At the start of August, I had a long list of writing goals. After the first few days of the month, I realised I needed to get back to reading properly too, so I added a goal of reading five books to that list. I completed four books in the month, which is a great deal considering how shitty this year has been reading-wise, but I’m as close to meeting the writing goals as the Nigerian president is to fulfilling his campaign promises.
In spite of how difficult writing can be, I’ve always thought I could get a lot done by simply shutting out everything else, and spending a lot of time behind my desk. That myth was debunked last month. I spent one of the weekends in the month entirely indoors, not picking calls, only texting at night, and yet, all I could produce were two paragraphs. I don’t know why my muse had to do me like that and leave me to despair about my ability to construct sentences.
One of the things I learnt in those dry days is that once you make magic, or something that looks like it, there’s a temptation to want to always create at that level. Every thing that passes through your head is refracted though the prism of that singular spectacular creation, which was just a gift. If you’re lucky, you learn to return to working on the pedestrian stuff—basic sentences, competent paragraphs, failed stories—and hope someday you’ll find that magic again.
After that barren two-paragraph weekend, I added about three thousand words to what I was working on. I know I’ll eventually throw out a bulk of that when I start rewriting, but I had more joy writing those shitty three thousand words than I did trying to conjure two perfect paragraphs throughout the weekend.
And I should know better: perfect sentences only come once in a while, and a lot of them eventually prove to be illusions, because months later, that perfect sentence reveals itself to be bogged down by a weak adjective that I’m tempted to edit out of the piece. Then I lean back on my seat and wonder about the many other lies people have been sharing behind my back if they can’t even tell me sentences I’ve been preening myself on are quite trash. I hover my hands above the delete button, then wonder again if that doesn’t make me a coward who isn’t comfortable with his imperfect past. I take the hands away, and go back to read more old posts. I see more errors, and the anxiety escalates.
That temptation to go back and touch up what once seemed perfect in my eyes but is now imperfect is why I’ve toyed a lot this year with the idea of shutting down my blog. I’ll probably do it at the end of the year, but before that, I want to push myself and resist that silly perfectionism that isn’t quite achievable given how clumsy I get. So, starting today, I’ll post an essay every week till the year ends; even if that essay is just a word, a compilation of Youtube cat videos, or a comment on a story I read online. I’ll try to stick to a schedule for once and see where it takes me. If I’m lucky, perhaps I’ll find magic once again.
PS: Rosa Lyster already did this for a whole year, so I’m using her as inspiration for the coming months.
PPS: Please check out this story series on Timi’s blog (another consistent weekly blog) that I’m contributing to. It’s a quite interesting, but if you don’t like it, just come back, tell me, and I’ll owe you one story. Deal? 🙂
Featured image via Flickr by Ivesone.com