I feel angry when I write, but I’m not angry at you or anyone, just angry. More often than not, I enter a writing session feeling nervous. But, as I wrestle with my thoughts, I get angry. What’s in my head is not a word, a phrase, or anything easily turned to words. I have to fight it into words. When it doesn’t cooperate, I get angry. It’s not the idea’s fault. It’s mine, but that pisses me off, too.
This anger, it’s not warfare, not at all. Imagine, instead the effort required to put a tight fitted sheet on your bed. The first two or three corners go on easily, but putting the next corner on dislodges a prior corner. Which side do you tackle next? It’s not the corners popping off that gets me, it’s the feeling of not knowing how to do it right. Of course, the best solution is to get a helper, but when I write, it’s just me and I don’t know which corner to start with.
I don’t think my anger comes across as anger. It does bleed through as humor. When I write, sometimes the path splits or I run into a wall. I bounce off and move on, but leave some odd joke behind to mark the point where I felt stupid or written into a corner. I’ve heard comedians say similar things (I am not a comedian). Marc Maron seems to feel self-conscious or angry about himself, and uses humor at his own expense to cut himself down before others have a chance. My own humor often marks a point where my mind wanders or I feel stupid.
It doesn’t always happen this way. Some of my favorite posts come out in one piece, painlessly, taking only a as much time as it takes to type the words. Even with my anger, most posts don’t take long. I’ve learned to just push through and, when I’m sick of it, close with a little throwaway line. A few have taken more than a month and several dozen drafts. That’s where I feel the real anger. Ironically, one of those was all about angry music (and female singers).
I feel different when I write than when I edit. When I write, I write for a feeling. When I edit, I edit for rhythm. Writing is a purging, ejecting the poisoned food or thoughts. Editing is playing the drums. When writing, that never-ending sentence with multiple subordinate clauses and phrases and parenthetical remarks — much like what you’re reading now — matters. When editing, it doesn’t. It’s in the timing. The variety. The beat, as it moves around a core rhythm.
Editing doesn’t make me angry. Yes, it’s a struggle. When editing my words, it’s a fight with my bad habits. When editing other people’s words, it’s a fight to maintain their voice and not interject my own. Editing is more like delicate dance, on tip toes, keeping your two lips closed.
When writing, I’ve learned to identify a few signposts to keep the anger from tripping me up. Usually, I have a phrase or two, often the first sentence that gets me moving in some direction. Sometimes, like today, it’s a destination, a single sentence that has to eventually make sense. A roadblock, even when it angers me, can be a blessing, allowing me to come up with a singularly weird analogy that I am sure no one has ever or will ever use. Silly games, yes, but they work.
I do resolve my anger, so there’s no reason for anyone — particularly Dana — to worry. When I figure it out or when the thought-to-word dam breaks, it’s much like the relief after a too-long period of constipation (Does Activia lady, Jamie Lee Curtis, know what that’s like?). The pull of writing is the same pull that draws me into science: to make sense of the unknown. The unknown stands out as the dried bird poop that’s baked all day on your car (is it Scatology Day yet?). For me, once that unsightly unknown poop is gone, I barely remember there even being a problem. I forget that I ever struggled and, often, that I even cared about what I was writing.
When I write, I get angry, figure it out and forget it. OK, now I’m done. I feel good! What were we talking about, again?