by Maya Litauer (’15)
From the Sarah Fontaine Unit
My writing practice is never what I want it to be. I constantly feel as though I could be doing more writing, more journaling, more editing, spending more time on my practice. I feel guilty all the time for not being my most-perfect self, for not putting in the time and the effort to improve. Because that’s what writing practice is, really – improving. Even ten minutes a day of free writing would help; I don’t have to write novels or complete poems. But for some reason, it doesn’t happen. I don’t improve as much as I hope to, I write less (and less profoundly) than I think I should, I make edits so small they can hardly be seen. I feel guilty for not sticking to my own standards even though I know I have the power to change.
But perhaps the problem is not in my inability to change, but the fact that if I am constantly striving for some enlightened practice, I can never fully practice my practice. In other words, I can only improve if I am present in my writing, and I cannot be present in my writing if I’m grading it on a scale of how much better it is than a day or two or a month before. Perhaps I need to let go in order to let my writing practice flourish, so it an be its fullest self and I can fully devote myself to it.
But then, maybe I’m not devoted enough to try to overcome these obstacles because I don’t know how there can be payoff for something undesired. It isn’t like I want to become a professional writer, or get published, or even earn a degree in creative writing, so is it even worth it to improve? I know that sounds lazy, and maybe it is. Maybe one of my obstacles is that I make excuses to let myself off the hook. The hook is feeling like I’m too self absorbed to be honest about anything in my writing other than my petty angst. The hook is feeling like I’m not worthy of improvement because I think of myself too much to be selfless but I don’t really care because I’m so busy worrying that I’m not experiencing life fully, and then that sounds selfish and unworthy. What I mean is that I question whether writing about my teenage problems constitutes as writing, and whether that kind of writing counts as improvement, and whether I even deserve to improve if that’s all I write about.
But maybe I over-think things (this is not a maybe, I know I do). It all comes back to letting go, letting the writing take me where it will, without judgement and without control. Self-censorship is the worst kind of censorship, but it’s also the hardest to get rid of. Maybe this will help: take a deep breath before writing, imagine my fears and expectations melting away, and put pen to paper in the most honest form of expression.