*The desert was the landscape of my dreams, the mirage I had only imagined but never seen. Did you know that everything that grows in the desert is meant to repel? The dry heat of the desert; it makes us desirous and thirsty. The dust and the wind; it blinds us and scrapes at our skin. In the desert we are our most barren and vulnerable selves, unprotected, naked. We come as we are, aware of life’s dangers and the promises we want to reach for. We come face to face with the dissatisfactions we can't admit and the hopes we are too scared to call our own. Like lizards basking in the sun we breathe the light to feed our souls, and once we are full, we recline in the shade. The rocks, they bear our marks; they are stacked to mark the trail. The glass debris in the dirt, the broken bottles we left behind; they cut our feet and make us bleed. Young tanned hide, tattered t-shirts, the smell of alcohol and cigarettes plastered all over their skin. The boys at the cliffs, drunk and yelling, flaunting the desperate machismo of adolescence; the lone girl, slurring her words and flopped onto a rock, one leg in the water, croaking at the boys, helpless. How did she get here? Why did she come? Why does her heart beat? Where did she go?
*I came to the desert to escape the city; the city with its whirring and whistling; the motion and the clicking, the techno-logic that has pervaded the minds of these urban denizens and the flash-mob ideals of fame and riches we’ve wired into the electric synapses of our brains. I came to find respite in a place with little water. I came to see myself more clearly, disentangled from the loves and lives from a place that will always be my love and life. I came to visit a friend. I came to untangle heartstrings, hers and mine both. I came to drink iced coffee outside in the shade. I came to rest. I came to be a lizard, an ectotherm truly. I came so the sun could balance my insides. I came for homeostasis. I came not to do but to be. I came not to find but to see.
*I think about writing everyday. Yet at this very moment my greatest paralysis is thinking about writing, like how reading about productivity is my greatest impediment to productivity. The belief that underlies these distracting activities is that I don’t know how to write or how to be productive, that other people who have mastered the arts I lack somehow have the definitive answers to my problems.
*Increasingly I realize that the pieces of writing I most enjoy and admire (this tends to be memoirs, long-form journalism, opinionated and insightful blog entries) require both breadth and depth of either knowledge or experience. The problem with being twenty-two is that I lack both breadth and depth of both knowledge and experience. When I read other people’s writing, I am simultaneously fascinated and humbled. Desirous of the perfect expression and articulation, I make excuses to myself about not having anything to write about or not having anything of value to write about. Yet the end result of those excuses is nothing. I don’t even have shitty writing to show for it. So the cycle continues, of hungering for more of my own action, resenting myself for lack of action, and seeking relief in the words of others. In times of sadness, pain, and confusion, it’s as, if not more satisfying to find empathy (or miraculous synchronicity) in the words of others.
*I could have written this article myself. Ben Dolnick, we must be soulmates. Reading Paris Review interviews has always been my way of burrowing into a writer’s head while trying to adopt writerly habits, quirks, and skills that I hope will work miracles in my writing life. Again, another distraction from action. After reading an interview with Louise Erdrich, I was convinced that I had to physically tie myself down to a chair with scarves in order to quell my restlessness. I’ve considered taking up smoking many times not to construct a writerly image but to build up a rhythm in which writing sessions would be punctuated by smoking breaks. If this sounds illogical, it’s because it is. And smoking wouldn’t be a functional habit anyway, because I don’t want to smell like cigarettes nor do I want lung cancer. But I do want to write. That last statement has taken me far too long to admit.
*At work I am surrounded by very few writers, and by writers I mean people who hunger to write, not just people who can write competently. I am blessed to share an office with a man who is both an editor and a writer, whose understanding of style and grammar hails from the school of Strunk and White, and who urges me to read George Saunders when my outlook on life is particularly bleak (though he says Saunders will not necessarily make my outlook better). To have someone who can commiserate with the gnaw of self-expression or self-articulation or world-articulation helps me to believe I’m not totally insane for wanting to write but not writing, for only talking about writing and reading about writing but not actually writing. Now I’m writing about not writing but wanting to write, and I’m hoping that in doing so, I’m getting all of these shitty feelings out of me and all of this shitty writing out of me like a friend told me I would need to do before I can produce anything I am proud of. So here’s to days and days of shitty writing, the writing that must be done now and everyday until someday in the future. Bear with me in the meantime.