Where does one begin when they’ve yet to decide what constitutes a “beginning?” Is there a way to break free from the shackles of the inner critic? How does a writer decide what they write about? Is it possible to become great by writing from cold-starts?
My father Bryan once told me that nothing is worse than someone who does the same old shit yet expects different results. “Asinine; It’s asinine,” he’d say. My father John once told me that all great writers became great not by meticulously picking at their works, but rather by churning out content. Loads upon loads of content. “Writer’s write,” he’d say.
Yet my mother always had the answer that I needed to hear, and most times, wanted to hear as well. “You can do whatever you set your mind to.” She still has all the right answers. I think she’ll have them until she transcends the limits of her material form…Then she’ll simply become the answer. As we all will. Hopefully.
Yet here I am again, waging a lounge-ful war against the wasteland of the blank page with one hand behind my head; the other scratches a nib at a legal pad as would a toddler his scabbed patella. Fun, obsessive, low-key self-disparaging…But really just asinine.
“It’s just freehand” I’d tell myself. “Nothing’s wrong with a little free style, right?” And then, I realize, (as do most writers at some point or another) “Well no. I’m not writing for myself, per se, but rather writing for the exaltation of the all mighty, all encompassing “you.” That indomitable thing that is both self-contained and infinite. Similar to “it” or perhaps “they,” but really in a league of it’s own.
Writing to “you” is like writing backwards on a window; it is both an installation and a shattering – or better yet, dissolving – of the fourth wall. Well, the “second” window I suppose: the inverse of writing, the reading. “You” has this sort of sacred energy bound to it. When we read the second person, we might think of ourselves, but of course we really think about all the various people that the particular, nuanced “you” could be referencing.
“You” is tricky. “You” is double sided; it is at once the writer and the reader; the verse and its inverse. Imagine. When we write in the second person, we’re inevitably using our knowledge (our past experiences) to develop a sort of common ground between all walks of life. A universal, if you will. It is one such application that is as equally reflective of the self (of the individual; of the writer) as it is of the “other,” which is of course, also an aspect of the self.
Delving into the self; to write is to journey and to vanquish the unconquered, but it is more a struggle against that which makes us tick. There is a constancy of untapped data and linguistic expression that undermines us all, yet it only breaks free when we begin to drag the nib across the wasteland of the blank page.
For example, I sat down and flipped open this page to celebrate my own individuality – my ethnic uniqueness, my rare and precious gift of time and concentration; that which affords me my writership. Yet, the first thoughts that leave my fingertips are colonial anachronisms much too foreign to originate of my own volition. So I must ask, does linguistic form precede thought? And if so, how does one escape this linguistic programming?
It would seem that the only way to truly redefine the base of level of cultural operation provided by the “mother tongue” (this theoretically goes for any language) is to become deeply aware of the linguistic history that shaped the way the language is performed.
Only then can one recognize when the language speaks for itself and when one truly speaks the language. It is a distinction created by the fecundity of being, by the ornate subjectivity called forth by the fusion of mind and body; one such fusion that exists in the alignment of the groin, the gut, the heart, and the corpus callosum.
It is the innate crossroad of humanity; that intersection of the internal longitudinal fissure and the external geophysical locus; the constant juxtaposition of the ground beneath our feet and the soul.
So to distinguish between speaking the language and being spoken through is to understand one’s own gravity; the uniqueness of the body even as it is in-creased by the mind; the uniqueness of the culmination of the in-creasing and overlapping of mind and body even as it is bound to the carbon skeleton of the genus of homo sapiens sapiens, and again doubly bound to the very bones of the Earth.
And what next? The intersection of the Earth and the Cosmos? The threefold bind of consciousness; it’s localization to the mind, then to the body, then to the Earth, and then from the Earth outward until our languages burst through the dome of consciousness until we expand into the stratified ether of the heavens or are compressed into the nether pits of hell; that which can be felt but never perceived.
Or rather perhaps such a threefold bind is better expressed through the most basic faculties of human thought: past, present, and future; redefined, memory, thought, and imagination. Only then can we see that linguistic expression is timelessness, as linguistic expression is the only means of parsing together the self across all regions of space and time.
The brain then becomes the Universe, and the dimmest stars hanging in the night sky become allegory for our deepest dreams, those that pervade the gaze of our most potent poets; that inexpressible starlight, that which sidesteps the eyes, ears, and lips of even Heimdall. What are we left to do but to accept and celebrate the oneness of being human? To smile, to respect, to be at peace with those around us even though their blood may roil with their own insecurities, their own doubts, their own linguistic barriers.
We must become timeless.