I’ll often rediscover old words I’ve written and feel alienated from the person who wrote them.
I had physical memory of typing them, or scratching them with the old Analog Ink Stick; then, asking myself who wrote them, I can’t help answering, “I don’t know that guy too well anymore.”
Thing is, when that happens to me, it’s never really felt like that stuff was better and what I do now is worse…. I shouldn’t say never. Sometimes, I do find old stuff that reads like it must have been produced so effortlessly that I may as well forget about the future. In those moments, I do entertain a moment or two of self-indulgent, nostalgic depression.
Then, see…I remember the struggle. Writing is always a struggle for me. I remember that it always has been. There has never been a time when I had perfect, even flow, and I could just ride my muse till we climaxed together in waves. Never been like that for me. Always been an awkward, many-stepped set of tricks and strife to eke — love the word eke — to eke purpose from the chicken-scratches.
That’s me. Work, fighting, struggle, headache, and eventually half-formed meaning splattered all over the scrimped and crumpled pages. Metaphorically scrimpled, since mostly I type, but the image of scrimpled pages is better than the image of crunkled computers.
Okay, point is, it’s ALWAYS a struggle. And whatever “zone” I perceive in old me, generating the ambrosia of sound and silence that I still struggle to achieve, whatever “zone” he found must have been a zone of pain, because Zone of Pain has always been my comfy place for writing.
And I’m still in that zone.
I am not ever in the same head space as old me. So I reckon something else must be occurring when I start admiring what I did a month or year or decade ago. What I reckon must be occurring is that, mainly, I’m free of the still-open sores and wounds, the still-healing muscle-growth, from that older writing. When I read it back then, I still felt all the hurt of making it. When I read it now, I’m feeling a new hurt of new writing, but I can enjoy the old stuff now because I no longer remember how making it felt so bloody awful.
Incidentally, I find it poetically nice that “offal” rhymes with “awful.” Although I haven’t used that coincidence for poetry yet.
Probably, you’ll never recapture whatever you had in that old zone.
Probably, you’ll find a new zone just as full of splinters and rough edges where you can be every bit as comfy as the last one, and make new things that are just as displeasing and dissatisfying to you as the old stuff may or may not have been to old you, and every bit as lyrical and like the Voice of the South Wind as the old stuff was to the rest of us.
Or maybe you’re actually an impostor and you haven’t noticed yet. That could be too. Do you have any unexpected new allergies that you should know about? That’s often a sure sign.