0571 – why I ask for questions

A friend asked, why do you ask people to ask you questions, why not just write about stuff which you cared about?

My immediate short answer was, because I’ve written so much introspectively for so long tht I’ve kinda lapped myself, or jumped the shark, or basically overwhelmed myself with so much data about myself that I’m no longer sure of what I care about. So I need some cues and stimuli.

But also more simplistically, and perhaps more truly, the fact is that I like the idea of having something for someone. I like the idea of having a gift to give to a specific person, saying here, this is for you. I like the idea that there’s someone who has a bit of anticipation or expectation, and I get to fulfill it. I suppose this is one of those fundamental human drives thing, a social impulse. I can’t sit and write for some abstract audience. When I look back at my body of work, I realize a lot of my favorite stuff has been written in response to things. Sometimes it’s after I watch a movie or after I read a book. Sometimes it’s after a conversation with a friend.

Very rarely can I wake up in the morning with a completely clear mind and go “ahh, today I feel like writing about a thing for its own sake!” I mean, I do have a long ass list of things that I’d like to write about, and I suppose I could meditate for a while and look at that list and eventually feel like I ought to write something or another. I think that’s one way of doing it, and I’d like to do more of that, but it would require me to get into a sort of ritual state. Which I should really try out more proper-ly.

But otherwise, and this is most of the time, I write in response to things. I already have a bunch of things in my mind that are half-prepped and ready to go about any particular thing, but I don’t always realize it until I encounter the trigger. And when that happens it all coalesces and synthesizes and comes out, and that’s an incredibly cathartic experience, like emptying a full bladder that you never realized was full to begin with– all you did was experience a constant sense of discomfort and unease, but you don’t quite know about what.

In related news– part of my goal of writing 1,000,000 words was to become more certain of myself, to understand my voice better, to get more comfortable with words, to clearly establish myself in my own mind as a writer. Not a wannabe writer or a writer hopeful, a WRITER. And I think once you’ve written 500,000 words of your own volition for your own reasons, you’re kinda qualified. You’ve written more than the Lord of the Rings. You’re a writer. You have some taste. You have some skill. It’s bound to have happened. That’s me, woo hoo.

But now I have another 430,000 words to go, and I don’t want to do more of the same thing. Now I want to start thinking about what’s going to happen when I cross the finish line. And a big part of that is– I want to re-enter the world. I’ve been writing in isolation so far, but I want to start writing for other people again. The isolation was by design at first– I was getting bothered by how my thinking was so BLINDLY reactionary. I would just be writing angry things in response to the news, because I knew it would give me reactions, and I enjoyed getting reactions. By going into isolation I have managed, I hope, to cultivate a sort of dispassionate distance from whatever it is that I’m working on. I can allow myself the time and space to figure out what really needs to be said, rather than what is easy and what would get knee-jerk reactions. I don’t want to get knee-jerk reactions anymore, I want to challenge and inspire people to think better, think harder, to expand their imaginations.

So I have to start actively engaging people more, right now, within the context of this project. My first baby step in that direction is to start writing for other people instead of writing for myself. And I do that by asking for questions. I don’t know if I’m cut out to write some sort of advice column, and I don’t think I really want to do that. Though I wouldn’t say no, either. I’d give it a shot. Who knows? All I do know is that I’m tired of operating entirely within my own mind, psychoanalyzing my own interests and motivations, and really, getting to a point where I kick up a dust and then realize that I can’t see.

I’m not going to stop reflecting altogether– in fact I do think that I’m not doing enough of it, but I need to do that in a different way. I need to experiment with different configurations. So I’m going to take the reflections mostly offline (i’ll share roundups and summaries and tidied up insights, maybe, or if there are any breakthroughs or ‘epiphanies’). And maybe I’ll spend a couple of hundred vomits just writing responses to whatever people give me. That should be fun. I wrote several hundred thousand words for myself, it would be fun to write several hundred thousand more for my friends. And beyond that I anticipate writing “serious” essays, fiction, novels. And again I have a nagging feeling that the best way to do that will be to write for friends. I think I’m wired that way. I think all I’ve ever wanted is to experience intimacy and oneness with people that I care about, and I think I often project that intellectually and think that connecting with millions would be better than connecting with a few, or even one.

But I’ve come to learn that if something’s going to mean something to a lot of people, it first has to mean something to at least one other person. So that’s why I’m doing this.

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