I was going to start this essay by saying that I have been avoiding the page, but that’s not true. I’ve been drafting poems and writing morning pages every day for the past two weeks.
I’ve just been avoiding essay 5.
Why? I’m not sure.
Sometimes, I think it’s because I’m not sure what to write about.
But that’s not true. There’s plenty I want to write about — the WWE, country songs, Ink Master, having clutter, Ana Lily Armirpour films, Michael Ian Black, to keep or get rid of old photos, Friday Night Lights and all my nicknames for Tim Riggins, an ode to Coach Eric Taylor. And so on. I have no shortage of material for essays.
And yet. Here I am. Writing about writing again. Writing about my feelings about not writing again. Writing about the things that I think keep me from writing again.
And maybe that’s why I’ve been avoiding essay 5. Because though I have so many things percolating that I want to write about, the one that keeps rising to the surface is this one — avoidance.
Every time I sit down to write this essay, I think about Jude Law’s character in I Heart Huckabee’s. He’s a schmoozy advertising executive who tells the same story over and over again about fooling Shania Twain into eating a tuna sandwich she didn’t want to eat. I think about the scene where the existential detectives have recorded every single instance in which Jude Law’s character has told the Shania Twain story, and they play every instance back to him in succession.
At first, Jude Law thinks his story is great; why wouldn’t he tell it every chance he gets? And then, after the 4th or 5th version of the story has been played back to him, he starts to sober. After the 6th or 7th version, he starts to literally vomit in his mouth.
I love that scene so much. It’s hilarious and it’s sobering and it’s real. What’s realer than realizing that you tell the same story or say the same thing over and over again?
Every time I sat down to write essay 5, I felt like Jude Law’s character, hearing myself say the same thing over and over again.
So I’d write a sentence, minimize the window, and go eat a cookie instead.
Some days, I think maybe I’m avoiding essay 5 because I’m afraid of writing something intimate, personal. Something I haven’t ever written about before.
But that’s also not true. It takes a certain amount of vulnerability and bravery any time we write and choose to put it out in the world — whether it’s publishing something on a blog or bringing a piece to workshop or showing a fresh poem to your partner or sending anything to a journal to be rejected or accepted or writing a personal statement. Whether I’m writing about Buffy or YA horror lit or my general exhaustion or being overwhelmed by the prospect of weddings or writing about writing — it’s all intimate and personal. Because I write things that I don’t usually say out loud. For me, that is writing for the jugular.
Some days, I think I’ve been avoiding essay 5, simply because I’m burned out. I’m exhausted. This world we live in is exhausting and life on its own is exhausting.
I’ve also withdrawn from my activity on social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter. When I think about composing a post or a tweet, I get overwhelmed. Even thinking about re-posting or retweeting overwhelms me.
It just feels like there’s too much some days (every day). Too much to say and too much to absorb. How do you choose what to post? How do you choose what to retweet? It seems like a simple thing, but for me, lately, it’s been a conundrum. So I just don’t.
I close the apps, minimize the windows, and go eat a cookie instead.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that maybe I’ve been avoiding essay 5 because I’m trying to find balance. And I’m not doing great. But I’m trying.
I’m trying to find a balance between a public and private writing life. Between writing for this blog and the #52essays2017 project, and writing in a private space. Both are important. I love this blog and I love the #52essays2017 project and I love my horror project.
But writing in a private space — as I have been — is essential, too. I’m seeing that now. Practicing writing in private — knowing that I will be the only person for quite awhile who sees this thing that I’m writing — feels good. It feels quiet and important. In a world where I’m bombarded every day by terrifying news and so many voices, it feels necessary to have a space where it’s just me. Just me and my voice and my writing. In that moment and the countless future moments that I will spend with my poems, my writing is no one else’s yet. It is mine until I decide that it’s ready to be someone else’s.
I have to honor and trust my impulse. Writing about writing — about the process, about all the outside things that intersect with the act of writing itself, about where inspiration comes from — demystifies it. Sometimes, I look at prolific writers and think, How the hell are they doing this?
I don’t know how they do it, but I know how I do it. I’m a slow writer these days, and a percolator. I marinate on thoughts and ideas for essays for awhile before I sit down to actually write them. When I finally get to writing, the words come quickly, but I take some time to revise.
(And poems? Jesus. Forget about it. I used to be a fairly prolific poem writer, and now I’m the slowest poem writer in all the land.)
When I write about writing, I’m demystifying the process for myself. I’m writing to bust the myths I’ve internalized over the years in undergrad and in an MFA program about writing and what being a writer looks like. I'm writing to define what being a "real" writer means to me, and me alone. I'm writing to get rid of all those other voices that tell me not only what is acceptable to write, but how to write it. I'm writing to find the rituals I need to make for myself as a writer, as opposed to the ones that are prescribed to me if I want to call myself a “real” writer.
Part of it is acknowledging that the world and life and exhaustion and emotions affect my ability to write sometimes. Sometimes I just have to take a break. Yes, writing is one of the only places where I feel truly whole, but it can also be exhausting if I don’t balance my private and public writing lives.
Avoiding essay 5 has been a lesson in trusting my impulse and my voice. If an idea keeps rising to the top, no matter how many times I think I’ve explored it, I need to take its hand and follow it into the woods.