I Haven’t Been Writing Lately

by Sarah on March 15, 2016

I haven’t been writing lately. At all.

Like, not just not-publishing but actually not-writing.

I’ve been on and off with my writing throughout my life, so by itself, not-writing is not a cause for alarm.

But for the past few months, there has been a consistent battle inside of me because there’s the part of me that wants to be writing and the part of me that doesn’t know how anymore.

Sure, my fingers still work. My brain is still thinking thoughts, and theoretically, I am technically capable of putting them on paper, or screen, but I haven’t been able to do the part where I synthesize the things I’m thinking and feeling into a coherent narrative… or any kind of narrative at all beyond disjointed words and half-formed sentences.

Part of this, definitely, is depression. That’s the part that’s easy to identify if not as easy to overcome.

But there’s another part which I hadn’t put my finger on until very recently.

I’ve known that both my inability to write and my strong need to write have stemmed from the nearly two-year process I’ve been going through of learning about myself and my identity. And there’s a lot of shame and blame that still comes up whenever I try to parse out where I am now.

Going from understanding myself as cis and straight to understanding that I’m actually quite queer, both in gender and sexual orientation, is a not insignificant change.

But the shame and blame isn’t about who I am or how I identify. It’s all about HOW THE FUCK DID I NOT KNOW.

It seems that my identity as a self-aware person is much more fragile than any of the other identities which have been discarded in the past few years. And it’s also the one that’s most closely linked to my writing.

Writing, particularly writing personal narrative, is always fraught. The pieces I’m most proud of are also often the same ones that leave me hiding under my covers crying into my journal and avoiding social media for days at a time.

Brené Brown calls this a vulnerability hangover. And like most things, being able to name it and recognize that other people also experience this has been a huge help for me.

So it’s not exactly the vulnerability hangover that I’m afraid of, although god knows all the things I want to write about gender and sexuality at the moment are sure to rank on the high end of the vulnerability scale. But the thing that has always been reassuring in all of this is that writing those things is a form of telling my truth. It’s a way for me to be seen and be known. And the reassurances I eventually get from others with whom my writing resonates helps me feel whole again, after I’ve broken myself apart and pasted the pieces onto a website for everyone to see.

And I don’t know what’s true anymore.

At the same time, my subject matter needs to feel raw to me or writing about it doesn’t hold any appeal. And right now gender, sexuality, sexual orientation, identity, and the many other areas with which those intersect feel hella raw to me. Maybe so raw that putting the pieces back together could prove to be too difficult.

And so I haven’t been doing it at all.

Maybe I’m overly romanticizing my writing. Maybe it’s more analytical and less visceral than I’m remembering it to be. I think it comes across that way by the time it’s been written down and edited, and re-edited, and re-written. I don’t remember.

That’s part of the problem. Everything is different now.

My body feels different. My clothes feel different. My preferences feel different. Sex feels different. Writing feels different. It. All. Feels. Different. Now.

Furthermore, I’m now painfully aware that there’s a big part of me that has been dedicated for most of the last 33 years to keeping a bunch of information about myself from myself. It’s like I look back and I see all the clues, and I see all the ways in which I wrote them off, convinced myself they didn’t matter, and went out of my way to assure myself that I was, in fact, the person that society had convinced me I was supposed to be. That feels like kind of a big oversight.

There’s definitely a kinder, gentler interpretation here, which is that I was lacking the frameworks I needed to fully understand these parts of myself. I didn’t have the right words; I didn’t have the right examples. I couldn’t fully grok any of it until I had enough of the pieces to put together, and I’ve only received the critical pieces in the last few years, most of which had to do with understanding non-binary gender identities.

Both explanations are true. Maybe even equally so. And there’s a part of me that has to believe that the self-deception was in some way something my subconscious thought I needed to be safe, even when I’m still furious at my own ability to do that to myself.

Writing, for me, has always been a way of creating or distilling meaning from the weird thoughts in my head; forcing myself to lay my thoughts out on “paper” in a way that will make at least a modicum of sense to other people helps me organize my brain and build coherency out of things that are more experiential or personal.

But this kind of work requires a level of faith; a belief, however tiny, that what comes out at the end will make sense, will resonate with someone, and will be worth the sometimes painful deconstruction that happens in the process.

I appear to have lost that faith.

Or maybe this piece is proof that I’ve found it again. I’m not sure.

I do know that I can’t move forward if all I can’t get out from under the criticism and self-loathing and the constant refrain of, “you were wrong. You were wrong. You were wrong.”

And while writing this particular piece, the one you’re reading right now, feels important, the question of how or whether I fucked up in some drastic way is not actually an interesting one.

There are plenty of interesting questions here though: ones about the role of socialization in shaping our identities, the real and perceived lack of safety in intersectional marginalized identities, the relevance and limitations of frameworks in helping us understand our own identities, and at least half a dozen other things that occur in the first moment of considering the possibilities.

But I can’t access any of these higher levels of thought when I get wrapped up in shame and confusion. And sometimes, like Brené Brown says, the best way out from shame is vulnerability. So at the very least, this article is my attempt to lean into that.

I’m not going to say I’m back. I’m not going to say I’m fixed. I’m not going to promise to write any of those things I mentioned a few paragraphs ago.

But I wrote this. So that counts, right?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Kath March 23, 2016 at 7:59 am

Oh how I’ve been there. For the last year or so. Occasionally I get a spurt of activity as far as writing comes, but nowhere near the level of what I used to write. I wish I had answers, but I just wanted to say “You are not alone.”

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