Friday, March 30, 2007

Weirdos, neurotics, lunatics, poets, and dreamers

A note to my fellow bloggers, right and left:

When we get the urge to project our feelings about politics or politicians onto the American people, we need to remember one thing.

We're a pack of weirdos.

I don't mean that we're weird in the blogging in our pajamas while the cats play about our slippered feet way that used to be our image among people whose lives were entirely confined to the analog world, although, frankly, some of us are still a little too enamored of our cats.

Most of us are intelligent, talented, accomplished people with successful or at least marginally fullfilling lives offline.

And I don't mean that we're weirdos in the ranting, foaming at the mouth, blinded by ideological rage way that various members of the traditional media elite would like to dismiss us as, although there are more than a few of us, more on one end of the bandwidth than the other, who have to wipe the spittle off their monitors after typing every post.

I mean we are weirdos in the sense that most normal people do not have the urge to share their every passing thought with a world of strangers.

We're weirdos because we're writers.

Most normal people when they're mad about something, moved by something, provoked into thought or sunk into deep brooding by something they''ve read, heard, seen, remembered, or dreamed don't deal with it by sitting down at a keyboard to write about it.

And if they did it would never occur to them to hit the publish button because they would never assume that what they wrote about what they're mad about, moved by, provoked into thought or sunk into brooding upon would matter to anyone besides themselves.

Now I happen to think that writing is a positive, active, life-affirming way to engage with the world. But that's not how most normal people see it.

Most normal people see writing as a withdrawl, even an escape. Writers, just in order to write, have to detach themselves from the world. Most normal people understand that part of the job. But they think that writers like that detachment. And they're right.

Too many of us, if we're honest, would have to admit that the happiest times of our lives when we were young were the times we holed up somewhere far from the madding crowd with our notebooks, sketchpads, guitars, computers, or our thoughts.

There have been periods in human history when it was more common for people to react to something that occured to them or around them by picking up a pen, or a hammer and chisel, or a brush and a pot of paint, and the rise of the internet, the ease and ubiquity of email, and the emergence of blogs has revealed that more people have the talent and the urge to write stuff down than anybody would have thought when the ability to publish depended on access to a printing press.

With this the act of writing might be seen as less eccentric than it was in the past and that might lead to more, and more normal, people taking to their keyboards.

I think this would be a good thing.

But it won't ever be a usual thing.

It will always be a little bit of weird thing to do.

I'd like to believe that being a writer is just a result of having a particular talent and the normal human urge to use a talent.

But the whole history of writers and writing, including those periods when it was more usual for people to write down their feelings and thoughts in their diaries, in letters, or in poems and songs, shows that the people who write out of sense of vocation tend to be weirdos, neurotics, lunatics, freaks, and geeks.

We can flatter ourselves that in our crazy way we are wiser and more attuned to the world than the poor, stifled souls who can't express their thoughts and feelings in as felicitous, even poetic ways as we do.

That still makes us weirdos.

I'm not trying to insult us or put us down. I just think it's important for our own sanity's sake to remember this.

It's also important in helping us to reach conclusions and judgments that aren't simply projections of our own feelings, fears, and wishful fantasies.

The way we think is not the way most people think.

Add to this the fact that we are way more interested in politics than is probably healthy.

So, whenever we're responding to something in the news, something a candidate for President or Congress said, something a pundit spouted on the Sunday bobblehead fests, and we get the urge to speak for regular people and tell our readers how they're feeling or thinking or likely to feel and think, we'd better have some specific facts to back it up, poll numbers for instance.


While we're writing about an issue or a candidate or an event, putting all our passion, intelligence, insight, and talent into it, most normal people are reacting to the issue or candidate or event by saying to themselves, "Damn! I forgot to pick up the bread."


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