The Smoking Section is one year old today. Has it really been that long?
A few weeks after its inception, my friend Esther asked me why I wanted to write “all that stuff.” It was a fair question, although I didn’t have an answer for her at the time. I knew that I had embarked upon a kind of experiment, but I couldn’t begin to explain why or to what end, and certainly not why anyone else should care.
One year, 213 posts, and 8,508 page views later, I’m still not sure what to make of it all. Why do I do this? Why do any of us do this? Are we all exhibitionists? Raconteurs? Assholes? Is blogging a cheap form of therapy, in the worst sense of both words? Or is it, as some commentators have proclaimed, “the new literature”? I’ll be damned if I know.
What I do know is this: my mother wanted to be a writer. Somewhere in the crooked rowhouse I grew up in, there are boxes that are filled to overflowing with the poems and short stories she has written, all in longhand and nearly all in her second language. They were never published, but she’d show them to me sometimes, like they were a part of her she needed me to know.
For a brief time, I wanted to be a writer too. But then, I also wanted to be a musician and a philosopher and a young revolutionary, and somewhere along the way, writing disappeared. Is that how it happened? Or, as I slowly realized that my mother was crazy, did I infer that writing is something that crazy people do, and as such, that it was an activity best avoided?
When my brother had his first schizophrenic break, he began to write obsessively. He had never shown any interest in literature before, but all of a sudden, he was burning through meticulously constructed stories about experiences far removed from his own. As his disease progressed, the stories broke down into repetitive, almost mechanical abstracts of his delusions, which he occasionally sends to me by email.
Psychiatrists refer to this manifestation of schizophrenia and certain other illnesses as hypergraphia: “the unstoppable drive to write.” In one account, the condition is said to “compel someone to keep a voluminous journal, to jot off frequent letters to the editor, to write on toilet paper if nothing else is available, and perhaps even to compile a dictionary.” In other words, hypergraphia bears more than a passing resemblance to blogging.
Which brings me back to Esther’s question, and to what will have to suffice for an answer: it is possible that I write all this stuff simply because I’m not afraid to anymore. It isn’t a slippery slope. Blogging is, admittedly, a strange compulsion, but it is one that feels good and right to me and surprisingly necessary. Besides, it’s a relief to let myself be just a little bit crazy every once in a while.
In any case, thanks for reading, and for writing back. I might start to worry if you didn’t.