Transition / Writing

Notes from the Bottom

1,500 words on my screen, and they are shit. I’m not being overdramatic here; I can tell when an essay has veered away from being a drafty-but-still-interesting narrative that needs some rewrites and fixes into something so dense, muddled, long-winded and boring, its only hope is as a scrap on my hard drive, eventually archived onto the external storage I recently invested in. These are the kinds of essays I received quite a bit while I was an editor, with oodles of telling what was happening with no soul. No spirit. No spark. The paragraphs lined onto the page like dead butterflies, too perfect and too uncomfortable for anyone to want to know.

I’ve been working on this piece of writing for a week, off and on when I can, when I can physically drag myself into the office. It’s on a list that’s been weighing down on my chest of Things I Must Write, making me feel anxious and unaccomplished and helpless. So much to do, so little time. Now, I discovered, the time I did find wasn’t put to good use. I forced these words out when they didn’t want to emerge, and as a result, I’ve wasted more effort and heart than I would have by avoiding the page and baking cookies, or watching the bonus features on my ‘Frozen’ Blu-Ray, or washing my really really freaking dirty car.

You are a failure, my mind tells me, and I don’t object.

My depression has “flared up,” I guess, whatever that means. It does that. I consider trying to find a therapist down here in Tucson, where I have yet to even secure a primary care physician. I can only imagine the insurance gymnastics and office phone call/new patient miracles I’ll have to perform to get anyone to talk to me. And then, what do I say? “My writing isn’t going well. I feel like I’m a failure.”

“Why?”

“Because my writing isn’t going well.”

“Why?”

There is no answer. There is no solution for lost spark, just like there is no one thing that makes a fun, fabulous idea in your head turn to shit once it hits Microsoft Word. It’s all of what we can’t explain: hiccups, lost airplanes, dark matter, hypnic jerks, nightmares, attraction. Star stuff and ripples on a pond. Nothing you can keep or duplicate.

The last time I felt this down was in the months after we’d moved here, when the summer choked out all enthusiasm and hope. I felt isolated and marooned, almost like I had died, and everyone I’d known would move on but I’d have to be out here in the far-off nothing. That was an easier kind of woe, because it was easy to explain. A reason to be given. But now, a year later, and all I can think of is the final scene of Kill Bill with Uma Thurman sobbing on the bathroom floor until her tears fracture into laughter. Release. She’s free. I’m starting to accept that I’m not going to get some of those relationships back. In some ways, that’s okay. I feel a sense of relief, even if I’m alone. The solitude doesn’t choke me the way it did at first.

No, it’s not as easy to box up this time. I’m scared that I’m not practicing my craft right. I’m scared that I’m wasting time, and I don’t have enough to go around. I’m scared that I’m losing opportunities. I’m scared that I’m never going to achieve what I dream about. I’m scared that the work I am putting out is rubbish, that it’s not reaching anyone, that it doesn’t matter. That I have no original thoughts.

I know that these are probably the thoughts everyone has, but right now, I can’t escape them. They’re not falling back and behind me like they’re supposed to. They take up all of my vision, and leave me physically exhausted. Failure doesn’t seem like a possible destination, it feels like what I’ve already become.

I try to keep the fear to myself, but that is also draining, and goes against who I’ve always been. I don’t hold back; I never have. Not because I have a need to whine, and I’m sorry if I am, but because it’s the only way I can make sense of where and who and what I am.

I want to do well. When I talk to people, I want to have happiness to share with them, not my growing malaise. I don’t want to avoid everyone anymore, it’s not my style. I just want to be proud of the words I’m stringing together again, to feel as though the work is for something. I realize that this is something we shouldn’t demand or expect or whatever. There seems to be a general sense of “don’t ever expect fulfillment” in this craft. I realize that this may sound greedy, but that’s kind of bullshit.

820 words on my screen. They make sense. I’ll keep them, the evidence of everything gone awry funneling into something. The most progress made in a week.

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3 thoughts on “Notes from the Bottom

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