Thursday, December 27, 2007
So, I had this idea to do a month-long series of Christmas-related YouTube posts. It was inspired in part by the kinds of cool video grabs and posts that Larry often does, and in part by insomnia: turning on my tv one night, I caught the last five minutes of Shop Around The Corner, and knew I wanted to post it to my blog. I didn't (it wasn't available, I'm still learning DVD grabbing, and I posted a different clip from the film instead), but it did cause me to think-- why not do this the whole month? A theme! A theme that wasn't opaque, that felt seasonal, that would be fun, certainly for me and hopefully for my audience! I also thought it was broad enough that it could encompass Whitmanesque multitudes: obvious canonical clips (gotta get Jimmy Stewart in there), campy pokes at holiday traditions, creepy spins on the season, offbeat music videos, friends' suggestions, and good, old-fashioned sentiment.
At first, it was fun-- I'd search for clips, do subject searches on IMDb to make sure there wasn't something I'd forgotten (The Godfather! Of course!), and map out what order I'd put the clips in for greatest effect.
Then, it got to be a drag: "Oh, right-- the stupid Christmas thing. What else can I post?" I'd be thwarted by lack of available texts-- "Why doesn't anyone have Christmas in Connecticut up on YouTube? How the frack can there be thousands of tributes to Alyson Hannigan, but nothing about Barbara Stanwyck??"--and eventually saw the whole idea as an annoyance. I work so hard to not write from a position of obligation-- in many ways, this blog is about writing precisely against the sense of martyred 'authenticity' that kills the pleasure of the text--and here I'd created a pattern of obligation for myself. Sure, I usually blog every day, anyway, but about different stuff, not the same theme over and over. And while this technically wasn't "writing"-- another reason I did it, as I wanted that Benjaminian sense of the image sans captions (well, besides the post title)--it was still an every day obligation. And I grew to dislike it.
Then, it was fun again-- I'd moved through many of the intial clips I'd wanted to show, and had fun finding other stuff to post, like Billie Holiday. And in ending with A Charlie Brown Christmas, which had always been my plan, I was reminded of the spirit that had initiated it all in the first place.
Why is he telling you this, you might ask? Because it wasn't until I read Jeff's post, catching up on the blogosphere after the holidays, that I realized this whole blogject ended up replicating the protocols and trajectory of academic writing: choose a topic, idea, or area that interests you; dive in with great enthusiasm and vast plans; feel invigorated by what you're doing and the response it gets; realize there's way too much out there to cover in the topic you've chosen, and also not enough available resources to make it click the way you'd imagined (who the hell checked out this book??!? Why doesn't the library carry this?? I hate interlibrary loan!); hate your project, dread your project, wonder why you ever started this project that you now carry around like Marley's chains; chill out, take a break, realize you are actually doing fine; find that second wind just as the project wraps, and say goodbye to it with surprising melancholy, given the stress you've caused each other.
That's the MA thesis, the diss, the article, and I imagine the book project (although I'm only just working up to that last stage). I exaggerate a little-- a blogject is fun, not work, and isn't nearly as difficult-- but without knowing it until it was finished, I'd somehow transferred the same intellectual and emotional responses into this different sphere. Is it simply a matter of authorial personality? Do the structures of obligation (not the "I need to do this" of desire, but of socialization and expectation (even if that 'expectation' is just in your head) always create what Jeff calls the "un-obsessed writer", regardless of space or project? Was finding this out the "secret santa" gift the blogject ended up giving me? And as we hurtle towards 2008, what kinds of new year's resolutions might I make about writing, about figuring out a way to make structures of obligation a generator of desire, rather than a destoyer of it?