Last January 10, I posted a TGOB piece called “Magnetized” about two magnets affixed to the front door of our fridge, (The front is my side. Bill’s is on the right. The left side is against a grocery cabinet and therefore useless for magnet purposes. After nearly fourteen years of togetherness, I’m still territorial. But it’s probably too late to work on that for 2015.)
It wasn’t a great post. My blogging skills have improved since then. But with editorial tweaking here and there, and some new stuff at the end, it may still be apt on this first day of 2015 — not only to my own situation but perhaps also to whatever some of you are thinking about doing as we all take a step into the next year of our lives.
[With many deletions, additions and editorial pencil marks all over it.]
I’m usually too snobbish and cheap to spend time in front of those displays of refrigerator magnets sometimes found in big supermarkets. The kind of magnet that exhorts you to PLAN AHEA…with the D tilting downward because there was no more room for it after the A — the designer of the magnet not having planned ahead, hahaha. Or the magnet that exhorts you when opening the freezer to “Enjoy Today. Tomorrow Never Comes.” ( I.e., Eat up the ice cream now.)
However, I do confess to having once purchased two such magnets — on the same weak day about fifteen years ago. At that time they must have both passed the “Are you out of your mind?” test. And by now I’m so used to them being affixed to the refrigerator that I don’t really see them when I open the door unless I make a point of looking, and therefore usually feel no shame.
One of them may strike some of you as seriously frivolous. Approach my refrigerator and it will remind you that “Good Clothes Open All Doors.” (Also, by implication, that you had better remain able to fit into the ones you own.) Out of consideration for the feelings of those who couldn’t care less what they put on, I will hurry past that magnet today, although I still believe that for women setting foot in the business world or otherwise swimming in uncharted waters, its message has merit: You’d better look as good as you can when you step out of your front door. It would be nice if we lived in a perfect world where such relatively superficial concerns didn’t matter. But give me a break on that one. You know it’s not going to happen.
The second magnet was a design mistake. White lettering on a black background is — in one-syllable words — hard to read. So let me read it for you: “Do one thing every day that scares you.”
I’m pretty sure this doesn’t mean I should set myself on fire or run in front of a speeding car, although contemplating either of those self-destructive acts scares me plenty. However, I hope I’ve by now made transparently clear in this blog that I vote life, not death. So let’s proceed past dying without a backward glance.
What could possibly still scare me? You’d be surprised. Even allegedly sophisticated lawyer types like me have our trepidations. I once worked with a powerful woman partner in a large corporate law firm who in a moment of confidence after some professional triumph told me she used to be terrified of making telephone calls. At the beginning of her career, whenever she had to initiate a phone call, she would write out in longhand on a lined yellow pad everything she was going to say after she dialed, beginning with, “Hello there, Mr. Cummings. This is …”
By the time I knew her, she had “Hello there,” down pat without writing it out. But she was still scared of being nice. When word got back to her, not from me, that the junior associates called her “The Ice Queen,” she was hurt. But she remained unable to smile at anyone or offer a kind word, unless the other person smiled or spoke first. Maybe she would have benefited from my magnet.
So what do I need my magnet for when I make a point of looking at it? Well, I need it for this blog. You maybe thought these long posts rolled out as if on casters? Let me tell you: It’s an ongoing crisis. What am I going to write about next? When I began, and was posting every day, I tried to stay two or three posts ahead, at least in draft form. But that was hard. I was spending my whole life on the next post — staving off the dread morning when I’d have nothing worth publishing. So then I fell back to an every-other-day schedule. And now — as some of the posts get longer, that too sometimes seems too pressured.
Improvise? You’re kidding. I envy those bloggers who just dash something off before work. Or after the kiddies are in bed. Or when sitting on the toilet with an iPhone behind a locked bathroom door. Me, I revise, move paragraphs around, rewrite — to make it read more smoothly. And then go over every single word. Again and again. And sometimes again, even after it’s been “published.” If I see a noun, verb, adverb or adjective used twice in a single paragraph, I find a synonym or rephrase one of the offending sentences. Each post takes at least three hours. Sometimes four. Not counting the fiddling with commas, semi-colons, italics, brackets.
Maniacal, I know. And yes, I do remember that “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” I also know no employer is looking over my work with a magnifying glass, searching for errors or infelicities of expression. (I’m the one who’s looking.) I know I won’t lose a job or income if three or four days go by with the same post in place. But what I will lose is momentum, and the near-daily pleasure of making something out of nothing, and the sense that I can still do something fairly well (if not perfectly), something that entertains or moves or otherwise interests some people somewhere in the world who I never knew before.
But it’s hard. That’s why it’s scary. Finding subject matter that interests me enough to write about is hard. [I hate that blog-word “content.”] Taming the subject matter into blog-speak is also hard. My blog voice may have some resemblance to my speaking voice, some resemblance to my memoir-writing voice. [No resemblance at all to my legal writing voice.] It is nevertheless a created and crafted voice. That’s why the magnet’s still on the fridge. It keeps me going even though I’m scared.
At the moment I’m trying to write a piece about someone I knew before I went to college, about my feelings for him then when I was very young, and my feelings now, when I look back and know he’s dead and I can’t do it again so that it comes out some other way. At least, that’s what I think it’s going to be about, although I never know until I see what I say. And the not knowing is also always scary.
But because it’s January 1 and I did look at my magnet this morning, I’m going to do what for me is the scariest thing of all: give you its title and tell you to look for it when it’s only about a third written (I think), and what’s written is still a draft. I don’t know exactly when it’s coming. Certainly not in two days. But by nailing myself to the stake here, I’m committing myself to making it happen. Reasonably soon. I might fall on my face. But if I don’t try, you won’t get.
“The Practice Boyfriend.” I’m working on it. Stay tuned.