Something starts to become clear to me, and so I have the urge to write it down. I write it down and once it is in place in front of me in the form of clean, digital type, I start to believe that I have stated an absolute truth or received a few words that surely came from God.
Inevitably, life presents me with odd angles and curveballs that prevent me from moving forward with all of the neat straight lines and boxes I made for myself, and I become frustrated and confused. And so, I turn to writing as a form of catharsis, and to sort things out. I don’t sit down with the expectation that I have all or any of the answers, but that they will surely come to me as I continue to chug along with my typing and thinking.
From this, I either get clarity, or simply more of the exact same writing I’ve been producing for decades. If I get clarity, then I start to let those clear insights stew in me for awhile, and return to write them down in as pristine a form as possible.
You can see how the cycle repeats endlessly from there.
What problem am I trying to solve? The primary one is, of course, my sense of what my place is in this world. Where/how do I belong? What are my strengths/weaknesses? Inevitably, I come back to writing, since I’ve done so much of it. I crawl through some random entry from a decade ago or more. I read how much or how little I’ve changed. I see myself in the writing, but I also reject much of who I was when I wrote down something deeply offensive.
Nobody else reads my writing and so it becomes exceptionally difficult for me to see how my writing is my mission for this life. I look for other things to do in this life. I insist upon doing something exceptional, because I have been convinced for too long by lingering ideas of my mother that I was somehow gifted where most other kids were not. No amount of life getting in the way of demonstrating how exceptionally unexceptional I am can keep me from returning to an urge to do something more than be happy working in an office job that never quite amounts to being a career, and certainly isn’t ever going to become a passion, vocation or calling.
I can’t bear to accept that I am just like my dad, or just like most other men and women who don’t get to be actors, models, firefighters, soldiers, heroes and villains. I am normal and average. My writing isn’t above average. I can’t find a single thing in all of my writing that wasn’t said by some philosopher, poet or writer of fiction, only better and with a bigger vocabulary. Of course, my writing is my own, especially in the sense that I am telling a story, more or less, of my own unique life. I can still hope to be like Proust or Thomas Wolfe or some other writer whose literary material was their own life stories.
But, of course, the hope doesn’t last for very long. If I go and bother to read Proust again, I can understand why he was established among the great literary authors of all time and why I will never be. So, why don’t I just completely stop writing altogether? I’ve certainly tried that as well. I’ve spent many periods in my life of several months where I wrote next to nothing, and did so intentionally.
I wouldn’t exactly call this an addiction like other vices and hard-to-put-down activities I’ve known and loved and hated. It is more like a mental bowel movement–an intense need to release blockage. Only, because it is the byproduct of mental activity or on my better days a reflection of mental activity, I somehow continue to keep and sometimes cherish my writing as if it were on par with great literary works.
If anything, I am able to convince myself that I have at the very least offered a kind of historical record of someone who grew up in the time and place that I did–and if society/civilization happens to veer off into an apocalyptic direction, perhaps my writing, salvaged from a hard drive, may be the primary text of record for how people lived and thought during this time period. Even this is laughable, given the sheer and enormous output of people of my time and the generations younger than mine, and their much more faithful record collecting in the form of video and photos of their lives.
None of this has stopped me from moving forward. I ultimately end up doing it just because I do it. I prefer to pause and reflect by moving my fingers and connecting my thoughts, fingers and their visual symbols together in a way that becomes pleasing as a continual feedback loop. At times, I veer off into obsessing over people who have slighted me, and at other times I magnify my ego more than I should. But, for the most part, I really do make the effort to just plainly write out what is on my mind during the time period that I am writing.