If someone ever asks you to write for a blog about the things you love, do it. Do it even if writing is already your work and you feel like a failure at it. Do it even if you worry that your opinions will be judged — that you’ll be deemed too nerdy or not nerdy enough. Do it even if you can’t do anything else; you’ve given up on leaving the couch or brushing your teeth. Do it especially if the urge to nap is your most passionate everyday drive.
When I was asked to write for The Idler I was a mess. I’d spent a lifetime perfecting my identity as head-of-the-class straight-A student only to reach a point in grad school where everything I did was wrong. School wasn’t just school, it was a structure, an armor that kept me safe and all of a sudden it had become unknowable, strange, threatening. Ever an anxious person, my anxieties had begun to overwhelm me and inhibit my functioning. I would will myself to write and nothing would come. I’d sit paralyzed before my screen or notebook too terrified to bother the world with another mistake, a poorly chosen word, a stillborn idea. I developed a phobia of email and phone messages fearing that they, like the endless comments in the marginalia of my work, would tell me something awful. Any negative news could further solidify me in my stuckness, could shock me into a state of literal immobility for days, or even weeks. Writing for The Idler thus offered an attractive distraction. The chance to take up my knowledge of pop culture as a writing subject was a welcome one. With less at stake, my pen began to scribble. A semi-professional television watcher, the prospect of writing about something like the themes of Mad Men loosened up my tic-tacking typing fingers again.
Beyond giving me a space to publically admire the entertainers I love (Maria Bamford, Margaret Cho, Louis C.K.) The Idler allowed me to practice, if in a much smaller way, the brave acts of these folks. I’ve used my bi-weekly column to think through art I’ve seen, movies I’ve watched, but it’s also been extremely important to me to employ this platform as a space of self reflection that helps me sort through, question, and understand what I know and feel and how pop culture aids in these processes. My relationships to fashion, Buffy, working out, media, etc. are mediated by a past thick with stories, and I’ve been so lucky to find a place where I can write my way through these connections. Shaking out readings, reviews, and interpretations through the sieve of my experience is what I do, how I think, and if anything has been heartening in the past few years of idling, it’s been the acceptance, and understanding, and thanks I’ve received for sharing what could easily be read as solipsistic journalings.
What I so desperately and intensely appreciate in the work of my favorite writers and comedians is their ability to reroute our paths to the truth. Sharing pain and shame and fear is powerful and instead of pretending to be above or beyond it, speaking at the level of the shit that brings us down has the incredible power of also rerouting our cultural and emotional responses to what is real and how it is perceived. If I’ve created even one teensy droplet of that magical work, attempted that bravery, or at least sold one person on the possibility that such bravery matters, I am contented and fulfilled.
As The Idler comes to a close, I find myself still struggling with the ghosts of depression and anxiety, but I am so very much stronger now. This writing has helped me. Having writing deadlines at all has been useful, finding feedback that is sweet and thoughtful and caring and supportive has been healing. Reacquainting myself with play, fun, and humor again has been a blast but it’s also helped me remember who I am at my core (a Betty Boop librarian in a Parisian salon full of dogs who read books).
So, I just have to say, thank you for reading, sharing, responding. Thanks for the conversations, with a shout out to Bob Hope, thanks for the memories. You could say all of this idling may have been silly, may have “just” been more blogging out into the sprawling interweb maw of a million voices, may have been a stupid distraction keeping me from more important, professional, or better work, but as a wise dude once said, “yeah, well, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.”
Ana Holguin writes PopHeart for The Idler.