When the Words Don’t Come

I have a bad habit of starting new projects every time I get high on feelings and decide that I need a creative outlet. I never finish them. In fact sometimes, I only get the first bit done. The first article, the first rant, the first poem, the first story. I don’t know what keeps me from going on, developing these projects further. I don’t know why I can never finish.

I read somewhere on the internet that when people have perfectionistic tendencies, they procrastinate tasks because they can’t face the possibility of getting to them on time and giving it a perfect effort only for them not to turn out perfect. So they put it off until a time when they can only do it in a rush and don’t have time to give it their best, so that when it doesn’t turn out good enough they have an excuse: I started late, this isn’t actually my best. Because who needs a confirmation that their best is not good enough. Self-handicapping I was told it was called, by my social psychology professor.

Maybe this is my problem. I don’t know.

Perhaps I’m just lazy. I don’t like to exert myself and so I strive to get by with minimum effort. And minimum effort means…

I’m already tired of typing this.

I am plagued now, as approximately sixty other times in the course of a day, that I am not actually a writer. Just a girl with dreams and no guts. And maybe my dreams of becoming a writer someday, are meant to stay that: dreams. And then someday when I have a daughter I will try to make her write and live my life through her, and she will be miserable and dislike the pressure that I will put on her. Just like I dislike the pressure I get from my mother. And when she—my daughter, that is—realizes what it is I’m doing, she will ask me why I didn’t write the things I wanted to, and I will say that I didn’t have time. That first I was in school, then I was working, then in school again, then I was married and had kids and there was never any more time after that. And I will make sure that my speech floats on undertones of guilt and blame, and she will feel it because I will begin to talk about how difficult it is to raise kids, build a marriage, work, and still find time to build yourself and chase your side-dreams and read the books you want to and attend the small quiet-ish events that you like and have Quiet Time and keep fit because you don’t want your husband to start wondering whether you’re still there underneath all the fat, even though you know for sure that you picked a good man who never expected you to retain a size 26 waist throughout your married life and fully supports your love of fried chicken.

And I will regret it but convince myself that that’s just how life is.

Imali once sent me this book in pdf format, Letters to a Young Poet. I read only a bit of it before I lost it somehow. I took too long on it because I had to read it on a screen and I didn’t particularly enjoy that. And then either I lost it on my other phone and had deleted my emails or it got wiped out somehow…I don’t know. But I know that in Sister Act 2, Sister Mary Clarence gives it to Rita and she says that the book says that if you wake up in the morning and all you can think about is writing, then you are a writer. And that the same applies to basically everything else; for Rita it was singing. Which was a good thing because Lauryn Hill’s voice is phenomenal.

When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I think is how desperately I don’t want to wake up. Then I think about how much I don’t want to go to school. Then I wonder whether I will ever get to a point in my life where I can rise with the sun all full of energy and joy and all. I know I should be more thankful to wake up. I should think of all the people who wanted to or thought they would but never did, and I should feel blessed and spring out of bed, ready to take my place in the world. But I don’t feel that way at all. I want to go back to sleep, even though I know that if I do, when I do, I always regret it and feel like I’m worth a little less than if I had woken up and carpe diem’d.

Point is, thinking about writing for me comes much later in the day. In the matatu on my way to school or in the middle of a class. Is that allowed? Am I still a writer if it’s not the first thing that comes to mind at 6 am on a Monday? But I should probably read the rest of the book; perhaps Mr. Rilke addresses this issue.

For now, I’m going to look at it as a good thing that I’m having this struggle now, in my twenties. It doesn’t really matter at this very moment whether I’m a writer or not; whether I qualify, whether I am considered good enough to call myself one. It doesn’t matter that I don’t write everyday and serious writers write every day, and I, therefore, am not a serious writer. It doesn’t matter that even though I am blessed enough to have ‘a room of one’s own’ I don’t use it as often as I should to get the words out; it is not quite yet the sacred space for me and the words. And sometimes it’s just me…without words. Either because they did not show up, or they were so bad that I had to throw them out. Even though I am taught that it is better to have bad words than no words at all.  In this moment, it doesn’t matter.

I’m going to write anyway.

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