“And…what do you do?” Invariably, there is a slight pause after the “and”, as if to feign hesitation. That intrusive question. But I get it. We meet someone new and we have an overwhelming need to frame them, to place them. As a woman, after all, it’s better to be asked what I do, than being presumed the wife of, a common practice until a few decades ago.
These days, though, what I do is complicated. Much easier when I was part of the corporate world and mention of my job led to talk about music and travel, with the listener eagerly fishing for gossip. Or when I was a chef: people loved to talk about their favorite restaurants and the meals they prepared at home. Now, I still cook – as a catering chef for hire. I also teach Italian and I blog. What to tell a new acquaintance then? The job I most identify with is the only one that doesn’t pay the bills. Sitting in front of a blank screen and coming up with an average of 700 words every other day or so.
“You write so much, how can you have time for anything else?’ a friend recently mused. My schedule is indeed a feat of creativity, with every hour of the day accounted for in color coded blocks. So much for spontaneity.
“How do you come up with ideas?” is a question sofagirl and I are often asked. There have been slumps and dry runs but, somehow, they never coincide. When I am at a low and my idea book doesn’t get much practice, sofagirl is like an active volcano and when she laments she can’t think of a damned thing, I rattle off a million sparks.
But, above all, it has been a matter of listening and looking at life a little bit differently. I have always been a good listener but now, as a fellow writer chastising me for using something she said, recently pointed out “everything is fair game with you. I must be careful what I say”. Which is a bit of an exaggeration because I would never use anything without permission, unless it’s just a passing remark. But, yes, everything I hear can be fair game – the most innocuous utterances can sit and simmer for a few days and then get regurgitated within the frame of a blog post.
Also, most everything I do on a daily basis is viewed through a different lens, as possible usable material. So, is everything on the page the real me? Yes and no. Once something is written and published, I tend to forget it. If someone mentions I cut my hair or I have a new car, I am genuinely surprised and ask “Who told you?”. “You wrote about it”. Right, I did. I don’t think of what I write as something that actual people do read. Mostly, it’s just a version of me. Not better or idealized or sanitized, just the imperfect one I choose to share.
“Our relationship is ours”. Fair point. He knows me well enough to suspect I wouldn’t stop at the nice things. So that good piece I wrote about step parenting will never see the light of day and if you wish to know the pitfalls, joys and mistakes of step motherhood, you will have to contact me privately.
As I look at other blogs, I imagine the writers on the other side of their keyboards – a bit like pen pals of old, or imaginary friends, and form opinions, likes and dislikes. We share more and more about ourselves than any generation before us but, in the end, whether aware or not, we build what we hope are interesting personas for public consumption. It’s not cheating. Even the most raw and honest memoirs are as honest and raw as the writer feels comfortable with.
When we meet new people, we are often attracted to what we don’t know as much as to what they immediately give off. It’s no different in the blogosphere. Which is why we keep on reading. In the end, I think the anonymity that the blogosphere affords us, also allows to be more honest. And honesty leads to more interesting writing. Or, at least, Virginia Woolf thought so.
If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.”
― Virginia Woolf
Images found in the public domain