In the last few days, I have come to make an unsettling observation.
There are important things in life that have direct consequences and must be dealt with immediately. Then there are the other things that hardly lead to any physically manifest effects and yet hold the capacity to quietly obliterate the world as it is known when they do come into observation. This was one of those other moments for me.
I realised that I cannot think on paper anymore.
Yesterday, as I pulled off yet another pointless all-nighter doing things that did not need to be done (ah, ’tis the season to not sleep and be fake-jolly during passive aggressive cranky days) I thought hey, everybody is sleeping right now, I have no distractions, the battery on my laptop is pathetically low and the charger is too far away.
I should write on paper!
So with all the nostalgic excitement of a millennial teenager who, say, happens to receive a handwritten letter or listens to old records on a gramophone, I picked up an artsy looking notebook and sat myself down on my sister’s horrendously messy study table.
And I couldn’t get a single passage out.
It wasn’t that I couldn’t think of anything. In fact, it was partly because I was thinking too fast for my own good. Before I finished on a tangent, I plunged into another that was way off topic and successfully made no sense by the time I was done with my abominable little sentences.
All the while, my hand was getting fidgety because I wasn’t sure about the spelling of the word “fluttery” (fluttry? fluttery? ) and there was NO spell check there to save my semi-educated ass immediately. Not knowing how to write that word for sure made me question everything I ever thought I knew and I conveniently collapsed into a puddle of intellectual self-loathing.
I feel like we don’t notice frequently enough what a blessing it is to be able to edit our writing on computers and how comfortable we have gotten with rewriting everything we write. If you have forgotten the good old days, and I’m sure you have, let me remind you (dejectedly) that paper cuts no slack, friend. Only unsuspecting fingertip skin. Creativity is not shoved down your throat on the silver spoon of Microsoft word when you brave a physical notebook. Nope. You need to sharpen your goddamn pencils and you need to get your thoughts right as you go.
I noticed how unforgiving the paper truly is when I saw what I had done with my disgustingly scribbly and unorganized paragraph- there were sentences within, above, below, between and parallel to other sentences. There was no direction of writing. I was scrunching up words wherever I found space and it looked like utter crap and I was very deeply disheartened.
So I shook my head, violently crumpled up the poor, vandalized piece of paper ( my handwriting is the worst too) and slammed it into the open mouth of a dustbin.
In a gesture of crippling surrender, I picked up that far-away charger, started up my laptop, and wrote all of this down in one giant fit (don’t worry, you won’t be reading the original ghetto version of this because technology pampers me and I will grammar this up like a winner when I’m done ).
As I got down to REALLY writing, a disturbing idea dawned on me when I considered why exactly I couldn’t write properly on paper anymore. The real reason, veiled beneath the protection of all those obvious and defensive excuses, struck me like a lightning bolt in a desolate farmland.
I can’t articulate on paper because I can’t think straight.
Let me explain. When I write on the screen, I get to edit my original thoughts as much as I want. I get to transform my own ideas in ways that make them more appealing and interesting to the world and, here comes the stressful bit, I get to alter my essential thoughts in ways that make them different from the mainstream. That make them cooler because I deliberately set myself apart when I attempt self-expression.
Now you’d ask what is wrong with that. Nobody likes generic stuff. Innovation is evolution, new ideas change the world, old ideas hold us back, be different, be unique, be better than the rest by being a maverick. That is as good an opinion as any.
But I have a pathetically stubborn obsession with honesty.
Not in a virtuous, humble, heroic sense but in a way that is highly introspective and all-consuming. I hate myself when I try to rationalize around basic problems and I refuse to accept any version of me that isn’t perfectly honest with myself. It doesn’t matter if I’m different or cool or interesting- if I am genuinely, unapologetically, thoroughly honest, I will be fine. My self-image HAS to be real to me.
And me changing my ideas all together in the process of unwarranted, nazi editing to be more interesting on a blog that no one reads has begun to disgust me.
When I censor myself, I am not being honest with myself. That is problematic.
(My brain has basically exploded in an explosion of rage at this point, bear with me.)
My desperate need to stay honest is not something that I just happened to pick up. There was a long drawn process of bitter character development behind it.
I saw that as I grew old, I read too many damn books and absorbed too many weird ideas and I didn’t just let them be. Oh no, I mulled them over and over so much that nothing and everything began making sense to me. I observed one day with a jolt of surprise that I had so many opinions- I actually had none. I was just a bubble of thoughts floating around contradicting myself, debating irrelevant matters in my head in a cycle that led to NO conclusions.
This is where the honesty bit kicked in. I begun to acknowledge that I read things, I think things and I learn things- but all I truly know is what I have experienced and concluded for myself. I have to be true to my own world and if I aspire to be any sort of successful. I can learn ways to think, but the thinking itself has to be done entirely by me.
So I never wrote about love even though I knew hundreds of love stories and all the romantic tropes out there. I refused to write an adventure until I had my own.
And now, I can’t pretend to know any emotions until I’ve felt them for myself. I am me, nothing more, nothing less.
I must not tell lies. I must have integrity.
I cannot waver from this resolve. It is detrimental to my personality.
So now, I need to define my priorities once and for all. Is originality setting myself apart deliberately or just writing things that I thought of by myself, no matter how generic the content? Is originality coming up with new things or simply expressing what I originally thought? Is originality a stroke of genius novelty or just perfectly genuine representation of personal ideas?
I don’t know. But I do have a massive prejudice.
If you are merely expressing yourself, I don’t see any reason to overreach. I’ve always thought that if you truly feel the beauty of a pretty flower and write generic Wordsworth crap about it, it will still be better than forced urban romanticisations of cigarette stubs and vodka that are so much edgier today.
And well, vice versa.
Sounding cool is not enough. Being your own boring little self and still finding a way to be cool- that is what I respect with all my heart.
Just to be clear, I’m not reprimanding brave attempts at hypothetical life experiences and I am not belittling anybody’s art. I love dragons. Creating worlds is not lying. Imagination is different from pretence.
I am simply judging myself for doing something all this time that I myself so strongly condemned.
But at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what I think. Creativity is bigger than everything I ever was and will be, and as for what it is?
I still don’t know. I am only disturbed by my hypocritical pursuit of it.
I will need to edit this blog with all the literary grit I have because it is a mess right now and makes no sense but MAN this feels good.
Okay, I am done. For now. Phew.