Katherine Dunn gives me a poke

The guy pulling the strings over at the Other Stuff isn’t doing his job.

Generally, I resent bloggers making excuses for their absences. They all start with “Sorry I haven’t posted in so long…” and end with “I’m back, and I promise to do better.” Hollow promises. These self-chastising posts always represent a predictable step in a blogger’s journey towards disappearing altogether.  

I feel like I’m writing one of these posts now. I last published a week ago, not long enough to write a where have I been post, but my productivity is down. Over the past several months, I averaged six posts a month. A clear drop-off from my normal eight or so. In July, I wrote only three. I’m not reacting to a busy schedule. I simply have nothing I want to say.

I write from my life. On my insecure days, I consider my blog a self-absorbed diary. On better days, I like to think it’s creative nonfiction—story-telling about the one topic where I’m actually knowledgeable… me. Plenty is happening in my life. Coaching started, work heated up, I had a couple of surgeries… Surgeries? Couldn’t I write about that? Through blogging, I’ve shared my most intimate thoughts and experiences: the pain of becoming sober, the embarrassment of my Tourette tics, the loneliness of social anxiety. I draw the line at the grizzly details of hemorrhoid surgery.

Last night I started a new book. The library where I work is having its annual book sale this weekend. I took time yesterday to browse the tables. I flipped through the vinyl records looking for bands Eli would like. Lots of Engelbert Humperdinck and Neil Diamond, no Hendrix, no Metallica. I browsed the biographies looking for some musicians I might like to read about. Instead, I found a copy of my book Fragments. I can’t decide if it’s good or bad that someone donated it. When I moved on to paperback fiction, I found Noise: Fiction Inspired by Sonic Youth.

Sonic Youth is a love ‘em or hate ‘em band. My family hates them. Well Susan would never say that, but she never makes positive comments when Alexa and I are rocking out to them. Eli hates them. “The problem with Sonic Youth is they have no structure.” I could counter that a listener needs a certain level of sophistication to understand Sonic Youth’s song structure, but after being a parent for twenty years, I’ve learned that comments like that are best kept inside my head.

When I brought my new book home, Eli took a look at the cover and said “Sonic Youth is noise.” Sigh. The first short story I started reading is by Katherine Dunn, a deceased graduate level writing professor and the author of Geek Love—a story that tracks the explosive arc of a family of circus freaks. If you haven’t read it, please do. It’s beautiful and ugly. It’s like a horrible accident on the street but you can’t look away.

In Katherine’s story inspired by Sonic Youth, a neighbor finds a severed hand in the local park—the park, I assume, is modeled after the location where Katherine, probably a wealthy(ish) woman late in her life, walked her dogs before she died. I started reading late, so I didn’t finish the story, but as far as I can tell, it isn’t so much about the hand as how the hand causes her to interact with the people in her neighborhood. I like where the story is going. I think I could learn a lot from Katherine Dunn if she was still teaching.

So am I one of these bloggers slowly evaporating from the WordPress community? I doubt it. I love to write. Reading Katherine’s story last night shoved me towards my laptop this morning. She made me want to poke at my thoughts to see what popped out. I haven’t been reading much lately, my vision doubles when I read too long. I realized this morning that I’ve under stimulated my brain. A half hour of quality reading realigned my priorities. No, I don’t think I’m the next blogger to disappear. I’m back, and I promise to do better.

Photo by Freddie Marriage on Unsplash

36 thoughts on “Katherine Dunn gives me a poke

    • Thank you. I’d like to get back on a twice a week pattern. Coaching does actually impact that because I lose two nights a week. But I should have enough time anyway. Just gotta stop scrolling through Facebook.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Timely! I’ve thought about the ebb and flow I’ve been experiencing lately as a blogger. At times I feel I share too much, sometimes too little and sometimes I go missing entirely for a month or so. I love writing, I love my blog and yet I don’t always have “the right” thing to say – meaning that thing which just says itself and I’m less writing it and more listening and recording. I hadn’t thought of it as perhaps a result of not reading enough. Reading does inspire me to write – or the right reading does – the sort that makes your creative process want to sing along with, perhaps that is it. I simply need to read more quality writing. I enjoy reading your writing Jeff, it often resonates. This post certainly did.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Kate. My writing block is 100% coming up with a topic to write about. I have the same problem (only worse) with fiction. Probably if I just sat down and started writing, something would pop out. Maybe a non-blog journal would get my creativity flowing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I never thought of doing a journal specifically for blog ideas but it would definitely help. Usually if something comes to me I jot it straight into the blog and save it as a draft until I can work on the idea further but a blog journal would be a great idea

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve never been an active poster of blogs – less than 600 in a little over 8 years. But then I seem to contribute multiple comments on other blogs daily. I’m one of those folk who reads every post from every blog I follow, and at this point of time totals 98 WordPress blogs, and a couple of handfuls of blogs on other platforms. As the author of one blogs I follow and who follows a number of the same blogs as I do observed recently, I write two to three times as many words in the comment sections of other blogs than I do in posts on my own blog. I’ve seen too many very good bloggers suffer from burnout by attempting to keep to unrealistic blogging goals. I’d much rather they write as and when the urge takes them. A bit like in real life – I don’t expect someone to converse just for the sake of conversation. Converse when there’s something to say.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The ability to converse when there’s nothing to say is actually the trait I most desire. I sit with awkward silences and uncomfortable exchanges far too often. I believe practice would improve my ability to talk, much like I believe practice is required for writing. I’m starting to gather that some non-blogged writing sessions would be good for me.


  3. I’m glad you clarified the surgery. I got scared for a second. Did they give you pictures?? A little Before and After?😂😂 I was given several pictures from my colonoscopy. They handed me the pictures as I was coming out of anesthesia and while the explaining about the polyps they removed🤪 Yeah… okay🤷🏼‍♀️

    I’m glad you’re not going to fade away. I’ve been on hiatus a few times since I started blogging, and I usually write one of those annoying posts😂😂 Now that I know they annoy you, I’ll make sure to link you in each one😝 I’m joking!

    I happen to like Sonic Youth. I’m not a major fan but I *do* like them. Have you got a song picked out for SLS? I’ve schedule my post😲 I figured I’d better since this week the theme words were from me🤪

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, no photos. My doctor isn’t very fun. My attitude about those apology posts stems from when I had OCD. My mantra was ‘apologize for nothing.’ There are plenty of Sonic Youth songs I don’t like, but there are many I consider brilliant. I’ve always had the ability to pull a melody out of noise. I respect how Sonic Youth can turn a cacophony into a guitar solo.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. So, even if I’m famous with my Id for outfoxing my Superego with cunning plans, the phone ate my blog isn’t going to satisfy anyone on WordPress if I dry up.
    Can I put something in the bank? Or to put it another way, might an impromtu senryu buy me a future indulgence?
    The sleepy worker
    superego asleep
    id happily sighs job done
    ego stretches out
    Thanks Jeff.
    PS I don’t know Sonic Youth but will have a look this week.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I totally get it. Creativity and the desire to write is an ebb and flow. It’s okay to pull back from time to time, only to return again with a vengeance. I always look forward to reading what you have to say, whether it resonates with my experience or not. I loved Fragments. Maybe seeing it at the book sale is a reminder that your writing will always exist … to find it’s way into the hands of another unsuspecting reader.

    Liked by 2 people

    • When I saw my book on the table for sale, my immediate thought was ‘What? Someone is letting this book go?’ Further reflection reminds me that I get rid of all my books eventually, even the ones I love. I should look at it as a new potential reader. It was gone the next morning. Probably someone who knows me is curious what I have to say.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I enjoy hearing about your musical taste and the books you read. I learn about stuff through your blog that I would not otherwise know. A new employee at my work shared that he has Tourette’s. I know something about that because of you. Connecting people through your writing is pretty cool.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s neat about your coworker. I wonder if you see traits like I describe. From my online Tourette community, it seems that many of us have different experiences. Although much of my stuff seems extremely common.


  7. In May next year it will be the 10th anniversary of Vinyl Connection. If I make it that far. I’ve been wondering, am I in the autumn of blogging as well as in my life? Will the hundreds of posts floating in the internet ether and slowly fall to earth, drying into desiccated digital mulch? So this piece hit home, Jeff. Thanks for offering a hand.*

    * bad joke intended.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You wrote something about the end of blogging in a comment a couple of months ago and offered some mature insight from your teenager. This has been kicking around in my head ever since. The blogging world is clearly changing/shrinking. I see less and less essays, articles and CNF. The poetry blogs seem to be the ones hanging on to their ‘market share.’ This seems to have taken place over the past four years or so. A quick trend, could it reverse just as fast? Probably not. I suspect I’ll keep blogging what I write long after it makes sense to. I’m certain those of us holding onto our blogs will be (are?) seen as Luddites clinging to yesterday. That title fits me well and I still think of myself as new to the world of iPhones (although in truth that happened four years ago). I think I read that you’re retiring or at least cutting back on your work load. Could it be time to dust off the Lonely Keyboard and write simply for the sake of art?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, and Yes to all of that, Jeff. I have thought often of Lonely Keyboards, and how its name was so prophetic. I’d like to reactivate it, and have had thoughts – mostly gloomy ones – of musing on retirement, mortality and the transience of happiness. That should get the punters in and the stats surging, eh? 😂

        That said, when I do read your writing (far less often than it deserves) I feel a renewal of interest in non-music writing myself. But first, I have the “72 From ’72” series to complete at V.C. 😅

        Liked by 1 person

    • Please excuse my intrusion here. It’s because Jeff asked about my link to this post with the Innocent Coach senryū. Bruce, you have entertained, informed and inspired me along with Jeff, Bill and Carl.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. I’m glad you’re still blogging, Jeff. And please don’t even think about evaporating – I’d miss you and always enjoy your writing. You always have something interesting and different to say. I struggle with regular writing, too. I try to write a post once a week, but inevitably, it’s longer than that. It’s just finding the creative juices and the time. I should be firmer with myself, although I sometimes think I’m too tough on myself anyway. I often struggle to get through reading a book, although I’m attempting to read ‘The Island of Missing Trees’ by Elif Shafak. It’s a brilliant read so far. By the way, I have a copy of ‘Fragments’, too. I ordered it from Amazon in the UK. It’s excellent – you should be rightly proud of yourself for achieving that. Take care, Jeff 🌞

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, now I’ve got the time (see next post) and this book of short stories is really jacking me up to write. These stories are written for me. I understand them so much better than most short fiction I read. And so many interesting styles. Thank you for buying my book. I haven’t opened it in years. I think I’ve improved technically as a writer and I’m worried about feeling embarrassed when I read it. But those stories were all about raw self discovery, and maybe the writing matches the subject matter. Here’s to staying motivated to write!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: The Other Stuff – innocent coach * | davidwdon

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