Writer’s blog. I mean block.

Someone very dear to me tells me to write about what I’m feeling or experiencing at this moment. And as you may have noticed, one of the things I have obviously been experiencing is an inability to write. Well, let’s not call it an inability just yet. But fact is, I haven’t written in a couple of months.

It makes me sad when someone understandably asks; so, you’re done with the blog? I sure hope I’m not! The very thought makes me feel like I’ve abandoned something precious.I love this blog. This blog got me writing. It got me crystalizing my thoughts and sharing them. It got me having exchanges and conversations about these thoughts with people I don’t know. Some of the comments people have posted are priceless to me. This blog feels like one of the best things I’ve done, and more than that, it’s my baby. Created out of the blue one day after work, and taking on a life of its own after that.

So what happened? Why have I for the past weeks, felt pressured to write but uninspired to do so. I still get loads of great ideas, but somehow, the more time passes, the harder it is for me to sit down and write. It begins to feel like this big thing that I should do, like something I have to do. And that’s not what it should be like. That’s not what it was. Before, it was a delicious pleasure, something all of my own.

All those who have ever procrastinated about a task will know the feeling. The more you put something off, the more unpleasant it becomes in your head. The more you tell yourself you ‘must’ do something, the less you want to. Yet we torment ourselves with ‘should’s’ and ‘must’s’. The great psychologist Albert Ellis calls this ‘musturbation’.

In relation to blogs in particular, I was surprised at the timeliness and synchronicity of randomly receiving this blog post in my inbox even though it is not a blog I follow. The post is called ’12-step program for very bad bloggers’ and begins like this;

Hi, my name is Jeny and I have blogger’s guilt. Unlike Catholic guilt, where you feel guilty about something you’ve done, blogger’s guilt comes from something you haven’t done.
I feel like I should blog, because I have a blog and then it doesn’t help that I’ve received massive amounts of requests from my reader to write something.

And yes, she says ‘reader’ not ‘readers’ because she muses that she must only have one reader left after not writing for so long. Hehhehe. Yes, it’s good to take your writing blo(ck/g) with a pinch of humor. So I hope you’re enjoying this post, my dear reader.

My friend Yasmina also wrote a post about writer’s block, back in January. So maybe we all go through it. And I don’t just mean writers or bloggers. Everyone. With different things. Don’t we all have things we start by simply wanting to do, then think we ought to do, and then don’t do.

So what brought this on?

Well, first off, some big life changes. Big changes make it hard to keep up your regular activities.

Does being in a relationship again play a part? I once read that married women can’t write. That somehow being in a relationship stifles creativity. I don’t believe that at all. Love, the good kind, should give you wings (yes, just like Red Bull or Always pads).

Anyway, around the time I stopped writing, I wrote a post about getting over relationships. A painful, heart-felt post. But I didn’t post it because I knew it would hurt someone. Two someones. My ex, and my new beau. Yes they both read my blog.

Friends I showed the post to also said; don’t publish it. It was the first time I’d censored myself. It made me wish I’d managed to keep my blog completely anonymous. (By the way, my ex found my blog because he’d seen it posted by someone on facebook, and had recognized my writing. I was touched, and still am, by how much he liked it, and how happy he was that I was writing. He said; you’ve always written, in your head, and in the way you talk and describe things, but now it’s finally out there!)

Even though the post was not just about them, but about breakups in general, breakups my friends had told me about, and even though I knew I’d written the post in an emotional moment that did not necessarily reflect the rest of reality, I knew they’d feel it did*.

Not posting it cut my flow. Before that, and from the beginning of the blog, I’d simply written and posted. Posting was part of my process. Something was in my head, then on ‘paper’ (that is Word processing virtual paper), then on the blog. There was no overthinking (which was very healthy for me, as everyone who knows me knows, I overthink everything and it makes me hesitant and indecisive). Nothing I wrote stayed inside, not in my head or heart or harddrive. But that post stayed there, festering in all those places. And knowing that the reason was self-censorship made it even worse. The whole point of the blog was to just openly share my thoughts. To feel free. To do something ‘me’.

The other thing that simultaneously happened is that people started to read the blog. It passed the 5,000 view mark, Leb-aggregator mentioned it, and Ragmag ran that little piece. Suddenly I began to worry if people would like my next posts. What if I’d simply been lucky with the first ones? What if I couldn’t write like that anymore? Was my ability to write just a temporary fluke? I know I shouldn’t think like that. I know I should just write and not worry who likes what or even whether anyone likes any of it.

The censorship and the fear seemed to take away the innocence of the beginning, the writing for the pleasure of writing, and of sharing. Now I felt I had something to live up to, topics I had to tiptoe around, and people’s feelings to worry about.

But I want to write, and I’m writing right now. And it feels great. But I’m still tiptoeing around certain things, and I’ll have to find a way to make that work.

So here I go, biting the bullet and trying again. Writing again.

*The things I write are a subjective amalgam of different things. Things that are happening now, things that have happened long ago. To me, to others. They’re always heartfelt and real, but not always what they seem. It’s writing, not reporting. 

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On real paper!

So what is my excuse this time for not having posted anything for nearly 2 weeks? I’ve been sick. Ok not for the whole 2 weeks, but at least since thursday, so 6 days, but still. Right now I’m in bed, wearing a sweater and scarf on top of my pj’s, surrounded by my new best friends; the kleenex box, the mug of hot ginger with honey, the effervescent vitamin C, the cough drops and syrup, and the Panadol Cold and Flu. Those who know me know that I am usually opposed to medication, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

But I did receive something today that made me perk up a bit: The February 2012 issue of Ragmag. In it there are three blogs mentioned, chosen because it is the month of love supposedly, and these three blogs somehow talk about love. Yes ladies and gentlemen, ‘Yup, this is it’ is the first one featured! (on page 130 in case you wanna run out and buy a copy). The wonderful Liliane Assaf of Lebanon Aggregator chose the 3 blogs and wrote a lovely piece about each. Liliane, whom I don’t know in person, keeps a directory of all Lebanese blogs, and organizes blogger meet-up’s. Pretty cool stuff. She was also the one who suggested some title ideas in response to the Non-Post.

So basically this is the first time that ‘Yup, this is it’ has had an incarnation in any way, shape or form on actual physical printed paper. Here is a screenshot of the piece:

And this is the (beautiful) cover of the issue:

Does this mean the blog has become immortal? How come paper feels more permanent and solid, though online material can potentially stay in ‘space’ forever? Have you ever wondered what happens to your blogs, your email account, your facebook when you die?

Back in November, I was at an extremely inspiring all-day event called Creative Social which ‘brings together the world’s most pioneering and award-winning’ creative directors, designers, and marketers. One of the presenters, Fernanda Romano, who goes by the name Fefa, spoke about this very topic. She said our online selves are kind of like the robots or cyborgs we imagined years ago. They are other ‘I’s that live in cyber space. And apparently, we’d better start thinking about what we want to happen to that ‘I’ when our flesh and blood ‘I’ dies.

Facebook for example, after several unfortunate incidents where someone had died and suggestions to friend them still popped up in relatives’ mailboxes, now gives next of kin the following options: Take the profile of the person down, hand over the content to the family, or create a ‘memorialization’, a page that people can visit, post and view pictures, etc. A facebook profile basically, but not exactly.

Gmail also allows next of kin to retrieve content of a user who has died. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want any relatives of mine going through my emails. Ever. So finding this out from Fefa made me want to somehow delete all my content before I die. And yes, you can do that. There now are websites that allow you to decide what happens to (all) your online profiles when you die. One of the sites is called ifidie.net. Kinda sweet (or optimistic?) that they didn’t name it whenidie.net. Check it out, it’s a bit eery.

According to Fefa, our virtual ‘I’s don’t even have to die. If we take someone born in this millenium, by the time they die they will have accumulated so much online content and written and expressed so much that their persona will be out there, and technology will allow that persona to continue to interact with others after the physical ‘I’ is gone. There are people working on software that collects your online activity and, with sufficient data, can predict what you would do next.

Thatcan.be predicts your next tweet, but just for fun, and in a hilarious way :-)

The discussion about our digital afterlives is a bit uncomfortable. What about our soul? If we want to think about any kind of afterlife (and we don’t have to), isn’t it nicer to dream of a soul, an essence, a spark, an imperceptible flutter of a feeling that lives on, rather than an online software-generated persona?

Yet what about the pro’s of leaving an online trail? My grandmother died when I was 8 and I only ever knew her as old-ish (or seeming old to my 8-year-old self) and sick. I would have loved to be able to know her more after her passing through a blog (among other things she was a writer), or a facebook page she might have left. These things would have allowed me to continue to get to know her as I also grew from age 8 into a teen and into a now (sort of) adult. It would also have allowed me to know her at the different stages of her own life, since facebook profiles are now timelines. Our children will know us in different ways than we know our parents, that’s for sure. For one thing, if we ‘friend’ them on facebook they will have access to pictures of all we were up to and that we won’t be able to tell them not to do.

So these are our digital after-lives. Instead of visiting our graves, our loved ones will visit a facebook page or website filled with photos and memories. What do you think?

The non-post.

Many of you have been rightfully pestering me to write a new post, seeing as the last one was 2 weeks ago! (I usually aim for a post per week). The reason I haven’t written lately is not lack of inspiration but purely that I’ve been too busy. Being too busy is probably the most used, and lamest, excuse around. But seriously, I’ve been too busy. Mainly taking some interesting evening classes, which I hope to write about sometime.

So this post is technically not a real post, but a teaser-post, which aims to: apologize for the delay in getting a new post out there; keep you excited and waiting for the next one; keep you from giving up on me completely; and get you involved in the process.

How? By letting you decide the topic of the next post. Getting your responses oughta kick me into gear.

Before I give you the choices, let me explain a bit about how I write. Sometimes an incident or story inspires a post, and then once it’s written, I come up with the title. Other times a title simply comes to mind and then I write a post as a response to that title. And the post might not even directly answer the title, it might simply begin there and then spin and dance its way to where it wants to go.

So what you will be choosing is not the topic as such, but the title. I came up with four titles today. I think I’ll eventually write posts for all four, but let’s choose the next one.

Once the title is secured, nobody knows where the post might go, but I hope you’ll join me for the ride, and we’ll find out together.

The choices are*:

  1. ‘Edit when sober’
  2. ‘Your grandma’s sex life’
  3. ‘She’s mine’
  4. ‘Indecent proposal’

* You can share your choice by posting a reply to this post, or by writing on the facebook page, or on twitter by mentioning @Blushingsblog (https://twitter.com/blushingsblog

So why the blog?

I was recently in a play in which each of us had 5 minutes to portray, through any medium, something we wanted to express. Some did a dance, some did a song, some mimed, some did incomprehensible modern abstract performances, and some did hilarious stand-up comedy. I split my minutes into three portions, approximately one-and-a-half-minute scenes, interspersed among the other performances, one at the beginning, one in the middle, and one at end of the show. Typical attention seeker. Actually it was our instructors’ idea to split my scenes in order to make it a ‘fil rouge’ (let’s say ‘theme’ in English) throughout the piece.

In my first bit (also the first scene of the play), I came out as an opera singer wearing a long red dress. My fellow playmates (that word sounds totally wrong doesn’t it) were behind me as an orchestra with invisible instruments. So I come onstage, and salute the beautiful audience whom I imagine to be clapping profusely (there actually were two hundred spectators a night, and so much demand that we had to extend. Twice). The conductor signals the musicians to begin; I sway to the music a little, open my arms and fingers, close my eyes, take a breath, and then… nothing. It takes the conductor a moment to realize I haven’t begun to sing, but when he does he stops the music and looks at me, worried. I give him an apologetic look, then assure him we can go on. I freeze another two times before running off stage.

In my second scene, I come out as a mad artist with a red beret (yup, I took the ‘fil rouge’ thing quite literally), complete with an obsessed servant-fan carrying my easel, palette, and paints. After making him follow me round and round the stage with all the materials while I look for the perfect spot, we get set up. I begin mixing my colors, simply holding out my hand and my servant-fan giving me what I need, much like a nurse assisting a surgeon. After all this prep, I squint my eyes, take position, hold my brush carefully and… do nothing. You get the drill.

Finally, the figurative curtain opens in my final scene (also the last scene of the play) on me in a beautiful bridal dress, carrying a red rose (yup, red again). Behind me are actors dressed in black, and others dressed in white. They represent my thoughts. My real-life indecisive, hesitant, obsessive and tormenting thoughts. The black ones are holding back and the white ones are encouraging me. But neither of the two are really me. So of course I prepare to give my rose to an invisible suitor floating in front of the stage, and…  don’t. Three times. But my liberation does come in the final scene, because I throw the rose, toss my veil, and decide to just not care anymore. To stop thinking so much. To let go. And I reconcile with all the thoughts standing behind me, literally dance with them, and fall backwards into their arms.

I later told my dad and relatives: There, now you’ve seen me in a wedding dress, pressure’s off.

Joking aside, the idea behind my scenes, which were simple and self-explanatory (though several newspaper articles got them all wrong- stating for example, that the singer didn’t want to sing because her orchestra was really lousy), was my real life self-created obstacles. I overthink things, and my inner perfectionist/ critic stops me before I ever dare do anything.

Among other things, I have always wanted to write. I have always written… in my head. If I ever did write something on paper, it would remain in one of my little notebooks in a drawer. If I ever did type something up, my compulsive editor self would destroy it until there was nothing left.

After the play, after dealing with this issue head on, on stage, in front of people, including, by the way, past and current employers, something clicked. I guess it’s obvious, but the singer, painter and bride were dealing with these issues, and I was dealing with mine by the mere fact of being on stage. Getting up there was really scary for me, and I’d wanted to quit so many times… but once I allowed myself… I loved being on stage. And it’s not about the attention. It’s about the feeling of time literally expanding, and nothing else existing. Being on stage, you feel the every sensation of your feet on the ground, you feel your every breath, every pulsation of your heart. And if you take the time to look at the audience… You see a sea of faces and lights… You literally feel the energy of all these people vibrating towards you.

And in an old theater like the one we were in, maybe you even choose to believe you can feel the history of every person who ever acted there, every fiasco, every success, and all the people who ever dressed up and went to see a show there. But most of all, when you’re on stage you feel the silent yet so loud encouragement of your fellow ‘actors’. You help each other dress between scenes, bring out each other’s props in the dark, always trying to do everything perfectly to make them comfortable and to not create any glitch in their scene. They know every movement and word of your scenes, and they mime and mouth them backstage while you’re performing, and you do the same when they’re onstage. You feel happy when they do well, and feel their frustration when they forget a word.

So the play made me feel that anything was possible, and that there was nothing to be afraid of. Once you’ve made yourself utterly vulnerable and put your issues in front of people to judge (and they did), you realize that your arms won’t fall off- as my old roommate used to say.

A week after the play ended, I went for coffee with a friend (who was then only an acquaintance), who blogs at Beirut Rhapsodies. We spoke about writing, and about regaining our wings after they are clipped by well-meaning critical dads, boyfriends, teachers… She told me: Why don’t you write a post for my blog? So I did. I wrote it really fast, in about 7 minutes, and for once in my life, did not allow myself to proofread or edit. I sent it to her, she published it on her blog, and that was it. The big deal was not having readers or positive comments (though that was lovely). The big deal was that I wrote. And showed it to someone. I decided to start this blog in order to make sure I kept writing. The post I wrote for her is the first post on this blog, ‘At least the illusion of it’.