31 January 2014

A write of passage

Sometime last year I lost the ability to write. My fingers still typed, ideas still fell forth half-birthed from my head, but somewhere between mind and keyboard they lost their way. At first my thoughts were too many and too incoherent, so many things to be angry at and so many ways to make things better. Later my thoughts were fewer and more focused, but the desire to write just wasn't there, a lethargic cloud of apathy settled just above my shoulders, nestling my head in its soft dulling embrace. The fact was that I just couldn't see the point in writing any more, none of it made, or would ever make, a damn bit of difference. No change would ever happen, the indignities heaped upon us would continue and all the words that ever spilled across my screen were naught but the self-serving shouts of a man angered at the onset of middle age and the loss of so many possibilities. Work consumed my life, and time became a precious commodity, not to be wasted on writing, or reading, or doing anything save slumping in a corner slowly waiting for the dark of night to envelope you so the wretched day would end and a new one fresh with the lies of promise could begin. Repeat, rinse, repeat.

I spent a lot of time this Christmas in hospital, though for once I was a visitor and not an orange jump-suited detainee of my own broken body. Two close relatives were, and are, seriously ill, and I spent my days and nights criss-crossing the city from one hospital to another to see them. I spent a lot of time in waiting rooms. I spent a lot of time waiting. If you have spent an extended period ill in hospital, no time spent there later can ever exist in isolation, it is impossible to separate out your own tangled trauma from that of the people around you. You exist as both well-wisher standing by the bedside and shadow-patient lying in the memory of your bed. The eyes that look up at you, weak and frail, are both their's and your own, a quantum connection transposes both your sense of selves as they see themselves reflected in the anguished look of concern on your face and you try not to see through them to your own remembered pain. Call it selfish, I will not argue, but the sense of displacement/replacement rises unbidden and is impossible to shake, but behind all this lies a tangible empathy for the suffering of others that they themselves can feel, they know you have been where they are, that you can understand all the fear, the doubt and frustration that they struggle to pull themselves up through. No words need to be exchanged, that quantum lock of entangled glances is communication enough.

I sat on New Year's day and reflected on this. On the inability to predict what happens next, the certainty of regret and the fact that some much of what passed for joy in my life was squeezed out by the demands of health and work. I sat and remembered why I write, not to change the minds of others, not to interest them or give them pause for thought, not to bring a smile to their face or make them anger at the outrages of the day. I write, and always have done, to understand the inside of my head in a better way. When I do so I am always happier. It's like a dialogue with myself, the discipline of writing things down, formulating my thoughts so that they would be coherent to another person, to help solidify things in my mind. I write like someone is reading, but never actually expect that there is. The trouble is as more people did start to read, I forgot why I was writing, and the process became less about what I needed to do for me and more about what I thought I wanted to say to others. When that became too much of a self-imposed demand, the gulf between mind and keyboard expanded, drawing further and further apart until this blog fell into the chasm between them, deep and lost. I awoke one day and found that I had misplaced my voice.

So on January 1st I decided to start again, to learn how to write for me again, and with that came the goal of posting every day. This was less about what I was posting, and all about the discipline of setting aside time each day away from the distractions of the world outside and online, ten minutes, thirty minutes, an hour. A time dedicated solely to the process of formulating thoughts, of learning again how to walk down the corridors of my mind. And so here we are, thirty days later and thirty posts later, about to hit 'Publish' on post thirty-one. This time has been good for me, I feel more like myself. I cannot say that I will continue to post everyday, in fact that seems highly unlikely, but hopefully this exercise will have taken hold and the discipline to write will remain.

So if you are reading this, and you are not me, then I thank you for coming along on this journey. Your presence was not intended, but it is welcome, and if you got anything out of it along the way, all the better.

Onward to February, and whatever lies beyond...



At 3:04 am, Blogger Alex Leonard said...

The thought had crossed my mind that something must have been resolved on January 1st which resulted in the regularity of new Booming Back posts appearing in my feed reader.

I for one welcome this new frequency and can assure you that there is an avid fan of your writings, whoever their intended audience and whatever their intended purpose, lounging in a sarong 10,000km away.

At 8:25 pm, Blogger Felicity Ford said...

I love your blog and the sense of your thinking that energises your words... There is a fantastic vitality inhabiting this latest crop of posts and I reckon it is because of this new resolve to write as you put it "for you". What is so generous about writing for you is that in putting your words here you bring us into the processes of your thinking. In Art College I remember reading that all great art careers represent a never ending search, that good artists don't work to please a crowd but to satisfy a burning inner curiosity. Reckon it's true for writers too! Hurrah for puzzling out the thoughts in the making, whether in wool, paint, plaster, wood or words.


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