A couple of years ago I was having a pint on the patio of a pub in the English village of Naunton. I was there to meet an old friend I hadn’t seen in twenty-five years, and since I had walked the five mile footpath from Bourton-on the-Water at a brisker than normal pace, I arrived an hour earlier than planned. At the table to my left sat three rather dapper looking old gents, all three sheets to the wind. Their fourth companion was a three legged dog, a lurcher oddly out of place in the company of such aristocratic looking Englishmen. I soon learned that they were old mates from their days at Oxford and were on an annual country pub crawl, an inebriated tradition they had steadfastly kept for the past fifty years. When I asked about the dog, its ‘owner’s’ face beamed with happiness (or it could have been the result of the copious amount of wine he had drunk) as he told me how much the dog means to him. As the Oxford foursome got up to leave, he turned to me and said, “I’m just glad he can’t speak, because he’d ruin my f—king life.”
Writing is my three-legged lurcher, and it speaks. Every time I put my own words on paper and show them to anyone—especially editors at publishing houses—I am struck by an irrational fear that what I wrote, somehow, will ruin my f—king life. Or at the very least, cause me embarrassment. To some, that might mean the same thing.
Writing, to paraphrase Nietzsche, is dangerous. You put yourself and your reputation at risk every time you hit the submit button or drop a manuscript into a postal box. It’s like sending who you think is your well-behaved child off to her first day of school. After all your work at teaching her manners and self-discipline, she might actually behave like a spoiled brat as soon as she steps on the bus. And you might actually be a terrible parent. Your offspring—and in the case of writing it is truth, your truth—is no longer exclusively yours and will be judged for years to come by anonymous strangers.
My colleagues tell me that blogging is writing where the stakes are low. Still, I wouldn’t bet on it. But I’ll keep writing everyday, stumbling blindly along like poor old Oedipus, rambling on like I am in this blog post.
Oedipus—the worst child and the most terrible parent imaginable—too is a figure of writing. Poor Oedipus had no idea that solving the riddle of the Sphynx would ruin his f—king life. How could he have known that he himself was the riddle’s answer? Or that, blind and destined to walk with a cane the rest of his life, he would become the three-legged lurcher that the third part of the riddle pronounced?