Twenty years ago, I wrote a collection of essays that I titled “Curious Things.” These essays—some reported and some personal, some humorous and some with a stentorian voice whose authority was not fully earned—touched upon a very random gaggle of topics. A city slicker’s visit to a cattle auction in the changing West. Musings on the intersection of story and sport. How Christmas made me feel more Jewish. Copy editing at a sex magazine. My immersion into tournament Scrabble.
This was a time when I had been telling myself I wanted to be a writer. I’d won a few awards in my 20s for feature journalism and people generally said nice things about my writing. I was in a Columbia University MFA nonfiction writing program (for which “Curious Things” was my thesis collection), flanked by professors and peers who published in the prestige publications I imagined writing for myself: the New Yorker, Atlantic, Harper’s.
Yet in recapping my graduate school writing program experience to others, I often describe it as a place where I learned what not to write. My workshop experiences (whose peer-feedback tendencies were my truest introduction to the trope of the “shit sandwich,”) the incisive critiques of the literary and critical canon by lecturers, and the rejection letters that came from these prestige publications made me feel that good writing was about the eradication of flaws, so that a piece could be bulletproof and beyond critique. These experiences made me a very good editor, which I’ve since applied as a communicator for various Colorado education and nonprofit organizations, but my creative and personal writing dried up, with my last 15 years of output confined to a few handfuls of freelance lifestyle articles, and a few half-finished essays calcifying in the iCloud.
Many things have happened since I completed “Curious Things.” I’ve had two children, initiated and ended a 12-year relationship with their mother, bought two homes and sold one, had eight bosses in 10 years, been laid off twice, and have householded a surprisingly large number of cats.
Yet many things also have not happened. I have not joined the million-member revolution of online content self-publishers—bloggers, tweeters, YouTubers, and more—who have enabled so many otherwise-unexpressed sentiments and ideas to be found, yet in whose apparent infinity have cowed me into leaving my curious ideas largely unexpressed (for fear they may already be available online in better, or at least link-rich, prose), or at best encapsulated in an ephemeral and walled-off Facebook post. I also seem to be in an era in which writing sentences with that many words and clauses is less convenient and comprehensible than ever. Fuck.)
I’ve written plenty of functional things over the past few years: but far fewer curious things. And at this moment, I don’t have anything functional I need to write, but I have a hole in my soul as I wonder what’s next.
When I launched a website highlighting some of my professional communications work in late 2016, I created a section called “Amusings” that I imagined I would develop into a blog. This Amusings section has since sat empty and visible in the site navigation, taunting me, daring me to get back at it.
Today, I accept the challenge.
I plan to use this space for ephemera: subjects such as jigsaw puzzles, razors, pinball, gig-economy apps, and such should get airplay here. For once, I’m going to try not to sweat every word, specious presumption, or bad joke, and I’m not going to postpone the expression of anything just because I haven’t resolved every question about it in my mind: I’m just going to press “Publish”: even if I haven’t ginned up an artful, tidy conclusion. On that note, here goes.