One year, in the late 1980s, I wrote over 380 personal letters. I could give a lot of reasons why. Most of it had to do with the loathing I had for my graduate program. Much of it had to do with loneliness. Some of it, I am afraid to admit, was fueled by a bit of depression that was greater than the 20-something-what-the-heck-am-I going-to-do-with-my-life angst. A bit of it was fueled by absurd amorous feelings that could not possibility be requited.
But I have written enough so that people then and since have said to me, You should write more. You should try to get (more) published. I try to explain that this is a folly as dangerous as admitting love. On the more practical side, I try to tell them that what they read is really only wonderful in their eyes because, unlike the rest of the world, I am writing to them with their life as a backdrop. (Or maybe I loved them too much and it was showing.)
The missives may have seemed interesting and profound because 1) the recipients were young and anything that has to do with their life was profound; 2) they did not have to reciprocate; and 3) they were getting attention that they received when they were the child-center of everyone's attention—that period of life before anything real is expected of us in order to get attention.
Another practical reason to not write more: It means telling secrets. People say I should write more, for bigger audiences, but do they really want their secrets told to the world? We are Minnesotans. Such behavior is not polite. Besides, in telling the world YOUR secrets, I would also have to reveal even more about myself. To say that this is too much for someone who spent his most formative years as a profoundly conspicuous person who cultivated a very fine art of becoming invisible would be an oversimplified hyperbole.
“Is my slip showing?”
So, you can understand how I came to the point where I had to ask myself, What would I possibility write? Practically speaking, I have been staring at a blank page for the past 20 years. I have been hiding a lot in pages in journals, or places in my mind for which I think my journal just has no interest (or the readers of my letters just have no interest—or I am just to afraid to tell those readers).
We're not supposed to show what's under the clothing of our politeness. I've had a few discussions recently with friends about posing in the artists' studio. In spite of the beauty displayed and the beauty created from the artists' eyes, it is a gaze for which we have not earned the privilege. As anonymous as we want to pretend the exercise is, we are never really as disembodied and never really as care-full as that beauty deserves and requires.
But unlike being a model, this exposure comes without consent or pre-knowledge. The baring is done by someone who may never have anticipated or desired their image be publicized. How fair is that? There comes no fee paid for this exploitation, but I can still provide an exaggerated, impressionist depiction of your and my personae based on the poses we've shared as I spy in our common places.
And with everything I write, I run the risk—the certitude that I will expose something more precious than my or someone else's naked body. Will I show something more precious and private than what I can muster in quality of story, much less be esteemed as art? Yes. Cheap thrill?
The price I am supposed to pay for this privilege is to demonstrate the beauty as I expose the subjects. I too want to seem beautiful on the page. Is what I know about the subjects--the subject of me and the subject of the other--sufficient to allow me to write it? No.
Does that stop me?
It is the charge of the blogger, I am told, to demonstrate authority and expertise related to the subjects about which we write. Not so sure I can do this. Am I an expert on anything? Maybe, but not everyone will agree. I am a jack of all trades and a master of none, but I will not be ashamed to hear, expose and appropriate the expertise of others in my quest to seem like a wise guy.
If you are reading this, it is likely that you are one of the people or know one of the people or are somehow connected by less than six degrees of separation from one of the “experts.” Does it help if I am showing you in relative “undress” if I call you beautiful and an expert? Should I call it love? Should I call it respect? Does Hugh Heffner revere and worship women? (That reminds me, what in the hell was Jello Pudding-Fat Albert Bill Cosby doing in Heffner's playmate palace? And how in the hell do I know he was there?)
Okay, is this a love letter? (By the way, if you ever get more than five letters from one person in a week or less, this person is in love with you—or they see you as a vehicle to some love object; you do not need to question yourself or any of your friends or your therapist about this. You don't even need to ask the sender—who will likely deny it, but such behaviors are common among those who fall in love but who really understand the folly of admitting affections to someone who has more to do with their own life than answer letters from gaga-eyed unsuitable suitors. These types of attentions can only be fueled by that strong desire or psychological disorders—or both. It is, at least, fodder for a significant portion of 380-letter year.)
I have not discovered how to keep this from being, or degenerating into little more than an open-book, navel-gazing journal, a rant (or revealing my degenerated state), or a place where I get to tell everyone else's secrets besides my own. If you are reading this, this is a letter to you.
I am sure that you will not get 380 this year, but that does not mean I don't love you. I might say some things that make it seem like I don't like you, things that are more critical of your perspective than I can be of my own. I still love you. It might seem like I am writing to someone else or writing too much about someone else or writing about someone in a way that does not seem real to you. I might say something that hurts you. You might let me know, and that will hurt me—or you might say something that hurts me. I guess it is my job to take are, but can I? Maybe.
In the mean time, I'm writing. Will I find some inspiration, here, getting beyond my ego: the writer's absurd idea that someone else is going to find what we write of any interest to someone else? Will I be artful enough to show any personal inspiration? Maybe you will be inspired to write. This is about writing—writing love letters, and maybe it will give you a little inspiration to pen something to a friend, family or great love. If you are so moved, let me know (even if I'm not the mover).