[On a personal note...]
This blog is 3 months old today. Not a significant time-marker, really, although if this blog were an infant born in certain villages in
I do my best thinking while moving. Because of this, I walk everywhere. Whatever the weather, at any time of the day or night, I walk, sometimes just in big circles around the neighborhood. I used to live in a place where it was necessary to walk everywhere- there were simply no other feasible transportation options- and I think that it changed me, because now, even though there are buses and trains and taxis, I’d always rather walk. So I’m walking home, and I’m thinking.
Lately the issue that’s been troubling me is how to think about this writing this blog. I actually didn’t start this as an end in itself. I had writer’s block, I needed to do something to get myself past it, and coincidentally I had just fallen in love with hockey, so I decided to write about hockey. But it sort of started to take over- I’d be sitting in a café trying to plow through Esfahan Nesf-e-Jahan and find my margins filled with scribbled speculations on the aesthetics of penalty-killing and the spiritual appeal of enforcers. At first I was embarrassed. This is not worth my time, is it? This is not my real life, is it? This is not paid, this is not meaningful, this is not a contribution to society. It’s blogging, for Christ’s sake. But, for some mysterious reason, it turns out I enjoy writing about hockey, and thinking about it, and talking about it, and this little side project has become unexpectedly fulfilling.
And, more unexpectedly, semi-successful. Yes, this is still the fringes of hockey blogistan. Maybe not Siberia, but not far off- the Mongolian steppe or the
Along with this, though, has come the realization that I am not entirely a small island unto myself. There’s an Audience out there, an Audience with particular expectations. I wonder what those expectations are. I find myself looking at other people’s writing and wondering if I am expected to write more like that.
Sometimes someone says something about you that, while intended to be kind, sets off a highly unpleasant bout of introspection. I accidentally did this to Tapeleg when I referred to him in a comment as a ‘patron saint of aspiring hockey bloggers’, and in karmic retribution Tom Benjamin did it to me by commenting that I was ‘unsullied by any understanding of the business or politics of the sport’. I know it was meant nicely, but it made me wonder if I am really so naïve, and why that is. The more hockey blogs, or hockey writing generally, that I read, the more I realize that I do not talk about the same things as most people who write about hockey. One by one various ‘hot’ issues have passed like waves through the internet, and I have more or less ignored them all- the Vote for Rory Campaign, the schedule, the All-Star Game, the trade deadline. And I wonder, why don’t I talk about these things? It’s not as though I have no opinions about them, they are interesting and worthy topics, and I’ve often enjoyed reading others’ thoughts on them. I just can’t seem to get motivated to jump into these discussions. The more I read about hockey, the more I realize how abnormal that is. These are the sort of things that are, apparently, supposed to ignite the passions of hockey fans. While it’s easy to say ‘write for yourself, write what you want’, it can be difficult to do that over time- there’s a need to fit in that comes with the realization that one is not alone. So I’d been thinking a lot about adapting or modifying the overall thrust and tone of the blog.
The most important question is what one wants- not the writing itself, but the desire that drives it. And that’s what I’m thinking about, this particular day, walking home. What do people want, that makes them do this thing?
All over hockey blogistan, people are wanting things. Wanting to be GMs and coaches and journalists and commissioners and commentators. Wanting to make trades and negotiate salaries, to change line combinations and develop prospects. Wanting to break stories, find new information, get press access, interview players. Wanting to spread, analyze, and debate rumors. Wanting to create new rules and abrogate others, to market the sport, to improve attendance. Wanting to entertain, to joke, to make friends and influence people. Wanting to crunch numbers and find out, once and for all, who is really the best player. Wanting, like an NHL messiah, to Save Hockey. Even though it is only blogging, people seem to have a sense of mission- they want to persuade or advocate or illuminate or inform each other about various features of the sport. People have desires.
My problem, however, is that I don’t know what I want, but whatever it is, it doesn’t seem to be what I should want. I do not want power over the team or the League. I am not adept at journalistic writing and honestly don’t know what I would do with that sort of access. And, really, I suck at making friends and influencing people. Even when I try, I can’t seem to talk about the schedule, or the trade deadline, or the NHL’s television contracts, or attendance data, or which players might be fun to hang out with. Hockey just doesn’t come to me in that way.
I must want something from hockey. This blog, and the fanaticism which attends it, are taking up too much of my time and my thoughts not to be motivated by some sort of desire. So why is it that I think I can see other peoples’ wanting so clearly, but not my own?
It’s a bright, frigid day, the air smells clean the way only really, really cold air can. My walk takes me through the park, and I pause for a moment, like I always do, at the top of the rise to look down at the outdoor rink, and the 9 very determined people swirling around on it.
I say it out loud before I think about it. It’s so obvious it doesn’t even require thought, it’s been sitting right on my front page all week. Ask the internet a question, even unconsciously, and eventually it will give you an answer. Everybody wants to…
My brain laughs at me. No, it says, you are perhaps a scholar, perhaps a writer. You are for archives and lecture halls. You are for impenetrable articles in obscure journals and photographs of ruined buildings in distant cities. You are for translating crumbling manuscripts in dust-choked libraries, hands streaked with red rot. It is a good enough life. It has been good enough for you.
I say it again.
No, says my Very Rational Brain, that’s crazy. You are too small, too clumsy, too fragile. You are too old, too female, too American. You would suck. You would break yourself. You wouldn’t even know where to begin.
I say it again, my breath making tiny clouds in the air.
I want to play.