I write in bed early in the mornings with a cup of coffee next to me, while my mind is clear and writing comes easy. Which isn’t always. Sometimes I feel dark thoughts scuttle across the corners of my mind like spiders hiding from the light. At times like these I seem to have more important things to do, like tidying up last nights dishes or checking my email. Anything really. As long as I don’t have to pull back the curtains and let the light into those lonely corners.
I write at my computer. I write about my job and what I know.
I sit at my desk, making lists. Lists of things I need to do and things I will never do, reasons to stay and reasons to go. I go back to the lists sometimes to cross off the things I have done or decided aren’t worth doing. Other times simply writing them is enough.
I write to distill years of trial and error into something that might save others from the mistakes I made.
The scratch of my pen fills the house, empty and alone around me. When my relationship of 6 years was slowly falling apart I wrote about how I wished things could be the way they were when we still made each other smile. I wrote about how I wanted her to change. I didn’t write about how I too drowned our love. I didn’t write about why I chose to stay in a relationship that was making both of us sad and lonely. I didn’t write about wanting to feel loved and safe in my own home again.
I write to convey the concepts and attitudes that make me good at what I do so that other people can learn and grow.
I write in a quiet corner of the office. We broke up and I can’t focus on anything but the sadness. I have to get these thoughts out of my head. They spill from my pen and sit on the page like a coral snake on freshly pressed linen. They’re still venomous but now I can keep my distance. Tonight they’ll slither back into my mind and heart, but weaker, slower. Less powerful now that they’re out of my head.
I write to discover what I have learnt and I write to see what I still need to figure out.
I write in a wooden chair, the morning sun reflecting off the page. I think of how Harry, my little kitten, would’ve chewed the page, casting motes adrift in the sunlight. For months after he died I would write about what I wanted from work, how I felt about success and what it meant to me. How I could learn to be more comfortable with myself. I didn’t write about how my heart ached for the fragile thing I felt safe to love because he couldn’t judge or reject me. I didn’t write about how hard it is for me to open up to people and how easy it is to love a pet. I didn’t write about the guilt I felt at waiting one more day to see if he felt better before I took him back to the vet. I didn’t write about how I wished I could have held him one last time, as his lungs filled with fluid and he took his last struggling breath.
I write to help people understand.
The plastic table wobbles as I write alone in front of a cheap cafe, looking up at snowboarders on the Swiss Alps, the smell of snow in the air. A waitress wearing flesh coloured tights and a fake smile brings me a soggy burger and curly fries. I listen to audiobooks and podcasts and take notes on art and marketing and work and success. I scribble and sketch to distract me from the fact that I am alone. I construct a bridge made out of ideas between me and the strangers I listen to. I broaden my mind while my heart shrinks. It’s always been easier for me to think than feel. It’s harder still for me to express those feelings to others. Maybe that’s what attracted me to writing in the first place. Nobody had to hear me. I started writing about logical things, safe things. Ideas, theories, research, but those feelings would surface despite myself, accidentally slipping out and staining the page like mustard on a new tie.
I write to I learn why I think what I think.
I wonder at the power of words. The act of committing a thought to paper makes me feel more ridged, less adaptable. When it’s all in my head I can change my mind and say to myself “I never thought that”. When I write these things down they sit there on the page. They dare me to contradict them while begging me to be consistent. At the same time there is a terrible beauty in that moment between the impulse to write something and the act of writing it. Often what I mean to write and what comes out are only distant cousins. Writing for me is not just a record of my thoughts, it’s a tool that shapes the way I think.
I wonder about the interplay between the sentence and the idea it represents, the war between a true thought said ineloquently and a beautiful lie. What happens when I tell a lie I want to believe in a way that feels true?
This question floats in the back of my mind whenever I write. Especially when I get close to exposing those dark thoughts. I sometimes I feel it’s safer to keep the curtains closed. I’m afraid I will discover something lurking in those dusty corners. Something that doesn’t fit with my carefully constructed idea of who I am. Something true.
Originally published at flowhunter.com on October 28, 2014.