I just had a very painful realization.
Call me crazy, but this freezing Saturday night, after the hardest night of the semester, I was doing something very unhealthy. I’m not a pack rat in any sense but that I never clear out my hard drive. Because sometimes there are these rivers of words running through my head that bother me until I let them out, I have dozens of not hundreds of half-written little things sitting around in various folders, never touched again. I think I save them because I maintain this crazy idea that I’ll come back to them someday. I come back to maybe one in twenty of them, if that.
I don’t know why they’re there, but tonight I found myself looking through them. Never a good idea if you’re me. When you have a bit of a history, writing it down can be both freeing and entrapping. I usually can’t fight the urge to let out the river of words, so when I open the things I have every intention of finishing when I abandon them in folders in the far corners of my hard drive, I find a history written down in striking detail, details I’ve often forgotten or at least intentionally eroded until they no longer hurt, staring me in the face and just begging for me to try and forget again.
I don’t know if I can. I don’t know if I can’t, either. A history cannot haunt you unless you let it. And I know it’s sick, but part of me wants to let it.
It’s not even so I can feel again. I feel loads of things. I cry more than most people—I’m a leaky faucet, really, often crying about things it’s really not necessary to cry about. The reverse is true, too, to an extent—often I find wildly hilarious things I really ought not to be laughing about. Never when people get hurt, thank God. That’s never funny. But I remember learning about the sheer amount of money tied up in derivatives contracts in a finance class and laughing out loud in absolute hysterics for five minutes while my fiancé looked on like I was slightly mental.
There you have it, I suppose. I am at least slightly mental. I’m a pack rat about my history who goes on preaching to loads of others about the importance of letting history go. I must be some twisted sort of sacrificial lamb: I don’t want anyone else to be sad, I just want to be the only one who has to deal with sad. How selfish is that?
Somewhere in the middle of digging through my past, I came to a very sad realization. Buried in the depths of my half-finished blog entries and one-shot stories are a few wayward novels I’ve thought of starting over the years. I’ve fancied myself a bit of a writer since I first hand-wrote a novella in 7th grade. It was garbage, if you were wondering. But I kept at it. I kept at it for years, actually—clear through high school and even into my first couple years of college. I only finished two of the longer ones, a script and another short novel. But there they were. Finished. Tokens of proof I occasionally used to justify the existence of all the unfinished clutter I had lying around.
And then I had a bit of an emotional mess. I conquered it by becoming a workaholic. Then I travelled the world, got engaged, became a workaholic again, and forgot how to write.
That was the painful realization I had this evening. As I stared back at all the things I’ve written over the years—things the world has never seen—I realized that now, when I wanted to write again, I couldn’t. I’d forgotten how. It used to come so naturally. The characters would sit in my head and torment me until I gave them life. Even the ones who were destined to lie around forever—they needed life, even just for a little while, even if it never had closure, just so I could get them out of my head so they wouldn’t torment me.
These past semesters I’ve written some truly brilliant essays. I can out-logic a lawyer. I can hold my own in almost any conversation in almost any discipline just because I’ve studied so many. I am a very good student. More than that, I exercise, I eat quite nutritiously, I have a vibrant social life, a dream job, and I almost always get adequate sleep. It can be done. It takes some know-how as far as time management, but it can be done.
But I don’t read, not outside of my discipline. And I certainly don’t write. I don’t even keep a proper journal anymore. My journal is now a devotional in which I write out passages that move me that day, and perhaps once every month I interject a thought or question that’s come to me.
Very little can kill the creative spirit like logic. I know now how opposite they are. It takes a bit of creativity to be good at logic, but it’s a different sort of creativity, like how wit is a different form of humour. We all know the difference between someone who’s witty and someone who’s funny. Wit may make us laugh, but it’s that element of ingeniousness that simply being funny hasn’t got that makes wit what it is.
I suppose that’s what logic is. Logic is smart creativity. But it’s so damn formulaic, and in my discipline anything not said by someone else cannot be true. Every revolutionary claim I make in a paper has to have been said by someone else before, otherwise it doesn’t count. Creativity, at least that sort of creativity, is discouraged.
I’ve tried to fight it. I write journals every night for class in an attempt to stimulate creative thought. But it’s smart creativity. It has to be logical. Or even just me thinking on paper. But it has to make sense, and that’s what absolutely kills me.
Are my stories that way? I want to go back and read them. I want to see. I want to know what it was I’ve had over the years that I’ve somehow lost. I’ve written some things that are quite good. I’ve written a lot of garbage, too, but it’s those little gems that make me want to crack open my head and just pour out this river all at once so I can look around and see if there are any more of them left.
Are there? Or have I truly forgotten?