Writing is not the problem. Over the years, I have written regularly, but always for myself (a steady journaler in my 30s, it dropped off by the 1990s), with a few notable exceptions. However, writing is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done; writing for others’ eyes, anyway. Is it fear of criticism? Or just maybe it was the criticism that stopped me in the first place. “Don’t ever write another of your crazy letters to your aunt,” was the first literary criticism I ever received, and that from my sister.
I went an entire four years in college, and never wrote a paper; of course, by the end of 8 semesters, I had an entire semester’s worth of incompletes. I couldn’t break the block, and couldn’t find any help with it, either. If I had an advisor, it was Mme. Gourevitch, my French instructor (French was my minor), who’s one and only significant piece of advice was “If you vant to go act, go act!” And I did; only that didn’t turn out so well, either.
Immediately after finishing my fourth year (and attending graduation, although I wouldn’t achieve my B.A. for another 6 years), I moved to San Francisco – for the art scene, Castro Street was only in its infancy, children. Golden Gate Park was my back yard; Sacred Grounds Coffee Shop was my living room, where I would hang out with the local art crowd. I only lasted a year and a half, that first time, but by the time I returned to the island of my birth, I knew I had a story to tell, if only I could write it.
My High School English teacher, the late Margaret Confrey, told me, when I went to her with this project, to write a couple of chapters and then come back to see her. She passed away before that ever happened.
St♥ of beloved memory, who was working on a long-form narrative work when he passed away, leaving World On A String unfinished, told me “The only way to do it is to do it”, which is logically sound, but effectively useless. “Start at the beginning, go on until the end, and then stop” is more practical advice.
But I dont think it’s the criticism I’m shying away from; joke ‘em if they can’t take a …. It’s not being unable to write; I can put sentences together; hell, I can put thoughts together. What staggers me the most is the exposure, the laying bare my thoughts and ideas for public response, reaction and interaction. All the reaction I’ve ever gotten has been poisonous (or maybe it’s just part of the traumatization of brother-hood that I can’t parse out), and maybe it’s true that I’m just not strong enough to take in more poison, even to achieve a greater goal. Who do you think I am, Dumbledore? Not hardly, not this time around.
But criticism and deconstruction take a back seat now, because I have something significant to offer, something important to say, and I simply have to find a way to take the intuitive insight and make rational sense of it, which is the hardest part of this work (if the difference between work and a job is that a job is doing someone else’s work for them). The entire construct is sitting, intact and complete, just outside the line of rational discourse. I can’t “bring over” the entire thing in one fell swoop, it’s huge. I can’t do it by myself, in solitude, any more, because I know what I think, it doesn’t help to explain it to myself any longer; that’s just mental masturbation.
And, finally, this post is another great example of my own personal PITT: writing about it, instead of just writing it. St♥ passed away over 25 years ago, his manuscript still sits incomplete, and still I’m writing about the struggle to write, not writing down what I have to say.