good gloom and fresh starts

Dear Internet,

It’s been a long while, hasn’t it? It’s been so long that I doubt I have an audience here (did I ever?) but that sort of sheltered loneliness is appealing to me right now. I don’t yet need the pressure of having to appeal to public minds. It’d just turn me away. I don’t need an audience when I have a track record of making “fresh starts” only to abandon them.

It’s my modus operandi: create a website, design a fun layout, start a couple of posts, and then disappear. I want to change that. I want to be prolific. I want to leave words behind, both public and private, and have something of my own to share. This is why I make zines, and it fuels why I want to blog again.

I dream about a world of connection, of international penpals and true community, of sharing our stories, experiences, letters, zines, art, ideas, and passions. I crave the satisfaction and instant gratification of online publishing. And while I’m not sure that the blogosphere I grew up with exists anymore—in this world of sponsored posts and blogging professionals, curation disguised as creation—I still seek the sense of connection that it offers, whether real or imagined.

Rainy Office Window

I woke up this morning to grey gloom skies. It was raining for the first time in what feels like a long time. Herbie Cat, who is scared of thunder and storms, was under the covers, his body pressed against my thigh, all warm, and soft, and taut. It is next to impossible to get out of bed when a cat is being cuddly, but I thought about finishing this post and it motivated me. I got up, poured myself a cup of iced coffee—day-old and black from a decanter in the fridge—moved my laptop to the kitchen table, and sat down to write.

It is easier for me to write when the skies are grey, when the sun is masked by clouds and rain. I’ve always been slightly photophobic; I’m eager for summer to end, to welcome autumn and more good gloomy days like this one back into my life. I do my best work in the fall. Summer is always a season of panic, reflection, procrastination, self doubt, and exhaustion.

And so, on this grey gloomy day, I write. Or I try to, slowly, sentence-by-sentence, despite procrastination. I’ve spent the past two hours writing this letter to you, dear Internet, while simultaneously finding myself drawn into your strange ethereal hallways, your spider’s Web. My procrastination looks like Twitter, sighs in 140 characters, and is, ironically, the only time I feel focused enough to read the countless articles that I am always bookmarking for another day. My procrastination serves a purpose, but it also makes me feel bad. That I #am—not—writing. That my connection to a community is regulated to a distraction.  That the words cannot come quick or easily enough for me to call myself a capital-W Writer.

Esmé Weijun Wang posted an essay on her blog about burnout and writing. I found it while procrastinating on this post, one of those little timely miracles of coetaneity that always seem to happen online. Esmé writes:

Sometimes I think that we rush our writing because we’re afraid of what will happen if we don’t. This is a logical fear […] And yet writers must also be temperate. Be slow. Experience the world in order to write about it.

I know of a million and one ways to feel bad about writing. I can tear myself up for not writing quick enough, or with enough focus, or for not even writing at all, but what purpose does that serve? So often, I am scared that if I am not constantly writing, I must be doing it wrong. That all of my failed fresh starts and sincere, but incomplete, plans are proof that my personality is flawed—that I am not a creator, or even a creative. That making list, after list of incomplete ideas is just a compulsion. That my writing needs a cure because it is slow and unfinished. That I am wrong, unworthy.

But what does that say about cathedrals, or rivers? Cathedrals that take decades to build, stone, by stone, by stained glass sliver, inching their way towards completion, even as their architects and patrons die off and the times change. I think of Gaudi’s Sagrada Família, which has been under construction since 1883, for almost 150 years. I think of rivers, ebbing and flowing, changing courses and borders, a fluctuating landscape. Never a straight line, not a steady course.

What I mean to say is that there is no perfect way to write. No ideal speed, or set path. In the past, my insecurities would prevent me from writing; I saw myself as too slow and distracted to be a Writer. Instead, I would focus on my failures and defeats—every word I wrote that was not —and then I would plan and plan in lieu of creating, only to see those plans never come to fruition due a fear of failure blocking me in. Which only made me make more plans, come up with more impossible solutions to a problem that never really existed. An endless loop of burnout, of never being “good enough”. Ironically, the only cure I’ve found it to just write, write to spite the self-doubt and worry.  Write without plans or patterns. Writing this post is making me feel purposeful and whole. Despite the procrastination, despite the mess, despite the thousand times I’ve written blogs just to delete them. None of that matters, nothing matters right now but these words. One stone at a time.

So what do you say? Let’s see where this goes.