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Why I Write, and Why I Don't

Journal Entry: Mon Nov 16, 2009, 7:30 AM
  • Mood: Tired
  • Reading: Tobias Buckell
  • Watching: Bones
  • Drinking: Chocolate Milk
I was a pompous little girl, and I grew up to be a pompous teenager, and I suspect that I am a pompous adult who thinks too much of her own opinions. I was also an insecure little girl, a very unhappy teenager, and I am now a very frightened adult with fuzzy opinions and too many words with which to express them.

      I suppose, all said, I’m normal enough. I talk and write and am just as other people, and I get through my days through the skin of my teeth.

      I used to have to brush off people who would tell me that I was “destined” to be a writer. Fluency in language was not a future set in stone, and I knew too many people who taught what they could not do, and too many people who did not do what they could. Being a Writer is a lonely business, or a drunken business, and given today’s market not a business at all unless you’re very lucky indeed – there are many narratives of The Writer, and only one of me.

      Reading, however, is free, and it set me free. I was reading fluently before I was six, and winning applause from teachers from then on because I could string together a sentence. (It went to my head.)  I read through a snotty and rather lonely childhood, and I was alienated both because I could find no one to truly talk to and because I had a filthy temper.

      And so when I needed to talk, I wrote. I write even now because it is the only time I find myself capable of being honest (even when I lie). I write because words are a beautiful thing that make intangible unrealities real. (Politicians and Priests have known this long before I was born, and will long after I die.)

      The first time I thought, of my accord, strongly and in a way that persists even today, of being a writer (or even a Writer), I was nine. I wanted to be Enid Blyton. I wanted to fill up blank pages with words that would later fill up empty spaces within someone else’s head. I thought of little girls and little boys who read my books and were happy because they had needed someone, something, like me. And so I did write. On scraps of paper I threw away later, in a fairly predictable teen-angsted diary, for school competitions, for class.

      I kept almost nothing that I wrote purely for myself, but I did write for myself, all the time when I was not reading, or slowly learning what one could or could not do in a social environment. (It always seemed like there were rules that everyone knew but me, and so I made worlds where no one knew the rules, and they’d all have to ask me.)

      Whether it is because of the reading, or the writing, or the talking – and most obviously, because of all three – I found myself introspectively verbalizing my life as I went. Every word went forth encased in quotation marks, and it is a pity that spoken words cannot be edited in anything other than hindsight. I began to write for myself more deliberately, and I began to keep what I wrote, and more importantly to show it to other people for myself as well as them. There would be no prizes, no scores, no academic credit.  

      One of the greatest lies children are told, or tell themselves, is that they’ll know – anything, everything, themselves, what to do with themselves – when they are older. Adult. One of the greatest lies voracious readers tell themselves is that there is always a story. There is a grand narrative. Successful lives are lived to the hilt, emotions felt at screaming pitch. Even Heathcliff’s life is better than a mundane one lived in routine complacency. Happiness is a wild singing emotion that bubbles in one’s blood and through one’s eyes. Intensity is beautiful, normalcy is only so from the right angle, in the right person. These are hard standards to live up to.

      As I grew older, as I moved closer to a time when I would live, or ought to live, unsupported, I found that there would be no sudden adult certainties, that I would still be alone, that there would be no answers, that getting up in the morning would always remain something I would have to find the strength within to manage. Intensity came to me only as a dull unhappiness that something was missing, and it was missing inside myself. The world would not provide me with my own coherent internal narrative to light my way.  It never would.

      And so I’ve spent three years recently where the words dried up. It is difficult to explain, and shameful to admit. The words dried up, and when they did come forth they refused to let themselves be seen. Something would not let me talk. Or write, or be read. I was empty, and I scrambled to hide what felt like a gaping visible hole from the people around me. I felt a sense of accomplishment sometimes that no one seemed to notice until I took to bed and didn’t get out. When it was too exhausting to pretend anymore.

      Today my doctor tells me I’m clinically depressed, and I’m doing much better, and it is not my fault. Nothing is my fault.  But it is still very difficult to write, and very difficult to say what is wrong, and very difficult to say, This will not happen again, with anything approximating honesty.

      It might happen again. It was my fault. The only thing that stops me is me. I believe, pompously and insecurely, that I am different. I believe, pompously and insecurely, that I have nothing new and nothing interesting to say, and in any case no skill to speak of. I am forced into silence by my own misfit with the unspoken rules of society that I do not understand and do not know and may not exist in the first place. I am a mass of contradictions around no center.

      At the same time, I am surrounded by love, support, intelligence.

      It is laughably easy to see that I cripple myself with my own fear, my own shame, my own helpless unhappiness. It is ridiculously difficult to do something about it.

      And yet – one must write.

      The only reason I have to write is my own self – I see, think and express in words, I put everything that happens in words, editing as I go. On very good days, or very intense days, or very bad days, I can see those words as they would look on a white page, see how they would sound as they were read out loud by a narrator with a lovely voice. I write because words are the only certainties I have, and they too numerous to keep within; there are too many people who are kind enough to listen, to read, to say, this can change and this need not. You’re fine.

      So I have learned to rationalise, to pay attention while I internalise, to epistemologise my self.  

      My left brain is my logical, language-based-and-operating me, my right (or non dominant) is more emotional, the storing place for negative memories. It commands my flight or fight response. The right brain is also my id - so it wants instant gratification or nothing at all. This all-or-nothing response doesn't respond well to larger tasks, or tasks that take time, or tasks that are difficult, because gratification - the completion of the task, or the reward for finishing the task - is not instant. So since it cannot have everything and have it right now, it walks away. And so I walk away from talking, from writing, from finding out what I am and what I may want to do. I walk away from asking the questions, I walk away from answers, and I walk away from the solace that it might okay not to have any answers at all.

      While my left brain is insisting, Just do it!, my right brain is screaming, Don't! This push-and-pull jostling between the two impulses freezes me before flight-or-fight. I don’t give up, I don't do the thing I want to do. I stall or delay or do something else to fill in the time.

      I look at myself from the outside, and there are so many of me, so few, and we are all the same person. Over this year, I have found very few answers, very few certainties. But I must write. It is the only call I still have, and the only one that I think may be able to answer.

      There are cheats to help me function. I have had to change the way I look at action, be it of writing or of getting out of bed. I do not now sit and try to complete a self-set writing assignment. I do not set assignments at all. I merely spend a pre-set chunk of time writing a first draft.

      Firsts drafts are by definition bad.

      I find this a very effective cheat. If all I have to do is spend time writing, I do not need to worry about how “good” or how readable I am. I merely need to write. It is the only way I manage.

      Sadly, it’s not easy. Insecurities do not stay tucked away just because I declare a time-out. Ideas do not always show up for an appointment.

      But it is... interesting. It means being organised. It means that at the end of the day, I have something that has been done. Not necessarily done completely, or done to my satisfaction. But it’s done.

      And as I go I find I have several things that I do want to talk about, and whether I intend to or not they show up on the page, unmistakably mine. They might be other people’s too, but I’m saying them here.

      I write about finding people, even while I myself am lost. I write about the safety that can be found outside of oneself. I write about internalizing another person, about love and hatred. I write about many voices, speaking in many ways.

      I write nothing that seems very new, or very old, or very brilliant. Everyday I need to remind myself that writing is not meant to be a particular Thing. My writing is not someone outside of myself, no matter how much it looks as though it might be.

      It need not be easy. It will often be hard. It will not always be under my control, and sometimes it will be whether I want it to be or not. It will not match the arbitrary standards I have set for it, and all it will ever do is expose more of myself than I am comfortable with in public or in private.

      I am learning that that is enough.

:iconwriteaway: :iconproseplease: :iconfantasywritersunited: :iconvisuallit: :iconwordcount: :iconlitffs:

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RomaV
RVM
Artist
India
Personal Quote: I have a heart of gold. Too bad the rest of me is pure bitch.

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:iconhelewidis:
Helewidis Featured By Owner Jul 16, 2010   Photographer
Hey you! :hug:
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:iconoceangirl:
oceangirl Featured By Owner Jul 13, 2010
i'll call when im back.

and im back in september/october.
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:iconjonathoncomfortreed:
jonathoncomfortreed Featured By Owner Jun 1, 2010  Student Photographer
Thank you for your interest in :iconthewrittenrevolution:, we're delighted to have you!
Welcome to the revolution. :salute:

Please take a look at our contest, we'd love to have you participate. It ends soon! :tighthug:
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:icontangledweb:
tangledweb Featured By Owner Nov 11, 2009  Professional General Artist
Thanks! :hug: Good to see you. :)
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:iconromav:
RomaV Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2009
:) I'm getting back in the game. Slowly.
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:iconoceangirl:
oceangirl Featured By Owner Nov 26, 2008
Where are you?
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:iconromav:
RomaV Featured By Owner Dec 10, 2008
In Bangalore at the moment.
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:iconoceangirl:
oceangirl Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2009
are you still using the same number?
the 59057 one

i shall give you a call sometime

what are you doing in bangalore? working?
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:iconxxxfearofperfectionx:
i miss you
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