Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I’m convinced it’s not healthy to be left alone with your mind for too long. A lack of an external life leads to an overly active internal life, which for me is just exhausting. Thoughts and wisps of potential writing are tumbling around my brain, yet everything I’d think to write is either far too personal, too embarrassing, or just off-topic. At the end of the day I can’t stop my thoughts, and I want a drink, and if I decide not to have a drink, then my thoughts don’t stop and continue along the vein of the drink I’m not having. I want to write about depression, or addiction, or anxiety, but that’s overshare, and this isn’t a diary. Plus, it couldn’t be very interesting to read.

I used to write fiction. I wonder if I’ve run out of stories, because I don’t even think of them anymore. I guess I gave up on it because the value judgment system got to me. Every story has been told, so you have to find a really unique way to tell it, but if it’s too unique it winds up seeming undergrad-writing-student-ish. I didn’t have anything significant to add, so I stopped. Even by the time I graduated high school, my writing was taking on a first person, confessional quality that I eventually tried to steer away from in the interest of diversity. But I only wrote about myself in my diary.

Now the only writing I do is about myself, and it just feeds into the whole living too much in my head thing. In the writing world, authorial identity can make all the difference as to whether a book is a bestseller or passed on for publication. I haven’t read a memoir that turned out to be fake, unless you count Go Ask Alice, but I wonder if they could have stood alone as works of fiction. Authorial identity is so important people want to pass off fiction as their own stories. They’re part of the narrative. They live as their own carefully constructed character.

Things are different now than they were five years ago. With the normalization of blogging and social networking sites, we’re selecting details to present our narrative, and in the case of social networking sites that narrative tends to be flattering. Through our photo albums, notes, and wall posts, we can inform all those people from high school, exes, and “friends” that we’re doing fabulously, thank you very much. It’s a new kind of narcissism, and if I were more into blogging it might cause me to explode into myself. In Japan, any detail I happened to mention about my personal life was met with an awe-struck, captive audience. “Your sisters are twins? Really?” “Your boyfriend plays guitar?” “You often make tuna sandwiches for lunch?” If I ever was unsure of what to do for a period of time in my adult conversation class, I knew all I had to do was give some details about my life for my students to be interested and wanting to ask questions. I got used to being interesting, and I know for some foreigners it gets to their heads. I still get some reinforcement here, in that whenever I mention to someone that I’ve spent the last two years living in Japan they’re generally impressed. But I guess I’m thinking about this blog, and how occupying the expat in Japan niche gives you a pool of people who will be interested in your writing. The repatriation niche isn’t so established, and I’m afraid by coming home I’ve lost a potential audience. I know that coming home was the right thing for me, but I wonder about my “authorial identity”. If only I were a little more interesting, this thing could keep going and people would read it. Now it’s just me, me, me, reflection without cross-cultural insight. I wonder about possible ramifications of seeing yourself as a sort of character in a life narrative, and I think the insufferable, tumbling thought cycles might have to do with it.

Speaking of narcissism, here’s a picture of my cat:


Blogger Eileen said...

I am very interested in the repatriation niche. But I can't say it's not a selfish interest.

5:36 AM  
Blogger GLE said...

I don't think you should worry about boring people with your blog. I read people's blogs because I miss them and wonder what they're up to. I actually only read, maybe 2 or 3 blogs. My blog is guilty of just being a public diary. I rant to the blog because I don't have anyone else to rant to. I think I try to be honest in my blog, FACEBOOK, however, I just represent happy, successful Gracers. When I broke up with John I went through Facebook and deleted all the people I didn't actually consider friends because I didn't want my frenemies to see the newly "single" on my profile. So please, this reader would love for you to go on and rant, it's all interesting to me!

7:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cassie, I remember thinking that every story had been written, and feeling like I had little to offer the world. But that's not true. You have a unique voice and perspective that most Americans don't share, and need to share. Some want to understand different cultures and no matter what culture you work with, you bring your unique insight to it.

When I did historical archaeological research on the environment in the 1970s, I found that I loved reading the journals of ordinary people, saying ordinary things for those days. The more descriptive and vivid, the better. They weren't trying to do "great LIterature" but their writing was interesting and enduring.

Did you write more than you published while in Japan? Did you write a diary? I would love it if you pulled from what your daily experiences were there, and re-reading that will bring Japan alive again for you.

Most often it's best to just write, and not judge what you write. You're not in school any more. You should just write, and eventually you'll find your literary voice without trying. Love, Mom.

10:37 PM  
Anonymous Kaela said...

As a totally random internet person who reads your blog and has for a while (about a year?), I just wanted to say that I find you just as interesting now as I ever did. So no lost audience here. :)

12:13 PM  
Anonymous Natalie said...

Hey Cass.
To me, it just reads like the end of one book and the start of another. Speaking of books, you really should turn this into one. 50 Helens and your positively biased sister agree. No pressure meant, it's just that it's already organized and polished, and it's good reading. Like a book just dropped out of the sky and said "Publish Me." I mean, that's probably not how it seems when you're the one writing it, but this is more than just an ordinary blog. Maybe it's just my reflexes from college kicking in- "Turn it in now, you've only got till midnight and it's good enough for credit!" And some of those got good grades and were way worse than this. Which isn't necessarily a good indicator, but damn.
Anyway, I'm off to... probably not do much except maybe post half a paragraph's worth of incomplete sentences on my LJ, maybe make a horse. Later.

11:11 AM  

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