Five years ago I sat in a Starbucks in Toronto’s Rosedale neighbourhood, pulled out my then-girlfriend’s burdensome six-pound Dell laptop and started a WordPress blog. I named it after something I’d had scrawled on a white board in my apartment, something I thought might have ended up the title of my first story collection.
Poetry for Gravediggers was my fifth blog, and my first after being downsized as the ‘Online Editor’ of The University of Windsor’s Lance newspaper. Freed from the demands of mandated content creation, I had a surplus of time on my hands and no receptacle in which to dump my ramblings. So I started this.
This is some of what I wrote on May 28, 2009:
“Maybe you got away from your city, eager for the opportunities for reinvention such a move would afford you. Maybe most other aspects of your life are happy. But that need to tell stories never really goes away, does it? Whether retelling truth or crafting your lies, stories have strong roots, you can never fully pull that need out of you. So you start writing your little stories again.
And if you’re like me, you fail. A lot. You don’t finish. You despise every word that goes on the page, you question the sanity of anyone who ever had faith in your “talents.” You get irritable with family, coworkers, friends and lovers.
And if you’re like me, you probably get sick of feeling like that. So maybe you decide to take some of the skills you picked up when you weren’t writing, and use them to keep you motivated as you try to make something of yourself, because your thirtieth birthday is already fading behind you and you finally understand that no one is going to make it happen for you.
So maybe, you start a blog.
This site is for me, as I call the bluff of adolescent mentors and supporters; we’ll see if you were right.”
Yesterday morning Okayplayer, a site I’ve read off and on long before I started this site, posted a lengthy and complimentary review of my first book.
You could say it’s been an eventful five years. My then-girlfriend became my ex-girlfriend, I moved to a significantly less-fancy Toronto neighbourhood than Rosedale (as ice cream truck jingles and sires waft through my window) and somehow instead of getting any short stories out into the world I messed around and became a non-fiction writer.
And suddenly this blog shifts from chronicling ‘How I Got Over’ to ‘How I Stay On.’ One of the best things I ever heard was from the songwriter Mike Doughty when someone asked him why he finally decided to write a book about his time in the 90’s alt-hop band Soul Coughing. He said the reason he did was because someone called his bluff: he’d been saying he should write a book for so long someone finally handed him a little money and said, ‘So go do it.’ And that’s terrifying, because, as Doughty said, if you actually try, if you put yourself out there, you lose the comfort of being an undiscovered genius. It’s a comfort I enjoyed a lot over the last five years. And now I don’t have it anymore, which is good, if unsettling. I’ve heard it enough that the fear of failure is really just the fear of success, and I finally know what that means. Because now that I’ve achieved some infinitesimal measure of success (I’ve almost stopped shuddering when I refer to myself as a “writer,” which is huge if you know me), I have to do it again. Which I really have no idea how to do, judging from the wall of silence that greets me after I get introduced to editors by mutual friends.
Which is kind of….great? I recently pointed out to a new acquaintance that I have zero connection to the literary community of this city, not out of any aversion to meeting them, I’m just socially awkward and keep weird hours to pay the bills, so don’t have much of an opportunity. But part of me likes being an unknown quantity who came out of nowhere. Part of me likes that whatever small ripple my book’s announcement made in the community was essentially, “Wait, who?!” Or, to quote that unsung poet, Miguel: “I’ll do it all without a co-sign.”
So what does that mean? Part of it means refocus on the next book (pitch being refined daily) double down on posting around here, make connections when I can but don’t relentlessly network to the detriment of the real work.
In 2009 I wrote a post reviewing two volumes of the 33 1/3 series. Five years later,I have my name on one. This blog may have fulfilled the promise it was created for, but its purpose never ends.
And we won’t stop.
Cause we can’t stop.