Most quotes from famous people about writing describe it as a grueling, joyless experience. I don’t like those quotes because I fear that they discourage people from trying to write themselves. I also find them somewhat annoying- if writing is so awful, why are these people doing it?
There is one that does speak to me though, and it’s made me reevaluate my writing and my philosophical approach over the last couple of years. There’s a few versions of it, but it basically goes like this:
There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.https://quoteinvestigator.com/2011/09/14/writing-bleed/
I don’t read this quote as being about hurting oneself to reveal some deep truth. To me, it’s about pouring yourself into your work (you could use any other bodily fluid or function, but most of those are pretty gross).
Opening yourself without reservation or control is scary, but it’s something that I’ve prided myself on in my writing. But as I’ve reread this quote, I have to admit that I haven’t really opened my veins up recently. I have a style that has been described as “true but honest,” so it often looks like I’ve dug into a dark recess of myself. But I always return to the same dark recesses because they’re comfortable and familiar.
The truth is, I’m scared to face the overwhelming hopelessness I’ve felt since the beginning of the pandemic. I’ve written alot about absurdism and the indifference of the universe, but I’ve realized that much of that writing was a defense mechanism. Instead of accepting a cold, brutal world of death, disease and indifference, I’ve intellectualized it with a philosophical framework. I haven’t actually felt what that means though.
I’m afraid that I’ll prove to be impotent in the face of the actual void. I’m afraid that the yawning insecurity inside of me will consume everything that I want to build and achieve. I’m afraid that I’ll end up unloved and alone. I’m afraid that I’m doing a bad job as a father, and my son will suffer the consequences.
All of these things are difficult to write about. It’s easy to write about being broke, being Black, being cynical- all the topics that masquerade as incisive and interesting. But yo, really putting down on paper how you feel is the hardest thing, because what if people laugh at you? What if they make fun of you? What if no one cares? What if it makes people dislike you?
Rejection is the hardest pain for me to deal with. It’s not enough to be accepted. No, I have to be CHOSEN. I’m the only one, I’m the best, you come to me first and no one else. Anything less than that is an attack on my worth. I don’t even like to hear “no.” Not because I’m particularly spoiled (although I have my moments), but because it triggers something so painful inside. So I just don’t ask for things.
I don’t want to fail the people who are counting on me, but I constantly feel like I am. When a friend or loved one goes through trouble, I always think, “You could help this person if you wrote the book you know you can.” I believe I have a life-changing story inside of me, and that I can make the lives of the people around me easier if I just get it published. And then I spend all day playing Pokemon instead of writing. I’m avoiding the pain of opening that vein.
My last post on this blog was January 1st. I’ve built an emotional wall inside myself and it’s protecting me from pain, but it’s also blocking me from my true self. I have to break through that wall because creation requires experience, and pain is one of the most intense experiences we have. But the point isn’t to wallow in or exploit pain. It’s to hold it, understand it and nurture it until it heals, and then learn how it motivated me to act. I do that by writing.
While I was writing this, my chest suddenly started hurting at certain areas. That’s how I know I finally said something personal in this post, because I could actually feel it. That’s the pain that I need to feel so that I can do what I need to do.