on writing

Sometimes the thing that makes me want to write is the feeling of the keyboard under my fingers. There is something intensely pleasurable about the sound it makes, the spring of the keys and the feeling of rapid-fire creation. Even if I’m writing something as simple, as silly as a post to put on my blog, it is a feeling of satisfaction to watch the words appear.

A computer is supposed to be so much less a physical way to write—I think every single book on writing I own, especially the cheesy, touchy-feely ones that believe writing has something to do with expressing your innermost unique and precious soul, has a paragraph or entire chapters about throwing away your computer, or at least setting it aside, and picking up the pen. For you see, it is only through the pen on the paper, the actual movement of your hand across the page, something to do with your breath and your heart and the loops on the ends of your lower-case Fs that makes you a better writer, a more spiritual one, more in tune with your special body and your flower-petal inner beauty that can only be expressed in poetry or something.

Maybe it says something about me, about the way I write or the way I think about writing or the way I am not a snowflake built of glowing crystals fashioned from pure self-esteem, but I think that typing is so much more in tune with the way I think, the way I construct sentences, the way I lay words down on the page, one after the other. I used to do it unconsciously; Now I’m a lot more aware of the impact of the words I choose, the combinations I create, and something about the rapid-fire ticking of the computer keys suits that, propels that, propels me across and down to whatever finish line I’m looking to cross.

I don’t think pottery, or painting, or music or any other kind of art form is considered in quite the same ooshy-gooshy way that writing is considered, and I wonder why that is. As far as I can tell—because I can’t pot, or paint, or play—there is nowhere near as much mysticism and breathy, soul-delving spiritualism built around any other form of expression. Is it because writing is so much more democratic? Is it because anyone can write? Anyone can put together sentences, and everyone believes their sentences are the best sentences. Very few people can oil paint the hell out of a canvas, and most people who pick up a paintbrush or a pen, I think they’re pretty aware of how badly they suck, if they don’t have talent.

I’ve always wanted to be able to paint, or sculpt or play or dance or do something spectacular. There is something unspectacular about writing; there is something a little sad about it, too. There’s either a blowhardy kind of bravado about it—the teenager writing goth poetry calls herself a writer—or something shy and tragic and secretive—writers afraid to call themselves writers, as if there’s some kind of test they have to pass, or a performance standard, or a set number of material accomplishments involved. Writers writing novels who are afraid to call them novels because why—they’re afraid of being mixed in with the goth poetry writers and nanowrimers who submit their first 50,000-word draft to agents across America?

There’s something so solitary about writing, and something about that which makes it particularly, peculiarly subjective.  Something that makes people critics, and ridiculous, and shy, and overbearing, and embarrassingly self-conscious. Kind of idiotic. Something that makes people who write (writers?) write long, rambling posts about writing, reaching for some conclusion that doesn’t actually exist.

Writing is the reason that expensive writer’s conferences and expensive, week-long writer’s workshops with expensive mentorships for sale so very popular, and so populated. By which I mean—writing being the way it is. Writers being the way they are, good and bad, self-conscious and self-important and a little in between.

It drives me a little nuts, and I thrive on it. I write, and I find myself avoiding calling myself a writer. I type madly away on my keyboard, enjoying the way the keys click, and they way the words stream from my head to my hands without any intervening thought. I wonder if anyone can tell. I wonder if it’s a good thing. I wonder when I should start really calling myself a writer with any sort of conviction, or if I ever should, or if we should all, from the goth poets to the the fan fictioneers, to the idiots writing or trying to write epic poems and novels and memoirs. I wonder if this post would have been any different if I had discarded my keyboard and taken up my pen and my words throbbed along the page with my heartbeat and my breath. I wonder if that would have been the time I managed to finally share my special body and flower-petal inner beauty that can only be expressed in a blog post or something.

  3 comments for “on writing

  1. May 20, 2011 at 6:53 am

    That’s really beautiful, Jen.

  2. May 20, 2011 at 7:13 am

    I was drunk.

  3. May 20, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    Awesome post. The second paragraph cracked me up. I’m the same way — the keyboard is part of my process, and I just can’t write as well if I try to do it with a pen. For one thing, my penmanship is barely legible, and for another, I can’t scribble fast enough to keep up with my thoughts.

    But as you described, there is a visceral joy in the feeling of your fingers pounding away on the keys as your thoughts magically appear on the screen. Also, it’s noisy, which is just fun.

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