Some of you l0yal listeners – hey, Mom! – might have noticed that my wee little corner of the web has been sorely neglected over the past few months. If you were wondering why, I’m here to explain.
Writing and I are on strained terms right now. If this was Facebook, I’d be “in a relationship and it’s complicated” with writing. I have a dozen saved drafts on this blog, and by “drafts,” I really mean “three lines that I have deleted and rewritten fifteen times already and am sick of looking at.” If you’re reading this, it means that this draft won’t be joining the rest of those awkward written wallflowers. If you’re not reading this…does it exist? That’s theory, and I am half-sick of theory (said the grad student of Shalott).
I’m not sure where this is coming from. I’ve been writing for two decades – it’s always been therapeutic. Even on the crappiest, most discouraging, sludgiest days, I’ve always been able to look in the mirror and at least know that I’m a writer. And not just that; I actually write. One of my great fears is becoming one of those writers who don’t actually write. The last six months have been an uncharacteristic dry spell. I could probably blame grad school. That’s my default position, and it usually works (certainly to explain my carpal tunnel and dating life), but I wonder if there’s something else going on here.
When – and why – are we all written out? And how do we recharge?
In my life and work, I produce words. I spend my days teaching students (verbal eruption, usually, no matter how hard I try), talking to my coworkers, talking online to friends, writing emails, writing texts, writing lesson plans, more chatting with my coworkers. By the time the end of the day rolls around, I’m drowning in words. I feel that the words I produce accomplish less and less the more I pile them on. It’s as if we spend our days building layer upon layer of words until we end up with a snarled rubber-band-ball of the words we’ve thrown out into the world, trying to prove that we were here. And isn’t that at least partially why we write? Let’s be honest: those of us who write for others to read don’t do it because of “the inner self” or something terribly Modernist like that. We want to be recognized, to leave something in our wake, so we produce more and clutter up the silence with chatter. I’ve become a chatterer in my life, and all the din is overwhelming the part of me that has something to write about.
I’ve been letting the field lay fallow for a little while because of word-clutter, when what I really should be doing is cleaning out that clutter. Listening more, and talking less. Now, to be fair, I have a lot to say. And usually what I have to say is constructive in some way. But do I really need to be answering that text message that has nothing to say but “hey”? (Seriously. No punctuation marks, no nothing. That effort doesn’t deserve rewarding anyway). And do I really need to send out fourteen emails to my students when one will suffice? There’s nothing I can do about my wordy capstone paper – blame Henry James (blessed be his name forever and ever amen) – but I can at least revise more thoroughly and cut all my fancy “academicky” words, the ones that don’t actually mean anything.
There’s an Eddie Murphy movie (which, I confess, I have not seen) in which Murphy’s character learns his life will be measured out by a finite number of words. Once he uses them up, that’s the end for him. While that’s a terrifying fate, can’t we all learn a little bit about saving the words we have?
Well, I’m a work in progress. I’ll keep you all posted.