do you feel this way too
For my whole life, the compulsion to make shit—primarily, to write—stemmed from a childhood preoccupied with the fear of obliteration, with the belief that if I didn’t carefully document of all the thoughts and feelings and filaments of my interior somewhere, anywhere—in a Harry Potter-themed planner, on the inside flap of a biology textbook, on the back of my hand—then there would otherwise be no proof that I existed at all. The tense here is misleading, because it kind of looks like what I was really obsessed with was the imagined future audience, like Claude Fredericks with his 80-year journaling habit, but my concerns were squarely within the lived present. I needed evidence to see myself at any given moment. I’ve never stopped needing it. It’s a worn-in feeling that’s only become heightened this past year, as life stammered and lurched and then mostly felt like it was only shifting its weight around instead of actually moving with any kind of progress. (Which is a crazy and ungrateful and unoriginal and myopic and frustrating and glib and definitely depressive thing to say, absolutely not how you picture the year you got so much of what you wanted.) But the more I talk to friends and colleagues and gamely vulnerable strangers who are also in this business of trying to convert art (loosely termed) into fulfillment or, more often money and status, the more the ceiling of satisfaction inevitably cycles into the conversation, and that is when we sheepishly admit that sometimes we come closer to religious ecstasy by way of perfecting a cereal bowl in pottery class than, say, producing the correct string of words that might live on someone’s screen for two minutes at most. What is the point? What is the point! I tell myself every day that I do it to “connect” with “people,” which is supposed to justify how I spend most of my time in service of that: sitting alone in my apartment or walking around alone or ordering enough takeout for three people so I can eat it all later, alone, because still the idea of being around actual others, with their expectations and incongruous think speak, still makes me feel skinned open, still makes me feel like the pane of plexiglass I sometimes imagined between me and other people has only become structurally reinforced in the time that has elapsed. It is likely we are all kidding ourselves on just how long the things we make will last, and the only way to lift ourselves up from the army crawl, however briefly, is to think of the writer’s life, the artist’s life, only as an otherworldly portal that exists in the back flap of our skulls, a metaphysical access point to imbue all the slinking and schlepping and scrubbing not even with any real glimmer, but maybe a barely perceptible additive sheen, and for the off chance that now and then, someone might be willing to come along and get pulled in through the innards alongside.
I’m going on book leave for a few weeks, then home, then California, maybe. See you next year, and in the meantime…
xoxox , d