Discover more from Bwood
Me: "I hate attention!" Also me: "Let me tell you about all my insecurities."
Plus a lot of Nancy comics
Last week, when I wrote about hot pots, more people read my newsletter than I expected. I had a grand total of 55 views. I also learned that in the last year I made 6 cents from my posts about language learning on Medium, meaning someone actually read them and also that I “earned money from writing.” This is nerve-racking for me. I write because I enjoy the process and learn from it, and I occasionally put it out in the world because I think I have something valuable worth sharing. In the case of the Medium posts, I know there are a lot of people out there who are looking for language learning strategies, and I have done research on language acquisition, so I have something to offer them. With these newsletters, I want to give my friends a glimpse into the type of things I am thinking about and doing when I’m not at the party or on the group text. I want to have a way to share my silly comics that I draw, because I know it will make them smile. I make it public-ish because there might be other friends out there that I don’t know about yet. Also, being public is what we millennials do.
And that’s the scary part. Today, being public is both expected and dangerous. Thankfully DipDipDip Tatsuya doesn’t have any gun toting alt-right fans out there trying to defend their object of affection from criticism, but what if one day I slip in something seemingly innocuous about video games or Star Wars? Or locally, I have opinions on politics and real estate in Austin. Will I endanger myself with these opinions?
Part of me desires attention, and feels like I am not a whole person without the fifteen minutes of celebrity promised every American. The idea that attention confers value is pervasive. In the recent Little Women, Jo and Amy argue about if publishing something makes the subject important, or if the work gets published because its subject is already important. There’s no consideration of how things can be invisible and important at the same time. In their case, it’s because they are using art as a pathway to economic viability. Alcott’s family had to beg for food. She had to find a way to turn her private art, friend-fanfiction that she wanted to share only with her loved ones, into capital A Art in order to survive. Today we live during another time of financial precarity and have been told over and over again that personal branding and side hustles are the way to stay afloat. I want no one thinking about me or having any opinions about me at all, ever, but today invisibility seems like death.
Then there’s the contrarian part of me, the “wild aloof rebel” that pushes against the mainstream. The recognition that what changes society (or you) is what challenges it. That part of me says that the most radical thing you can do is be analog, local, unbranded, and small. Intellectually, I agree with this. Emotionally, advocating for avoiding attention sounds like suggesting we all join some thanatist cult and wait on the roof for aliens to pick us up.
I’m reading a book about the value of invisibility right now, Akiko Busch’s How to Disappear (https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/531833/how-to-disappear-by-akiko-busch/) I might have more fully fleshed out thoughts about this in the future instead of my whining that a whole FIFTY-FIVE people read something that I purposefully put out into the world. In the meantime, as is usually the case, the best summary of my feelings come from a stranger’s tweet:
I’m adding a new segment called “Cat of the Week.” Here’s the first:
Cat of the Week
One of my friends on Twitter said that they just found out that their favorite “painting” was actually a woodblock print. Looking at it, I am surprised as well, surprised and impressed.
The print is called “Puss Napping,” and I love the uncertainty that it captures. What will happen when the cat opens his eyes? Will he, clearly a gumbie cat, be too lazy to care about the mice? Will he attack the mice? Will they attack him? Maybe they are old friends and he’ll welcome them in for a snug.