My girlfriend thinks I’m more of a writer than an artist. She says that my words are “amazing”. I think she’s an incredibly talented and intelligent woman, who clearly has questionable taste in men… so there’s that.
She’s so innately kind that I can’t help but wonder if her praise of my prose is actually a polite way to say that my art sucks and that I should quit wasting all the good paint that she could use to create her 137th masterpiece. Obviously, I’m the pessimist in the relationship…but in an adorably charming way I assure you.
I’ve long been in love with language and the wonder of words, but does that, in itself, make me a writer? Fuck if I know…Thomas Mann said that “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people”. If that’s true, then maybe I am.
Writing, for me, can be an agonizing and excruciating process. The sense of unburdened relief that arrives after I’ve managed to dredge words from the trenches of myself could only be likened to the new lease on life one experiences after having passed a kidney stone.
It took four cups of coffee to write this sentence, and I’m not even sure what to say next. There are writers whose pens swoon over the page under the sway of syntax already perfectly formed in the solidity of their own minds, but I’m damn sure not one of them. My words seem to arrive only through an unstable cadence, stumbling across the keys like a drunk staggering out of a bar at last call; clumsy, undignified, unsteady, less than cognizant, and trying, quite unconvincingly, to function under the duress of a profound impairment. As the writer of these rambling ruminations I am no more aware of what the next turn of a phrase will hold or impart than the reader.
Honestly, I don’t know who or what I am anymore.
My hesitance is showing and my surety is in short supply. My reluctance rises, vaporous and encircling. My terror twists in it’s incorporeality yet, it is unmistakably immanent in it’s palpability. I am tense and terrified, frightened and unsure, but, somehow, in the process of writing, I find a way to fight the fear that frays the ends of truth. I whole-heartedly agree with Madeleine L’ Engle when she says “I learned a lot about writing…not…because…anybody taught me anything academically – but simply from doing it in order to survive.”
In most of my daily activities, I can avoid directly acknowledging my anxiety and worries; I keep my hands busy, my gaze averted, and hope that maybe if I’m real quiet all my soot covered thoughts will go away. After all, why acknowledge today, what I can repress until tomorrow….or until I die…or whatever… But, in writing I am unavoidably forced to come face to face with my fears, and, fuck me, there’s a lot of them. Turns out they are more patient than I presumed. They’re standing behind me right now…aren’t they?
I am full of clash and clatter, and in order for me to write with honesty and authenticity I have no choice but to reach into the calamitous torrent of noise charging in my chest. I snatch at the restless cycle of swirling voices, and pull words into the small spaces of quiet at my core where the silence can find space to speak.
Terry Tempest Williams says that “I write to listen. I write out of silence. I write to soothe the voices shouting inside me, outside me, all around.” I know exactly what she means. I sit at my desk and I write because I’m scared, scarred, and lonely, and it’s the only way I know in which to let that trembling exhaustion and frightened loneliness have a voice, and on so many bleak days I need to find a reason to go on.
I want to make art but, I “need” to write. I didn’t realize how imperative this was to my own sanity and well-being until recently. For a while, I had managed to get into a good rhythm of writing daily. I found my way to my desk in the wee hours of the morning and in the process found a fluidity of words waiting below the surface of the tired ache. I discovered little sparks of magical language dusting the spaces between the keys and taking flight in the percussion of letters being tapped out upon a screen, like fireflies cascading across the dark. But, a rupture made its way into the routine, the tiredness started to take over, and it just got easier to hide within the fearsome noise. Shit got dark…even for me.
I realized that writing for me really isn’t about writing at all. Its about cultivating a kind form of objective listening; a listening that depersonalizes the interiority of my brokenness and objectifies it into something comprehensible. It’s about catharsis. It’s about summoning the courage to send the cancer of my own cowardice into remission.
James Victor‘s says that it’s “The brave ones…who risk comfort and safety for a chance at beauty and meaning” that “have the potential to attain more—to actually move someone.”
Nothing about the process feels particularly brave or courageous, but there’s an interesting turning of the tables that transpires here, where the hunted becomes the hunter, and we begin chasing what chases us.
Maybe bravery doesn’t mean you’re fearless. Maybe it means you’re scared shitless but you keep showing up anyway. Maybe it means you’re fearful yet radically functional.
May you find the space of silence to listen deeply with kindness.
May you summon the courage to risk comfort for the sake of creating meaning.
May you be brave enough to search for beauty, even when you’re fearful as fuck.
If you got any value out of this essay, consider supporting my work by buying me a coffee.
Keep showing up, Keep doing the work, FAIL BOLDLY, and let’s make something meaningful!