There is nothing sadder than the niggling thought that you have a slew of unfinished, barely started drafts.
I take that back – it’s having a slew of unfinished, barely started drafts across multiple platforms. Medium, WordPress, the five million writing applications on my phone, all with a cute little note on the side telling me I have x drafts. Even my journal has unfinished thoughts in it and that’s supposed to be an archive of myself at my most candid.
I have unfinished drafts of my candid thoughts.
I realized that was part of a bigger problem I was having, which was that I didn’t have the focus, the ability to sit down and write something. My friends know me as being restless; I can’t stay indoors for more than a few hours, even if it’s bitingly cold outside. Oh, yeah, and when I’m outside, it’s too cold to actually write anything (because touchscreen gloves are a goddamn lie). You would think the commute to work and then back might be a good time and place to jot down a few thoughts, but that’s because you haven’t experienced the Green Line during rush hour. I’m too busy trying not to get flung across the car on that horrible turn in and out of Boylston.
This is what I think the problem was: my co-op is very writing-intensive. I spend at least seven hours a day at an office full of journalists; I earn my bread by coming up with words for things and putting them in order. In the same way that writing essays every week fills up my writing quota during college, writing up news briefs and transcribing interviews into snappy quotes does the same. And yet, because it’s not academic, because I’m still trying to get my wits about me, because my homework assignments don’t consist of working and reworking short stories, poems, memoirs and plays; I am left dissatisfied with how much I write, with what I write.
A couple of days ago, I was sulking at my friends, talking about how I can’t seem to write anymore if it isn’t for work. The last finished entry in my journal – which I promised myself I would write in daily – was from January 3rd. It was a haiku I wrote with gold eyeliner (Urban Decay 24/7 Liquid Eyeliner in the color ELDORADO for those curious) because I was too lazy to get out of bed and grab an actual pen. My friend mentioned how she used to wake up early in the morning and write three full pages before she went about her day; she doesn’t do that anymore, but the exercise was a good one. I promised myself something similar, a few years ago, but I’m bad at keeping promises I make to myself.
But there’s something about seeking actual advice from people that can drive you in a way nothing else can. I went home, that day, and grabbed my journal. I turned on the fairy lights beside my bed, flopped onto my belly, and started writing. By the time I stopped, I had written eight full pages. I would have written more, if not for the fact that I had work in the morning and it was half past midnight already. I could feel the catharsis in my bones, taste the relief on my tongue.
I slept better than I have in days. Like, writing all that knocked me the fuck out.
The next day – yesterday – at work, I found myself in the black hole of Wikipedia. Great Man Theory -> Übermensch -> Nietzsche -> Knight of Faith. As I sifted through the article on Kierkegaard’s concept of the Knight of Faith, something happened that hasn’t happened in a very long time: I felt a plot bunny. I found myself temporarily obsessed with the idea of being so deeply attuned to the finite and the infinite that you can act independently of the world, of everything temporal and physical, and act out of your faith in God – and then I realized how incredibly dangerous that obsession could be for people who truly wanted to pursue that knighthood; who saw it not as an academic construct, but as a genuine pursuit.
I started writing the story at work. I pieced together a little Evernote document with links to research materials, quotes, a PDF of Fear and Trembling, and I started writing. Remember how I mentioned I never wrote during my commute? Some kindly gentleman saw me furiously typing on my phone, my legs positioned stubbornly so as not to lose my balance, and took to grabbing the back of my hood every time it seemed I was going to be thrown across the car. Again.
I haven’t been this excited about writing something ambitious since last semester, and while that doesn’t seem like a very long time – and in truth, it isn’t – it’s important. I’m going to stop joking here for a second.
I can’t tell you what the Peshawar Massacre did to me, to all of us. Everyone dealt with it differently, suffered its impact and trauma in a different manner. For an entire month, it crippled my creativity. I was in a fugue state, my concentration destroyed and replaced with constant malaise. I went about my life, I enjoyed my days, I went to parties at night with my friends but my heart was – still is – perpetually sunken. There was a lump in my throat that refused to go away. And to write anything that wasn’t for my country, for that tragedy, felt like a disservice. Maybe this is the first step towards moving on: recognizing that there is only so much I can mourn, and that at some point I have to stop crippling myself and be productive in that most meaningful of ways: I had to allow myself to create again.
The fact that I have written as much as I have in the past couple of days is heartening. It’s the final piece in the puzzle of contentment I have been trying to complete since this year began. For all intents and purposes, January was a wonderful month. I love my co-op, I have amazing friends, I have been taking care of myself, I’ve even been drawing – but now that I can write again?
The jigsaw is a pretty picture.