Why write? Why spend hours thinking of the perfect sentence, unsuccessfully chasing an absolute that doesn’t exist? I often question why I write, why, even during days when I have read carnivorously or aced tests or scrutinized a film, writing remains my only salve. Maybe it is because writing makes the banality of the world tolerable in comparison. It takes situations and grinds from them the rare incense of life. Literature, film — others’ creations — are to be consumed with passion and precision. The old dictum that if one wishes to be a good writer, one also must be a good reader is certainly true. But writing itself maintains a deeper, self-gratifying aspect that even reading the best literature doesn’t. Ultimately, perusing any worthwhile art is an act of great admiration. Although I am not able to write every day (whereas reading is a perpetual commonplace in my life), writing vitalizes me like nothing else I know.
But it can be a miserable activity, writing. I frequently end up berating myself and my incompetence. My slow-paced, usually overheated prose, makes up, to me, not a beautiful superstructure of language, but embarrassing idiolalia. I think, and then I think harder, and find myself clenched, angrily gripping my mind, trying to shake out a coherent thought, a half-tuned sentence. Much of my machinations while writing are cajolements of the self: trying to talk myself down off the linguistic ledge, cheering myself to go on after putting together a sentence of half-decent affect.
But then I let go. To call up the cliché, I just write. I do less thinking, but also more. I write without looking at the screen, without pestering every word I lay down on the page. It becomes a flow that sometimes develops into a fruitful fugue, a deluge of letters and punctuations to be sharpened at a later date. And when this occurs, it is less a struggle with the conditioned self (a struggle that can never be held at adequate length), and more a channeling of a sort of madness into language. Occasionally, such an unleashing produces a sentence not destined for the trash heap. And although there are degrees to this artistic fugue, paces that both quicken and slow with my own ability to relinquish crushing self-awareness, the exercise itself engenders a certain happiness. It is, I think, a proximity to creation that is not the rich but ultimately maudlin exercise of reading or watching, but is the honest compilation of myself. It doesn’t make the objective world better, but it makes my world better. “Catharsis,” I believe is the hackneyed term.
The point, I think, is the nearness to creation. Writing, unlike any other art, or any other act of creation, is the mind’s attempt to organize reality, to perspectivally interpret experience and place it coherently onto a page. It is the hardest thing I have ever done, but it is also the most rewarding. To go too much time without writing is to alienate myself from a compelling world filled with my self-reflexive interpretations of it. Through interpreting reality I interpret myself.
I am struggling to write this very piece, precisely because of the self-conscious babble in my head about impressions, ability, credence. I know my “point,” but to write it well is an intricate, intimate process.
Writing connects the mind to the self and presents its findings through language. As Nietzsche says, “language speaks man.” Writing reveals a momentary condition of the self. Internalities beautifully, rhythmically, and with a sense of clarity, are excreted onto the page, hammered into some sort of shape. It all may seem very nebulous, but writing is the most intimate of projects, it is the mind’s leap to try to concretize being. Of course, such a task is not easy. It is intensely personal and difficult. But most great people do things not because they are easy, but because they are hard. The difficulty of writing comes with a fleeting but sharp reward. It’s a jolt, a whack on the head, a pulsation of energy. Quite frankly, it is a click of something special. It’s that other thing.