j4: (clutter)
[personal profile] j4
I have a folder on my chiark account called lj_temp. It's full of bits and pieces of things that might have been intended as LJ posts, and (because I am bad at sticking to my own filing systems) drafts of awkward emails or comments, lists of things, ideas, all kinds of mental detritus. I think of it as a drawer full of good ideas which, if only I had the time or energy, I'd sit down and work through and transmute them all into pure blogging gold. In practice, when I come to look at it, it's a directory full of text files containing half-written comments/emails. Half the time I don't even remember the context which prompted them. Take this, for example:
Sometimes the person who's experiencing the emotion doesn't know the whole picture either. People can get jealous and upset and angry with very little real cause.

I agree it's rarely practically helpful to tell them straight-out "Your emotions are irrational", but equally I don't think it's helpful to say "Yes, keep on feeling that jealousy and anger, you've got a right to your emotions". The wetness of water, the greenness of grass... I see these things as morally neutral in a way that I really don't believe adult emotions are.

Isn't there room for some kind of middle way? Admitting that you -- or someone else -- feels something but also recognising that it's irrational and unhelpful, and not nurturing the unhelpful feelings? I'm sure you accept that your garden will always have weeds in it, but you probably don't put fertiliser on the weeds & cut back the flowers to make room for them. Initial reactions to events are hard (possibly even impossible) to choose or control, but once the shoots are showing it's often possible to nudge them in a more appealing direction.
I'm sure this made sense in the context of the debate to which it was doubtless intended to contribute, but I can't remember it (I have a terrible memory for conversations these days), and I didn't make a note of it -- I've quoted the file there in its entirety (it was even written with HTML markup, so clearly intended for LJ). I'm reasonably sure I never actually posted it, though, because I generally end up chickening out of posting things like that -- because disagreeing with people on the internet nearly always descends into nastiness and ends in tears (tears for me, at least; probably a sense of self-righteous victory for the other guy -- and it is usually, but not always, a guy). But that's a blog post for another day (or rather, a blog post to chicken out of on another day). Right now I'm thinking about these fragments.

They're sitting there, using a few KB of disk space, doing nothing. Worse than doing nothing: they're a mental buffer between me and getting things written, muffling the sound of my thoughts like a thick drizzly fog. They are heavy like a dressing-gown at 3pm, a comfort blanket that's become a ball and chain. They make me feel as though I have a basketful of good ideas if only I could get round to doing anything about them when in fact I don't; they're worse than that idea for a novel that everybody carries around with them in their head, they're more like an idea of having had an idea for a novel. Like dreaming you wrote a symphony and being unable to remember it in the morning. The handful of "ideas for novels" I have in my head are all things I know I'll never write down because they'd turn out to be rubbish.

Those fragments remind me of what, for me, is at least one aspect of the "overwhelming question": what would I do right now if I'd done everything on my list? If I didn't have anything to procrastinate about? What would I write about if I didn't feel I should clear that backlog first? It's all very well saying "you don't have to clear that backlog first": I've tried that, it doesn't work. The backlog's there.

What should I do with all those fragments? Post them (and pull them apart) here? Delete them? (No, I'm not going to print them out and set fire to them or anything like that, it may be symbolic but it's also wasteful and pointless.) They're probably all worthless, but then what is 'worthwhile' to write?

[Poll #1641161]

I'm not promising to act on any of your suggestions, but I do promise to read them.

Date: 2010-11-05 09:53 pm (UTC)
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
From: [personal profile] rmc28
For what it's worth, I agree with your comment, and I am one of those people who gets even crosser when told I'm being irrational (what, as if I hadn't NOTICED!).

Funnily I've spent a chunk of today elsewhere talking about techniques I use for to (try to) get a grip on my temper and generally maintain my sunny equilibrium.

Date: 2010-11-05 09:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] 1ngi.livejournal.com
The wetness and the greenness made me wonder if it was about one of my posts actually:http://1ngi.livejournal.com/100013.html

I'd have been fine with you posting it - we could have had a lukewarm debate :)

Date: 2010-11-05 10:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] j4.livejournal.com
Crikey, actually, I think you're right. You have a much better memory than I do -- I can't remember half of what I've written in the past, apart from a bizarrely popular post about sandwiches (but then I always feel "haven't I said this before?" when I post anything, so either I suffer from déjà vu a lot or I'm really really boring... ;-) I'm glad it didn't cause upset/offence, anyway -- it would have been even worse to reopen an argument accidentally after all this time! Shall we pretend we had the lukewarm debate and ended up generally agreeing with each other over a cup of tea? :-) (Mmm, tea. I miss tea.)

Date: 2010-11-05 10:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] vinaigrettegirl.livejournal.com
I love your writing. Truly love it. I hate most modern fiction but you are a master storyteller and wordsmith, thought-smith, explicator of subtlety and clarity, portrayer. I reckon in due course there will be many books. Keep your drawer of Stuff.

Date: 2010-11-06 12:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cartesiandaemon.livejournal.com
FWIW, I thought the snippet you quoted was interesting and well worth quoting even devoid of context.

I have something similar, although I've tried to be more realistic about what is something I might write one day, and what is something I wanted to write, but won't actually have it helped by having it in a file somewhere.

I know what you mean about being suffocated by things you might do.

I think it's that sometimes you're blocked on having something interesting to say, when it seems a shame to waste any interesting idea. But later in your life, you may have more interesting things than time to say them, so you have to accept you have to stop hoarding. I don't know if that's applicable, but is a common sort of shift.

One compromise option would be to, say, find an email reminder service of some sort and have it emailed to yourself for 2 years time. And then, you can be free from it, and later delete it, or having decided you're GOING to delete it ruthlessly purge it for any interesting stuff and delete anything you're not sure about.

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