“I am convinced that the desire to formulate truths is a virulent disease.”

It seems that I can only think  while writing, not the other way around. Thought does not precede writing in my experience. Certainly not in its entirety. I get maybe the tingling of a formless idea or two before I begin writing. It is less a process of recording than it is one of discovery. During those draughts in my life when I don’t jot anything down, I think nothing. (Thought in this context meaning something a bit substantial than “I think I’ll have ice cream now,” although this is indeed a delicious and worthwhile thought to have.)

Today I was reading a piece about modern writing technologies (word processors, Scrivener, ipad apps etc.) as they are integrated into writers’ unique styles of work, especially how new technologies seem to go side by side with older techniques and technologies (the good old pen and paper or the typewriter) instead of supplanting them. Many writers seem to begin with their notebooks even if they eventually transfer everything to a digital platform. I keep my pedestrian handwritten journals close to my heart although I rarely ever transfer anything out of them to any other platform. Journals are the places where “I think I’ll have icecream” may or may not slowly bleed into “how does pleasure work and what can we do with it?” The overall effect being more icecream than the epistemology of pleasure. I think of the journals as private yet when I go back to read them, I’ll mark typos and grammar. 

As I began scribbling something along these lines today, I remembered Barry. He was a lecturer at Cornell from whom we took an amazing course called Prison Literature where we read Discpline and Punish alongside Soledad Brother, Berkman’s Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist alongside Parenti’s Lockdown America. I was then a college senior who didn’t know her ass from her elbow. Barry was the first to give me a diagnosis. I’ll never forget it. He solemnly said, “you are an intellectual,” as if he were announcing a grave, deadly disease. I remember feeling a bit sad and extremely awkward. As usual he was shy and melancholic, slumping a little under the burden and shame of being hum*n. I don’t think we made eye contact as he continued with his dire prognosis “so you’ll always have to do something that involves writing, otherwise you’ll be miserable.” Not exact words but the gist. Dearest Barry, I hope you are well. 

Note: The quote in the title is by William James. I first ran into it in Arthur W. Frank’s Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness and Ethics. It is one of the few quotes I know by heart. 

[Description of the featured image: It is a close-up shot of some lines scribbled with pencil on a page. It is the partial view of the quote in the title of the blogpost and incomplete pieces of other scribbled sentences above and below it. ]

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