Writing drives me nuts.
I’m recovering from writing an assignment/paper for the past month and a bit. Submitted it on Saturday after a cursory review. I felt too exhausted and dragged out to push myself any further. And as I’ve been recuperating, I’ve been thinking about this strange process of writing.
As I worked through this paper, I realized how my approach has evolved through my Master’s program. When I first started this program, I read each paper slowly and laboriously, afraid to miss the one nugget that would bring everything into sharp focus, the witty quote that would summarize the whole point and wrap everything up all nice and clean. So far for this course, I’ve read the four required texts (most of them “quick reads”), “The End of Growth” (Jeff Rubin) and started “The Price of Inequality” (Joseph Stiglitz), and more papers than I can remember. (BTW: Before this course, I had never read an economics book!) At one point this time around, I was reading a paper, with my dog pretending she was a lap dog on my lap, the cat on my chest, and I thought “I only have two more papers to read tonight”. My world has expanded.
This time the process and my engagement with it was messier. It didn’t even start off with the topic I thought it should/would. As much as I tried to steer it, it seemed to have a mind of its own. It ended up being a way for me to process my father’s death, and ultimately all of ours, but this came at an emotional cost.
I wrote in jags between procrastination, writer’s block and just plain feeling that it was too big, too broad a topic, too vast a canvas. Cursing it. Who was I to bring up this issue? To roll it around and poke at it? To wonder, “why can’t anyone see this is going to be a crisis?” I’d try to whack it down into more manageable pieces, and discovered I still had to build a framework around the story and the context.
Some of what I discovered made me feel sick to my stomach and I’d have to get up and walk around. Some of it made me angry because of the way we handle (or not handle) difficult conversations in our society. But it kept coming back. I felt like I was wrestling with it, like it was some kind of gummy octopus that kept clinging to me with its greedy little suckers. It became an odd kind of companion for a while, pointing out things with a skinny, wrinkled witches’ finger that I didn’t previously notice or want to see, slowly creating another lens through which to view my world.
I read like crazy but it took writing it down and parsing it to slowly come up with content. Three quarters of the way through, I still didn’t have the structure or the story. I kept panicking. But of course, it didn’t care. Kept on reading. More writing, most of it incoherent. More walking around thinking I should be writing. Walking around thinking about thinking about writing and telling myself “just do it already”. Walking around thinking about not being able to think. I talked to myself… a lot.
And then the deadline came. I hit Submit. It was done. It was gone.
I reread it the next day. Found a missing reference and an orphan one. A redundant sentence. A typo. But it was done. And now it no longer needed me to give it a voice.
I didn’t realize how much I put into this relationship until it was over. It left me feeling raw. The first day after I felt like I’d been in a race and collapsed in the sprint to the finish line. The next day after that I walked around in the foggy stupor that follows the consumption of too much sugar and caffeine, and too little sleep, seeing everything slightly out-of-focus through the new lens. Today I felt lonely for its presence, as much as I had ever felt it was a burden.
I think I miss it.