I bought a typewriter recently. I found online a beautiful coral green Hermes typewriter from 1951.
I’ve been having problems getting past the first sentence. I’d write the first sentence, but then delete it. Because it wasn’t perfect. It couldn’t exist until it was perfect. So the hope was that I’d write the first, then the second — and at some point, an entire story. The hope was that the permanence would force me to move on — to actually write again.
But it hasn’t worked yet. So I’m trying something new.
I’m going to write a new post every day this month.
I was partially inspired by Elizabeth Spiers, who vowed to post more bad writing — and she has. This is the willingness to be bad in public. I was also inspired by Danielle Steel, the novelist. I read the first chapter of one of her books the other day. I always looked down on her because she puts out so much stuff. But I liked it. The story was accessible and fun and interesting. It made me care about a person who doesn’t even exist, and about a story that was not part of my life 10 minutes prior. The paragraphs weren’t babied. They merely worked to communicate a story.
I’m doing this exercise because I’m struggling to put words on the page. It’s never been this way before. I always went back to edit. What I first put on the page never defined who I was; rather, it was what I did with it. But as I’ve become more conscious of what I don’t know, I’ve become less willing to write — less sure of myself. It’s hard to have strong feelings about anything when you find yourself in the lukewarm position between ignorance and expertise. I don’t even have strong feelings about my own experiences.
I bought a book of poetry to read writing from people who feel strongly about things. What amazed me was that these people were writing about things that didn’t require expertise. Yet it was still insightful. I thought I used to be good at this, but something happened and now when I write something, I can’t help but think how stupid and clunky it is.
I used to think language was a utility. If I felt internally conflicted or ambiguous, I’d write about it until I could sort it out in my head. Writing was a way for me to cope, to clarify and to concentrate. First drafts were like putting the clay on the pottery wheel, and the editing was the actual art.
I don’t do much of that anymore.
I think part of it is that, if I’m unhappy, I don’t feel as if I can write about that unhappiness. Grown ups don’t do that, or so I’ve told myself. I think this stems from the idea that people share too many of their problems on the internet. I tend to agree. But these poems reminded me of two things: 1) Humanity’s most beautiful art was born from unhappiness of dissatisfaction. 2) What is not common is writing that dissects our shared suffering in an honest, humble way.
In this exercise, I will try to be as honest and humble as possible.
As I write this now, I’m starting to think this essay sounds scattered. That’s OK, thouhg. I haven’t had much practice putting together 800 words lately, which is why I’m doing this. I’ve had trouble speaking in complete sentences; I mumble and stumble and jumble. It’s perhaps a sign of self-editing and self-consciousness — and maybe the saturation of the toxic idea that my word are worthelss.
On that note: I imagine a lot of this writing will be bad. I imagine very few people will read this.
But one hope is that, because I write every day, I can focus on the mundane and not think that it has to meet some imaginary barrier of importance to be posted on my blog. Another hope is that it’ll grease the wheels on my brain. For the past few months, I’ve been trying to write a book. But I’ve been trying to write it for the sake of writing it. I enjoy the act of writing; it makes me feel accomplished and productive. But I need a story first. I need to be inspired by something. When I used to write a lot more, I would have ideas all the time. But now the ideas have kind of staled over time. The last hoep is that this will help be prepared for National Novel Writing Month. I don’t know that I’ll write a novel; I’ve never finished one. But I do know that it’s been difficult to be a part of something larger than myself.
I used to think that I’d never turn into one of those people who would have something more important than their work to make them happy. But that’s because I thought I’d be a writer — and I think a part of me still does. I think that part of me deserves a chance to be bad, a chance to develop and a chance to be happy.
The hardest part about this is that I used good at this. But now I struggle to even write 800 words.
I think, secretly, I want this to turn into something significant in my life. I fantasize about waking up, sitting on a porch and writing all day. I think it’s because the minimalist side of me thinks it’s the very simplest way to communicate. Done right, a good piece of writing tops everything.
It feels good to know that I will post something tomorrow and the day after and the day after. It feels as if my words are no longer scarce — as if I have a chance today and a chance tomorrow and the next day. I think that’s why I always loved writing; I felt like it opened up the world a little bit. It helped organize the world a little bit. It helped me make my day a little better.
So, I’ll be back tomorrow.