To write again

There is nothing sadder than the niggling thought that you have a slew of unfinished, barely started drafts.

I take that back – it’s having a slew of unfinished, barely started drafts across multiple platforms. Medium, WordPress, the five million writing applications on my phone, all with a cute little note on the side telling me I have x drafts. Even my journal has unfinished thoughts in it and that’s supposed to be an archive of myself at my most candid.

I have unfinished drafts of my candid thoughts.

I realized that was part of a bigger problem I was having, which was that I didn’t have the focus, the ability to sit down and write something. My friends know me as being restless; I can’t stay indoors for more than a few hours, even if it’s bitingly cold outside. Oh, yeah, and when I’m outside, it’s too cold to actually write anything (because touchscreen gloves are a goddamn lie). You would think the commute to work and then back might be a good time and place to jot down a few thoughts, but that’s because you haven’t experienced the Green Line during rush hour. I’m too busy trying not to get flung across the car on that horrible turn in and out of Boylston.

This is what I think the problem was: my co-op is very writing-intensive. I spend at least seven hours a day at an office full of journalists; I earn my bread by coming up with words for things and putting them in order. In the same way that writing essays every week fills up my writing quota during college, writing up news briefs and transcribing interviews into snappy quotes does the same. And yet, because it’s not academic, because I’m still trying to get my wits about me, because my homework assignments don’t consist of working and reworking short stories, poems, memoirs and plays; I am left dissatisfied with how much I write, with what I write.

A couple of days ago, I was sulking at my friends, talking about how I can’t seem to write anymore if it isn’t for work. The last finished entry in my journal – which I promised myself I would write in daily – was from January 3rd. It was a haiku I wrote with gold eyeliner (Urban Decay 24/7 Liquid Eyeliner in the color ELDORADO for those curious) because I was too lazy to get out of bed and grab an actual pen. My friend mentioned how she used to wake up early in the morning and write three full pages before she went about her day; she doesn’t do that anymore, but the exercise was a good one. I promised myself something similar, a few years ago, but I’m bad at keeping promises I make to myself.

But there’s something about seeking actual advice from people that can drive you in a way nothing else can. I went home, that day, and grabbed my journal. I turned on the fairy lights beside my bed, flopped onto my belly, and started writing. By the time I stopped, I had written eight full pages. I would have written more, if not for the fact that I had work in the morning and it was half past midnight already. I could feel the catharsis in my bones, taste the relief on my tongue.

I slept better than I have in days. Like, writing all that knocked me the fuck out.

The next day – yesterday – at work, I found myself in the black hole of Wikipedia. Great Man Theory -> Übermensch -> Nietzsche -> Knight of Faith. As I sifted through the article on Kierkegaard’s concept of the Knight of Faith, something happened that hasn’t happened in a very long time: I felt a plot bunny. I found myself temporarily obsessed with the idea of being so deeply attuned to the finite and the infinite that you can act independently of the world, of everything temporal and physical, and act out of your faith in God – and then I realized how incredibly dangerous that obsession could be for people who truly wanted to pursue that knighthood; who saw it not as an academic construct, but as a genuine pursuit.

I started writing the story at work. I pieced together a little Evernote document with links to research materials, quotes, a PDF of Fear and Trembling, and I started writing. Remember how I mentioned I never wrote during my commute? Some kindly gentleman saw me furiously typing on my phone, my legs positioned stubbornly so as not to lose my balance, and took to grabbing the back of my hood every time it seemed I was going to be thrown across the car. Again.

Capture

I haven’t been this excited about writing something ambitious since last semester, and while that doesn’t seem like a very long time – and in truth, it isn’t – it’s important. I’m going to stop joking here for a second.

I can’t tell you what the Peshawar Massacre did to me, to all of us. Everyone dealt with it differently, suffered its impact and trauma in a different manner. For an entire month, it crippled my creativity. I was in a fugue state, my concentration destroyed and replaced with constant malaise. I went about my life, I enjoyed my days, I went to parties at night with my friends but my heart was – still is – perpetually sunken. There was a lump in my throat that refused to go away. And to write anything that wasn’t for my country, for that tragedy, felt like a disservice. Maybe this is the first step towards moving on: recognizing that there is only so much I can mourn, and that at some point I have to stop crippling myself and be productive in that most meaningful of ways: I had to allow myself to create again.

The fact that I have written as much as I have in the past couple of days is heartening. It’s the final piece in the puzzle of contentment I have been trying to complete since this year began. For all intents and purposes, January was a wonderful month. I love my co-op, I have amazing friends, I have been taking care of myself, I’ve even been drawing – but now that I can write again?

The jigsaw is a pretty picture.

The fruitlessness of censorship

I know a lot of people are into piracy – and not the fun, swashbucklin’, cutlass-wieldin’ kind of piracy either. I’m talking illegal downloads. Obviously I’m not here to school you about the consequences of piracy (I’ve discussed the topic before here); I’m not here to talk solely about piracy either. I’m here to talk about why I believe censorship in all its forms is pointless. Why?

The internet.
 I knew there was a steamy scene in Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 1 between Edward Cullen and Bella (his Stockholm Syndrome afflicted pet and possibly the worst role model for teenager girls) even though it had been completely cut out of the movie in cinemas here (to award it a lower rating and garner more audiences no doubt). And that isn’t because it was so badly edited that a sex scene was obvious
 It’s cause people who were following the Twilight hype on the internet knew that it existed long before the movie came out. So all the little teenagers who you’re trying to save from rated R debauchery will most likely go home that night and find it from the internet to fill in the blank. Let’s take that scenario and put it in a much more urgent, much more destructive jigsaw such as the rebellious, artistic movement of China for example. The government is happy keeping people in the dark when it comes to their activities but the same ignorance is not applicable to the international community.
 You have all these outraged internet activists using social networking to spread the word and soon, there’s outrage spreading in the country. The internet is to blame.
Now, the problem of the internet is pretty easy to resolve: you censor it. Okay, awesome. That solves that, right?
 No. Not really. Now you’ve just got a bunch of people really, really angry at you for shutting down today’s most important method of information, communication and entertainment. 
 Best possible scenario for the government, worst possible scenario for the people is both the same: North Korea.
 Worst possible scenario for the government and the people (though the latter can be debated): Revolution.
 A revolution full of memes and angry business people. But that’s not happened so far, and for good reason I suppose. So instead, you shut down individual websites.
 That’s a better idea, yes, but that doesn’t make it any less superfluous because hey, guess what? Proxies exist and they do the magnificent job of letting you access websites other people would less than appreciate you doing.
 But even if you shut down one proxy, there will always be more and they’ll launch authorities into a frenzy not unlike the whack-a-mole games at the arcade. When people get something they’ve gotten used to taken away from them, they will get creative and just as necessity is the mother of invention – let’s just say there’s no shortage of ways to get what you want.
 You can’t ban books because PDFs and e-books exist and are revolutionizing the publishing industry. You can’t try to hide the greater facts of life from your children, because other children exist, and they will find out before they’re “meant” to whether you like it or not, because children are getting smarter. You can’t ban music because underground movements always have and always will exist and they will nullify all your attempts to stop whatever it is you want to stop from getting out.
 That’s why revolutions are so incredible and inevitable in many cases because, often, they’re sprung from the ingenuity of people when they’re backed up into a corner.
 Say what you want about the human race, but we’re one inventive species. We will always wheedle out an alternative when our primary way of life is being threatened. That’s evolution for you.

(PS: remind me to talk about the importance of language and 1984 at some point. I’ll really get rearing, then!)