I haven’t really been here for years. And I come back a little reluctantly. Not because I do not wish to return here, but because I find myself locked in a battle of wills. Me against myself. And I am losing. That makes no sense, and ironically, that is exactly the whole point. I am fighting shawdows I have created myself.
Somehow, in the midst of life and living, I stopped writing. And as my proverbial pen dried up and started collecting dust on a shelf, the inner voice that lived through those writings fell silent, resentful and inevitably…. forgot itself. Like a muscle atrophying for lack of use, no longer serving the single purpose for which it was made.
I did that. To myself. Because I stopped writing. It wasn’t really a conscious choice, just something that kind of happened along the way. The same way Life kind of just happens while we’re busy sweating the small stuff. I didn’t mean to stop. But I did. And now, here I am… at odds with myself, because every word is an unwanted struggle that makes me aware I have grown ‘apart from myself’. If that is even possible? I think it is.
I could list a thousand valid reasons why – and I have – validating to myself why I didn’t have the time, or the need, or the wish to lay bare a piece of myself in random words on a random blog amongst millions of others. There is no arguing with the rationale of that sentiment. But the truth is,… if any of these had been the reason why I stopped writing, then I would have found a way around it. Found a way to keep a place and time for the words and the voice I loved so much.
No, I simply grew disenchanted with the whole thing. It stopped being … special, somehow. So many blogs and voice and words all around. Who has time to read them? Who has time to care that they exist? Why add more to that pile? Isn’t that a waste of words?
It all started to remind me of the (then) emerging selfie hype… where every photo in and of itself was an occasion to be shared and validated, and where the value of life and individuality was somehow measured by the ability to photograph and display it. Extra points for style and originality.
It reminded me of something Susan Sontag said in her amazing book, On Photography – a MUST READ for anyone with a love of photography and the complexity of truth and perspective in photos:
“A way of certifying experience, taking photographs is also a way of refusing it—by limiting experience to a search for the photogenic, by converting experience into an image, a souvenir. Travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs.”
– Susan Sontag, On Photography
Writing came to feel like that. Like words were being selectively produced for the sake of ‘being different’ and ‘self-promotion’. A battle for attention won or lost based on the accumulation of popularity. Hits, visits, ping-backs, awards, cross platform exposure … blogging was the selfie stick that extended reach and improved framing. All the while the craft of writing seemed reduced to a secondary element. One which one could easily be forgiven if manhandled in the pursuit of pleasing a haphazardly impatient and largely indifferent audience.
“Don’t say too much. Make it short and sweet. Easy to read.”
“Don’t go too deep, and don’t use big words. Keep it light and fun.”
“Don’t forget to tag and tweet and ping and share. Or no one will ever find it.”
“Don’t” … “Don’t” … “Don’t…”
In the end, I got sick of it. Sick of writing for to fill a void that could never be filled, and add just more words to an endless pile of excess. So, I stopped. And got used to being silent.
Coming back to read my own words now, years later, I hardly recognise myself in them, even though the words themselves ‘fit’ perfectly within me. Like the phantom memory of a severed limb. I know instinctively, they are mine. And that is when I truly realise what I have lost by forgetting that voice.
I feel a bit like someone who just started a diet or quit an addiction. Day 1. Nothing yet accomplished except deciding not to postpone it till tomorrow – again. That in and of itself is a small victory, I know. But still, such a long way to go. It’s going to be ugly and awkward, while my pen and I reconnect with the snubbed inner voice. But that’s okay.
This is Day 1.
Hi, I am a writer.
I got lost in all the words.