I Guess This is Writing

I’ve been feeling pretty bad about not writing as much as I’d like to. All of my life I’ve told myself that I want to be a writer, but sometimes I wonder if I like the idea of writing more than the actual craft.

Two years ago I quit my job to focus on writing more. For about a month I went to a coffee shop everyday and wrote. The first 15 minutes were always difficult, but I’d power through and get something out after an hour. I’d tell myself that in the afternoon I’d spend time editing, but that rarely happened. Instead I found myself filling the time with just about everything but writing or editing.

By the end of that first month I was writing every other morning. A few weeks later it was two times a week, and then one time a week, and pretty soon I wasn’t writing at all.

That winter I moved to Argentina, and once again told myself that I’d write. In a new country, with no friends or distractions I thought I’d see the most productive writing in my life. But I suffered from writers block for two months and didn’t write a word due to what an old mentor called “the demons in my head.”

Early the next year I published a series of essays about my experience in South America. Once again I felt optimistic that maybe I was entering a productive time. I started a blog. I think it was my 4th or 5th, but I’m not sure. I’ve lost count. That blog fizzled and I became interested in other things again.

For the last year things have been more or less the same. I get excited about writing for a month, and then find myself distracted by the latest shiny object. First it was a company that sold rows in a spreadsheet. Then it was travel funded by said company. Then it was data visualization. Then it was yet another company. Then film. And now I’m in Greece.

A couple days ago I was driving home from the refugee camp that I’m working at. As I crossed the hill and descended into the seaside village that I currently reside, I thought: “This is going to be such a great place to write.” I was reminded of a profile I read about the late Leonard Cohen last year. Apparently he wrote “Marianne” in Greece. But then I remembered all the other times I’d echoed those same exact words.

At this point the number of excuses for not writing outnumber the stories I’ve published. With each excuse comes a deeper fear that I’ll never publish anything of significance at all. That my name will end up right next to all the other failed writers. The people that said they were writers, but never wrote anything at all.

One of the main reasons that I don’t write is because in order to write I feel that I have to take a step out of reality. When I’m behind a computer or furiously writing in a journal I’m not living. All that time spent jotting down what was competes with time that could be spent focusing on what is. Just tonight I took out my notepad to write down some thoughts, but put it down after 30 seconds to watch the clouds and the waves dancing before me.

There’s also this recurring idea in my head that narrative obscures reality. That as soon as the writer tries to tie thoughts together and engage the reader he’s begun to pick and choose events and characters. And the truth—that nasty thing—is much more complicated than any comprehensible narrative. Maybe stories are just the fibs we tell in order to pretend we understand the why behind all of this randomness.

There I go making excuses again. But then again, scattered as these thoughts may be, I guess this is writing.

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