on not being able to write

October 3, 2010

There's an overstuffed chair in our living room that I fell in love with at first sight. It's an everything chair - a sit in and watch CNN to feel back in touch with reality after a night out of hand kind of chair. A write an assignment at the very last minute kind of chair. A sling your leg over the side and catch a few minutes of whatever someone else is watching while you wait for your ride kind of chair. Tonight, it's a sit and finish translating un signaciĆ³ sobre personajes famosas de Guatemala kind of chair. It's a sit and drink a caffeinated cup of coffee a little too late than wisdom would advise kind of chair. It's a write a bit because it's necessary, today, kind of chair.

I'm writing for publication, again. It's what I wanted. It's excellent. I love it. But it's hard, after taking time off. After writing personal prose in Africa, writing letters home and blogging, it's different. An inner critic has woke up. It shows up in the voices of every editor and professor I've ever had. It asks if that comma should be there, about my word usage - and were there two of that adjective in one paragraph? It tells me to tighten up, and find a different sentence opener. Not to ladder quotes. Not to write a fragment.

Sometimes, a fragment is my very favorite kind of sentence. Case in point.

Someone I love very much asked me, this week, if I like my writing. I hadn't thought of that much before. I suppose it is important - or is it? I'm not even sure. But it got me thinking.

I told a friend, tonight, that I feel like I can't write, and he told me to write about that. "It's like Seinfeld," he said. "They wrote a show about nothing - and look how successful it is. So you should write about how you can't write. You never know."

Is that silly? Here I am, an hour later, ignoring Spanish homework, and writing about how I can't write. He said, "maybe it will lead somewhere else."

I guess, if I were to write the "somewhere else" that surfaced quickest, it would be about a million things at once. Or 15. 15 is probably more realistic.

It's still a lot.

I'd write about running again, and how I've started myself on a slower, shorter regimen than ever before, because I am still trying to build my body back up from mono. I'd write that I'm tired of taking time to let my body heal, but that a woman, this week, who told me about training for a marathon, said she had to learn to say and think kind things towards her body - and so I am going to stop telling myself that I am tired of being too slow, or not bouncing back quickly enough.

I'd write that I've dated far too much for any normal girl, all in about six weeks time. I'd write that I'm tired, and making chilaquiles with my roommate, and staying home to clean my tub and my bedroom, last night, after a late dinner with the organization I went to Africa through, felt right. I would write that I've learned a few things, and I wouldn't take the nights out back, like I wouldn't have traded the night in. Mostly, I'd center on that whole bit about being kind to oneself.

I've learned, almost overnight, that life very easily becomes a dance to everyone else's tune - you can put on different types of women like a good pair of weekend stilettos, you know. I can slip those babies on and off like nobody's business, even when they hurt. Like I can go from the girl that requires nothing, to the girl that requires everything, in a week. Like I can transform from a girl who takes pride in humanitarian work, to the girl that feels a bit sheepish about it, overnight. All in a weekend's work - like trading fine wine for PBR, kindness for intellectual thoughtlessness.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, I've learned being a crowd pleaser is someone else's job. I'm tired, and my feet hurt. I guess the bit on liking my own writing is applicable for many other places in my life. My mom dubbed it "listening for everyone else's song but yours."

I've been editing photos, and the elimination of noise in a shot comes to mind. What is it you were trying to focus on, and what is it that's taking away from it?

I went through old photographs, quotes, clippings this weekend. I collaged. I called home. I read C.S. Lewis, for the first time in far too long. I went to bed early.

I woke up, and remembered that the most important part of my life is that I like myself. That I wake up happy with who I am.

I wasn't, this morning. I wasn't for most of this month.

I got caught up in that, until I remembered that, I suppose, all of this - this clusterfuck, this figuring out what I think, above all else - is a kind of figurative marathon, and that one has to be kind to herself along the way, if she's expected to finish.

Oscar Wilde writes that loving oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.

This afternoon, I kept to my running schedule - went slower, and shorter, than I would have thought I needed to.

I listened to Imogen Heap on repeat.

I walked around in my underwear, and, well, I wrote again. Not a lot but, now, that has to be okay, too, right?