Fitting in vs. being boxed in vs. wanting to be free

How does ‘follow your dreams’ and ‘find a job’ fit into all of this?

I ask myself that often.

Tomorrow I’m meeting up with two job consultants for an obligatory meeting relating to my period of unemployment and subsequent benefit.

And, yeah, in my country I can get financial benefit from the government for being unemployed. How very ‘depressing’, indeed. But you must understand the terms of condition that come with this ‘benefit’. It is very demanding and limited concerning whatever freedom and ideas you might have job-wise. The government doesn’t spend money on people unconditionally, after all. By principle, it’s only fair, but you need to follow strict guidelines and can’t do any volunteering unless it’s humanitarian. Even the possibilities of working freelance and part-time have been tightened. It puts you in a very limited space of finding a paid, full-time job that isn’t just cleaning or working behind a counter in a cafe or supermarket.

And yet, I can’t complain when I’m still getting paid by the welfare system, can I? No. But am I any happier after almost two years of unemployment, trying my best to find my way through the system? No.

Digressing, this meeting tomorrow has ‘forced’ me out of my usual, melancholic bubble of denying my own reality and what I should probably do about it. *scoffs* Yeah, I live a hard, utterly spoiled life.

I’m not sure whether to confess my battle with my insecurities and depression to the job consultants in order to explain my inability to find a job. Should I tell them my struggle with finding a goal in life and wanting to be happy while also desperately wanting to please those around me, fit in [the system] and not be a disappointment?

It would be my most honest reply to any question they might pose and probably help them give me some honest advice in return (hopefully).

*sighs*

But, aside from this, I also have to acknowledge to myself that it is my life, my only life, and that I should be allowed to be happy – since I actually know what would make me happy – however silly and unambitious they may sound – and that I have the means and the privileges to make at least some of it happen. In truth, I don’t believe I’m that hard to please regarding how I live; that I could live much simpler than I do now (not that I live in a mansion or anything now) and that I don’t need much in life other than my few creature comforts. I keep returning to this idea of my own little cottage and a dog. Would be nice.

So, I started pondering if my underlying need to please my surroundings (and thus the system; fitting in and all that) and my fear of disappointing and not have high enough ambitions in a world of privileges has caught me in this system and my system of thinking (huh, how meta) – together with my depression as well. And that all these elements hold me down from enjoying an alternative freedom that might make me happier.

Somewhere in that question, I sense that I’ve found my answer.

What would happen if I thought entirely alternatively? If I reinvented my life? (To use a total platitude). If I gave up what I have now, my apartment and unemployment benefit, and invested in what I want (cue such sentimental wishes as the cottage and the dog), damn the conventional consequences! Made my own terms, my own money, however small. I’m not big on finance and I may be way too naive to think this can go around, but, after all, I don’t need much.

Other people have done it before me.

Part of that dream/happiness also include a social aspect as I’ve talked about before; of finding true company in life; romantic partners, friends, colleagues, etc.. I’ve lately come to realize that I need this kind of social interaction; more consistently, more intimately, so to speak. But that part must come when it comes. I can’t exactly force it, after all. The other parts are more easily attainable.

Just having this dream, this alternative gives me a inner sense of peace and comfort that I haven’t found anywhere else yet, though I have no practical experience in how to go about it and make it happen. Still, it’s not impossible, I believe.

This thought of an alternative lifestyle takes me back to my innermost questions; my own, singled-out voice asking: ‘What do you want to do?’ which in turn always returns to my consistent desire to write. It is the one thing I’ve always enjoyed, though I’ve always thought it a futile thing to voice or wish for because it seems so general and something anyone could do; voice an opinion. ‘Not something anyone would or should get paid for,’ says the pessimistic voice in my head. A voice I too often listen to and fall victim for, because I don’t have the courage or the will to fight it.

But then I tried to ignore the voice (for once) and stayed with the thought of writing. Of actually trying to make a living out of it.

So, that lead me to the hypothetical idea of becoming a professional blogger. An idea I’ve previously had in the back of my mind and brushed aside time and time again. An idea which comes with many ambivalent feelings and thoughts, all the different voices returning, telling me different things. On the one side, it’s a most natural and comforting idea, because I’ve blogged – on an amateur level – for years now. On the other side, I guess I still feel the idea is somewhat tabooed, not a real-real job, despite the job landscape has changed drastically in the last two decades. Blogging has become a legitimate job where people can make tons of money, sometimes by simply yelling in a computer game or reviewing the newest mascara on the market.

However, I don’t want to make your usual glossy, Instagram-worthy blog of cute cupcakes and the latest fashion trends. Not that there’s anything wrong with those. But I want to make something that’s my own. Something real, critical, humorous and frank. I want to analyse and discuss art, politics, people, culture, media, TV, etc.. I want to create constructive discussions and, hopefully, change attitudes. Even my own. I don’t want to be afraid to voice an opinion in a public forum as myself. (After all, it’s different with blogs like these, where I can stay fairly anonymous).

Am I wrong to put so many ideals into a project like this?

I admit, being a teacher would sound like the most ideal, concrete job for me in this regard, and it’s not something I haven’t thought of, but I’m still struggling in my (INTP) insecurity regarding the responsibility of teaching. I’m not entirely comfortable with the authority of lecturing and ‘placing my wisdom upon others’. I may be overthinking this way too much, but I just don’t think I’m there yet. I’m still a child of learning and of the world. I’m not sure I could be confident enough to be a convincing teacher yet, if you catch my drift.

Anyways.

I’m still not sure how much of this will be mentioned at the meeting tomorrow. Sometimes such frank thoughts and feelings just come out by themselves because I don’t have the strength to fight them (sensing a theme here?). At other times, I am too embarrassed to ‘fess up and show my insecurity and I just clam up and remain curt in my responses, pretending everything is fine. The former is probably more productive but I can’t help cringing every time it happens because I literally just blurt out things with a helpless, resigned attitude, unable to stop myself.

How very INTP.

I may return with an update tomorrow.

***09/04/18 UPDATE***

Ah, folks, here comes the update you never asked for: The meeting went as expected. Nothing new to report. No grand confession on my part. It was all very calm, business-like. I got a few extra tips regarding my CV and an underlying message of ‘it’s about time to get your shit together’. (No surprise). I get it. I really need to decide on something.

And, in a way, through this reflective post, I have. However slow the realization may have arrived.

I don’t know if it has something to do with this day and age, my generation, or if it’s just me, but I feel my problem of ‘being stuck’ all goes deeper; that it’s something very personal I’m struggling with regarding finding a goal, a job, a career. I’m so painfully introspective and, as I said, I’m rather slow to figure out my life and what I want with it – at a fairly late age, maybe – and belatedly acknowledged that I do not have these big concrete ambitions or visions … Although, you could argue that those ideas I mentioned above are somewhat concrete. After all, I’m far from indifferent or despondent; I would like to contribute and do something good for society, but I think it should be on my own terms and at my own pace. I have probably been a bit caught up in this mindset of trying to find a goal that could also meet the expectations around me and maybe even feeling a little trapped in the unemployment benefit system and not daring to think or throw myself into something alternative. I think I must stop trying to fit in (how often haven’t I told myself so?). It has only seemed like an obstacle so far. I just think I have to think in brand new lanes and instead ask myself what will make me happy, first and foremost, rather than trying make others happy about my decisions in life, simultaneously.

At least, for now.

Over and out.

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Leaving my safe, little, solitary lighthouse – 2.0

Scratch that. I want to get back to my little, solitary, safe lighthouse, don’t I?

Like a mouse to its hole.

Suddenly, that lighthouse is no longer just a metaphor. It has slowly taken hold of my mind, become ridiculously tangible and impractical (like so many of my dreams). I want it as my safehouse. My sanctuary. My temple. My physical mind palace. Everything that should constitute a home for one person. A single, isolated responsibility that one can leisurely tend to. Something reliable, familiar, steadfast. A lighthouse conveys that.

Too bad lighthouse keepers are pretty much extinct. Or, that is, the profession is.

So, what I want right now is unrealistic. In all seriousness, I cannot say to my job adviser nor my parents nor anyone listening when they ask what I want to be or do: “Hey, I would very much like to become a lighthouse keeper and write a book, or a hundred”.

How ironic. When you finally know what you want to be or do, it is near impossible and, at best, laughable.

Also, it’s almost too symbolic, isn’t it? The lighthouse, I mean.

I think that – more than companionship – I stubbornly want to prove to myself that I can live my life in solitude, alone.

Charlotte Brontë once said: “I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself”.

But I’m also afraid that the more reality presses on; the more the practicalities of life push their ways into my existence, the more I drift off into another mindset. Through the years I have not extracted my mind from the fancies and imagination from childhood. No, I’ve only sunk more deeper, situated myself more steadfastly in an ethereal, abstract world as the years went on. It’s a strange regression that feels beyond my control. Deeper and deeper I feel myself glide into an existence that, on the surface, functions and does everything by the book, every smile, every handshake, every bill paid, but, below, it lives in another dimension of this world or another. Of dreams and darkness and fiction and music. So much that I want to disappear into this world. (And that’s not a euphemism for wanting to off myself). I believe madness is something we call when such a mind becomes sick, infested. When it starts hurting you as well as others. That’s not where I am or hopefully ever will be. I’m simply a dreamer, an idealist, despite all my cynicism about reality. At best, I have a ambivalent relationship with life.

I only feel myself present, truly present in life, when spending time with people I like and love. People I feel comfortable with and not judged by. That’s hardly strange, but there are few of such people and they live their own lives, far apart from me. Alone I fear becoming older and like my parents or so many of my elders; distracted, defensive, closed-off, bitter and cantankerous. Minds and hearts infested. Sweetness diminished. Taking dislike with the world as they see it, but the mirror reflects …

Am I depressed or just feeling sorry for myself? Or is it the same? Two sides of the same coin?

*sighs*

I’m singing the same ol’ tune, aren’t I?

It seems I’ve come no closer to an answer since a month ago. Don’t mind me.

 

*revised 17/7/17*

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It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.

“I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night? Let me think: was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is ‘Who in the world am I?’ Ah, that’s the great puzzle!”

— Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

I have come past yet another self-discovery, though the revelation itself is perhaps not so strange since it has hid in the subtext of many other discoveries I have come across on my path.

Like Alice… in Wonderland.

It hit me one evening when I asked myself – for the umpteenth time – why I seem to have no life. Really. And I realized it may be because I never had a life to begin with. It has not so much to do with self-pity as it is simply an objective observation:

I have always prided myself with having an independent and original mind (obvious throughout this blog, I think), but, in reality, my independence has lived off my dependence on others, and my original personality/mind has lived off all the influences around me. (Nothing new under the sun and rather cliché. And, after all, I can never be totally without some level of uniqueness. None of us can.)

But I believe I, so far, have lived a life of a sort of parasitical child – in badly need to grow up! A child who cannot, for the life of me, express emotions maturely – hardly even objectively (I cannot seem to overcome my literal tongue-tiedness)!

In part delusional innocence and part daily-reality-phobia, I’ve fed off the experiences, feelings and stories of others – whether those people have been real-life or fictional. Thus the constant and spineless immersion in fictional narratives and music – to substitute the numb emotions within – and warding off responsibilities in real-life (mostly those to myself).

*sighs* If I indeed suffer from some sort of Peter Pan-syndrome, I’d really like to have it diagnosed for being just that. Then I have a real excuse to shed my responsibilities and go find Neverland. (Hmm. Step up from Wonderland?)… Joke aside.

I am most likely just a maladaptive daydreamer.

Have I ever felt empty and aimless when the pages run out or these ‘other people’ stop talking and showing me their lives and I can no longer immerse myself in their liveliness? Yes, perhaps I have. Perhaps I repress it by immersing myself further into something else, such as my imagination (Lewis Carroll wrote it: “Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality”). Which again continues to supplant reality or what I cannot seem to have in my own daily reality. Something I am too cowardly to reach out and fully grasp myself.

Arrogantly, I have convinced myself that life is bigger than anything as ‘trivial’ as the daily, material matters of my own here and now. Bigger in a sense of metaphysics. I have a vast universe in my head that I need to discover and fill out with knowledge. Dealing with my own reality heads-on always seems so exhausting, transient and unreliable. I have no control there. I cannot predict the outcome in situations where my emotions feel most at stake, but where they are most often abandoned, even by myself, because I am no closer to understanding them.

So, of course, a subtle disappointment has run throughout every action, though I have not failed to see the benefit from most of them. Failures and flaws give life a color beyond compare, because they are what constitute you as a human; your unique you. I have learned from every action and that I have taken as a blessing, you could say. What I have learned and whether I have grown from these discoveries are a another matter entirely.

But still the disappointment, the emptiness has rung hollow within; an undercurrent settling in my gut as I have become more and more aware of life; of all the things I have lived through compared to all the things I likely or may never will. The sense of excitement and curiosity of getting to know what lies ahead has slowly been quelled by every underlying disappointment connecting; a frightening numbness setting in. Tastes turned to ashes in my mouth.

And I immerse myself in all the constructed narratives and emotions to bar out, to hush the raging numbness, silence and solitude-turned-loneliness I live in and come home to every day.

Solitude. My once so trusted friend has been possessed by loneliness; become the Babadook of my mind; a ghost haunting for the purpose of terror rather than company. And I have been its very maker. It is the Frankenstein of my creation; a ‘safe’ theory of ‘companionship’ that my mind latched on to, settled for – anything compared to the real thing; of having no companionship at all. A theory that turned into a being of its own once the egg was hatched; a being that became a monstrosity because it was still unsatisfied with its existence and blamed me. Because life isn’t easy. It was never meant to be.

Maybe it is the strange, little but significant events that have occurred to me within the last couple of years (I may have mentioned some of them here and there, but I don’t imagine you’ll know what I’m talking about and I cannot go into them right now) and likely set off my depression. If indeed my depression has been lying in wait for this – or if it really is a depression and not just an odd restlessness or lazy down-spiraling of one defense mechanism succeeding another in the wake of my growing loneliness.

And, as I said, burying myself in fiction and imaginative feelings helps me to deflect from my own lonely life as well as this perhaps/perhaps-not-depression. A sort of silly ‘coping escapism’ you are more likely to find in some (dark) children’s novel. And despite what I may have learned from these significant events, they have also left tiny, superficial scars in my heart; invisible to the naked eye; slowly accumulating over the years, forming a dark little cloud around it where the sun peeps in every now and then, desperate to emerge fully. I can empathize with others who go through something similar on a daily basis, yet I cannot begin to compare myself to what others feel on totally different levels and maybe I’m not supposed to. Maybe I’m allowed to have this, to feel this, accept it and then find a way out of the fog, somehow.

(Have I become my own therapist?)

All utter nonsense, perhaps. Or, perhaps not? How can anyone answer that but myself? And how can I, when it feels like it takes several epiphanies, some life-changing experiences and a lifetime to answer that?

Again, I’m at a loss. At war in my mind. I seek immediate answers I can only gain through time. And time moves both slowly and unpredictably. And then it’s over before you know it.

And again, I haven’t dared to move and grab hold of some part of my reality and truly make it mine; claim it as mine. I have been too cowardly to do it. Perhaps because I feel, deep down, that there’s something too good about life that I do not deserve? I feel blessed and cursed at the same time, and I’m ashamed of feeling cursed; of appearing ungrateful of what I’ve been given; my inability to make better use of what I have and seize the day. I mostly just seize the day to write about life and consume others’ experiences of it, not experiencing it myself nearly as fully as I could. Imprisoned by myself or my inability to do something about it.

Is that a life of a writer? I doubt it. And yet, many people imprisoned; physically, institutionally or mentally, have written all throughout history, have they not? Some of the greatest writer have been imprisoned in some way or another, perhaps not directly enabling their writing but channeling it.

Perhaps I can make do with what I have worked myself into?

My writing may be as delusional as it may be cathartic; a circle of self-serving excuses; where fear of pity and perfection mixes in a blend as sinister as the river Styx I have to pay Charon with everything precious I possess to cross.

I return time and time again to a crossroad and I wonder if there is a me in this world and another me in another world and I wonder how often they will coincide in this harsh, bright, beautiful existence I have been given. Or if one will truly emerge with the other and – in that case – which one? And I wonder how many feels the same?

I want to override the consistent self-pity and shame, knowing how silly and unproductive these feelings are, but first I must escape the gripping loneliness from within and around. And it is not so easily overcome. My stubborn independence does not help. I still return to myself. I have scolded myself with every line possible and every tone of voice to see the effects, to self-motivate, and yet, it has not helped (unsurprisingly). I have written and drawn and opened up more to those around me, strangers even. Yet, I still come home to myself and myself alone; the loneliness waiting there.

How is something like that overcome? I cannot seem to allow myself to reach for twosomeness, perhaps because I am so conflicted by its very concept. Equally afraid and hopeful. My mind is always one step ahead; one foot in the positive scenario, another in the negative one. All I see is the 50/50 chances and I cannot predict my luck nor my misfortune. ‘That’s human’, ‘that’s life’; god don’t I know ‘it’s bloody life!’ and yet, it does nothing to answer what I am to do. To wait and let it run its course? Sure, I’ve done nothing else. But as Charlotte Brontë once stated: “The trouble is not that I am single and likely to stay single, but that I am lonely and likely to stay lonely.”

But what is life if not lonely and wild, fantastical and quiet?

Meanwhile, I’ll return to a segment of Carroll’s iconic story that speaks to something quintessential in me:

“She generally gave herself very good advice, (though she very seldom followed it), and sometimes she scolded herself so severely as to bring tears into her eyes; and once she remembered trying to box her own ears for having cheated herself in a game of croquet she was playing against herself, for this curious child was very fond of pretending to be two people. ‘But it’s no use now,’ thought poor Alice, ‘to pretend to be two people! Why, there’s hardly enough of me left to make one respectable person!'”

*revised 11/02/18*

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Leaving my safe, little, solitary lighthouse

I guess it’s only natural when you’re in a ford of your life: People ask you ‘what now?’ and you cannot answer. Not even in the slightest. I have no hobbies besides writing stuff here and there and when people say ‘then get a hobby or join a creative writing course or yoga or something!’, basically saying ‘get out and do something substantial with your life and meet people!’, then I rebel against the notion.

I try and explain that I want to write; something, anything!, most of all: write for myself, but it isn’t always easy to explain nor to comprehend. People in my immediate surroundings mostly want to hear something concrete, something they can relate to. Of my doing something. Writing, simply writing – unless published – is not immediately grasped as doing something. Not really.

And I know it. Don’t I know it.

It’s the only thing I do. I write and think. As much as it pains me, I think I need to leave my safe, little, solitary lighthouse overlooking the world, and join people on the mainland. Metaphorically speaking.

My life is in a ford, a sort of standstill. I cannot entertain people with my life, because nothing concrete happens in it or will in probably a good amount of time. Until then, I can always talk about all the strange concepts and big ideas and paradoxes of the world, but I cannot give any exciting news about my life. And it’s the awkward silence that now follows – when I cannot distract from my own insignificant life no more – which I do not know how to save. I have nothing immediate to refer to. I try and it merely becomes small talk; a masquerade I put on that makes me cringe and I ask myself why I just don’t do something about it then?

I don’t know. I speculate I might have a mild depression rather than merely feeling ennui. Or it might just be ennui and all I need is a well-placed kick in the butt??

*sighs*

But it’s not like I’m letting things slide or have lost interest in the world and begun to hate people and turned bitter! On the contrary!

I rack my brain (and the Internet) 24/7 for inspiration to get a job or a new hobby or something concrete to express how much I care and want to help, but time and time again I end up here, by the ‘paper’ or one of my blogs, to express and demonstrate my frustrations instead. Or finding others who share them. It’s not very productive, even though I get to vent, because I still end up right where I started.

I don’t know how to express this interest in the world – other than through writing. More than meeting new people (even more people I need to distract from my non-eventful life? No thanks!) I need to have something else settled in my life. Within myself. Whatever it is. And yes, I could do so through signing up for some random course and meeting new people, but this, this thing inside me, feels somehow more important. Or, at least, something my gut tells me I need to prioritize, no matter what it is or how long it takes.

Ugh. I want to yell at my gut for being so darn obstinate and inconvenient! But I reckon I am somewhat of a slave to it in the end. I rarely can’t follow it. Especially when it concerns my own path I set. Even if I end up on the street, desperate and with no money. Hmph. No worst case scenario yet, my dear fellow.

But all this, as I said about my need to write, is not easily explained nor understood. I can say that I listen to my gut and that my gut tells me to wait and think, not… jump and jive. It doesn’t sound effective, eventful, smart, lucrative nor concrete in any way. Most of all, I just want people to let me be – or not ask me about my life no matter how much it shows that they care – until I have figured it out and had time to do so. And I suspect that’s all people really want for me, more or less. It’s probably just me, getting anxious and blowing things out of proportion in my head (as usual).

Now I have vented. Now, I guess, I must … do something.

*revised 7/1/2017*

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A future in writing? – 2.0

I want to write. I’ve realized this.

And yes, I write here, but it is a different kind of writing. It is a blog with a confessional, personal purpose; not purely, but mostly. A way of understanding myself and my own life, first and foremost. People make a living from these kind of things nowadays, I know, but I would be lucky if my blog ever reaches such a state. After all, it isn’t one of a kind on the World Wide Web.

When I think of writing in more traditional terms and what I’ve produced in this spectrum, however, I fall miserably short. Besides my academic work and the frivolous fan fiction writings I’ve dabbled with throughout the years, I have not really produced anything of substance. Especially of late.

Where has the passionate, industrious writer I used to be as a kid gone?

I used to write tons and tons of pages and stories, poems and essays! True, I rarely managed to finish any of them, but I had so many ideas and so much motivation to get started and frequently picked them up after school. It was my thing, my hobby for a great number of years. As the years went on, though, this tendency became less frequent. School work took over and exhausted any effort I had to produce new stuff in my sparetime. Of course, I aced all creative school work. It wasn’t that hard, really, and I got a pretty big ego from it. I practically thought myself a wonder kid in the art of writing – literally because there happened to be no other competition from my classmates and all teachers praised my stuff rather than really critique it.

In recent years, I completely abandoned the old stories and genres and started writing new stuff; I started running various blogs that were of a more observant, analytical nature and less of the fictive kind. I briefly joined a creative writing’s class where I was properly brought down from my high horse. It helped me realize that I was not as unique and talented as I had grown up to think. I suddenly had to work hard at producing something of value! *scoffs* How pathetic I suddenly saw myself as a kid. But I guess that’s just a part of growing up, learning and developing. Without such epiphanies I would probably still think I was God’s gift to mankind.

But I still envy the kid I was. When I had the passion, inspiration and motivation to just write – anything – all the time!

Now it partly feels like the air has gone out of the balloon in that department. I still dabble with an unfinished short story every now and then, and I write prose and poetry on my other blog, but they are not meant for publication or wider acknowledgement or anything like that. It is still too sensitive and personal to let my name become a part of it. I prefer to stay anonymous. Actually, even if I ever was as lucky as to get published and acknowledged for my work, I would still very much like to stay anonymous and out of the limelight. That’s not an easy feat once you’ve gone down the road of ‘fame’.

I’m reluctant to explain and analyze my work; why I write as I write. I just do. I use it to vent and understand. Maybe I’m reluctant to face my own work in the end (cf. the sensitivity of the matter) and get more harsh critique from professional critics. To have the value of it and what I feel to be true questioned and made an example out of. It’s a part of being a writer, I know; exposing oneself and have the courage to face opposition, but it’s not something I have the guts to lay my actual name to yet. I want my writings to be faceless exactly in order for everyone to put their own face on it, so to speak. To make the resonance ring more true.

Thus I’m reluctant to ever get published. I value my privacy too much, I guess. It’s cowardly and I have to face this particular cowardice if I plan to ever get anything out there, I know. But so far, I’m still ‘in developement’ in that department. Maybe nothing will come out in my lifetime (or ever), but I will not quit writing. And that must be the most important notion, after all.

A favorite author of mine, the always so astute George Orwell, once wrote on the act of writing:

“[…] I do not think one can assess a writer’s motives without knowing something of his early development. His subject matter will be determined by the age he lives in — at least this is true in tumultuous, revolutionary ages like our own — but before he ever begins to write he will have acquired an emotional attitude from which he will never completely escape. It is his job, no doubt, to discipline his temperament and avoid getting stuck at some immature stage, in some perverse mood; but if he escapes from his early influences altogether, he will have killed his impulse to write. Putting aside the need to earn a living, I think there are four great motives for writing, at any rate for writing prose. They exist in different degrees in every writer, and in any one writer the proportions will vary from time to time, according to the atmosphere in which he is living. They are:

(i) Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc. It is humbug to pretend this is not a motive, and a strong one. Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen — in short, with the whole top crust of humanity. The great mass of human beings are not acutely selfish. After the age of about thirty they almost abandon the sense of being individuals at all — and live chiefly for others, or are simply smothered under drudgery. But there is also the minority of gifted, willful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and writers belong in this class. Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than journalists, though less interested in money.

(ii) Aesthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement. Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story. Desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not to be missed. The aesthetic motive is very feeble in a lot of writers, but even a pamphleteer or writer of textbooks will have pet words and phrases which appeal to him for non-utilitarian reasons; or he may feel strongly about typography, width of margins, etc. Above the level of a railway guide, no book is quite free from aesthetic considerations.

(iii) Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.

(iv) Political purpose. — Using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.

It can be seen how these various impulses must war against one another, and how they must fluctuate from person to person and from time to time.

[…] When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art’. I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing. But I could not do the work of writing a book, or even a long magazine article, if it were not also an aesthetic experience. Anyone who cares to examine my work will see that even when it is downright propaganda it contains much that a full-time politician would consider irrelevant. I am not able, and do not want, completely to abandon the world view that I acquired in childhood. So long as I remain alive and well I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the earth, and to take a pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information. It is no use trying to suppress that side of myself. The job is to reconcile my ingrained likes and dislikes with the essentially public, non-individual activities that this age forces on all of us.

It is not easy. It raises problems of construction and of language, and it raises in a new way the problem of truthfulness.

[…] All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one’s own personality. Good prose is like a windowpane. I cannot say with certainty which of my motives are the strongest, but I know which of them deserve to be followed. And looking back through my work, I see that it is invariably where I lacked a political purpose that I wrote lifeless books and was betrayed into purple passages, sentences without meaning, decorative adjectives and humbug generally.”

George Orwell, Why I Write, 1946

 

I think I will take George’s observations to heart and use them as a guideline in future comings. Whatever they may be.

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A future in writing?

“I should write a book about all this, shouldn’t I?”, I suddenly stop up and think to myself one day. “Write about myself – or a fictive version of myself – and catalyze all these thoughts I have into something literary! Maybe that’s what I’m meant to do?”

Is this the stroke of lightning I’ve been waiting for? So soon?

The excitement of the prospect manages to reach a good 10 before it comes crashing down to a 1.

“What a pathetic thought,” I sigh. “A whole book about a naive girl’s reflections on life and her own boring, half-lived one? Come on!”

But then again, aren’t all books more or less about the reflections on life and of life – no matter what stage or level of experience they’re at?

Is my own version then so far off?

However, I trip over my own tongue. Being an INTP, communicating precisely what you think and mean – turning the uncut diamond into a brilliant jewel to hang around your neck; alchemizing, in reverse, all this precious gold into useful rock so that you can build a house from it – is tricky at best. When spoken or written, the jumble of thoughts usually remains a jumble of words to everyone else – and sometimes even to the INTP.

Despite having stated in previous posts and to myself and to everybody else that I have no clue what I want to do, I’ve realized that I do want to write. I’ve always wanted to write. It’s what I do here and write about here; what I’ve always done, more or less. And it takes some swallowing to realize that the very thing I love the most is also something I trip over.

You may have tripped over it as well, trying to decipher some of my posts here? It wouldn’t surprise me.

I’m trying to make sense of all of it myself. It may strike a core with you but you cannot explain it, can you? It’s just one of those times where words aren’t enough to explain what resonates with your own jumble of thoughts and feelings inside. And then again, they just did, didn’t they?

Writing is possibly the least predictable, sustainable occupation in the world. You can use a lifetime to become someone or stay that someone and end up hating that bureaucracy and money still talk. Realizing the hateful but necessary duality of the truth: That no arts are ever truly free of capitalism and that you cannot survive a lifetime without money. That you cannot produce art and give your work freely away and live on nothing, no matter how ideally free and appealing that may sound. My inner realist and common sense won’t allow it.

Anyways, there’ll always be things you will not like and obstacles to cross. And surely, my inner idealist will not allow the thought that the arts themselves will not manage to prevail.

Still: To be free to do what you love. Isn’t that what we all want in the end?

I will try. I will try, I tell myself.

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On writing – 2.0 (Authors’ Edition)

Why do I write?

I write to understand. I write to escape. I write to reflect on life. I write because I have a voice within that cannot be still.

To quote some of the greats:

“Why does one begin to write? Because she feels misunderstood, I guess. Because it never comes out clearly enough when she tries to speak. Because she wants to rephrase the world, to take it in and give it back again differently, so that everything is used and nothing is lost. Because it’s something to do to pass the time until she is old enough to experience the things she writes about.”

Nicole Krauss

“I write in spurts. I write when I have to because the pressure builds up and I feel enough confidence that something has matured in my head and I can write it down. But once something is really under way, I don’t want to do anything else. I don’t go out, much of the time I forget to eat, I sleep very little. It’s a very undisciplined way of working and makes me not very prolific. But I’m too interested in many other things.”

Susan Sontag

“I write as if I’ve lived a lot of things I haven’t lived.”

Margaret Atwood

“It just happens to be the way that I’m made. I have to write things down to feel I fully comprehend them.”

Haruki Murakami (Norwegian Wood)

“Any writer worth his salt writes to please himself … It’s a self-exploratory operation that is endless. An exorcism of not necessarily his demon, but of his divine discontent.”

— Harper Lee

“A writer is someone who spends years patiently trying to discover the second being inside him, and the world that makes him who he is: when I speak of writing, what comes first to my mind is not a novel, a poem, or literary tradition, it is a person who shuts himself up in a room, sits down at a table, and alone, turns inward; amid its shadows, he builds a new world with words.”

Orphan Pamuk

“It didn’t occur to me that my books would be widely read at all, and that enabled me to write anything I wanted to. And even once I realized that they were being read, I still wrote as if I were writing in secret. That’s how one has to write anyway—in secret.”

Louise Erdrich

“When I’m writing, I am trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we’re capable of, how we feel, how we lose and stand up, and go on from darkness into darkness. I’m trying for that. But I’m also trying for the language. I’m trying to see how it can really sound. I really love language. I love it for what it does for us, how it allows us to explain the pain and the glory, the nuances and the delicacies of our existence. And then it allows us to laugh, allows us to show wit. Real wit is shown in language. We need language.”

Maya Angelou

“Writing eases my suffering . . . writing is my way of reaffirming my own existence.”

— Gao Xingjian

“Why one writes is a question I can answer easily, having so often asked it of myself. I believe one writes because one has to create a world in which one can live. I could not live in any of the worlds offered to me — the world of my parents, the world of war, the world of politics. I had to create a world of my own, like a climate, a country, an atmosphere in which I could breathe, reign, and recreate myself when destroyed by living. That, I believe, is the reason for every work of art.”

— Anaïs Nin

“I write to understand as much as to be understood.”

Elie Wiesel

“I believe that one reason I began writing essays—a form without a form, until you make it—was this: you didn’t have to borrow from an emotionally and visually upsetting past, as one did in fiction, apparently, to write your story. In an essay, your story could include your actual story and even more stories; you could collapse time and chronology and introduce other voices. In short, the essay is not about the empirical ‘I’ but about the collective—all the voices that made your ‘I.'”*

Hilton Als

“I want to write, but more than that, I want to bring out all kinds of things that lie buried deep in my heart.”

Anne Frank

“Why am I compelled to write? . . . Because the world I create in the writing compensates for what the real world does not give me. By writing I put order in the world, give it a handle so I can grasp it. I write because life does not appease my appetites and anger . . . To become more intimate with myself and you. To discover myself, to preserve myself, to make myself, to achieve self-autonomy. To dispell the myths that I am a mad prophet or a poor suffering soul. To convince myself that I am worthy and that what I have to say is not a pile of shit . . . Finally I write because I’m scared of writing, but I’m more scared of not writing.”

— Gloria E. Anzaldúa

“So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.”

Virginia Woolf

“You ask me why I spend my life writing?
Do I find entertainment?
Is it worthwhile?
Above all, does it pay?
If not, then, is there a reason…?
I write only because
There is a voice within me
That will not be still.”

Sylvia Plath

And to finish with the always wonderfully astute and sharp Hannah Arendt (hey, she was an INTP, after all 😉 :

“I’d say the most important thing for me is to understand. Writing is an integral part of the process of understanding. You ask about the effect my work has on others. If I may speak ironically, that’s a masculine question. Men always want to be influential. Do I see myself as influential? No, I want to understand.”*

 

*UPDATED 01/05/18*

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