In a google document, in digital chicken-scratch, I spew ideas onto a page, which is foolish because I don’t need more fragmented sentences, I need to write prose.
I want to write an essay but the topic isn’t clear. For forty-five minutes, I spread thoughts across a google doc, a word doc, and even physically in front of me on a paper doc. Dear lord, help me. Each rabbit chase was oddly pleasant until I realized I spent half my writing block — ¡half my writing block! — without even attempting the first sentence of the essay.
Paralyzed, I feel.
Any of these ideas could lead to a ride through the imagination, but instead I rest my chin on my hand as I decide which is best, like that matters.
From the hundred different chases on my mind, I commit to one and write my first un-fragmented sentence, one that would satisfy Mrs. Downey from my 9th grade English class. I’m pleased. Without thinking, I write a few more. A switch flicks and the stream of my mind flows into the river of my imagination.
Feeling the urgency of chicken-scratch but the patience of prose, I translate the image into words. And again. And again. Soon I’m engulfed in the experience, swiftly moving from mindful images to words to animations as sentences connect. I’m happy. Literally smiling. Which is silly since these animations, these worlds, aren’t even real.
And yet I smile. And yet I feel refreshed like I just took a nap.
Although that blissful creative state only lasts a dozen minutes, the sensation of sculpting paragraphs out of images from my mind draws me back to the page the next day. I know I’ll have to sit down and queue behind hundreds of fruitless ideas, but I will make it to the front of the line and strap in the rollercoaster, put my hands up, and joyishly trust where the car takes me. Unless at the front of the line I’m told I’m too short. I have those days too.
Too, days I get to the front, the carny straps me in, but on the first drop, as soon as those negative g-forces lift me off my computer chair, I panic and stand up. What will the others think if I start screaming?
And without the enjoyment of the ride, writing becomes a job I can’t sustain. I will quit.
Later that day, I write an email and every word feels parroted. I type, “This warms my…” and Gmail smart-compose autofills my sentence, “heart”. How many others have said that exact phrase!? I delete everything and restart. The first words appear on the page followed by an image. Suddenly my hair blows back and I scream, WHOO-HOO. My fledgling voice awkward and shameful, yet… I. Don’t. Care. FUCK YES I’M ALIVE.
THIS is the essence of writing. Screaming until your voice cracks, that’s what’s worth cultivating and practicing.
But when writing an essay, it takes so long to turn on… so much time shaping ideas into the essay, that my afternoon at the theme park is spent with my hand on my chin watching the roller coasters zip by.
What if there never was a queue of ideas before the ride, before the exciting and playful writing. Nor a carny whispering negativity in your ear?
Michael Dean, a writer skilled at exclaiming whoo-hoos, has found a way to cut the line; he writes short bursts of prose outside the context of an essay in a live journal on his website.
This page is an all-inclusive pass to the theme park of the mind at any moment of the day. It’s a place to familiarize myself with self-expression and playful writing.
It’s similar to a note-taking system, but because it’s public on my website, it encourages me to write in prose, not the chicken scratch that most of my private notes are in.
It welcomes me with a question: “What’s on your mind?” No pressure to choose a topic to write about. No need to structure an argument. No reason to commit to an idea for weeks. With a thought on my mind, my fingers touch the keyboard and I’m teleported onto the ride.
Commitment to an entry is low, no carnys in sight to yell, “You can’t write about that!”, “Who do you think you are?”
This page is like an online diary. Unlike Twitter, there is no character count, all writing is editable, and none of it is launched to a feed to be publicly ranked. In my diary, there is no resting my chin on my hand, no decisions on what to write nor who for. Whatever is top of mind is ready to be played with. I’m free to write for myself. And because I practice that daily, when I sit down to write essays, I feel more comfortable – less filtered.
Four or five times a day, I open up my diary and I strap in. Through this practice, I become familiar with which queues of fruitless ideas are shortest. I befriend the carnys who scream obscenities. And I become comfortable shouting whoo-hoos to the world.
Soon I’m writing an essay in a way that only I can write. I’m texting in a way that only I can text. And, with time and practice, I’m speaking in a way that only I can speak.