Thursday, November 24, 2011

I am going to attempt to make this blog "confessional."

Gosh, you know, I have not updated this blog in so, so long. When I launched my website, my plan was to use this as the "announcements" page, so that I would not have to so frequently update the website, but so many things have happened -- readings, publications, even fundraisers, that I have not bothered to announce here, does anyone really read this? Is anyone reading? And then on the rare occasion that I do get my act together to write something w/ content, something analytical, I usually post it at Big Other, because, even though that place feels like it's running on fumes (hopefully I don't get fired for saying that), I still assume it has a larger and broader audience than this long dormant personal blog that isn't even running on life support. I blame my poor curation on facebook -- it is so easy to post an announcement about something there and feel like I have done my job, often I feel like facebook replaces or gobbles up the rest of the internet, which I think is Zuckerberg's goal.

Earlier this week, I got sucked into this very important conversation launched by J.S.A. Lowe at htmlgiant (and continued in Kate Zambreno's excellent post at her own blog) about confessional blogging, and about women's confessional blogs, or the feminized confessional blog, which is so much about formalizing a public mechanism for coping with or confronting the shame that is endemic to so many of us "others" in this culture, and is so often ridiculed, you know, the very same obsessive focus on the self that makes these blog projects so liberatory also draws some ugly shaming or re-shaming criticism.

And then my friend Mike Kitchell and I got into this conversation on gchat where we tried to figure out if whether could name any confessional blogs authored by men, blogs that are as intensely confessional, and that move between the confessional and the theoretical, that crackle as fantastically, as those by Kate Zambreno, or Dodie Bellamy, or Bhanu Kapil, and we could not think of any, and Mike was like, This is what I have been trying to do with some of my recent htmlgiant posts, and I was like, You know, I need to embrace the faggot confessional. My project has been so much about masking, transforming or glamourizing the self, and a kind of camp, histrionic, exaggerated, dramatized, or ritualized confessional is actually a critical part of my Lit Diva text's attempted pathos -- I think it would bring a fascinating tension or richness or something if I started using this space to talk about myself more. I have never liked the binary between "performance persona" and "true self" (that's me up there, y'all, the glitter's as much me as the unshaven bathrobed grossness that's sitting on the couch typing this, and "self" feels, emotes and has materiality, but does not transcend, does not "exist" separate from the processes, interactions and contexts that construct it), and I am hoping that maybe radical juxtaposition of artifice and confession will help fuck shit up.

I tend to think of myself as very open, I do not like the compartmentalizing of the self that the bureaucratic institutions that many of us interact with on a regular basis either require or encourage (or coerce, getting inside us and causing us to regulate and normalize ourselves without even realizing that is what we are doing), and I have written quite a bit about my embrace of gossip as an aesthetic practice, but when I look at my online "persona" on facebook, what have you, I realize that I am openly vulnerable basically never. Most of the time I am sort of just histrionically barking things about my favorite glamorous media products, like, DAPHNE ZUNIGA! BWAH! In 2001-2002, when I was depressed-ish and combusting as a sophomore at Sarah Lawrence, I kept a livejournal full of performative yelps for sympathy and attention (I have never taken it down, maybe if you're nice to me, I'll send you the link), but that was the last time I have used the internet as a space for sharing the kind of stuff we tend to associate with "interiority."

Sometimes I think the reason I don't share much vulnerability is because my life is basically fine now -- I mostly dig my job, relationship, artistic practice, family, friends, I don't really have anything to process or any real guts that need spilling. But then I remember that just a few weeks ago, I felt so overcome by anxieties about my professional and artistic practices and trajectories that I literally ended up biting my arm as hard as I could and leaving behind deep teeth marks because I couldn't figure out where else to stick all the feeling. The core problem I am facing is not a very interesting one -- it is all about trying to find some balance between work, art, my intimate relationship (while also knowing that "balance" is sort of bullshit), feeling spread very thin, and feeling like I am not accomplishing everything I am capable of accomplishing in any one of these areas, wanting more money, more recognition, more freedom, more time, feeling critical of these desires, wanting to be better at what I do, wanting not to disappoint people, wanting this ongoing performance project to become more self-supporting and sustainable. The work piece is probably the most confusing and scary at this moment -- I love my workplace and the work that we do and my coworkers and also don't really know exactly how to progress, where I want to progress, in order to develop more skills, expertise and yes, eventually make more money, which I feel is necessary to secure the freedom and mobility I want for my intimate relationship and artistic practice. I have a number of ideas about what I might do long-term, if I stay in this field of grassroots social justice work and/or philanthropy and the tiny lil' social justice-oriented corner of the nonprofit sector, to enhance the contribution I am able to make, but all of these ideas, in the immediate short-term, are eventually going to require a great expenditure of time, energy and possibly dollars on my part, and on any given week, I often find my motivation and priorities flip-flopping tremendously between my paid work and my art, which is sort of, you know, scary, what am I willing to put in to get the outcomes I want, what sacrifices will it require, I don't really want to sacrifice anything, I like all the things I am doing, but what I am doing right now really is not going to keep working forever, it barely works now.

And jesus, my body, I have not even mentioned this, my health, I really need to get the excercise thing under control in a sustainable way, I feel like schlubby shit like all the time and it has a very negative effect on all the rest of this.

And money, God. Makeup is so fucking expensive, y'all. And I have so many places I want to TRAVEL. Plus I owe Peter like $700 for plane tickets.

I actually really like meetings. I know this makes me a big weirdo. But sitting at my desk all days just DRAINS me. And I love watching people plan and bounce ideas off one another and disagree and resolve issues and whatever. I'm probably one of the only extroverts in the "lit scene," like in terms of where I draw my energy, it's from other people, I definitely need time to myself periodically, but too much solitude makes me feel sleepy and disengaged. Omigod, going to conferences like AWP and &Now is the best thing ever, but also the worst thing ever, because I go into such withdrawal after, I'm depressed for like a week at least. I think I am still missing San Diego and &Now and that happened weeks and weeks ago. I think this makes me so different than so many writers, who might enjoy these occasions, but also have to do so much to rev themselves up for all that social interaction. I often feel shy and awkward and anxious, but I also feed on it. Anxiety is maybe one of my biggest issues, because it fucks me up a lot, but I also think I sort of need it, I am maybe an adrenaline junkie, I need adrenaline almost as much as I need copious amounts of caffeine, and I feel like a lot of my adrenaline, my stimulation comes from the mix of terror and excitement that accompanies social interaction.

I used to watch Star Trek the Next Generation a lot while I was growing up, and some of my favorite scenes were the scenes in the conference room. Is that what they called it? The conference room? I have had this fantasy for years of being very knowledgeable in my field of practice, so that when the Captain asks me a question, I will be able to rattle off a response super competently and effortlessly, like the characters on Star Trek. I am starting to feel more like this in my current work, I have been doing it long enough, there are definitely times I feel very in command of my ideas and interactions, but there are also still times when I'm like Buh-- Buh-- Buh-- As a broad generalization, I am still much better with conceptual conversations than with concrete management and logistics. I've got a much, much better grasp of the concrete, tangible details of folks' lives and work than I did when I entered this field, and I draw upon this knowledge a lot, but sometimes people will ask me a very basic question, for instance, say, about how they should fill out a certain field on our grant application form, and I feel like my answer will be less sharp than when I am talking about things like our grantmaking strategy, movement building, youth leadership development. I love to do things like analyze the patterns we are seeing in our work. I feel like if I can better hone some of the concrete management and interactive skills, it will be very useful for me, especially considering I think my long term goal is to become some kind of consultant. Many nonprofit folks become consultants as a kind of quasi-retirement, but I think it is my actual career goal, to the extent that I have one, I think consulting would very much suit my temperament and assets.

And then, you know, in terms of the artistic practice, dressing up, the sequins, etc, this has been on the one hand so liberating, makes me feel like I can tap into a power and fierceness I cannot access any other way, and then on the other hand, it only contributes to my anxiety, you know, I am not even close to famous but already I sort of feel this weight that comes from doing something notorious, even though I am not really selling anything, there is still this way that I am putting my body and "self" out there as a product (and at the same time, although I think of this art as very embodied, I do not necessarily think of these faces I give as "my" face so much as my canvases -- like any artistic product, they are very much mine and yet not mine at all) it is difficult not to imagine a number of external critiques. On the one hand, I worry about people I care about feeling alienated by the artifice, especially people who have known me for a very long time, while on the other hand, I worry I am actually not doing enough to make this total art, that if I were truly dedicated to this project, I would be doing more to carry the performance persona into my everyday life. At &Now, we were sitting at a table for a while talking to Noy Holland, and she seemed so nice and "down to Earth," and I found myself toning down some of the mannerisms that usually accompany my costumes, because I wanted her to like me, and to see the sweetness people have been telling me I emanate throughout my entire life, a sweetness that I am simultaneously terrified of losing and obsessed with obliterating, yet ultimately probably have very little control over either way.

This distinction between performance persona and an everyday, "true" self is an interesting one, because while on the one hand, I actively reject it, on the other, I cannot escape it, because although it is more ideological, constructed, discursive, than actual, that discourse, because it so dominant in our culture, has material effects, people are likely to believe in this distinction whether I embrace it or not, and that belief makes the distinction "real," in a way. I mean, doesn't so much of celebrity media coverage purport to unmask a "true" celebrity self that is hidden from the masses? I think this is why more total artists inhabit their performances to their furthest limits, because how else are you to challenge these tendencies, it is not easy to end the world.

I have nothing left to say about all this, so I am going to end by doing what I have been intending to do for months, which is link to recent projects, which I will space out over a number of posts, and I am going to begin with one of the most recent -- this year's Queer issue of [PANK], for which I once again served as editor. I am very happy with how this year's issue came together, and hope you will read it, "cover to cover."


Molly Gaudry said...

Love you, Babe.
Great post.
Don't bite yrself anymore ok?

sloopie72 said...

"does anyone really read this? Is anyone reading?"


"I feel like facebook replaces or gobbles up the rest of the internet"

Facebook and Twitter overwhelmed me so I stopped using them. Then again, there are days when getting out of bed overwhelms me. But not today.

"I have had this fantasy for years of being very knowledgeable in my field of practice, so that when the Captain asks me a question, I will be able to rattle off a response super competently and effortlessly, like the characters on Star Trek."

Television in general left me with a skewed sense of inferiority even as a child. Every detective knew exactly where to look for a clue. Every doctor knew which question to ask to unmask the Social Issue of the Week. I grew up thinking I was incompetent because Gilligan could build a framistan out of coconuts and vines, and I didn't even know what one was. And Captain Kirk always made the right decision. It wasn't fair to have to compete with them. They have a team of highly paid writers behind them, and all I had was me, at ten. Fourteen. Fifty-seven.

Always a joy to catch a glimmer of you. You're very special.

Katelyn said...

Interesting what you say about anxiety as fuel. I've been thinking lately of my own as a necessary sort of cattle prod, or a way my body takes care of me. Basically, I've developed a Stockholm Syndrome relationship with my body, which is not entirely unpleasant.

Thanks for this; reading about people figuring out their lives is awesome.

Robert Alan Wendeborn said...

Didn't think anyone read any of my posts, ever. Glad something stayed with you.
I think you are actually doing more to have a persona and bring performance to literature than anyone I know, other than Kate Durbin. I mean, everyone else that exists in indie lit, or literature world in general, doesn't have a persona, they just have themselves. Nothing wrong with being yourself, but if you want to connect to an audience, nothing beats a strong performance. You're doing it with words and your image/self is transformed to fit those words in a performance. It's amazing. You're doing a great job in this part of your life. Don't stress this part, you have it down.

Robert Alan Wendeborn said...

In response to myself, even Kate Durbin and yourself and working together and collaborating, so you're both awesome.
Also, I mean EVERYONE else in the lit scene.