yeah, write

2006-02-03 00:44:12 -0800

I sat down with hundreds of eager thoughts, but the empty page nearly brought me to tears. Alas, it took a full sentence to pull that trick. Writing and crying. This is home, is it not?

Am I a writer?

What a terribly frightening question. I think I think like a writer. But I have not exhibited the patience of a writer. Nor the discipline. Nor the words. That doesn't make for much of a writer now, does it? I haven't cracked a dictionary in months, digital or otherwise. And, no, it's not because every word I desire comes to mind effortlessly. Funny how a neat, orderly collection of words has come to represent to me what writing is all about, and yet what writing is really all about winds up making a complete mess of that tidiness. Let you in on a secret: I just used a dictionary to find a synonym for "order" as a better last word in that sentence. Another secret: I didn't really just use a dictionary; I wrote that sentence knowing that I would eventually do what I said therein. Still another secret: none of these sentences have survived with their original phrasing intact.

I'm just full of secrets this morning, aren't I? But isn't anything I haven't written a secret? A secret hidden in silence or forgotten memory? On the other hand, are my long-neglected scrawls in notebooks any less forgotten? Potentiality does not invest a thing with substance. Ouch. That stings. How often have I put off taking action because I knew that I could? What a fool! Of course I can! But canning a thing is not doing it. Doing it is doing it. And little else matters.

How does a writer stay focused? How does a good writer say the simple truths in no more words than it takes to understand them, and yet no fewer than it takes to convey them effectively. Was "effectively" one word too many there? Can I succeed in making you, dear reader, as self-conscious of my poor writing as I am? What a fool! Of course I can! But canning a thing is not doing it. See above.

The temptation to gush is now too strong. I felt like I was starting to write again right there. It felt good. It felt indulgent, even. My cockiness and arrogance started to ooze out of my fingertips in goops of molten self-indulgence. I looked over my newly minted sentences with guilty pride and thought, "Sure they need some polishing, but my don't they look fine, these words I've arranged here so cleverly." I was quite pleased with myself. Look how nicely it all flows! Look how it rewards the careful reader with its lightly-veiled wittiness and sage, worldly wisdom! Look at all of the rules and guidelines for good writers that I am following so diligently! And the humble, self-deprecating tone! Brilliant!

Then, as I start to count the exclaimation marks in what I begin to recognize as dross, I feel the crushing grip of doubt around my chest. I am an amateur. A dilettante. Not even a hack. At least a hack finishes. Insufferable. This is why I stopped pretending to write. This is why I quit. This is why I am unhappy now. Because I want to be a writer, but I don't want to work to get there. Because I am lazy. Because I am no longer able to suspend the disbelief that anyone would really want to read my drivel.

Just to read? No, not just that. To learn from. To be persuaded by. To be entertained by. To be moved by. To be motivated by. Why else does a person write? To be heard? Do I want to be heard? What do I have to say that's worth hearing? I don't even know what I've got to say that I want to hear myself. Not quite inspiring, I must admit. Am I teaching myself, persuading myself, entertaining myself, moving myself, motivating myself? Am I hearing myself?

Yes. Yes, I am hearing myself. And it's a tedious titter that I hear.

Sandy's comment a while ago that I whine when I write hurt. Because it's true. And I know that it's true. I know it quite well. Like an invalid knows his affliction. To know, the invalid doesn't need someone to scrape their dirty, unmanicured fingernails across his wounds and—after having examined the fresh blood undernail—pronounce the name of the affliction. If you know what I mean. If you don't, then I'm a bad writer. If you tell me I'm a bad writer: get your bloody fingernails out of my wound; if you don't: I appreciate your humoring me.