Cocktail Party Essays

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

This is what happens when I write an essay. (I’m using my last post’s promise of an essay as an example.) On day one, I’m full of energy, I have my theme (which may coalesce over a few paragraphs or pages), and I follow that theme with anecdotes and what I consider clever banter and examples. After getting through anywhere between a quarter and a half of the essay, I begin to peter out. It’s difficult to keep focus and thinking new thoughts, and I begin reading and rereading the essay, editing it, making it sound more clever and profound. I intersperse these reads and edits by adding a few more paragraphs of New Content to the end or middle of the essay, but by and by mostly I’m editing and wordsmithing and not adding New Content.

When I’m sure I have nothing left to say that evening, I make the difficult decision to either post what I have or save it for Another Day, sure that during that Another Day I’ll be revitalized and able to spout additional New Content onto the page, while continuing my process of rereading and editing the earlier parts of the essay. It’s all a lie, of course. The second day, I reread the essay and am completely unimpressed with my words. I look at the themes and what I tried to say, and I can barely find any outcrops of Good Ideas that I want to grab hold of and rewrite or add New Content to. At that point, I’ll usually throw it aside, consider it a waste, or, returning to the options from the previous days, post the unfinished work with the caveat at the end that, while not finished, I doubt I’ll ever return to this essay, so I might as well get the small amount of credit (and here I’m relaying a certain truth that I try to hide away in the D.D.P.Y.D.T.A.C.P. (deep dark places you don’t talk about at cocktail parties) that when I post, I am, for the next three or so days after a post, desperate for feedback or some acknowledgement that my writing self exists; I know I pretend like I write this for myself—and for the most part, I do—but that part of me, and it’s not a small part either, that part of me that craves attention and head patting, that part waits eagerly checking email and comments for any small signs of acknowledgement outside of my own ridiculous judgment of self worth, which, since I’m being honest here, usually comes in the form of a brief comment by Chuck, of which I am grateful because it reigns in my spinning brain, which otherwise would keep checking the comments, the visitor logs, the emails until entire days whirl by with nothing accomplished but constant reviews of log files—not to add any pressure to Chuck’s job, but there you have it).

As I was driving back after dropping the Doolies off at the airport (another great weekend visit from the Doolies), I began thinking about my essay on Jewish Conversion that I had begun the other day. We had our first official conversion class today (and hosted our first luncheon in the Castle), and my views now as I try to remember what I wrote (I haven’t actually gone back to read it yet, but I’m relatively sure if I had I’d come to the same conclusion) are that my passion was misplaced and my understanding naïve and, returning back to the D.D.P.Y.D.T.A.C.P., spiritually void, in that, yeah, I can yell and argue rather loudly and passionately, but at the end, my arguing is more to hear my own voice than because I understand great truths or can present a logically coherent and damning argument on anything other than my inability to write complete thoughts or stories.

With all of that said, I am still working on the essay, and while I won’t promise anything, I do hope to get something finished. I’m in the PWA, after all, and if I can’t do it here, I won’t do it . . . yeah, I would have shot me too had I finished that. Until hopefully later today or later this week or never--at least w/r/t the essay, you know I’ll always return to posting if for no other reason than my desperate need for writerly recognition.