A million reasons why I’m not writing

In this poetic essay Astrid Swan explores the possibilities of writing and the difficulty of putting pen to paper. Why hasn’t she published a novel yet?

In this poetic essay Astrid Swan explores the possibilities of writing and the difficulty of putting pen to paper. Why hasn’t she published a novel yet?

Varpu Eronen

Varpu Eronen

Because I live on the edge of rain, a cliff, a rift where there is always a distance between me and my experience, the written words and memory.

Because my best thoughts are scared little seahorses deep under the waters of turquoise oceans I have never even visited.

Because words lie.

Memories weigh my body down and I become blue from remembering.

Because this is a loss of oxygen.

Writing constantly escapes what I aim to say and describe. Everything becomes something else. Writing is unruly, it tells tales, it takes me to places, it enchants me and throws me down off of the edge of a steep cliff.

I fall into silence.

Certain things remain there. I remain.

I carry a big gray and black weapon on my shoulder. My potential words. My potential stories.

The narratives that kill. Then I write songs, I write about illness, I write love letters and poems and let strangers into my text. So much writing and never the stuff that absolutely requires attention.

The same with therapy. Six years of talking, circling around the experience, as if the experience and my body are a black hole.

Once or twice I have entered the black hole, I have spoken from the pit, the bottom of the endless well of sadness and sorrow. I have been met by nothing important. I have not had a reaction, a response worth noting. Maybe the center is empty. A void. And all I can do is circle around it making art. Maybe circular motion is the answer and direct needling is just that.

Poking through, making nothing.

Time heals, therapy heals. Time equals therapy. One spring day I am ready. I am ready to tell the therapist that I am doing great, just living my imperfect life and I no longer feel I am faltering or needing her to be my crutch.

I’m not healed. I have not forgotten or forgiven. I have glimpses of understanding. I know more about myself and I have belief in me. I have a family of my own. I have my hands full of life. I have the experience of nearly dying of an illness and making it to the other side. I am not transformed or sussed or successful, but I am brimming with enthusiasm for life. I am taking risks and dreaming big. I am LIVING. I am burying friends and holding close ones with less luck. I am aware of the fragility of it all. Yet, I am ok in this moment. I can take the uncertainty of words.

Still, the words won’t come.

A hundred reasons to remain silent

People I love will hate what I say.

They will dispute what I write. They will claim that my memory is faulty and what I say does not matter. The danger of being erased looms large above the danger of being invisible and drowning. In this frozen moment I am safe.

But I want to leave a stain. A big, bloody stain is the least I’ll leave. It’ll be my mark. A mess.

People I don’t care about may hate me or love me. Strangers will not leave me alone.

They won’t care. Or they will care. It’s all equally dangerous.

The problem is that I am vulnerable and there are others out there. They may potentially buy a copy of my writing. Buy the thing I tell everything in. Once it is a packaged product. My truth.

Or maybe they’ll get it free or even illegally.

Nevertheless, I will have to prance around town with one saggy breast and one blank space and a long line of shadows. Alcoholics past and present, shaky ones who stay sane with drugs – the ones gone and the ones still going. I will have to keep secrets. I will have to draw invisible lines. Still, I am afraid, the flood will come.

Because my best thoughts are scared little seahorses deep under the waters of turquoise oceans I have never even visited.

All my life – much before I could write – I have been a writer. A narrator. A collector of stories. My identity, before music or university education, before anything else was: I am a writer. Think of Anne of the Greengables with her nose stuck up high and her copper hair, think Sylvia Plath with her dark days and the hearts she painted on her bookshelves. Think Pippi Longstocking, Nina Simone, Marilyn Monroe and Patti Smith. If I had a shrine it would be an altar of women writing. Scribbling. Lifting horses and screaming to microphones.

I am one of those women.

This feeling is a certainty, but it is also what chokes me. I need to spit that bone out of my throat and get the crown already. Just wear the crown and the rest will come. I want to go get that tiara, even if it is for bad writing (stuff that should burn).

I want to exist between the seahorses and the net. Holding the creatures just long enough to hear them sing. Letting them go before they choke. Releasing and writing whatever comes.

Nothing is the truth. Everything is the truth. Ask neuroscience, ask a priest, ask a historian or a politician. Or maybe do not ask a politician.

The problem is that some people are too good at lying to themselves.

This book is for no one in particular, but it is for those who remember things no one wants to remember. And those who struggle for something they believe in. It is for the ill, the hopeless and the wonderful. The failing and the flailing ones who look for the stars just to remember that there is something here beyond their pain. And they always always know that their pain…

This book has not been written.

One moment of change

2016 you are a year of letting go and dancing.
Skeletons, graveyards, tears, tears, tears…
You are my moment of change.
Everything is moving.

Therefore something once achieved is not any more permanent than something that is just about to take form on a societal level. Or in your head.
I am speaking to you now.

Think Pippi Longstocking, Nina Simone, Marilyn Monroe and Patti Smith. If I had a shrine it would be an altar of women writing. Scribbling. Lifting horses and screaming to microphones.

My latest realization is that all I need to do is show up. I just need to make sure I’m there.
Wherever that is at a particular time can vary greatly. But I need to make my way there. That’s enough. It’s more than half of the work right there. Showing up. I don’t need to have it all figured out before I GO THERE. I just need to show up. Everything else will come.
This to me is a revolution.
I am good enough. My sentences are are just fine.
Great actually.
I no longer believe that there is such a thing as a lie.

It is more interesting and fruitful to see the layers of untold truths as the protection that a person takes to avoid expressing their feelings.

The truth is not a monolith. It’s a breeze. It moves, dances, changes and is already transformed.

It’s not a location, a machine or a final word on anything.

The truth is situated, fragile, accelerating and dangerous.

The truth is a feeling, baby.

I set my words free…

Article was written by

  • Astrid Swan - One Quart

    I am a co-founder, editor and a writer at One Quart Magazine. I am also a songwriter and a performer, with five albums under my belt and a sixth one on the way. I a...

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