It seems to me rebooting a blog a week or so in might be a bad sign for the future. But people who know me well, know this to be true: I have a tendency to stage grand protests, throw a middle finger up toward the sky and pitch little fits about the presumptions about how things should be done. Maybe it’s the artistic temperament within me. Maybe it’s good old-fashioned Miller family stubbornness. Maybe I’m just a cantankerous blowhard. I like to do things my way, even if my way is stupid.
Well, whatever. I am who I am. Except the picture to the right is a lie. That was me seven years and 50 pounds ago.
I say all that because I’m at least willing to look at things objectively once the storm passes. My wife was wise enough to wait a week or so before saying my blog was too random, that she’d rather know what to expect when visiting it than be blindsided by drive-by content. She assumes most of the rest of the world is like this, too. She assumes most of the rest of the world prefers focused content with clear direction, and that doesn’t have to be a pigeon hole.
I understand this in the same way I understand a documentary on lions—that I am in general an outside observer and most of the time don’t want to be an actual participant. At the same time, I understand also that if I were myself making a documentary about lions, it would be difficult for me not to try and join them eating the side of a wildebeest. It’s a weird conflict, wanting to be outside the experiment and be the experiment at the same time.
That’s a bunch of cryptic and philosophical hooey, though. What you want me to do is get to the point. I know that. I’m the type who wants to examine every single point on the way to the point. So fine, the point is this: I’m choosing a niche.
I said I wouldn’t do it, that I wouldn’t be pigeonholed into writing about one thing when (almost) everything interests me, but as usual I find myself outside the game throwing rocks at the players. I’ve spent 34 years grappling with the idea that my personal reality and preferences are so far out of the ball park that they are effectively inhuman. It’s tough sometimes feeling like you’re the only one thinking something; usually I find comfort in reading, because that’s where I discover I’m not the only one thinking something, that many others have thought these things, too, and much of the time those others were mental outsiders in their own times. Reading is a nice haven of familiarity, a place I can find others like me when it seems most of my contemporaries just don’t get it.
A romantic in times of reason
A rationalist in times of romance
A Republican in the age of Democrats and vice versa
A saint among sinners
A sinner among saints
And so on…
Maybe I’m not alone in that. Maybe other people feel the same way, that they were born in the wrong time, born among the wrong people. Maybe my feelings of mental and emotional isolation are not so limited to myself (from research I know men in general have tendencies to feel isolated). I’m slow to understand things outside of my own head. Maybe lots of people are like that. Maybe lots of people walk around feeling alone while surrounded by people. Thank God for my wife. With her I feel I belong completely. I’ve told her so often that without her entering at the exact right moment, I’d be a hermit in the woods with a dog and a long beard and a shotgun by the door.
The point? I keep hearing you ask that in my head. I’m getting there.
Jenny (my wife) and I were watching Anthony Bourdain last night, and she noted how excellently he wrote about being a chef. And it’s clear, from his own musings, that he was never really a chef who could slip himself into mainstream chefdom. He is a writer first and foremost, writing about being a chef, and this is interesting to people. She envisioned my blog being something similar, a writer writing about being a writer.
This type of thing really tweaks my brain because I ask myself, who’d be interested in that? I made the same mistake about Twitter. Back in ’06, I think it was ’06, when I caught wind of this buzzy creation by a couple of Googlers, a “microblogging” platform, I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Who’d want such a thing? What is it used for? Soon, the tweeted mundane minutia began. People were announcing their bathroom schedules, and which sandwiches from where had contributed to that bathroom schedule. Weirder than that, people seemed interested in it.
And I thought, am I so out of touch with humanity?
This is something I had to learn as writer, too, that people like those little details. The details make them feel normal. They make them feel grounded. I was always the type who was generally comfortable being different, and maybe that’s where the disconnect is.
I understand wanting to be connected, but still I wonder: who wants to feel grounded? Being grounded sucks.
But this is reality. And I’ve never really liked reality. Reality shows, too, I could take or leave. Give me some finely crafted and well-scripted fantasy. I really don’t care what or who real housewives are doing (especially if it seems completely put on) or the moment-by-moment rendition of toddler beauty queen child abuse or the who’s-your-daddy moments on Maury Povich. I’d just as soon ignore all that and get wrapped up in The Lord of the Rings movies—all three extended versions in succession in one day as daylight turned to dusk outside.
And still I wonder who could possibly interested in the little details of my life. But I assume those people are out there, people who aren’t like me in that respect, but are like me in others. Personally, I couldn’t care less about the minutia in people’s lives. I can’t stand small talk, chatting about the weather, etc. I’d rather have a conversation about the nature of the universe, beat that horse to death and then some until all of us are lost in the annihilation of existence. I’m terrible at Zen. I’m terrible at pondering the lilies of the field. I want to know where God’s house is and I want to go there and check it out. But that’s the real point, isn’t it? The point is God’s house is in the lilies of the field and I’m too busy staring into space to see it.
I have problems spotting my shoes, too, even if they’re in plain sight. I’ll assume a poltergeist has stolen them before I think I’m just blind and stupid.
Okay, so fine. I’ll pick a niche. This blog will be a blog about the writing life written by a struggling writer who has to learn to assume people are actually interested in that and may actually find a sense of identity and comfort in it. Fine, mundane world, you asked for it, the wordy minutia of some guy who takes just south of 1,300 words to tell you he’s changing his blog approach. It’s still going to be called Off Topic. I have a feeling I’ll always end up off topic no matter where we go.