For the past year, every time I try to write, I can’t. I sit, frustrated, staring at the blank screen. I write and erase and write and erase. The cursor blink, blink, blinking at me. Mocking me. Daring me to try. Then my mind spirals. This isn’t good enough. What’s the point? Enough already, no one is going to read this shit anyway. Finally I give up and I close my computer in exasperation. (Do you know how long it took for me to even write out that first little paragraph? Far too long. Ages.) Cue: Existential crisis. WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE. How can I call myself a writer? I haven’t actually written anything. By written, of course, I mean published. Isn’t that the point after all? To write something that is worth publishing? Or is that me selling out? Isn’t a real writer supposed to write just to write?
My anxiety and desperation got the best of me. I started seeing a therapist. We talked a lot about my inability to write sometimes because I felt so painfully normal. Nothing exceptional had ever happened to me. I’m so boring. But, she would always interject, you have done things that are very much un-normal and very much un-boring (she, of course, didn’t say un-normal or un-boring. Her words were much more eloquent.) But, I would always counter, to me that is normal. I had no authority to write. No one cares what I have to say. Sure, things happen to me but things happen to everyone. Every day. My experiences aren’t any greater than anyone else’s so why should I write about them?
In middle school, a clear plastic backpack was the ‘it thing’. I wanted one so badly but was never ballsy enough to get one. That’s so cool. Everyone can see my shit. Shit, though. Everyone can see my shit. Only cool, confident people carried a clear backpack. If I had one everyone would know I am messy and unorganized and, as a result, completely all over the place. And if everyone else realizes that about me eventually I’d have to realize it too. I’m learning writing is like that. In order to write something good, something meaningful you have to confront yourself. The messy, unorganized, completely all over the place self.
Today, I felt exceptionally downtrodden. Overwhelmed, again, by the need to write but simultaneously frozen by my fear of writing. I have to write something today. I have to write something today. What’s that old adage? Only a crazy person does the same thing over and over and expects different results. So rather than staring at that horrible blinking cursor as per usual I went on a quest to read every Lena Dunham interview I could find. Lena, in all her one-year-older-than-me glory, is someone I aspire to be. I call her by her first name not out of disrespect but out of admiration. I believe that she would be someone with whom I could be IRL friends. She has an undeniable talent. But more importantly she has a voice. A strong, relatable, this is who I am and this is who you are voice. Like in Girls. The characters are so awkward and so raunchy and so wonderful in all their real realness.
“I play these girls who are close to me, but they’re the parts of me that I find the most shameful, or the parts of me that I kind of want to excise. So I sort of distance myself from it. I have the comfort to feel free and un-self-conscious. I sort of go, “These are all the awful parts of me that I don’t get to talk about all day. Here she is.”
On a recent trip to London, I talked to a friend about being overly self-aware. The places I lived and the schools I’ve been to and the things I’ve done. Those things aren’t extraordinary. They are plain ordinary. I’m not impressed with what I’ve done because I haven’t done everything I want to do. Brianna, he said to me, that’s not overly self-aware. That’s overly self-critical. Ah. Have a think on that one, he said and left me at our table, mouth agape, to buy me another drink.
I think about what he said a lot. It provides a comforting reality check at a time in life when everything is so uncertain. I’m not perfect. But there is perfection in all the imperfections. It’s society’s unifying characteristic: we are all perfectly flawed. Acknowledgement not disparagement. More self-aware. Less self-critical.
It is in the evolution of criticism to awareness that a writer’s voice is born.
In one interview I read, Lena talked about creating a relatable character in Tiny Furniture. “I saw a lot of my friends going through the same thing, but it didn’t feel like it was being reflected back at us. I’ve always been someone who feels better, if I see what I’m going through in a movie. So, I really wanted that for me, and for other people.”
Maybe that’s the reason I am supposed to write too. Because normal things do happen to me. Because I am boring and average and completely terrible in my own right. But so are other people. And there’s comfort in knowing someone has been where you are going. I’m not living up to expectations. People think too much of me. People think too little of me. I’ve made good decisions. I’ve made horrible decisions. I’ve been disappointed and led astray. I’ve been surprised and loved. I’ve been broken and I’ve survived.
Some people have fought in wars, lead revolutions, been abused, been addicted to drugs. The world needs to hear those stories. But sometimes things aren’t all bad or all good. Sometimes things just are. The world needs those stories too.
Author’s Note: This was written several weeks ago. I have a lot of these things stock piled on my computer. I have the grand notions of submitting them but have no clue who would take such things. Do I keep them saved on my computer hoping that one day I can find someone to publish them? Or do I post them here, on my little piece of interweb real estate? Any recommendations? What do you do?