Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Sh-h-h-h! It's A Secret

I grew up in a family with lots of secrets. Most people do. The secret I am thinking about today, though, is my father's job. No one in my family knew what he did. This is because he had a government job in an agency that was all about secrets. This was a long time ago; he retired in the mid-seventies and died in the early nineties. It is old history, but I think your family tends to remain new history, no matter how many years have passed.

I've been realizing that probably one reason I find it so difficult to "be" in the world with my writing, to show it off, to do appearances, to be all razzle-dazzle online, is that I had no example of a parent "being" in the world with his or her work. My mother was a homemaker--a mother staying home was common back then. I saw everyday what she did--though I only became both impressed and grateful after I'd spent many years as an adult. Her work in the house, however, was necessarily in-bound, not out in the world. She also painted pictures, and I think she really could have painted professionally. But, with a few small exceptions, she was too self-conscious and uncertain to be able to show her oils and watercolors to anyone besides family and friends.

My father could not take his work out into the world at all, except within the realm of the agency he worked for. And while he loved and believed in his job, I think this hurt him. He was reticent to begin with--I sometimes say he was a silent man in a silent job. But it must be painful to never receive recognition, even in your own family, for what you do.

My surprise New Year's gift to myself is the sudden understanding that I have taken my father's invisibility and made it my own. My father was not a secret agent--he was an engineer--but it turns out that I am, even though I am writing this blog. I constantly think of taking it down. After all, what if somebody reads it?!?!?!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Fusty To You, Too

I was telling someone yesterday evening what "fusty" means. Basically, moldy. Or musty. I was thinking of mulch, or crumbling brown leaves in the fall, that type of thing. Fruit trees worn down by summer's heat and summer's fecund task, leaning into the coming fall chill.

However, just to be sure I took another look in the dictionary and discovered fusty also means, "rigidly old-fashioned or reactionary" (Merriam-Webster). That meaning took me by surprise. I don't consider myself old-fashioned, though at this point in my life I do lean more toward old than young. (Sadly, I have never been fashionable.) As for being reactionary, that's something I generally try to avoid, though I do have my crankypants moments. Maybe I should have read the dictionary more closely before I chose the name of my blog?

Mostly, regarding the word, "fusty," I loved the way it sounded. Still do. It intrigues me how some words just plain tickle me, regardless of their meaning, because of the sound. I sometimes try to divorce all meaning from a word, and just listen to it. When I am successful, it can be a refreshing moment.

I know very little about opera, but lately have enjoyed listening to it on occasion. I like the fact that it is (usually) sung in another language. That way, very little "dictionary" meaning is attached to the words and I'm left with the sound and, of course, the enormous emotion behind it. Satisfying!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


What if you want more than anything to be an artist, and shape your entire life around that goal, only to find out, years later, that you are indeed an artist but not of the type you expected?

For instance, what if you feel a great soulfulness inside you, but discover after years of honing your soulish talent that you are really a different kind of writer (or painter or dancer or singer or musician, etc.) altogether and that your gift isn't really about soulfulness at all?

It could be any quality, really, that you feel in your heart and long to give shape to and express--humor, intellect, impishness. It means everything to you, and then you find out you can't do that but you can do something else, which, unfortunately, you don't really want to do.

What then?

I know someone who had this experience. Or something close to it.

It may have happened to me, too, except I'm not quite sure. Or I am sure but don't want to be.

This is not the good kind of surprise. Unless it turns out that it is.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

It Might Be One Giant With A Big Fat Foot

I am in one of those difficult places a writer sometimes falls in to. I have lost belief in myself. Not as a writer, so much, but as a person who is part of the vibrant "ya writer" community. I have been reading other blogs by ya authors. Some of them really stand out and are quite popular, with many, many comments from readers. I have realized that these authors have achieved a bloggy success not because they are good writers--though they are--and not because their blogs are visually pleasing--though they are--but because through their blogs they present an attractive personae and exude a friendly, personal warmth.

I do not exude warmth. Long ago, when I was a teenager, my father asked me, "Why are you so cold?" Well, there were circumstances, of course, and I could have whipped out a long list of reasons why, if anyone had been interested, but that question--that entire conversation--is long over. Anyway, I am not a warm person. Or let us say that I am warm on the inside, where I can experience my feelings in private, but cool on the outside. I have long understood this about myself--it is not a pity point but merely true.

The difficulty for me is that writing, or being a writer, is no longer a safe place for a person like me. What counts is not so much my books--though writing a good book would not hurt--but my ability to be in the world, to present myself both in person and online in a way that attracts readers and that sells both my books and my presence. I am not so good at that.

I am more like Godzilla, blundering about the ya world--if not quite destroying things at least leaving trails of cold, unpalatable seaweed in my wake. I am sorry that Godzilla got punished for going landward, that he got zapped in the end; I wish he still lurked at the bottom of the sea, a dark, bulky mess of internal conflict, maybe, but a creature happy in his obscurity, surrounded only by other wet, fishy blobs also in need of darkness. Just being himself.