Saturday, November 28, 2009

Where have all the nooks and crannies gone?

It’s a relief to get to today, after last night’s party. Fifty or sixty fifteen and sixteen year olds celebrating a joint birthday for my youngest daughter and one of her girlfriends. As it turned out they were all well behaved. No one drank too much, though they seemed to drink quite a bit, only one girl crying in the bathroom and that towards the end of the night and something to do with her feeling snubbed by a boyfriend rather than through too much to drink. For all my anxiety.

I have been so anxious of late. It comes across in waves. I can usually locate its source: last night the party, at other times anything to do with my professional association, but it seems to wash over me more frequently these days. I worry incessantly about the dog’s well being. I long for a front screen door to reduce the possibility that someone might inadvertently leave the front door open and the dog will take off down the street, onto the road and under a car. I worry still that he might be able to scale the fence. He has not done it yet, so it is unlikely he can, but still I worry. I worry I worry I worry.

The backyard is a mess, empty drink cans, bottles, caps, shards of broken glass and cigarette butts everywhere. Although I had set up the rubbish bin strategically in one corner of the garden, it seems no one paid it attention. They dropped their cans as they stood. A few of my daughter’s friends have stayed overnight. She and they can tidy up later. I shall resist the temptation myself. For once, acknowledging that it’s not my mess and that it will be good for the girls, for my daughter and her visitors, to take responsibility for the aftermath of their party.

In two weeks time and one weekend I will be traveling to the Blue Mountains for a week of writing at Varuna, self funded. I did not apply for a mentorship, I simply decided that I needed time to do nothing but write. It does not happen here and even though I am a master at distracting myself, it is the demands of others that make it worse, not just my work and family but the other little things that crop up daily.

I also have to stop blogging as obsessively as I have been for the last few weeks. It takes up too much time and too much head space. I get into these conversations and tap away response after response. I scroll down and read other people’s blogs and other people’s comments. I love it. Such companionship, however virtual, but it takes away the nooks and crannies of time I would otherwise have used for research and reading, for emails.

Lately everything I write and everything that I read over that I have written in the past seems stale, like dry bread. Inedible. I am not happy with this. I do not feel able to engage with new ideas.

Perhaps it is the solipsistic nature of my preoccupation with all things autobiographical that leads me to this impasse. Occasionally on my blog I hear from the odd person who is critical of my interest in autobiography.

In academia there are many people who like to study autobiography from a theoretical perspective, the Sidonie Smiths and Julia Watsons of the literary world, but few of these people embark upon their own autobiographical writing, instead they examine the memoirs of others.

It seems a safer bet, I suspect. The theorists can analyse and think through ideas. They can question the memoirist’s perspectives and motives, they can challenge the level of truthfulness and otherwise, consider the extent to which the writer may have abided by or broken Paul John Eakin’s rules for life writing. They might even offer a personal reflection on their own experience of reading this other person’s personal account of their journey, but they do not offer their own journey, their own story, their travels or thoughts about their own lives. They leave that to us the autobiographers.

All of this makes it sound as though I have written a memoir. I have, but it remains unfinished? I use bits of it from time to time as a way of reinforcing my essays, the ones I write on theoretical aspects related to autobiography, to theories on life writing, the nature of shame and trauma, to the thorny old divide between fact and fiction, but I do not seek to complete this work. I am unhappy with it. I wrote it when I started again to write in my late thirties and it is clumsy in places. It does not sing to me.

I need to do more research, but for now I prefer to write and read other people's blogs.
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