Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Straight Out of My Head

Getting started. This has always been the hardest part. It is, perhaps, part of the ritual that must take place before anything gets committed to words on a page. Some might call it writer’s block and I supposed if the resistance I experience in getting started prevented me from starting at all, then that would be my affliction as well. But whether it is for enjoyment, advancement, or pay, I write. Although it is my underlying art that drives any number of professions, past and present, writing is at once painful and exhilarating, both the blessing and the curse – and it is a struggle every single time I set out to write anything.

Including this. Although the words are now freely flowing, getting to this point, for this piece, took not minutes, not days, not weeks and not years. It is not only the culmination of every single minute of my own life, but also of those who have preceded me. At this moment in time, this one, single, unique and never to be repeated moment, this is all there is and it is through a collective community of memory that has turned this energy into these words. My perspective has been necessarily shaped and influenced by only what and who has preceded me – from the “Big Bang” to right now, there is nothing else.

I used to believe that my best, most authentic and purest writing came when it was “straight out of my head.” That is, I believed that simply transforming my thoughts - my insights – into words with some compelling style was my forte. It was the sort of writing I found easiest perhaps because it was just the keyboard, my thoughts and the words; I need not bring anything external into the equation. But after regularly running into resistance when attempting even this “pure” writing, it has become abundantly clear that nothing I have ever written has been “straight out of my head.” Nothing. Every thought I have ever transformed into these symbols we call words has to be placed into context with an infinite number of variables that are decidedly not “straight out of my head.”

From the beginning of time until now, this is what I have. These words. This life. A perspective that has been shaped by not only those close to me, but also by those now gone for thousands of years. All of it culminates in the here and now – it always has. We are unique in the animal kingdom – no other species has the cultural memory we do. None other can communicate as we do. No other animal can use, or as Kenneth Burke noted, misuse symbols as we do. When it is all said and done, when I write I am merely making my contribution to the human experience. With all that going on outside my head, is it any wonder that it is so hard to get started?

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