I have come to understand that most
people don’t like to write. They only do so when required by
school, work, or etiquette. When confronting a blank page, perhaps
they feel the way I would, were I suddenly teleported into a rap
battle, or was supposed to improv a jazz solo live onstage. For me,
though, writing has always felt as natural, necessary, and
pleasurable as breathing. I feel curious what will rise up within me,
to confront the blank page. Isn’t there a trope, at least in our
collective mind, about the frustrated writer? Someone, usually a man,
ripping a page out of the typewriter and crumpling it up in disgust.
I have no idea what I look like when I
write, but not that. I know I’m outwardly still, inwardly gazing,
almost in a trance. I can say I’m very glad to be writing
(eventually) in the digital age, where deletions and re-starts are
easy. Also, my “penmanship,” so to speak, which served me well
enough all through the 80s, 90s, and early aughts, immediately
deteriorated and became vestigial, the moment keyboards happened. I
don’t hear myself typing, when I write, and so it startles me when
people comment on the sound of it. “Holy shit, girl, you’re gonna
set that thing on fire!” I’ve been told it sounds like a machine
gun, punctuated by long, unpredictable pauses. In any case, there’s
never been a better time to mess about with writing, in my opinion,
with fewer procedural obstacles.
People still don’t like it, though!
And acknowledging that makes me wonder: why do I like it, then? I’ll
try to tackle that, although I can’t imagine a bigger question.
First of all, none of us are known quantities to ourselves, and
anyone who writes (on purpose) soon discovers this. Writing is not a
slavish transfer of what’s inside the head to outside, like
xeroxing a thought. It’s a process much more akin to opening
Pandora’s box, or summoning a coyote god, or going on a blind date.
Interestingly, the mind analyzes
everything but itself. The mind exists in — I’d go so far as to
say is — a permanent blindspot for us. The thing we use to
understand our world is, itself, the thing we understand the least.
Reality is not an object but a process, and the fundamental gesture
of this process is the constant manufacture of meaning. Every second
of every day, our permanent blindspot inhales data and exhales
meaning. But!! – when you write, especially in a spontaneous and
improvisational fashion, it’s like jumping out at yourself from
behind a piece of furniture, shouting “a-HA!” It’s like holding
a dog over water. The mind starts moving in swimming, meaning-making
patterns, instinctively, but without yet being submerged in its usual
It’s fascinating, to write. It’s
even fascinating to attempt, and fail, to write, or to write poorly.
Maybe that’s why so many people find it distasteful – the level
of self-exposure, in writing, literally no matter what is produced,
is much higher than in our other activities. People have practiced
their personas to perfection, as far as walking around in the world
goes (no judgement – we all do it, and the people who claim not to
are doing it the hardest), and there’s something humiliating about
being so revealed. A young boy clomping around the house in his dad’s
cowboy boots is cute, but not when we’re full grown adults and
that’s how our writing comes across. I even think it’s
fascinating to read the writings of psychopaths – I don’t mean
culturally designated “wrong think” like Ted Kazynski or Ayn Rand
– I mean people with bad intentions who are very skilled in using
language, and who weaponize their skill on purpose towards an agenda.
Some are idealists who’ve stumbled into fanaticism, others are
hired guns. For readers, there’s a natural scrutiny of “the man
behind the curtain”, the Wizard of Oz who’s confabulating all
these tricks to distract us from who they really are. And herein
lies, I think, the most brilliant trick of all: to write so exactly
like one’s deepest self that there ceases to be a gap to scrutinize
– while wielding enough craft-consciousness to make it palatable.
One of the biggest tricks the mind
plays on us, in my opinion, is the mundane-ization of everything,
most importantly ourselves. The objection to writing I’ve heard the
most is, “I really don’t have anything to say.” That idiom
about every death being the loss of an entire library is no bullshit.
Everyone has exactly as much to say as even the most prolific writer,
if they would stop being convinced of their own mundane nature by
their blindspot mind. Trying to be a “good” writer is the pursuit
of a mirage, in my opinion. Something that recedes eternally and
doesn’t even exist in the first place. The discovery that one is,
in fact, not mundane, and neither is “reality,” is the only
metric. Someone who’s written enough to suspect this about
themselves and the world gives their vision as a gift (albeit an
ultimately selfish one, as it should be), and then we call them “good
I haven’t personally tried ayahuasca,
mushrooms, or other plant psychedelics, but I’ve been given to
understand that the experience is the opposite of mundane. But maybe
more importantly, that these shamanic medicines serve to part the
veil, as it were, revealing the emphatically un-mundane essence of
our own consciousness, and those other consciousnesses with whom we
share our world.
Of course we’re too vulnerable to
predation and accident to exist in such a state long-term, and so it
makes sense the mind tones everything down for us. And perhaps some
day I will chance to commune with these plant teachers, and when they
part the veil for me, I’ll think: I fuckin’ called it. All I can
say for sure, though, is that when I sit down to write, it’s an
impossibly exciting experience, on a certain familiar level – my
own wardrobe to Narnia; my own Tardis. To turn one’s gaze inward,
and to there encounter the infinite, albeit an infinite that likes to
play dress-up in those gauzy garments strewn around by my patterns of
thought, is a gentle high that still allows me to operate heavy
equipment, so to speak (and there’s no equipment heavier than the
maintenance of our personas).
The telepathic time travel aspect of
reading and writing has always thrilled me, incidentally. My favorite
writer of all time, Tanith Lee, has been dead since 2015, but I can
still mind-meld with her whenever I want, and I often do. She was a
magician, utilizing the contents of other people’s inchoate
yearnings in her act; blurring lines between minds (hers; mine) that
I didn’t even understand existed. Brilliant.
So yeah, I like to write. And by no
means am I on a crusade to get more people writing. I guess I don’t
really care. I certainly don’t want other people on a crusade for
me to do something I’m not inclined to. I just think they’re
missing out, is all.
I’ve run across this spicy theory, a
couple times now, about how there are only so many en-souled humans
in the world, and the rest are honest-to-god NPCs, or non-playable
characters. Literal extras in the global drama. It’s one of those
theories that appeals because it would explain so much, so easily…too
easily. Theories like this can be preludes to madness, or atrocity.
It must be assumed that everyone is as much of a self as I (the
collective “I”) am, however convincingly basic they are. We do
live in the time of human lemmings, enthusiastically participating in
the processes of their own demise, and I understand it’s easy to
assign NPC status, just to alleviate some of the shocking shock, if
nothing else. Whatever else is true, I do know that we ought not
designate ourselves arbiters of others’ personhood. It’s the
slipperiest of slopes.
So, perhaps most of all, I like to
write as a practice of intimacy with myself, and I like to publish as
a practice of intimacy with others; my supposition being that those
others really are others, by which I mean — you are another me.
Everyone is another me. I don’t want to feel alone in the world,
but somehow we seem to have evolved all the way into the most
connected, and yet loneliest, society that’s ever existed. Our
collective loneliness crushes us, and feels almost inescapable
outside a narrow range of neurotic outlets we’re funneled towards.
It’s so easy to consume but so hard to feel satisfied, isn’t it?
What writing has taught me is that no amount of consumption will ever
satisfy me, whereas almost any amount of creative output…does.
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