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As an adolescent, my search for meaning made me restless, abstracted and prone to introspection. Then I discovered writing. I didn’t want my writing to be polite and prosaic - it had to be welded to my experience in the furnace of my being. Every sentence, for me, had to reverberate a wisdom that even I wasn’t entirely privy to just yet. Because the marks we leave on paper are the most sincere human trails of thought.
It is strange how our inputs, whether through a pen or keyboard, become a lucid projection of the psyche, channelling its deepest longings, as the hand deftly drafts the meaning of life itself. Nothing is entirely orchestrated or meticulously planned; there is a certain untamed fluency to what eventually transpires on the page, without agendas or expectations.
In the whirlpool of convoluted words, misinformation and doomsday narratives, writing for oneself is now more than ever a clarifying experience - a way of stepping out of the confusing quagmire of half-truths and hidden meanings, grounding us in the passage of time and reality. There is an unmistakable humility in this exercise as we provide ourselves with unfiltered access to the rough gems of our own minds. We are freed from the manacles of self-censorship that burden formal writing.
We need this interior storytelling to thread ourselves together, to gently and yet painstakingly forge the constellation of intangibles that make up who we are, intangibles that often fade into oblivion under the beam of direct worldly scrutiny. Writing then is a strategy for survival and allowing ourselves agency - an unimpeded form of autonomy to narrate events that consume us, back to us. It is a way of processing reality by unlearning what we’ve learned, to know ourselves with renewed acuity.
The words we produce are often reflections couched within a specific context and time - it is a historical record of our inner life which is in itself transient and ever-changing. As creatures susceptible to emotional change and mental turbulence, our thoughts, ideas and assumptions change in every passing moment with varying levels of subtlety. What we believe now is simply a template we’ve utilised to rationalise the present. These truths shift and change though time. Our written words are thus not just for posterity. They serve as a living monument to our own fluidity, a rebellion against the myth of fixed personality - an observation I’ve keenly noticed even through my essays on this platform.
Before I conclude this week’s offering, I’d like to leave you, my dear readers, with a passage from celebrated writer and diarist, Anaïs Nin. Her work is imbued with timeless resonance and she has an uncanny ability to capture the intersections between writing and the human condition. The excerpt below is from a letter she penned to Harper’s Bazaar in 1946. It broadly captures the anguish she feels when her penned words are mistaken for artistic pretence rather than what they truly are - passionate and personal fragments of the self.
“I am apparently gentle, unstable, and full of pretences. I will die a poet killed by the nonpoets, will renounce no dream, resign myself to no ugliness, accept nothing of the world but the one I made myself. I wrote, lived, loved like Don Quixote, and on the day of my death I will say: ‘Excuse me, it was all a dream,’ and by that time I may have found one who will say: ‘Not at all, it was true, absolutely true.’
For Nin, writing is the unmediated bearer of truth and a love letter to our complex and multidimensional selves. In the same vein of Nin’s unshakable trust in the power of the pen, let our words be an active surrender to the generosity and warmth of our inner soul.
Until next time,
A bit of a ramble... I struggle sometimes with ‘journaling for self’ during troubled times finding I slip into the life writing I do for articles. I am conscious of a reader’s gaze - and yet the reader would only be me. Although in reality I tend to destroy these therapeutic meanderings. I know I am a contradiction in that I can share deeply personal experiences and yet I am ferociously private about aspects of my inner self. Because of this I do not work hard to imbue my personal journaling with any semblance of craft - it is a utility - so I am left with life writing that I know lacks something. How to get past that... do I need to? These days I am writing more fiction - to escape, explore or not? I don’t know - but I am envious of those who are able to show an innocent honesty in their writing about self.
This-- "constellation of intangibles"-- Absolutely beautiful. Every post I read of yours, I am struck by your profound, clear insights married to masterful prose. If my printer hadn't died, I would print this one out as it hummed in the very marrow of my bones.