Do I Write About Bowel Movements or The Moon?
Let’s make this clear from the beginning. I have absolutely no desire to write about bowel movements. I want to write about the moon.
But, at the same time, I want to be read.
Actually, I should clarify that. I want to be read by People Who Don’t Know Me, not just by my friends.
“You’re what I call an activator, Jenine,” my therapist once told me. “It’s rare that people don’t notice you. Not only that, they won’t remain indifferent about you either. They’ll love you, or they’ll hate you. There won’t be much in between…No, it’s nothing you do per se. It’s just who you are and the effect you have on others.”
Now, I pay Doc a pile of cash to be smarter than I am regarding this kind of thing…But, frankly, in this case, Doc doesn’t know quite WTF he’s talking about. I could list plenty of people who have no trouble whatsoever not noticing me, starting with shop clerks, publishers, and the Pope. And trust me, I’m willing to spend…I attach a decent query to my submissions…and I’m not really all THAT evil.
And, hey, my subject line to the Vatican caught MY interest.
Your Holiness, need a chuckle amidst the bustle of Lent? Then please check out my most recent post on giving up shopping for the season. (Any tips? AWED you’ve tossed the Pradas!)
Thus far, no response.
I could also be kind of snarky and add to my list of unresponsive readers most devotees of BlogHer.
A couple days ago, for instance, I posted a piece that received a fair amount of feedback from those on my ‘alert list.’ In other words, from my friends.
“Hilarious,” commented more than one.
“A real gut buster,” said another, my new best friend.
There were a few contrarians among the batch, however. “This is so depressing,” wrote the most vehement. “Why didn’t you just get in another line?”
Which was totally not the point of the piece. Nevertheless, the wider-than- usual range of responses to this piece intrigued me. I can see how something can be “hilarious” and poignant. Or “hilarious” and thought provoking. Or “hilarious” and bittersweet. But “hilarious” and “so DEPRESSING?” I was only writing about a visit to the DMV, for God’s sake.
Yet I have come to accept that some things – like why people pollute gumbo with okra or how my dental hygienist can actually enjoy her job – are meant to remain mysteries. The point is, several of my friends replied to my email alert.
And this pleases me:
1. It is interesting/fun to discover exactly what in my piece struck others
2. I usually learn something
3. It is ego gratifying to hear nice things
4. It is ego gratifying to receive PROOF that someone is reading the damn thing
Points 3 and 4 cut to the crux of the matter. Response = affirmation.
Responses reassure me. They tame the savage, self-flagellating beast that feeds upon my fears that I AM WASTING MY TIME and lectures me ad nauseam. Quit being such a jackass, you pretentious hack, it bays, sounding astoundingly at times like my mother. Act like a normal person and get a real job.
And let’s not even get into the AGE issue.
So now can you understand why this ancient jackass is so grateful to those of you who have taken the time to write? Thank you, thank you, thank you.
There is just one teensy problem… The majority of the responses I receive aren’t POSTED. No one but me sees them.
Yes, alas and alack, it is COMMENTS that are READ by OTHER READERS that give me cred. That entice others – ie, publishing types whose focus is not so much on my brilliant prose but on the bottom line – to give me a shot.
It is similar to when I write brochure copy for one of my clients – say, the Coleman Chamber Music Series at Caltech. Sure, I can devote paragraphs to telling you how fabulous and revered this or that quartet is. But if I quote one line from the London Times – something like “Arguably the greatest string quartet before the public today”….Well, which would be more likely to entice you to reach into your wallet to purchase tickets?
Oh, I can hear some of you now. Yes, yes, yes, blah, blah, blah, I should write purely for the joy of writing. Because that is what REAL writers do – as opposed to whiners like me. They write. They write because their compulsion to string together words is as inexorable as the urge to breathe.
“Writing is its own reward,” said Henry Miller.
Easy for you to say, Henry. You were published. You were READ.
Which brings us full circle. Earlier today, I decided to do some research. I pulled up BlogHer and looked to see what types of posts appear to attract the most readers.
Number One – at least as far as I can figure out – are recipe blogs.
Well, I am never one to say ‘never.’ And, back in the day, I actually wrote restaurant reviews. But, for now at least, I don’t want to blog about food, okay? It would just make me hungry.
There are also hugely successful posts about raising young children. Which I could go for – except, as I intimated earlier, I am Grandma Moses. My baby turns 27 this month.
My research also shows that posts about men – how to entice them, how to keep them, why to dump them – are crowd-pleasers as well. But, again, I am an old broad. And I am tired. At this stage of my life, I would rather quaff a goblet of cat piss than haul myself and my cellulite be-speckled ass out on a date and, then, try to write amusingly about it. Which is probably a good thing, considering there is a wedding band on my left hand.
However, did the word ‘piss’ catch your attention?
I hope so, because I used it on purpose.
I used it to segue to my next point. Which is that I did find one post that I suppose I could emulate in my own blog. A post that, last I checked, had garnered 17 comments and 4 stars, as opposed to mine – a woebegone wallflower with zero comments, zero stars.
Brace yourself, particularly if goblets of cat PISS make you wince.
I Am A Closet Pooper.
Yes, this blog attracts attention.
I’ll quote from the opening graf, if I may: I have a huge confession to make. I can’t poop when anyone is around. For some reason, I completely freeze up and my shooter shuts down. I call it the emergency shit switch. It’s like a catastrophic event when I need to poop and there are people nearby. The switch gets flipped and shit just stops.
Obviously here is a blogger who knows not only how to write but how to use her facility with words to grab an audience! Brava, girlfriend! Brava! Brava!
I would tip my hat to her, if I hadn’t already buried my head in my hands.
And my head is buried in my hands because I don’t want to blog about my bathroom habits to get you to read me. I want to write about the moon.
Specifically I want to write about a quotation that is so beautiful and so powerful that I memorized it without even trying. (Well, only a little.) It is by the Zen poet Masahide, and it haunts me in just the most lovely way.
“My storehouse having been burnt down,
nothing obstructs my view of the bright moon.”
A storehouse is where we safe-keep our treasures, correct?
Now, by treasures, of course, we can mean material goods like gold, myrrh, frankincense, and that Vuitton bag that cost two house payments. Or we can mean secret addictive substances like my “Read Before Jumping Off Bridge” file, where I stash blog accolades that puff me up like a blowfish.
Indeed, I have come to realize that my true storehouse is not my desk drawer but my ego. My ego and the little needy, prideful packages piled chock a block within it.
Mystics would call this storehouse my false self: my desire for acclaim, my ambition, my compulsion to compete with and keep up with others, my arrogance, my insecurity, my looking outward rather than inward for acceptance, my despair…I could go on for pages, but I think you get my drift. I am, basically, when push comes to shove, fucked up.
In other words, my fellow blogger, the marketing genius, only got it half right. Yes, we excrete shit. But we also STORE it.
However, what if, one day, a spark of enlightenment landed atop my stinky old storehouse…and, fueled by all the crap within, KABOOM, the methane gas exploded and, YIKES, there was nothing there. Nothing but the Truly Miraculous, the Real, the Good, the Light…the “bright moon”?
I write little plays about this in my mind. Sometimes I visualize a large storehouse, a gazillion-storied barn-like structure that dominates the countryside. Other times, I construct a cityscape of tall tower after tower after tower after tower, each so packed that its foundations crack and the only things holding it up are its neighbors on all four sides.
And there is no light in the night sky…until, imperceptibly at first, there is. The clouds thin and, one by one, stars break through and, after taking a little bow, each star begins to dance– a gavotte here, the twist or some Latin salsa or Zumba move there…And, suddenly, one little showoff leaps. And with both arms I reach up to catch it as it falls through the sky, except the star is not mine to hold but to behold.
To behold as it lands on the roof of my storehouse.
In a flash, fire erupts. But, then, in a second flash, the flood of flames recedes, and nothing is left in its wake but trails of golden-purple vapor streaming this wonderful, fresh, wispy, happy scent. Like the air in the Midwest after a humidity-breaking rain.
And the Moon…The moon is back.
And the old Man in it beams as, together, he and I breathe in deep.