I read a post this morning on my friend Gina’s blog, and I started writing her a monumentally-long comment. And I decided that rather than take over her comment section, it would probably be better to post here instead. You should go read Gina’s post over at My Skinny Garden: On Losing Passion. On Quitting. On Going Through the Motions. Go. I’ll wait.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know I’ve gone through periods, especially when it comes to blogging, in which I feel exactly the way she describes. It’s all too much. What is my voice against all of the bullshit that’s going on right now? What does it matter?
It matters because you are you. It matters because your voice is unique. It matters because you care enough to be bothered by the bullshit. And it makes you feel depressed and maybe a little insane, like that lone voice crying out and wondering why you just can’t take photos of pretty flowers and be happy like everyone else.
There’s nothing wrong with pretty flowers. There’s not a single thing wrong with a blog that celebrates the beauty of gardening. But that’s not all there is. We can be admonished to “just focus on the positive!” and “choose your battles!” but this always seems to me like code for “just shut up and assimilate, already.” You write about your roses. And I’ll write about the thorns whenever I damn well want to.
I recently read this post by another of my favorite bloggers, Jenna Woginrich of Cold Antler Farm. She said that a reader wrote to tell her she wasn’t going to read her blog anymore. Why? Because she didn’t want to know anything about the personal side of Jenna’s life on her farm — she just wanted pretty pictures and how-to posts.
Sounds familiar, no?
Just give us the whitewashed version of gardening, just give us the facade of living the farmer’s life. Because if you start talking about things like human rights, or the poisoning of our planet, or loneliness or heartache, you might make someone feel icky. Give us cotton candy, and we’ll go away feeling happy, and tell everyone how wonderful you are!
You know what? Fuck that. There’s enough cotton candy out there. There are enough posts about pretty this and wonderful that. Pretty has a cost, sometimes. And it’s dishonest to pretend that the ugly never happens.
What I’m taking a long time to say is this: be you. Write anyway. Be a stubborn pain in the ass. Make people mad sometimes. It makes you feel alive (as I well know!) And even if nobody ever reads it (though they will, trust me) you know that you had the guts to be yourself. And that, my dear, is a rare and beautiful thing.
(About the photo: The pretty pic of a Christmas cactus does serve a purpose. This single bloom is a tangible example of the rewards of being stubborn. My husband bought that plant over three years ago. It was bashed around in my kids’ room, has fallen off shelves, has been aggressively snuggled by cats, and lost most of its leaves as a result. It’s taken a beating. And I don’t know how many times I’ve thought that I should just compost it and buy one this winter when they’ll be in the stores again. But I didn’t, because I’m stubborn. And this week, I was rewarded with one spectacular bloom. It was worth it.)