This time four years ago, I bought the domain MCarisa.com, without first checking to see if CarisaMiller.com was available, which it was. It was stupid not to use my own name from the beginning, since web addresses don’t actually use capitalization and it’s possible MCarisa was read in people’s head as McArisa, which sounds like a McDonalds menu item instead of the first initial of my last name followed by my first name. M. Carisa.
The first thing I posted on McArisa was a five thousand (one thousand) word story about making blackberry jam that didn’t turn out. The jam or the story. My initial plot was to begin writing publicly by throwing everything I could think of at all sides of an Internet I was just discovering. For some reason this included posting recipes and crafts. It was more than a year before I realized roasted brussel sprouts in a gorgonzola cream sauce and nursery mobiles made of wrapping paper scraps from baby shower gifts are not literary devices.
After I activated my website, I also signed up for Facebook. This is something I like to mention as often as possible, to make sure everyone knows how anti-mainstream cool I am for having only gotten on social media four years ago and then only because of the required self-promotional aspect of the writerly life. This makes my current abuse of social media less offensive than everyone else’s. Please make the appropriate marks on my scorecard. After Facebook came Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram eventually, and, ummm how do I put this? Google Plus.
I found lovely people inside my computer (and many assholes for ignoring) doing things I thought I’d like to try, and spent great hunks of time learning how to do a bunch of online things. A lot of them turned out not to be for me, but the writing related things were and still are. More every day.
I love studying and practicing writing. I love trying to be funny. I love publishing hopefully funny stories and reading them out loud to live people. I love other writers. I love reading stories by other writers and listening to them read out loud to me.
By extreme luck, I got a gig directing and producing the Portland version of the annual live storytelling series, Listen To Your Mother, and for the last three of my four writer-ish years have been developing my relationship with all those things I love.
To the lovely writer people of the Internet, I added lovely writer people in my town, whose readings I can attend, whose eyeballs I can stare into over tea while confessing my inability to regulate commas.
Since my initial hard rush at the Internet, I’ve been slowly backing away in favor of quiet study and practice. In favor of the loving things.
Instead of feverishly posting on my website each thing I write, as soon as it hints at being complete, I’m holding onto stories for spit-shining and working to find them other venues. I am engrossed by books on grammar and form. I ask my family for time to write during the week as though it’s my job. I intend to log at least those ten thousand hours that that guy who did that study said it takes to make you an expert at something. With the first, early clunky years behind me, with many things not-for-me determined, I am still in my adolescence by far. But serious.
When I published my sucky jam story on my website (we went to my sister-in-law’s house and let me tell you where they live and how old her kids are and this is really boring but look at me writing and there were blackberries) the hardest thing was putting it on the Internet and letting it be there, with my name attached. So vulnerable. But as I kept doing it, the anxiety of it became less. Not so less that I didn’t/don’t edit blog posts after publishing them or delete tweets that have typos or that I later decide are plain stoopid. But still, less.
It is awesome to let go of what does not serve me (I’m looking at you, Creating Pinnable Images), but I’m wondering if maybe I accidentally let go of something that does, when I ceased blogging. Because I’m kind of hoarding my stories over here.
I think I need more regular practice feeling vulnerable. I once proudly blogged about duct taping a bunch of carpet samples I found on the side of the road together to make a mat for under the cat’s litter box, but can’t currently bring myself to move on from an essay about my boobs that I’ve been rewriting for four months.
This must be a common problem in art. One that has a name I will look up later but will now call The Problem of Ugly Flowers. I used to arrange flowers for a job, for a while working in a shop, and for another while out of my home for weddings, winery events, and the like. In the shop, a customer would come in for a bouquet on spec and I’d swoop in on instinct, whip up a little something gorgeous, and send it on its way, delighted with my floral genius. At home, I enjoyed the grand envisioning and executive level planning for large floral undertakings that weren’t part of making bouquets on the fly. But something would happen in the time between arranging the flowers and delivering them. Fussing. The flowers, perfectly beautiful, became hideous to me. Suddenly all wrong. Rearranging made them worse. I first thought the phenomenon was a betrayal of my artistic eye, but now I know it is a warning that I have over-fiddled.
It has been happening to me in writing lately. I’ve been touching the flowers too much. Instead of letting them go after I’ve poked the words in all my usual ways, I wander away from the core part of my mission that is writing for humor’s sake. I get turned around by touchy feelies and start trying really hard on purpose to find meaning. This is death to humor and to my chances of writing something that doesn’t suck. Intentional attempts at creating meaning within a story plunge me into patterns of self-scrutiny and, eventually, depressive torpor. (I just naturally wrote the word “torpor”. You should know I’ve been playing vocabulary quiz games on the Merriam-Webster app.)
It occurs to me that the light-hearted nature of blogging helped me take myself less seriously and I need some of that right away. So here’s me getting back to my conversational style writing roots. Untargeted, somewhat un-edited, but not unintentional. Un-unintentional. Blogging for bravery and floral genius.
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Post Script: Since posting this a few days ago and having so many people I love and admire read and say supportive things, I had a dream of note: I was in a class with many of my writer friends, acquaintances, and crushes. I excused myself to the bathroom and while I was on the pot, the entire class came in to wash their hands. I looked up from my seat to see all of their faces, the stall walls were very short, and everyone was watching me poop. Further evidence of the need to up my vulnerability practice.