We’ve All Been Through This

Stream-of-consciousness commentary on my relationship with writing

More often than not, I can’t just sit down and write. I have found that when it comes to writing and other hobbies, such as drawing, these activities are preceded with a lingering sense of dread, a coil of reluctance that slithers up from my stomach and wraps its tendrils around my wrists. Any attempts to thwart these attacks are met with fierce resistance; my fingers ache with illusory arthritis and my optic nerves throb with irritation, begging for rest.

My hands freeze over the smudged keys, and the little black line blinks inquisitively back at me. Well? It asks. Are you going to start? Shall I come back later? I seek out distractions; a forgotten assignment, a browse through the emails, a snack, a bathroom break — which all too often leads to the abortion of my Untitled Document.

Solitude and silence are often necessary for my mind to function unfettered, at least for a few minutes. I am easily distracted by sounds, especially voices. If I can write anything at all, it is short and disconnected. It has no beginning or end; it just is. A fragmented piece of a larger structure which my reeling mind has not the capacity to complete nor the strength to support.

Inspiration flits in and out of my room with the irregularity of a humming bird. There are abundantly pollinated minds elsewhere of much richer quality and flavor than mine. And then, at 4a.m., the buzz of tiny wings and a glowing spot in the darkness alights at the foot of my bed, insisting that I write. More often than not, I want to write but do not have the compulsion to do so. My mind is empty of all but the most mundane thoughts. The comfort of my room and even the most deadly of silences are not always enough to spur me on.

My greatest enemy is The What. Stopping me in my tracks, forcing me back, asking What are you going to write about? What do you want to say? Always giving me pause, stiffening my fingers and slowing my brain. So, we meet again. What will you do? Original ideas are impossible — maybe I’ll read a book or a magazine, watch a movie, stare out the window, crack my knuckles, listen to music, have a snack. If The What is my greatest enemy, The How is its sidekick, questioning my abilities and slyly demanding how I could possibly hope to record such vivid imaginings with words that will do them justice.

the ghost writer

How do the celebrated writers do it? Nudging and shepherding words around until they are right where they need to be — in a place where they were clearly meant to be all along? Words strung together with such precision and perfection that they couldn’t possibly be arranged in any other way?

Perhaps the discrepancy lies in the lack of distinction between my writer self and my “me” self. Or maybe it lies in the insecurities I harbor concerning whether I am, in fact, a writer, or merely an impostor. I often view writers as people who have established themselves as such to the rest of the world — who are published, experienced, and wise. I consider myself to be more of an apprentice; green, uncertain and stumbling over my words, struggling to build a sentence with the most aesthetically pleasing materials.

How do I separate myself from my writer self? If someone were to see me in my room, ferreting out words from my mind and typing them out onto the screen, would they not recognize me as the same person they spoke to earlier that day? Do I transform into a different person when I write? Everyone acts differently when adapting to various social situations, but is it possible to lead a double life?

I am quick to reject this theory, but upon further consideration, it seems plausible. When I write, I have more time to fashion out words and phrases into their most appealing and persuasive ensembles. My mouth is always one step ahead of my brain, resulting in rushed and awkward speech. I can converse as well as anyone, but who would want to listen to me talk for longer than what is deemed necessary for the trading of information? I am a much less confident person when I can hear the flaws in my voice and the words I choose without deliberation. Alone with my hands poised over the keyboard, the words are at my command and cannot come forth without thought. Unlike the spoken word, they can also be undone. Erased and replaced. As a writer, I have more control, and less chance of making an unalterable mistake.

– Katie Furlan

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