On Writing

An exercise in being vulnerable and letting thoughts go

Note: This piece was also an experiment in trying as much as possible not to censor or hold myself back.

I’m curious about how other writers act when they first take the time in their days to sit down and write. I’m curious about how they behave, what their body language is like, what is going through their minds.

Do they have food with them? Do they sip coffee or tea or water in between stringing words together to form sentences? Is there music on? Is it morning or late at night? Are they at home, in their bedrooms or do they have offices? Or are they somewhere else entirely: a library, a cafe, outside? What do they use? Word? Google docs? Pages? Evernote? A physical notepad?

When they sit down, do they already know what they want to write about that day? Do they keep a schedule or agenda? Or do they go by whatever tickles their fancy at that given moment? Do they start out with warm-up exercises for writing like stream of consciousness writing or using a prompt? Are they excited to sit down and write? Or are they treating it like work? Like an assignment? How do they feel about their writing? How do they feel?

I’m curious about these things — and so many more — about writers because I want to know whether or not I’m alone. Maybe all of those details above are not really or completely what I’m digging at, but the thought of being alone. Perhaps I’m not, but to what degree? How alike are others to me?

When I sit down for the day to start writing, I am terrified. I’m terrified because there’s this whole void staring blankly at me. Sometimes I don’t know what I’ll be working on, how my writing will take form and shape. I may have had an idea or even an outline when I blocked the time out to write but sometimes when I get started, the idea or the outline no longer seems that promising or intriguing.

I’m terrified because I doubt. I doubt that whatever comes out on my virtual paper won’t be any good. Won’t be anything worth reading. Or even worth writing! I worry that I’ll sound too shallow, too self-absorbed, too repetitive, too unoriginal. I worry I’ll get made fun of, be criticized. When I write, I cannot help but think that I am garbage, what I’m writing is garbage, and I should just give it up and call it a day.

So why don’t I? That sounds pretty bad, why would I even put myself through that? Why do I even write?

Here’s the thing, sometimes I honestly don’t know! I don’t know. Sometimes, it just doesn’t feel natural. It feels like I’m pulling my own teeth out or I’m exorcising a little monster from my being. Sometimes, it feels like a weird type of torture, like hey how much of my awkward self can I put out there as words? Or even more torturous, how much can I think and try to convince myself that some piece of writing is me, but not actually feel like nor believe it’s me? So yeah, sometimes I don’t know.

Other times though — most times — despite a perpetually rough start (that space of time right before and right when I put the first two words down is its own little hell), writing just feels obvious. It feels like flow, like slow and even breathing. Placing one word after another feels like walking down a street I know by heart.

It doesn’t ever really feel easy but it feels like when I was several months in of making running a habit: it’s labor but I can sense that my body has found a rhythm in the action. And I’ve found I’m capable of going for longer distances and longer stretches of time than when I first started running. It feels like growing up, like when the changes in my body began incrementally but I didn’t notice until they were all complete and I thought I had to get used to this new body, which was not actually that foreign because it was still my body.

I don’t know if any of that makes. Maybe it doesn’t. But I know that I’ve thought about myself as a writer for a long time, even though I haven’t wanted that self-identification to be known or shouted out. I know that when I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing. What I would write, what I could write, what I should write. I’m thinking about others’ writing and how theirs compares to mine, or how I could bring mine up to their level.

When I’m not writing, I still need something to write on or type in close at hand. Because thoughts and ideas don’t know and don’t care that I’m not writing, and if I don’t get them down, they’re gone.

When I’m not writing, my fingers and my mind are itching to write. And that is how I know why I still do it: It feels empty not to.

I may never be well-known or great at writing. But I don’t need to be great to write. I just have to well…write! And right now, that feels more than enough.

Do you have any particular thoughts on writing? I’d love to know! Share with me on Twitter.

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