(c) Sylvia Plath 1953
I was asked to write about why I write, or why I “DON’T” write. I will start with my reasons for not writing as much as I would like to. Scratch that. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember (but hasn’t everybody?): I’ve got piles of diaries at home, few fairy tales, some short stories, few poems, a bit of fiction, a bit of science fiction, some prose meets poetry, lists, letters, notes, soapy cards for mom’s birthdays, academic papers, essays, articles. And now I’m writing my first post on my blog. Hurray. And yet, I’m not a writer. I don’t write.
I’m not a writer. Okay, I write here and there, but I don’t write. I scribble. I jot down. I fake. I presume I’m writing.
Now let’s put it differently. Why haven’t I written more lately? More than who? More than a past me? MORE. Here’s one good excuse. I’ve been recently dealing with the drawback that is the exhausting change of scenery slash apartment (several times actually, but that’s a different story – and writing material too!), so I’ve been doing a lot of housework lately, rearranging furniture bla bla. So what? People do it all the time. Yes, but I took the time to clean and clear thoughts as well and reflect upon things in the process. And I couldn’t help thinking: if someone else took care of these things, the laundry, the cleaning, I could comfortably sit at my desk and write. At least until I had to go prepare and have lunch, or until my phone rang, or until the urge to go on Facebook roared, or until I had to go do this other thing I had just remembered I had to do. I have no excuses, and yet, while doing all the housework (more than usual that is and more than the average person, I’ll explain later why), something I’ve read recently kept rummaging my thoughts:
The contrast between the lives and careers of Adrienne Rich and Allen Ginsberg illuminates the disparity between male and female gender roles that has been the basis for feminist protest. Adrienne Rich spent most of her twenties and thirties trying to come to terms with her domestic responsibilities and her life as an American woman poet, while Ginsberg spent those years in pursuit of spiritual illumination […]. While Rich was frantically writing poetry between household chores or in the middle of the night after comforting a restless child, Ginsberg was “waking mid-afternoon, day wasted idly – weeks passing idly.
(I still don’t know, but hope to find out soon, whether I must use MLA style for blogs; probably not, but oh, the ghosts of academic writing).
This is a quote I came across during research for my future doctoral dissertation and it refers to two American poets, one male, one female, and a gender gap. And now let me ask you, dear women poets, and dear writers:
who does the laundry
who makes the bed
who washes the dishes
who changes the sheets
who earns money
who doesn’t have to earn money.
Doing housework is not insignificant, nor does it take an insignificant amount of time. For a germaphobe (as myself), it takes up a lot more energy than one could assume. So, between my (let’s call them) germophobic ocd flavored rituals, between regular house cleaning activities, between preparing lessons and teaching English, between my singing lessons, not to mention between my weekly travels (I commute) which are actually almost daily and threatening to becoming hourly and endless, I look for myself writing. And what do I find? I find an acute search for freedom, an aversion to chaotic exposure to everyday trifles that weigh me down and laugh in my face (we all know what they say). So I search and search and find a profound uprootedness. And that’s where and when the writing process comes in. It starts as overrunning water making havoc among all of my emotional, intellectual blockages which consume me. As I write, my constraints are facing with being devoured. I write because I desperately cling to my (sense of) freedom, the freedom that awaits me at the end of a verse, of a word, of an unwritten comma, of a story, of a phrase, of the right letter at the right time.
So now that I have answered both questions (why I write? and why I don’t write?), why am I here? To get away. To get out. To come in. To find. To seek. To know. To rescue and be rescued. To flip the coin.
I have rolled the dice but I have not introduced myself. Here’s one of the many questions I don’t have an answer to: who am I? I could tell you my likes and dislikes, but they are never the same. Here’s one of the few rules I like: I must not conform to my own taste, nor to society’s taste. But sometimes I do. I could tell you I’ve done this and that in my past, but I wouldn’t be telling you about me, but about things that happened to me or things I did, that is things I don’t do anymore perhaps. So where do I begin? I begin at your patience.