The joy of writing

Here is an excerpt from my journal.

I have not written a journal entry in months. This is my attempt to resume an activity I greatly enjoy. I have been suffering from pain in the wrist and forearm since autumn: it is related to the keyboard and office setup. My desk was set at an awkward height, the chair was the generic plastic type you encounter on the beach, and the keyboard was toy grade with keys/switches that were hard to actuate. In short, the ergonomics at play were poor, much to the detriment of my health. I have finally addressed all those issues and will elaborate on the keyboard in particular—the centrepiece of my arrangement—in a future publication. Here I just want to express a sentiment; the sense of calm and delight that accompany writing.

Writing gives me the opportunity to disconnect from other activities. I do not produce content for some employer, nor do I try to impress reviewers. This is the moment to collect my thoughts on a given topic and to let my creativity flow as I type at the keyboard. It is an honest expression of the moment. I have long now been producing publications “alla prima”. This is a concept I borrow from the history of painting, which describes the technique of only manipulating the paint while it is still wet: once it dries out, the painting is done and has a life of its own. It is how I treat the spoken and written word. What I express right now is a product of its time and space. That I have enthusiasm to type this out is due to other events external to the contents of this yet inherent to its manifestation. By not prettifying the end product, I make a commitment to be honest: if it is decent, it was so before it dried out; and if it is below standard, I will have to live with it, learn from my errors with the benefit of hindsight, and try again next time.

To me, creativity is like surfing. I am riding the wave of my enthusiasm and let the momentum carry me. Like the surfer who must be athletic, I have been training to be competent at this. I can talk or write at length without the need to plan ahead or to preprocess the material. But I do not force the creative process to happen. As with the waves at sea, this magnitude is outside my control. All I can do is ready myself for when the next wave comes my way.

I dislike edits on the dry canvas. The are not an honest expression of my self and of what I was able to capture in that moment. If I keep revisiting the same piece of work, which should not be confused with the more general concepts or themes it addresses, it must be troubling me, burdening me, holding me back in a place that is no more, forcing me into a spiral of overthinking in general and overthinking it in particular until I am left with nothing but disgust. No! I write the way the nightingale sings: it comes naturally and is fun. The act of thinking and of writing has to be defined by its lightness on one’s conscience. If it is a grueling experience, then there must be something deep inside that resists it: a voice worth heeding.

Yes, I know that most publications are not done with the intent of expressing one’s selfhood. This is fine and I am not generalising here: I am focused on my creative works and creativity at-large. I too have written for an employer, an assignment, or some commitment. Each of them was on the spectrum that covers indifference, contempt, annoyance, and permutations in between. It was a grind that I could only withstand by focusing on the end goal, not the merits of the writing process per se. Think about the paycheck, the good grades at the end of the semester, and so on. These are fine in their own right, but they are not the joys of the writer. When creativity wants to die, it turns into an obligation.

Honesty is a reflection of courage. It is about owning up to your mistakes as you fearlessly demonstrate what you are capable of in the moment. If this does not make sense, it is because I could not do any better while typing it out. And if it forms a compelling proposition, then this is nice. Regardless, I have no regrets about erring nor do I brag about the high points. I am content with myself for showing up, for stating that I will try my best, and for putting in the work with sincerity and lightness.

How courage is expressed and what it applies to will depend on the specifics of the case. The one I have in mind here is about self-perception. I document these thoughts to discover something in the process. I can look back and check how I did. And by publishing this, I force myself to do it in the open, potentially under the scrutiny of others. Who the others are and whether they exist or not is of little import. What matters is that I have this accountability structure, private or public, to keep me honest.

Not holding back on the creative process is ultimately about one’s wellness. I liked it in the moment, it is innocuous, and there you have it! By putting it out there, I do not allow myself to succumb to insecurity, to the fear of criticism, to the creeping concern that others do not approve of me or of my musings.

I have learnt to not be attached to my works. Just like the surfer, I shall move to the next wave if there is one: the previous wave is no more. What stays behind is a body of work that may have intellectual, artistic, or emotional value. Though it is not “me” anymore as I have since outgrown it. The person I was prior to writing this, for example, was someone who had not yet elucidated the thoughts included herein. This alone, is enough to make us different.

I still feel pain in my arm, although it is not as intense as before. The injury will stay with me for the foreseeable future. That much is certain. Yet I am optimistic that the changes I have implemented will contribute to a swift recovery. Writing this was important to set things in motion. Let this be the impetus. I am just getting started.

As I am finalising this, I cannot help but smile at the sound of the frogs at the nearby river. Every evening they participate in their symphony: a sign that winter is over. Perhaps they too do it with lightness.