Is Anybody Out There?

My family gets a daily newspaper delivered to our home every morning and, as we all stumble down and pour our coffee (everyone down to Jules, who’s 12, have a morning cuppa), we call out who gets the comics first, second and so on. The kids read most of the strips I don’t (or don’t often), such as Garfield. I read ones that they don’t, such as Doonesbury. I get it. When I was in college in the late 80s-early 90s, I had friends who read Doonesbury regularly, but I couldn’t keep track of all the characters and didn’t know their histories and it didn’t seem worth trying. That is until George W. Bush was president and was depicted as a floating and frayed Roman helmet.  I still don’t know the storylines of most of the characters prior to the Bush II administration, but I have continued to read Doonesbury daily.

And as I start this blog, my first that is not a class assignment or private loop to connect with other writers, but a put it out there public blog, many of Gary Trudeau’s latest strips concern a previously successful writer, Rick, who now finds himself blogging for free on Huffpo. His wife is a successful political operative, his ne’er-do-well son has a runaway bestselling (wholly fictitious) memoir, while Rick struggles to even gain access to interviewees. So blogging is like hitting bottom for writers, or traditional writerly types.

Which raises a question: Does anyone else in their 40s feel caught between the new and old? I wrote my high school, and many of my undergraduate, papers on an electric typewriter. We had to look things up on the card catalog in the library (remember how they smelled? Closed up trays of paper, exuding the possibility of anything you wanted to know), haul books home and search for the facts to back up our assertations. But computers and the internet came while we were still young enough to grab on and switch gears. Today my own children have to do something called “dialecticals” whenever they have a reading assignment in high school. Very busy work, in which students must cite usually 30 passages in the book and explain why they are important to the piece, which is designed to minimize oh-so-easy online cribbing. Are paperbound Cliff Notes even still published? I can no longer write with pen and paper for any length of time, but I agonize at the thought of publishing becoming an entirely (or mostly) electronic media. I once crafted an entire (Flintstone-esque) living room suite of furniture using all my boxes of books I had yet unpacked after moving. I had a couch that could seat four, a coffee table and a recliner. I should have taken a picture, which would have been with a camera containing film (sigh).

But back to blogging: Unlike the fictitious Rick, I don’t have a successful writing career in my past. I’ve written successful academic papers, grant applications, newlsetters and so on, but I haven’t received paychecks strictly for my writing. I’m starting at the bottom. Many of my big plans have shifted over the nearly 19 years I’ve been a mother. Most recently, Max and I decided to have one more baby so that two-year-old Leif would have a sibling to grow with at home after all his older brothers had gone off. We assumed that before this last baby was born I’d have fulltime employment with benefits–career employment. We assumed incorrectly.

So here I am trying to write with small children at my breasts and knees (at least my breasts aren’t at my knees, not yet). I’m not an overachiever, try as I might to be one, so blogging feels about right. And since I started Whoopsie Piggle, all of a week ago, I find I’m thinking once again like a writer.

My 18-year-old son is coming home from college this weekend and I plan to have him help me with the technical aspects of this new endeavor. Unlike the blogger in Doonesbury, my boy won’t make me feel out of touch. Of course, my boy hasn’t published a runaway bestseller either. Not yet.

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