When I first began to write more seriously, about 8 years ago or so, I did so because I found the more I wrote the more clear my head was. It was a release of pressure, relieving the steam that built up inside as I struggled with the chaos existing around and in the rest of my life. The more I pressed on in writing, the more clear I felt, the more I was able to focus, the more I was able to find hope and peace. The curious aspect of this is that the most effective kind of writing wasn’t the internal analysis that sought to unknot the many and many threads that had somehow become entirely unmanageable. The best sort of writing came when I left the introspective reservation and wrote on other topics.
At first I thought it would be most helpful to engage the world, to write on politics or culture, to share the wealth of my gathered supposed wisdom in applying it to the events of the day. But, that tapped my soul too. I found as I engaged the chaos, the chaos reverberated back into me, scattering my already fractious thoughts, emphasizing the conflicts and disagreements, thrusting me into the midst of added controversies, and ones in which I had utterly no role to play except expressing an opinion.
I like to express my opinions, don’t get me wrong, but there’s a strained passivity about doing so when your opinions don’t have any power to make any difference whatsoever. It’s passive without power, but it’s strained because it gives off the illusion of having some sort of authority. Sort of like being the Vice President of the United States, I guess.
I found that the biggest help always came when I attempted to write fiction. I think that when I sought to engage my tensions directly, I always came at them with the same interpretive keys, gauging what I couldn’t understand with my own understanding. This is useful, I think, if you’re still sorting out some new or especially potent issue, but after a while, when the issues being dealt with are stale and crusty, it’s just going around in circles. Which is why journals never really have been useful for me.
When I wrote fiction I realized that I was still approaching my issues, but indirectly, through a creativity which quietly and deftly picked over my subconscious, suggesting themes which did not seem at first to be my themes, but which certainly did, in a way, turn out to be pointing towards what I was wrestling with.
The fiction I wrote became a sort of counterfactual of my own life. Never intentionally so, never with purpose. That would have brought it back into the introspective spiral. Just being free to write a story, freed me from myself, but gave insight into myself that steered some very key decisions I made in life during the middle years of the first decade of millennium.
I think about this now because I’m all knotted up again. Unlike in 2003, however, I’m not dealing with isolation, rejection, frustration, and aimless wandering. Life is good. I certainly would like to make more money, but that’s just what it is, not a major barrier. I still feel knotted. I lack the sort of creative enveloping that takes me out of myself, into a mode of exocentric focus, where I can, as I like to say, dance.
I can’t dance in real life, so that’s only a figurative expression. Nor can I sing. I can’t paint or draw. I can play music, but I get caught up in the constant realization that in a cramped apartment complex every noise I make has to be heard by everyone around, so I feel stifled in doing that. What can I do? I can write. And I realized again yesterday that I need to write.
I need to write more than just for school, which carries with it both a mix of creative exploration but also tension filled demands of trying to please the right people, trying to stand out and in doing that maybe someday get a substantive paycheck. Writing for school exacerbates the tensions which already gather together in regular storms on my soul. I need to write, freeing myself to explore again for the sake of exploration. I need to write not as a task for my vocation but as a creative task that hones the craft.
This is the latter bit that occurred to me as I was writing this. Writing well is a craft. It’s one that I’m better at than I was ten years ago, but I have not even approached becoming an expert. And the only way to master a craft is to do it, do it constantly, and do it with discipline.
I haven’t had discipline in writing for writing’s sake in a very long time.
I miss it. I need to get that discipline because I think that when life takes on even more busyness and steals more of my attention in widely different directions, I need to have built up a pattern of focus that keeps me moving forward in my career. More than this, however, I need to write because writing frees my soul, helps my mind to think again, helps me to encounter the day with a feeling of peace rather than frenzy.
So, even if I don’t have a task to turn in quite yet, I need to get to writing with discipline. And maybe even get back to writing fiction. We’ll see. What we won’t see is this sort of writing about writing about writing. I get weary of this sort of writing pretty quickly. But for today, it’s what I needed to write.