i know you’re busy

An acquaintance got in touch with me on Instagram last week to ask if I wanted to grab a beer sometime over the next few days. We’ve never gotten a beer together, and it would’ve been nice to break that in, but normally I clam up at these offers cuz I start thinking right away of how and where I’ll make the time, and which bits of work will have to be neglected, how much money I’ll have to set aside–but then the friend told me not to fret about it because, as she put it, “I know you’re really busy.”

This is a new development in my life: people not only acknowledging that I’m doing my artsy writing thing, but respecting it. I was fortunate enough to know what I wanted to do for a living back when I was ten or eleven, and I’ve been doing it and talking about it a lot since then, so everyone in my life has always, to some extent, kinda known what I’m up to, if only in a vague way, and I think it’s always been understood that I take this writing thing pretty seriously and that I spend a lotta time on it…but it’s really only as of the past year or so that people seem to actually be according me some respect about it. They’ll ask me about it at bars and parties and look interested.

But I’m wondering if maybe what they were always uninterested in was words themselves. The novelist Ian McEwan said in an interview that you’ll start to notice, as a reader or writer, that most people don’t hold either activity in high esteem. His example was this: you’re in your office, you’re reading, somebody calls you and you let the call go to voicemail. Keep reading. A little later, when you’re ready, you call them back.

They ask what you were busy with when they called.

You tell them, “Sorry, I was reading.”

They balk. “You couldn’t put your book down for one minute?”

On the other hand, McEwan says, if you were playing a game of tennis and somebody called, and you ignored that call , only to return it an hour later and tell the caller, “Sorry I missed you, I was playing tennis,” would they react the same way? Would they ask, like with reading, why you couldn’t just put the racket down and asnwer your phone?

They wouldn’t.

Serving, Mark Smollin

And yet, McEwan says, surely reading is as important as tennis.

I think I’ve noticed among my peers a love-hate relationship with the written word. We’re probably all a little traumatized by all the miserable shit we had to read and write through school, which makes us standoffish from books, but reading is also venerated as like a wholesome, timeless, disciplined practice. I find now that when talking with people at bars or going on dates people will tell me, with a contrite wince, that they “should really read more,” as if it’s some kind of moral failure that they don’t do much of it.

Whatever the case: this acquaintance’s invitation, followed by an amiable deferral to my work, brought a few other recent encounters to mind where people flashed some respect for me and for the Project. It’s really nice, and I’m wondering what promtped their impressiont aht I’m serious about stuff.

Is it the consistency of the blog?

Is it the scope?

It does seem to coincide with the point at which these diary posts started picking up momentum. Is it something to do with confession, vulnerability

If you’re one of these folks who’ve come around to seeing the Project as a more serious venture, may I ask what prompted that impression? Go ahead and lemme know in either the comments below or a private email at this link.

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