The Future of this Blog

Few people have blogs anymore, or maybe I just don’t follow as many as I used to. Still, I’m far removed from the days when I would churn out a post a week. Lockdown would’ve been a great time to revitalize the blog, and yet the revitalization (for me) came from a Neil Gaiman Masterclass and the resumption of my survey of movie adaptations of the plays of Eugene O’Neill.

But that was for Murmurs from the Balcony. This blog didn’t see such a resurgence.

Part of the reason is the nature of these blogs. Dreams of Literary Grandeur is proactive. I pick something to write about, and I write about it. Murmurs from the Balcony is reactive. My pieces on there are a response to something, whether it’s a movie or event or book or play. Eugene O’Neill is a project with an ending. Dreams of Literary Grandeur is all the stuff that isn’t planned. As such, it can be erratic.

When I first started writing this blog, the subheading was “One man’s attempt to become a professional novelist, poet, and playwright.” As it became apparent that very little of the blog was actually about becoming a professional writer (minus my periodic updates on my novel, which is currently hibernating or dead), the focus changed (hence the Robert Schumann quote about “the duty of the artist”). Before the split between criticism and personal essay occurred, this blog had everything on it. I’d have a passing thought and would write about it. And though I only wrote a few posts directly concerning Japan (despite a project idea to publish posts for three years starting in 2015, 10 years after I went there), I created this blog about a year after I came back to the States (initially on Blogger), still riding that creative surge and (later) the large changes that were happening in my life at that time, such as going to the Wesleyan Writers Conference for a day or moving to Seattle from the East Coast (this from someone who, minus a trip to Portland to see if I wanted to live there, had only been as far west as Louisiana, on a Spring Break road trip taken my senior year of college – which is now, to my surprise, over 20 years ago).

Like many things I write, I haven’t revisited most of these posts since I hit the publish button, the exception being my SIFF entries when I was celebrating my 10th continuous year of covering the Seattle Internation Film Festival by republishing some of my favorite posts from years past. In hindsight, that would’ve been an excellent time to hang up my hat on the festival, for the next year, COVID hit, and while I covered the 2022 shortened version of the festival, (2020 was canceled, and I couldn’t secure a press pass for 2021, which was virtual only), it very much felt like that era in my life was over (though I’m very proud of those 2022 entries).

I’ve been in Seattle long enough to have seen several eras of my life go by. The very beginning, when I was staying with friends in West Seattle, the 5 1/2 years I lived in the U-District – which covered the Meetup era – to the post-Meetup era, when I started hanging out more with friends found in those groups than in the groups themselves. I saw a city with a healthy independent theater chain reduce itself to one, with buildings shuttered and one burning down. I went from unemployed to somewhat employed to steadily employed and back to unemployed (during lockdown) before becoming employed in a year where I thought I’d be stopping everything to pursue writing (I’m glad I didn’t; my previous experiment to that effect almost drove me mad and made me realize I can’t write if I have nothing to write about). And now for the first time since Japan I have a full-time job and am being paid a decent wage, but still don’t have any benefits.

Of course, the biggest change is that I got a cat 😉 Okay, so the biggest change is that I went to being perpetually single to being less than six months away from my wedding.

In light of that, the future of this blog may seem unimportant, but that would be like saying sleep is unimportant. I have this blog as an outlet for my writing, and I write because I must. Even when not writing on a screen or a piece of paper, I’m writing in my head. The arts help us make sense of the world, but my writing helps make sense of my world.

So now that I’ve gone through the history of this blog and the history of my life through this blog, what’s next? All I know for sure is that I’ll continue to write, whether here or elsewhere. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll see a prose piece in print this year.

Advertisement

Projects

My last post on this blog was on February 7th. Since then, I’ve restarted my Plays of Eugene O’Neill project on Murmurs from the Balcony, though I didn’t return to it till May. So, what else have I been working on?

COVID diary

Since lockdown began in March 2020, I’ve been working on a diary from detailed notes about what it was like up to getting the vaccine — except COVID had other plans, so that now I’m writing up through my partner getting the disease in July of this year. I know I’ll eventually finish the diary, but in trying to get in as many details as possible, I’ve overwhelmed myself with them. At least most of the start of the pandemic was written while it was still fresh in my mind. I struggled with writing about losing my job and all the aid organizations and billing services I had to contact in the days and weeks that followed. What I didn’t struggle with was detailing the incredible INCREDIBLE kindness of friends and acquaintances. Now with lockdown over and people acting like the pandemic is over (despite the fact that most of the people I know who got COVID got it in the few months immediately after restrictions ended — as if masks were working or something), it seems like most people are ready to move on, and it’s disheartening to see us retreat into our selfish lives again, with few cares for people who still can’t go outside because the disease will kill them.

The novel

One problem with writing a work of fiction over years and years and years is that the best you could’ve written it has already passed by the time you decide to abandon it. Such has happened with my novel, which might still make a good short story (which is where it originally came from), but won’t make a good novel without massive changes. But hey, I have two other ideas for novels that I’m working on, and since they’ve sprung from my adult brain, they should be more sustainable in that longer form.

Poetry collection

Almost two decades ago, I self-published a book of poems I wrote in high school (with some editing). Since then, I’ve been putting together a second collection of poetry. This collection was initially going to include all of my college poetry, but I’ve since decided to expand beyond those four years, which gives me more flexibility in cutting out all but the best poems.

The Plays of Eugene O’Neill

I mentioned this above, but I’ve restarted my survey of the plays of Eugene O’Neill (originally begun in late February/early March 2014), as seen through versions adapted for TV and film. I’ve also dived a little into the texts, especially when different versions play the same scene differently. My plan is to write four more posts (O Wilderness, The Iceman Cometh, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, and A Moon for the Misbegotten), followed by a final post that collects performances of lesser plays (The Hairy Ape, Hughie, A Touch of the Poet).

Stories

If I ever get bored of working on the projects above, or aren’t in the mood, I have a bunch of short stories to fall back on. Some are fan fics, while most are original creations. One is near completion, but it lacks something.

Miscellaneous

Most of these projects have been put on the wayside for years. Occasionally I’ll stumble across them and think to myself, “I really should work on that,” but then I realize that “should” is a word I’m trying to retire from my vocabulary. These include ideas for plays, graphic novels, an epic poem, songs with lyrics, and music without them.

The Old Year in Review

I cannot remember another year as awful as 2020. True, I’ve experienced moments that rivaled the worst of 2020 (like when my grandmother and dog died within a month of each other), but collectively, 2020 sucked.

I’ve been out of work since March 13, when movie theaters closed in Seattle. While I’ve gone to the store (occasionally) or visited others after mutually quarantining (rarely), I’ve spent most of my time in my apartment, which isn’t great for mental health, but is somewhat helped by living with my girlfriend, possessing a cell phone, and owning a cat.

Having all this free time meant I could finally work uninterrupted hours on my writing projects and voice acting career, but “could” is different than “would.” I should’ve remembered the last time I was stuck at home. I’d just graduated from college and lived with my parents, since I had nothing else lined up. I tried to write magazine submissions and my first novel with no social life, which went about as well as you think it would — though time and circumstances were different (9/11 happened several months later, and smart phones weren’t a thing).

As this pandemic continues, I’ve gradually been learning to put my mental health first and to stop feeling guilty for not filling my days with endless productivity. Of the two types of work I’m focusing on, voiceover is the more physically demanding, writing the more mentally challenging.

But, to be successful at each, I have to ignore any monetary rewards attached to them, not because I don’t want to earn money putting my talents to work, but because focusing on the monetary aspect tends to strangle the creative aspect. Doing creative work for money causes me to fall into a depression, particularly during gloomy Seattle winters. Writing for any reason other than that I love writing, or doing voice acting for any reason other than that I love voice acting, ends up being counterproductive.

Speaking of doing things for money, I don’t miss work. What I miss is hanging out with my coworkers and being able to go to live events and movies. If universal basic income became a reality, artists, house spouses, and part-time workers would finally be able to put time and energy into their passions, rather than having that time and energy drained in working jobs for the “privilege” of living paycheck-to-paycheck. We’d finally get paid for the work we do, not how much money we generate. And for those people whose jobs’ only purpose is to make money, perhaps we could put that money to better use by taking it out of their pockets and putting it back into their communities.

Imagine a world where no one has to worry about not making enough money to eat. To own property. To buy clothes. To have healthcare. To pay the bills. Civilizations were formed because it was easier to band together for protection than to go at it alone. Isn’t it time they fulfill this promise and protect us from want?

Here’s hoping that when the world opens up again, we’ll be ready to demand a more perfect one.