This post was inspired by the second writing exercise in the book ‘Becoming an Academic Writer’ by Patricia Goodson, which I found through Pat Thomson’s review. It took 10 minutes to write – it was meant to take 5 but I stuffed up the timer. An apparently sneaky way to keep one writing for longer…
What keeps me away from writing? I am kept away from writing because I am scared I can’t. That at some point in the vacuum of love and energy that was the destruction and recreation of my life over the past three-ish years I lost the ability to put sentence after sentence in a way that creates meaning, where each sentence says something but together they say something more.
I am kept away from writing by this fear. I feel it physically in the back of the throat, almost a circular knotty lightness, which reads as contradictory but is quite accurate. It floods through my fingers and turns my page to, to anything really that isn’t a long form compositional medium – I turn from Word, Scrivener, Omm Writer, notepads, to books, websites, cleaning, flitting. I flit and flit, and now I am not only scared I can’t write, but I am also scared I cannot think, cannot concentrate, that there is no longer (as I have faith there once was) any thoughts of depth or any stories of truth lurking inside.
I am kept away from writing because I have practiced keeping away from writing, until the act of avoidance has itself become a fine art, a craft and a trade, in all of the ways Le Guin talked about these things in her weep-ably beautiful collection ‘the Wave of the Mind’. I trade my time, my mind and my body for anything but writing, anything but.
I am kept away from writing by the slim confidence that tomorrow I will rediscover my ability to write, my ability to think and argue on a page and screen. Tomorrow I will work for hours and tomorrow I will know how one thought connects to another and reaches a point where it wasn’t before.
I am kept away from writing because I think I must be in the same spot I was before, and I am scornful of the people in this spot and the ones – beneath it? Behind it? (see how our metaphors of progress dismiss the ground, what earths us, and dismiss the past that shapes us) and I kneel – lower myself (and again!) – before those who can write, watch their words flow out, as I sit here, sit here, watching, writing nothing.
I am kept away from writing because now there is too much to write and the thoughts jumble incoherently and in a way that I can’t put into lines, the way writing must be. I do thought experiments about art, movement and how a moving image and a web – our web, this web – would much better capture the strands than the book I must write to three people, just three people, to show you, me, the ones who ask ‘what is it you’re doing now’ to whom I must answer ‘I haven’t finished yet’, that I have done something (research) and I can tell you about what I did (results).
I am kept away from writing because I keep myself away from writing, it leaves me teary and weak. I keep away from writing now by re-reading my writing from before, which, for better of worse exists, and has a flow, a coherence, that now seems so out of reach.
This is what keeps me away from writing.