The Vagaries of Emotional Cycles

Today was a rest day. Not that I actually schedule rest days—I only have days of high activity, high productivity days, terrible days, and rest days. I like days when I’m active—I get up and move around, even go outside; I talk to people; I do the crossword; I write, draw, or play the piano—anything that rouses the circulation at least a little, anything that puts some spark in those brainwaves.


Such activity inevitably leads to a productive period. I’ll record some piano music; I’ll write op-ed-type essays; I’ll scan in some old artwork or I’ll photo-shop my artwork and my photos, whatever I usually do when I feel like I’m involved in life, even if only peripherally. The ultimate goal is to ‘Post’ things to my online friend-circles—a finished recording, a proofread essay, some graphic artwork of my own creation. Not everything I write gets posted—and I’ll tell you why I’m glad about that. If I was comfortable posting everything I wrote, I wouldn’t be getting at the heart of things that are important to me.


And that’s probably the same reason I can’t get a toe-hold on any fiction-writing—if I wrote about things I care about, things I felt are too personal to share with ‘the public’, even in fiction form, I would feel too exposed. Plus, all my characters would be transparent ‘takes’ on the people closest to me—my family and friends. So, even if I was comfortable laying myself open to the world at large, I wouldn’t feel right using people I care about as characters in a story. Sometimes, when I’m reading something, I’ll wonder to myself about the author and whether he or she felt embarrassed about certain scenes or dialogues, especially when it involved recognizable characters from their actual life.


Anyway, it’s not for me. I don’t think I could write an intimate love-scene and be okay with my children reading it, or my mother, or my neighbors, or really anybody—no, writing fiction is for thicker-skinned people than me. And I see no point to writing fiction that can’t be shared with the world. Still, I can write essays to myself about myself—that falls under the heading of ‘therapy’ (like those letters they tell you to write and then tear up when you’re mad at somebody). And I have felt certain instances of clarity that came as a result of putting my thoughts and feelings into words.


But I often rant about public issues and historical perspectives and my ideas about what’s going on in the world—and those I can gladly post. Likewise, a lot of my piano recordings don’t make it to YouTube. Some days I record 45, 50 minutes of piano, but have to edit out everything but the six-to-twelve minutes of Improv (when there is an Improv). And my drawings, too, are edited and selected for posting, with many being too poorly drawn or too weird to share with the world. My productive days always follow my active days, but sadly my active days don’t always result in productivity—a lot of being good is working and practicing, and I’m hard enough to listen to when I’m recording intentionally for a YouTube posting!


That’s my active days and my productive days—then there’s the recoil. After posting a particularly felicitous piano improv, or essay, or poem, there’s a feeling of incompleteness—and the better I feel about a post, the more it hurts to watch it just lie there, no likes, no plays, no comments. Some days, when I feel I’ve reached a new quantum-level of quality, I could almost scream, “Why won’t anyone look or read or listen? How can this incredible effort go unnoticed?!?”


The truth is, I avoid the usual means suggested for building an online following—building my list of contacts and followers, posting my stuff to a site that is a platform for a specific art form, ‘liking’ other people’s posts to get them to feel obliged to return the favor… All that stuff reminds me of my old ‘mailing-list’ days, when very ambitious entrepreneurs would start a catalog mailing just to acquire a list of people who were proven likely to buy something from an expensive (‘high-ticket’) retail catalog. All these tips about networking and building a client base aren’t really new—they’re just new as an online activity. And it’s all salesmanship—it requires the same brain activity as selling cars: the oily friendliness, the tempting of the prospect’s ego, the jabs at the prospect’s sense of inadequacy, and the mind-games of ‘closing’ the sale.


It’s all hucksterism—and I used to get paid to do it professionally—I’m not even a little bit inclined to do it as a ‘hobby’. Plus, while I knew the techniques of ad-copywriting, targeted marketing, eye-catching layouts, and glossy presentation, I was never good at the face-to-face stuff. I’ve never been good with people, unless they were as guileless as I am—babies and pets seem to love me—big clients and movers and shakers—not so much.


So my online followers are few and I have no plans to try to increase their number except through random happenstance. That doesn’t change my despair at having no hits on my latest post, but it does explain how I can hold on to the conceit that I might be good at something, while having no practical indication of that possibility from my ‘audience’ of friends and relations.


So, productivity must give way to the whiplash of recoil—I put it out there, and nothing comes back—these make for bad days—and that’s over and above the ‘bad’ days of my physical functioning. These are days when I listen to my video over and over, asking myself, “Is it really good? Or am I too close to tell?” And I read my essays over and over. Sometimes I’ll find a typo, or a grammatical lapse—but mostly I just read them repeatedly, asking myself if I’m saying something worth hearing, or am I just making an ass of myself?


Better are the rest days. These rest days come when I’ve done a lot over a short time span, my fingers are stiff, my mind is fuzzy and I don’t even try to do anything more just yet—and I am still high enough off my creativity-buzz that I don’t think about anyone else’s response to my stuff. I tell myself, “Just take it easy—you’ll be feeling better tomorrow.”


6 responses to “The Vagaries of Emotional Cycles

  1. Actually, I think along somewhat the same lines. My problem is not so much will anyone be interested, but more along the lines of will I be able to /be interested in reading it later? I can’t read my teenage diaries…well, I can, but I need a reason to. I’ve started dozens of diaries/journals since, and they all peter out. I can’t see any intrinsic value in the writing. I know the value is there; I just can’t see it.

    • I have similar difficulties, but I’ve settled in to the Grumpy Old ‘Andy Rooney” essay format. I just write, no preparation and never with more than a germ of an idea. I also stop when ‘it’ stops, and go back to it in the next day or two. Then I need to decide if it’s worth sharing, or if it stays undisclosed. I find that’s a real important security blanket–I write on, and tell myself, well, you’re not posting this one!
      And sometimes in turns out better than I thought–or I might find a big paragraph that just has to go, and all of a sudden, it’s share-able.
      I spend so much time alone I get used to ‘talking’ to my computer–so it’s hardly like writing at all…

  2. “and the better I feel about a post, the more it hurts to watch it just lie there, no likes, no plays, no comments. Some days, when I feel I’ve reached a new quantum-level of quality, I could almost scream, “Why won’t anyone look or read or listen? How can this incredible effort go unnoticed?!?””
    OK, Here’s a completely INSANE suggestion, if you were to do a weeks worth of music and only got to pick ONE you thought was the best, to post, could you live with that ?? or is it better the usual way to post post post post post post post post post post post post post post post post post post post post post till it’s like firing bullets at people. I had one lady I was following who posted 17 times one day, I wrote her a scathing reply of how it was impossible to write quality poetry like that
    and immediately stopped following her !! I would love to hear your best piece each week but can not find it in a rainfall of posts!

    • Yes, I was afraid that was the case.. But it’s all one thing, for me. I don’t pick one and say ‘that’s the best one this week’. I just keep doing it and I keep sharing it out–but I don’t expect all of it to be seen–I guess I’ve just been leaving the editing to whoever gets my post-notifications….

      • That’s the lesson of the open mic’s, better to have one good song that you can say with pride that you know when you played it perfectly than a 100 you can play less than perfectly.For me personally I have less than 10 songs that I can start the metronome and play perfectly from start to finish and still not every time tho I still getting better at it every day !!

  3. Well, I’m different–if the way I layed it out in ‘types of days’ misled you to the notion that I decide any of these activities, I must refer you to my social skills–which I think you’ll agree, are not the very best of my doings, online or off. Compulsive–that’s me.

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