Writing Again

So I’ve been writing again and feel, simultaneously, like I’m disappearing. It’s a thing. It’s gotten worse as I’ve gotten older, but the feeling is this: I go to things and talk to people and make plans and I’m not there. I’ve heard everything and enjoyed the company and the food and the jokes, all of it. But it’s as if there’s a whirring sound in my head the whole time, the way it can feel when you’re trying to listen to quiet music in a loud bar, and it’s not any one voice but the murmur of all the voices that prevents you from really hearing the band.

It’s as if the whirring gets louder and louder gradually, over time, sometimes over days, sometimes minutes, sometimes months, as the urge to write in a focused way comes over me. I don’t write every day the way they tell writers they should. That is, I write something every day, no doubt, but it’s emails or blog posts or other bullshit that doesn’t actually count.

Which is why I was taken aback by this snippet form an article about memoir and status updates by Dani Shapiro:

I haven’t unburdened myself, or softly and earnestly confessed. Quite the opposite. In order to write a memoir, I’ve sat still inside the swirling vortex of my own complicated history like a piece of old driftwood, battered by the sea. I’ve waited—sometimes patiently, sometimes in despair—for the story under pressure of concealment to reveal itself to me.

So that’s what the whirring is: the sound of the swirling vortex of my own complicated history.

Exactly. In person, or on the phone, or whenever you might see me, if I seem tuned out, I’m not exactly. I’m just listening to the whirring, trying to quiet it temporarily so I can be present, but often, I will be failing altogether.

Helen Boyd

is the author of My Husband Betty and She's Not the Man I Married.

3 Comments

  1. That’s an interesting description. I’ve heard gender dysphoria explained in exactly the same way.

  2. Great post, this.
    I know that vortex, that swirling; that feeling that working for a living is an anesthetic, or worse, a fevered dream.

    Writing is liberating and scary…I avoid it, but I’m so glad when I’ve done it.

    good to hear 🙂 Darya

  3. Yeah, the Internet is a wonderful means of almost instant communication, but for a writer it’s also a trap. You end up taking time, using up energy responding to others’ issues and arguments, and wearing out your own thinking on whatever it is you really want to say. Worse, all you’re left with at the end is a bunch of electrons, scattered somewhere across cyberspace. And then you realize that the whirring is getting louder, drowning out whatever it was you thought you’d heard.

    Sometimes I wish I could just retreat somewhere where there is no internet, pretend it is 1960 or something, and get on with whatever I’ve been writing. With pen and paper if necessary. There’s a lot in there, I know, when I can hear it. But I don’t think I could live without the city for very long, and I’m sure I couldn’t write for very long on an empty stomach . . .

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