sometimes reads a slightly different set of words than what I wrote, prompting an edit. I stop editing (assuming I have the time) when the changes I'm hearing in my head don't add much to the blog post.

The voice used to sound an awful lot like Keith Olbermann but once I realized it was my own projection of what I thought Keith would write were he to be writing that blog post for me, any "Keith-ness" in the sound of the voice quickly dissipated. I'm pretty sure what's going on is parallel to Harold Bloom's description of Hamlet - that I'm overhearing myself "talking" to myself and then listening in on the running commentary on what I just overheard. Sometimes there's a comment on the commentary and so on.

Also in the back of my head is the metaphor of writing as sculpting with clay. If, in rereading the draft, I'm sensing a "hole" (maybe a whole hole, or perhaps it's just half-a hole), I slap some new clay in the hole and then smooth it into place.

It's an ongoing process that, as I said, ends when the changes don't add much to the blog post - assuming I have the time, which I usually don't.

And looking at the clock on the stove this morning, I realize my time's up.

With great respect