Image – Outback Tracks by Georgie Sharp (cc)
I came to writing from a place of great isolation, and I wrote to tell secrets to myself. In those years, the space between me and everyone else seemed so vast, an unspeakable world had opened up inside me with no avenue for expression.
So when I started writing, it was not an act of sharing with others, but a kind of joining of my outside self with my hidden inside. An attempt at wholeness. There was no reader. There was only me and me. I was whispering secrets in my own ear.
I have not just started writing. I’ve been writing for a couple of decades in the “I want to do this for a living” sense. But what Jessie says here still applies to me in those first few drafts. Those are the times when the writing flows, when it’s just I and I. Often, though, too often, I’m floating on that wave and then suddenly I wonder what this is I’m writing, what shape it’s becoming, what You will think of it. That’s the bit where I go in one second from floating to being dumped on the rocks by the thought of You.
I start to worry about how You will take this piece when it’s finally written, edited, rewritten and rewritten. Because I know how busy You are. I know how hard it is to get Your attention. There is so much more for You to read, from Your feed, from Your submissions pile that’s ever-filling and which stresses You, so that You’re looking for the first opportunity to click away, to go onto the next thing. We are all looking for the pieces of writing that surprise us, that make us forget for a second the slow flutter of anxious pressure urging us to rush away to the next thing that will make us want to rush away to the next thing. The internet is bad for this. That’s why I feel relief when I leave my devices in one room and climb into bed with a book that I can’t click away from. Jessie’s book has stayed with me, even though my memory is shit and I can’t remember many books that I loved very hard. But I remember hers because it was written by someone who had first learned to write for herself and so it was like something that had been slow-cooked for eleventy hours .
I don’t want to think of You in terms of your attention span, anyway. It makes me dislike you if I think of You in those commodified digital terms. It makes You seem like a cog, like your insides are made of metal that is corroding. It is not fair on You to think of You like that because the blood runs red around your body and you yearn for things that are beautiful and sane and quality and you too, like me, are befuddled at the places in which you find yourself.
And anyway, the point is, I don’t want to think of You at all now. You are not welcome here at this point in time. Right now, in the first draft, it is the beautiful I and I. This is where I slowly reel in the bits of I that are racing out on the desert plains all night, ask them to come in and write with me.
Those bits of I love to come in and play. They are so childlike! Innocent. Made of gossamer. Well, some of them. Others are urgent and pounding, insistent. But as soon as I think too early of You and what You will think, whether I will SEO to Your standards, whether my bits of fluff would be wasting space on Your website because they do not contain a call to action, those desert-dwelling parts of me fuck off back to the desert. They refuse to be bound by the silly dictates of a crumbling world. They hold themselves away, waiting for the Turning.
And so I try to forget You. I ignore those stupid dictates that say that writing for yourself is selfish. Writing for yourself is the only true possibility, at least in the first instance, and even after. It would be eminently reasonable to spend an entire lifetime writing, everything of which goes into a drawer. Of course, no one ultimately writes for themselves in the end. We all want our words to be read by others. Especially the millions of people who want to earn a wage and whose jobs have gone and who join the bulging ranks of online writers. Not least those of us who don’t know what the hell else to do with ourselves.
The quality of what we write is determined by how many I’s come to the writing table, the place where You aren’t yet welcome. Only I’s are allowed here until we have cooked up something that You might pay for with money or attention.
But the desert I’s sneer at that last sentence. More commodifying, time and money, everything queezed down into earning something from you, whether it’s your money or your attention.
Because the desert is a pretty wild space. It’s so free of imposition. And so who knows? Maybe some of those I’s are even, at this crazy Jungian, spaceless, timeless, quantum table, bits of I that are also bits of You. The bits of Us that are We and that are free.
Post in response to The Daily Post’s prompt, Witness: “When you write, who is watching you?”