The problem with a name

Every time when I managed to get a piece of writing past the judgemental bitch that had been me and out into the open, I heard that I should write, write more, or write for living. Those were the pieces I loved, and they were usually the pieces I didn’t intend to publish at first, and then thought, Hell, let’s do it! But what I wrote specifically to publish was almost guaranteed to make me cringe, and I burned paper, deleted posts, let blogs and Facebook pages stagnate, and beat myself up with the largest stick I could find.

What was I thinking to have written that? Who do I think I am? A talentless, conceited no-one. What a mess!

It was like kicking a puppy. It upset me, hurt the puppy, and no-one learned anything from it. I had to figure why I wrote that way sometimes. Why was it that what I loved to write writing and happy to have written had usually been done for my eyes only, and that which was for everyone else, I struggled to write and hated the result?

The Facebook link

You know how some people say Facebook brings out the worst in them? I noticed that same with writing: it made me into a person whose company I didn’t relish, but not all writing — only what I wrote for public eyes.

There was something off-putting and disagreeable about the me who wrote for others— an almost indistinguishable air of falsehood. She was someone I couldn’t trust. Her relationships seemed superficial, and her persona — a façade. I wouldn’t pick her for a friend. I couldn’t bear to be near her. And there was a problem with her writing too. It was a caricature of what I’d intended it to be. It read like self-indulgent trash. In it, she pined for recognition and approval. The more I wrote, the stronger she became and the harder it was to get away from her.

But what I wrote for my eyes only had quite an opposite effect — both on me and on how I felt about my work.

Off-the-grid

Like that proverbial wood amongst those proverbial trees, figuring yourself is nearly always nearly damn right impossible. There was so much noise, interference, pointless chatter and intrusive beeps. The volume of life was deafening; it had to be turned down.

I shut down my Facebook profile — many years’ worth posts so meticulously constructed, friends so carefully picked, and privacy settings so finely tuned. I quit my art classes and my reading club, took up smoking and running. (I know, it doesn’t make sense, right?) I told my parents that I needed a few months’ break from them and to stop intruding, and I told a mate or two to get the fuck out of my life and to please never resurface. I shut my doors to the hordes I entertained in the past. I quit WhatsApp, Skype, Hangouts and the likes, and then switched off the messaging on the Facebook page I ran. I even changed my number to avoid texts — I knew that those who needed me would ring.

And then, in silence, I began to see something that I couldn’t see before — I could see “It.”

Meet my It

It and I are inseparable; you can’t tell us apart; we share a name; we look the same; we appear to be one person. It is my ego, but I refer to it as “It.”

It really cares about me — us, rather, and our reputation — perhaps too much. It is paranoid, controlling, manipulative, and tenacious; It will intimidate and fear-monger to get its way with me. Take, for example, the incessant “What will so-and-so think? What if our boss discovers this? Our friends will hate us for such frankness." And yes, I know better than to heed all that, but It has a way of grinding me down into the reviewing, rewriting, deleting frenzy.

It is the work we do together that I can’t stand. There’s a subtle undercurrent of censure that’s likely only tangible to me, the censured, but is definitely present: words carefully picked, real-life examples omitted so someone wouldn’t recognise himself or out of consideration for somebody’s feelings. We often crossed the fine line between impartial and insipid in our efforts to be as likeable as possible and to avoid backlash.

We had the likes and shares, sure. “So true” and “so intelligently written” and all that. And we were smug. We humble-bragged. We pontificated, moralised, were clever with our words. We tried too hard. And It liked things that way, I didn’t. Sometimes I’d stage a little protest, and It’d humour me and let me go loose on paper a bit, write something candid. But never would It let me publish anything like that, and if I did, it’d gnaw away at me, make me regret.

And what could I do about it? Nothing. After all, I had a share in It’s name, and so It had to have a say in how I used it. Without our name, It’s trying to convince me, I’m no-one. But I don’t think so anymore. Abandoning that name may be the only way out of this struggle.

So, here’s the deal: I’ll go without a name.

My dear ego

Now know you’re there, I can see what you’re doing, and I am not surprised we don’t get on. We’re both know what we want, and we won’t have each other’s way: I’m not prepared to compromise our writing, and you — our name. We’re at an impasse.

I cannot please you and me at once, that much is clear. What’s more, if I’m to please myself, I must stop trying to please you. I wish it was like sex, but it is more like a tug of war between us. And I can take it all — your nagging, lecturing, impossible demands and lofty standards — but not in the amounts you dish it out. Each time you grind me down into giving in. I compromise on what’s important to me, and that’s soul-destroying. We need to make a change.

I know you’re only doing your job, and I appreciate your dedication. You’ve looked after our name so well for all this time. The truth is I don’t care for it as much as you. So, to make it easier for both of us, I won’t put it on my writing. Well, not the one that doesn’t please you, anyway.

I need to be alone and do my own thing, without you, without your input, without your pressure, so I may see what I can do as me, so I can get to know my self.

Hush, baby, don’t you cry. I’m not leaving you forever. I’ll soon be back — you know I will. Somehow I know I’ll miss being pushed around by you.

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