“Isn’t writing a blog unsatisfying?” she asks. We talk and drink coffee, we watch students who are chatting, texting and working on one of the assignments we have given them. We laugh. We see a colleague, wearing ear plugs, and we laugh about her, too. We’ve decided our workday is over, which feels great. Or maybe talking does. Why is that? She’s not an easy one to grasp. Her words have a certain clarity that demand more clarity from me, too. I ask her how she would murder someone. And whom. And where. We jump around in our conversation, like playing hopscotch. We both happen to watch this strange reality show on TV, in which competitors are engaged in thinking out murder stories. The winner gets to publish his or her book.
“You’re never done. You never experience the joy of actually finishing something,” she says. She cuddles an invisible treasure in her hands. A book. She’s right. The great thing about a book is that it can be finished. I tell her I’m jealous of two of my friends, who actually accomplished such a thing. I drank cheap white wine at their book launches, I bought their books, I was happy for them. Now I don’t want to meet them anymore. For God’s sake! We were in the same writing class ten years ago, we wrote the same crappy essays. They woke up.
So she’s right. And wrong. Satisfaction has little to do with it. It’s not the right word. I could never say that about life. It isn’t the reason for writing either. My problem isn’t not finishing a book, it’s people who are engaged: Solnit (Standing Rock, Dakota Pipeline), Alexijevitsj (stories of women). They confront me. Life asks me something. When you read certain books, you don’t only admire the writing, you actually see a very clear question arising. “Nobody said it is easy” the singer sings. “No one ever said it would be this hard.”
Blog posts are icebergs, growing under water, in the comments, the tags, the code. Maybe I fool myself; maybe not knowing how to finish is what keeps me going. Words resist me, they never obey, that’s probably why I feel attracted to writing. The empty space between us holds my dream. The dream of a book might as well be a white whale.
Free association, but artistically controlled (the secret to Montaigne’s best essays, according to Huxley). Most of all, it’s what I like in the people I like: they spill out their inner life, yet in a controlled way. Writing is a way out (–out of what? life?) while everything else is happening. It’s a way in, where everything happens. I’m curious what I will find out while doing it, where I will end up. Reaching out to others – how to write them and not about them? I can’t end things. But then again, why should I? Writing is not a game, or a war, it’s a praxis. Wherever you go, there you are, and some days you hit a wall, and the wall is yourself. While doing it I’d like my mind to stay fresh, so I can keep on starting over and over again.