How I don’t write

I feel feverish. My brain feels like it’s overheating, short-circuiting.

I imagine what I would think if my words were written by someone else and I read them. Portentous, try-hard, banal, bad.

I can’t stand the thought of writing something someone else might not be impressed with. Narcissistic? Yes, I know that, but that doesn’t make me feel anything less.

As long as the words stay inside my head, they are full, flexible, expansive, expanding. Once they’re typed then bam! the wave-function collapses and you’re stuck with one series of words, one which will always be imperfect. But then, you can move the words in the word document around and around forever, in an endless series of imperfect sentences.

I write something I like, and then I am terrified by the thought I am unconsciously plagiarizing it from somewhere and anxiously search my memory.

I scroll through a cluster of bad words on Facebook. I feel guilty for not doing my work, angry with myself for wasting time on something that isn’t even enjoyable, and afraid that I will write something just as bad.

Writing, even in its most prosaic forms, forces you to show parts of yourself. Writing means shaving off little bits of skin and bone and giving them up to whoever asks, even people you don’t particularly like or trust.

Why do we write, unconsciously? Because we want there to be something that remains after we die. And what if that thing is bad? Then our lives were bad and worthless. Narcissistic? Again, yes.

I laugh when I grade bad student papers and wince at poor arguments, but ultimately I feel sad and a little guilty, because we are all so bad at teaching. We can’t train students to obsessively count grade points and equate memorization with learning for 13 years and then expect them to emerge as college freshmen bursting with “critical thinking.”

The possibility of accomplishment and relief taunts me. The idea that I will accomplish one day, maybe, possibly, only reminds that I right now I am not accomplishing anything. If I will get better someday then right now I am dysfunctional. Then I start to feel nauseous.

I am terrified of asserting myself, personally or politically, because people can talk about ‘living your truth’ all they want, but that sort of real honesty rarely ends well, and I am terrified of being annihilated by someone whose truth requires the destruction of mine.

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