Why do I write?

Why do I not write? Writing is hard work. It’s so hard I spend hours avoiding it. Sitting in front of a computer screen creates anxiety, so instead of composing words I play stupid games. Nothing too difficult, just simple games to put my mind into a no-write zone until the Muse arrives.

But I’ve not seen her calling card for a while now.

It’s all about time management. Some call it rhythm and settle into a routine. Some see it as rigidity and chafe against the perceived reins. It’s a mixed bag. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I began writing a journal when I was 11 years old. I didn’t write every day, but often enough to record my impressions of life as an introspective fifth-grader. The entries were initially cautious. I was either unable to write about more complex feelings, or I was guarded about revealing emotions I didn’t know how to handle.

The first entries were brief, but as I neared puberty they became longer, and I bought composition books instead of one-entry-per-day diaries. I continued to write through high school and college, after which the writing tapered off as I began life in the heyday of my twenties. I wrote feverishly when I was depressed, which was often, or euphoric, which was brief and short-lived but no less intense.

While I seldom wrote in early adulthood, several years later I clashed head-on with unresolved issues that drove me to write once more. With the advent of the Internet I discovered the immediacy of email, and letter writing constituted the bulk of what I put to paper (or screen). I wrote hundreds of words, often to people I barely knew, because I knew I would never face the embarrassment of meeting them in person

And I was fickle. After a lengthy couple of emails I would abruptly cease communication.

I also wrote poetry. It was my outlet for expressing love, hate, fear, pain, sorrow, addiction and revenge through the sculpting of words. The feelings would wash over me and I would grab a notebook and pen and spend hours searching for the perfect words and rhythms that reflected my experiences. I loved those moments of inspiration, those interruption from daily life. They were my power in a world in which I perceived myself as powerless.

So much of my writing was fueled by unresolved issues from the past. I wrote compulsively, especially in my journal. I would write reams hashing out perceived injustices, real or imaginary, and never achieve a coherent thought. I would write (and send) lengthy, introspective emails that endlessly analyzed what I was feeling.

As long as I wrote I could objectify my pain and keep it at bay. It was exhausting.

But being at heart an optimist, I decided to believe that I could face my issues, and embarked on a journey of self-exploration that took me through some of the painful rooms of my inner house. I wrestled with my demons and threw many of them out.

And then came the realization: My writing no longer controlled me. I was now free to to put my thoughts into words any way I liked.

But how? And to whom? And when?

As a child, much of my time was taken up with endless chores. My time was not my own. There was school and homework and housework. The only time I was free to do whatever I wanted was on Sunday afternoons, and even that was often superseded by a sewing project (usually not of my choosing) that was going to take more time than one Sunday afternoon, which meant dragging out the sewing machine every week, long after I’d lost interest in the project.

To be fair, I can’t blame my lack of organization entirely on childhood circumstances. I did indeed grow up in a family that was too large for the house we lived in, and trying to keeping things up to my mother’s unrealistic standards was a never-ending effort.

But I was such a dreamy child. The fact that I had many interests and a very short attention span meant that even when I had personal time, I didn’t know what to do with it. When I couldn’t finish a project in one sitting I abandoned it. Or I did a poor job to reinforce my fear of success.

To this day I find it very hard to undertake any task that can’t be completed either in one sitting or by devoting several days of undivided attention to it that then results in the neglect of other daily chores.

Rhythm is not my strong suit. I’m envious of people who can dedicate several hours to a project, then switch to something else, then after an hour go on to another task, then take up the effort again the next day without losing momentum.

I often resent routine, even when I’ve created it. I don’t like to have to do things over and over, things like brushing my teeth or making my bed or cooking a meal or working out. I remember a professor in college who told the class he ran every day for exercise. He said he had been doing it for years, but my admiration turned to astonishment when he said he hated every minute of it. Where did he find the determination? Did he ever get up and decide not to run?

I find that the cheap thrill of skipping an annoying task is quickly replaced by guilt, and something gets lost in the process.

Is it possible to learn to love what one chooses?

I struggle with bringing my attention back from its dream-like wandering. Projects that begin with so much hope and enthusiasm often get orphaned.

And that goes for writing. I find the idea of writing feels more satisfying than actual writing. Ideas rattle around in my head, and they are especially exciting when I’m nowhere near a computer. Scenarios play themselves out like a movie reel while I’m doing the dishes or sweeping the floor or driving long distances. Potential is more exciting than reality, and I love the warm glow, the ironic certainty of thoughts that have yet to be defined.

I tell myself I will remember these flights of fancy and write them down shortly. But I don’t.

When I finally sit down to write, they become incoherent. Or I might capture one fleeting thought while the others wither in the telling. I have a folder languishing with unrequited opening paragraphs.

Why is writing important to me? Why do I do it? Is people telling me I’m good at it enough of a reason? Do I want people to care about my opinions?  Do I want them to read my stories?

I don’t know. Maybe I don’t need to know. The answers to these questions may come out in the process of writing. Or they may not.

The bottom line is that I need to write in order to feel whole. I need to write even though I struggle with time that seems to accelerate with each passing year, crushing the day’s hours into meaningless increments. I need to write even though the thoughts I put down are far less noble than they appear at first blush. I need to write even though I don’t know who will be reading my words.

I need to write.



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