I’ve handed today’s post over to the resonance of the universe because I’m still ‘on overwhelm’. A subtitle to this post could be: Is this a blog? I’m full of questions at the moment.
Another statement that de-overwhelms me is: My name is Ruth, I’m an alcoholic, and I haven’t had a drink today. When I say that out loud in an AA meeting it right-sizes everything. I then feel like, phew, now have a lot less to worry about. I can prioritise. Not drinking today goes on the top of the list. Then all my other ‘worries’ either melt away, or reformulate into the correct proportion. It’s like putting a genie back in a caddy. The genie being all my mental stuff, however I choose to define it.
A blog is a bit like ‘sharing’ in an AA/NA meeting. In a way, I’m free to say whatever I’d like. Not completely because it being an AA/NA meeting, I’m expected to come out with something that is relevant to the newcomer. Or relevant to someone, if only myself. As I am an alcoholic addict sitting in a meeting, there will be something that’s relevant, even if I just open my mouth and let the words come out. If I did the exact same thing in a fiction workshop that obviously wouldn’t work. Although a drama class might be better as it might be viewed as a performance. So what this tells me is that form, or context, defines content.
I say that because yesterday I wrote a blog post called: What Happened on Thursday? In that post I decided that there was a lot more to say and I would continue along those lines now. But that was yesterday and today my head is full up with all sorts of thoughts and I’m not sure writing about yesterday’s topic is how I wish to proceed. I’m still feeling very fragmented and confused, but I’m not sure that writing a story titled What Happened on Thursday? is going to be that interesting. I’m not sure I want to. The reason for that is because, like I said yesterday, the topic that what happened on Thursday spreads across is so vast.
A bit like an AA meeting, here in this space I can write whatever I please. That’s one of the reasons I like blogging. To me this blog is a bit like A Newspaper of Myself. Or it’s like a ‘daily inventory’ (what you’re encouraged to do in step ten of the 12 steps). I like the idea of writing a daily inventory blog because it kind of kills two birds with one stone. If I say this blog is my daily inventory, then I don’t have to write my daily inventory as well. I don’t think it’s just laziness, although I have been told that I’m lazy, and I probably am.
But if all I do is work the 12 steps, if I’m not ‘a blogger’ as such, then it begs the question: What am I? Or rather, what do I do? The question of what I am, or what do I do, is something that’s been on my mind since yesterday after attending an online AA meeting.
I should say that a 10th step is not meant to be public, traditionally. But it’s isn’t necessarily meant to be private either. That being the case (it not being private) a reader is involved. The 10th step is a spiritual activity, not a job. But I always thought art was a spiritual activity. I think the answer is that it can be a spiritual activity, but then it can also be a political activity. Or a financial activity (see Jeff Koons). That being the case, it’s true that a blog, were it dedicated to the 10th step — continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it — would of necessity be a spiritual activity. Even though my blog would probably be a perversion of the true 10th step.
There are two reasons that I consider this a 10th step. The first has to do with how my vocation as a writer, a ‘creative’ writer began. It began as the project outlined in my previous blog: Love Letters to the Invisible Man. When I began that epistolary practice I conceived of it as an alternative 10th step. As a progression from the classic one that I had used to do — because I know how to do the ‘proper’ version. I have been taken through the steps by AA sponsors. It’s a bit like an artist that begins their training drawing naked people and winds up directing films.
The way I see it is that this blog is a project that began with the love letters and has ended up here. This is the product in the social sense. But crucially, this isn’t For Sale. That bit is very important to me. I want it to be free.
The love letters were unpublished, so were the novels they became, the poetry and all the visual art. All that time I was searching for my form. That journey did in fact begin with drawing. That project began when I stopped drinking aged twenty. As such, it was a reflection of my sobriety, hence the 10th step permutation I’m currently wondering about inhabiting.
I say all this to indicate why I’m disinclined to continue the story about Thursday. Because if I start writing a story, I feel that I’m straying away from the form I have found here. The one that works for me, which is a spiritual practice. For me, and this obviously is only me, novel writing is not a spiritual practice. It’s a literary practice, which is why I spent so long on novel-writing courses. But I never enjoyed trying to write a novel. Actually it pretty much drove me insane, just as academic writing drove me insane. I don’t exaggerate when I say that. I was actually sectioned when I was undertaking these particular writing projects. They made me ill. But saying whatever I fancy on any particular day doesn’t drive me insane, there is no pressure. There is no product. It isn’t for sale. It’s free. Maybe one day that will change, but just for today that is how it is.
Because this bit of writing appears on a blogging platform it is a blog. I love having a platform! It thrilled me to see that yesterday’s post has has eleven views since I published it yesterday. I think every blog post I have published has had at least one view. That really thrills me. It makes me feel content, that I have achieved something in life after all. A lot of the time I have felt that I have achieved precisely nothing in my life. I haven’t even been able to stay sober, despite thirty years of trying. All of that makes me feel very very depressed. I’ve had jobs, but that was never my project. My project, since I started drawing thirty years ago, was to do something creative. I went to Brixton college to study art because I didn’t know what else to do, but I knew that I wanted to do something that was creative. That’s how I roll.
So what I have become is a writer. That really impresses me. Not a literary writer as I was thinking I would become, or hoped to become, with Paul Auster as my role model — he was my favourite author back in the day. I just love stories, but I’ve learnt that I’m not very good at writing stories. I think television is probably my favourite medium, and in another life I think I would have become an actor. I adore actors! But it’s too late for that now and in truth I’m not sure it really would have suited me because I’m an introvert. I think that’s true. I’m chronically introverted, so writing suits me better.
Loving true stories, is part of the reason I love AA/NA meetings so much. And that’s really healthy because AA meetings, unlike writing novels, is good for me!
Have you read True Tales of American Life? It’s edited by Auster (who I have actually met!) I always thought reading that was a bit like being at a meeting. AA stories are always true stories. They involve change — the character has to change otherwise the character does not stay sober. This is how true AA stories are quite literary. Because that’s one of the rules of fiction writing, right? The character has to change. That’s the point. Also, character is fate. That’s also true of the 12 steps. They’re about developing character. Going from being a looser, or rather an unwell character, to a winner, or well person. This essentially involves becoming a person with a good character, if I have understood my 12 steps correctly, and I think that I have. But comparing recovery with literary fiction is not common practice in AA. This is just what i do, because that’s how I roll. I don’t do anything by halves, which is also an alcoholic/addict characteristic.
I feel complete when I combine all my interests, knowledge and experience, which is why this blogging business is the right form for me. Because it also doesn’t stop there. I also get to throw in a bit of psychiatry, a bit of psychotherapy, which is also part of my knowledge, experience and interest set. I want something that brings together all of these bits of myself. It makes me happy, and happy is what I want for myself. God knows, I’ve known enough unhappiness. In writing this blog, with a bit of luck, I can transform all my unhappiness into insight. I think that’s the idea. And now, at last, after all these bloody years I am something: a writer. A blogger. And even if none of you read my blog, I would still be a blogger. It’s out there, it’s here, I found my form.
I think that finding one’s form is a bit like being an angel who falls to earth. As an artist, if you don’t have form, you’re invisible. It’s like not being born, even though you still exist as. But if you aren’t seen, if you haven’t shown up to be seen, then you can’t be said to exist in the world. You only live in heaven. And that is one of the troubles with writing a novel. You can slave away for years, and most likely you will never be seen. You will never be published; I’m pretty sure that of all the novels ever written, most never see the lights of day.
But with this blogging stuff, like wow, you can be seen. It’s published You don’t have to have the right connections, you don’t have to ‘network’, you don’t need an agent, all you need is access to a computer. You need literacy. You need language. But all of these things are pretty common. They are free. And who doesn’t want to be free?
This is freedom. Because it is so I really don’t need to worry about it. I don’t have to tell a story. I just have to string a few thoughts together in a vaguely coherent fashion a day at a time. Hopefully I’ve managed that.
So now I have that elusive thing, well, elusive for me anyway: I am a blogger. I have an identity. I’m not only a recovering addict with bipolar. I’m a blogger. Having something to do that I enjoy is what I always longed for. It was the reason I started out on my journey of recovery all those years ago. It was the true reason. I didn’t do it in order to find my soul mate. That was just a symbol for wholeness, for identity, for finding myself, for being well. And that’s why it was a spiritual enterprise.
I also get to share some visual art in the ‘Featured Image’.