Tuesday, January 15, 2013

On Returning

For those of you who have been following this blog from the beginning -- hello friends and family who know me in 'real life'! -- you know that a lot has changed for me in the past year or so. Incidentally, this is approximately the amount of time that has passed since I posted in this blog.

In the past year I have chosen to leave my graduate program with my MA, been underemployed in the retail sector, and moved to Nova Scotia. In the process of all of this, I completely ceased to write. I don't just mean in this blog; over at least the past six months I have ceased to write anything at all.

I've tried of course. There are about seven incomplete drafts -- some only sentences long -- sitting in my "to be posted folder" waiting for me to come back to them and try to remember what exactly it was that I had to say. A few might reappear for me in the next few weeks. Most are lost to a pop cultural or academic moment that has passed and will spend the rest of their mostly-blank lives in the draft graveyard. Every time I sat down to write, I drew a blank or turned on the television, or switch to Tumblr, or opened a book instead.

Today, in the grand tradition of attempting to fulfill an anxiety-ridden New Years resolution before the month is out and all hope is lost, I came up with a plan to start writing again. I would read articles that were interesting online, then write about them in my brand-new Evernote/Moleskine notebook, digitally transfer the pages into Evernote and then...try to do something with my thoughts, I guess. My partner, watching me go through this process after a year of watching me say I was going to write and then subsequently not write decided enough is enough and put my feet to the fire and demanded that I explain what exactly was my problem.

What it comes down to, in the end, is that leaving grad school left me with the feeling that my work lost any authority it was imbued with. Which wasn't much in the first place, I suppose, but having long felt at least a vague sense of "I know what I'm talking about" reinforced by "and someday I'll have the degree to prove it", it was disheartening to see the later sentiment changed to "but I work in retail at the age of 26 so really what do I know".

I left grad school because the work I was doing didn't quite fit the discipline I was studying in, and I was more committed to the work than I was to the field. I still am. But over the course of months of coming home from work at the mall, the sense that I have a voice that could make a contribution to the conversation receded into a morass of insecurity that I gave up my place in the conversation when I gave up the profession in which it takes place.

Ultimately, I am not one for the confessional (see my upcoming post on why Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall was my favourite book of the year, and Sheila Heti's How Should A Person Be? was my least), but getting back to writing means, in part, letting go the notion that my position in academia conferred on me a unique perspective from which to write. Strangely, my academic work and my personal politics were and are deeply invested in the idea that the academic position does not provide any particularly revelatory leverage over knowing the world. And yet the sensation remains that in abandoning academia I have abandoned the analytical essay for the lyric confession, and in preferring the former to the latter, should essentially cease to write at all.

In the end, fuck that? Much of the interesting and compelling work on subjects that fascinate, compel, and incite me has never been published by academics (or if it has, it appears in non- or lesser academic spaces) and will continue along the same path. I may as well add my voice to that chorus and see what comes of it.

1 comment:

Bonnie Washick said...

Definitely fuck that. Looking forward to the Mantel/Heti post! I've started reading the former and, as you know, read the latter and also had some issues with it (tho I did love the closing scene).

Anyway, glad you're back!

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