Monday, May 14, 2012

Who the Hell Are You?

Obligatory acknowledgment (and stating the obvious) that I haven't written anything here in 11 months. Maybe a bunch has happened. Maybe nothing of much consequence has. Writing about nearly a full year of day-by-day details would surely make you do little more than scroll to the end to see if there is, indeed, a punchline. (Hint: There is not.)

I kept waiting for some revelatory moment and all I got were a bunch of loosely connected epiphanies and ephemera.

Many of the writers I admire speak of writing like a muscle that must be worked--flexed, released, trained, learned, disappointed, perhaps, but always moving forward. I have never been that person who writes every day. Even at the height of my quasi-manic writing, it was never daily. And I often compared myself to those writers who feel compelled to make it almost like a ritual prayer. It is their instrument, after all, right? My only explanation looking back now at 11 months--honestly the longest I've ever gone without writing one sentence or paragraph that was purely was for my own exploration--is a loss of confidence. That old story. Not that I really knew that while in the midst of it. But when six different people referred to me as a writer (casually in conversation, introductions at parties, in questions they asked), it's hard to bark, "I am not a writer."

Besides, what does that even mean?

I don't make my living this way (duh #1). I don't care much to do so (duh #2). When I worked in publishing, I had the glamorous ideal of "being a writer" sucked out of me (duh #3). I am not good at selling myself (duh #4). I live in a country where artists are routinely looked upon as being elitist and somehow not "real workers" (duh #5). Yet, here I am, still a writer, with articles published, years of blog posts, some kind of need to keep presenting myself, my view of the world, my understanding of what it means to be in any particular moment.  

Maybe you are a fucking writer.

That phrase bounced around in my head on more than a few nights, as I stared at a digital clock that seemingly mocked me with its keeping of time, and reminding me that if I didn't sleep I'd be less clear on the subject when it got light again. But I am just synthesizer of information, I reminded myself. I look at ways to bring things together, to make things happen, to make sure others get what they need.

 Then what do you need?

And then my brain and I decided on a truce of sorts. Don't call me a writer; I won't tell you what you need.

Funny thing about brains, however, is that they don't just STOP. Even when we say we're "spaced out," "out of it," "busy," "so busy," or even "relaxed," they just keep whirring along, not really caring about your choice of polite lies. And suddenly I realized that if this was how it was going to be, I had to do it how I wanted...and I picked up an essay I wrote over five years ago, deciding I needed to make it into an object--something beautiful--and that I needed someone I knew to help me do that.

And here I sit. With an essay in front of me that needs my help to be better; with a friend of mine 800 miles away who's miraculously agreed that she could illustrate it, and I feel the synthesis beginning. Again. I don't know how it will be done. I don't know who will pay for it yet. I don't know if anyone aside from a random assortment of acquaintances will care. I do know, however, that it will be something I always wanted it to be. Apparently I am a synthesizer--a writer of sorts who creates some kind of linguistic alchemy.

So much for the brain truce. I give up.