Thursday, December 24, 2009

Thursday: December 24, 2009 (red leaf)



It's Christmas Eve and I am realizing that I've forgotten how to write a paper. I mean I know, theoretically, how to write a paper, I think... but I have forgotten how to start.

I remember a time in my life, when I forgot how to write a poem. As in, I knew what a poem ... was. I could still define it. I could probably still pick-out-one-in-a-toy-store kinda' thing...but I couldn't remember how to write ... one. I would try and it would come out sounding horribly phony, as if it were not my voice talking. Not who I was, or how I really thought. I forgot ... how to say anything.

I remember being in 8th grade in World History, and the teacher asked the class about an article in the paper on Russia. It was about the cold war, obviously. And a couple boys in the class piped up and responded to whatever question he'd asked, to let him know they know - that they'd been "keeping up". But I never quite knew how to "keep up", because I wasn't sure where to start. I have a bad habit (probably a Capricorn thing) of wanting the whole entire story before I ever feel informed about anything. It's not to say I don't express my opinions, I do. But when it comes to needing to say a thing, sometimes I feel like I need to undertand it from the beginning of time in order to say anything about it.

There is some small part of me that is still stuck in the 8th grade, thinking I don't know enough. Thinking I'll never know enough. So every time I start to write this paper, it climbs up on top of me and smacks me in my ear with its knuckle. And it keeps jingling at me - something like "Do you think you'll say anything that hasn't been said a thousand times before, and BETTER?" and then of course, I must reply:

No. No I don't. Not when it comes to papers.

Poems, maybe. Sometimes. I feel like I can. Try that.

But papers? Opinion based on facts. Facts elude me. They change at every hour. I am sometimes mistrustful of facts. Facts are slippery and surely sometimes based on cynical agendas. How do I know when they are or are not? How do I know what facts weren't concocted out of the need - to write papers. The need to confine some kind of knowledge to a logical structure, and order, and chronology, enough to fill a book? Surely, I am not saying there are no good papers, or books on theory, on fact. Don't misunderstand me. I am only talking about my frame of mind every time I sit down to write this paper - my own neurosis, when I attempt to draw from fact, from theory.

I mistrust what I trust. or...I mistrust what I mistrust. Or...

I mistrust that I can draw from what I trust and make it logical. And then if I trust what I trust, then I become mistrustful of my trust. And everything changes again.

So you see, I have written, by now, 15 pages, or so. Which is the length of my paper. Unfortunately, they are 15 different papers, which just keep starting all over again. Which character was it in Camus' The Plague..who kept rewriting the first paragraph of his novel over and over again?

*sigh* ... I mistrust what I know, incidentally, about the Cold War too.

1 comment:

Paula Mendoza-Hanna said...

"said before, and better" is such a keenly familiar feeling, that, reading this I felt a little out of my head... or, I mean, it's like my thoughts were overheard and written out, slipped out of my mind and into the collective interwebosphere. Y'know, that uncanny feeling of recognition?

I know this:

"I feel like I need to undertand it from the beginning of time in order to say anything about it"

SO well! Too well...

(randomly--I just found out my ascendant sign is Capricorn. And my moon sign's Cancer. Yeah, I'm a dork.)

The trick I think maybe is not caring, or not thinking too much. Or, maybe not not caring, but caring just enough about what's being said (by you) and not so much about whatever else is being said (before you/around you/by a thousand others)

There's so much anxiety involved in it, and sometimes I think--who the fuck am I say what I'm saying? I haven't read X, Y and Z, so what I'm saying cannot matter.

And it HAS to matter, or else why the hell bother?

So, I make a valiant (and ultimately doomed) effort to go on and read X, Y, and Z.

Result: paralysis.

The thing is, I have a feeling we will always have an X, Y, and Z we haven't read yet. Shit like this is always going to be difficult for me.

As for poetry, I've had that 'I've forgotten how to write' strangeness too, but it's not quite the same. I dunno, I think information moves through different paths and conduits when it comes to putting down "poetry." These roads I know like home. I have no reliable maps for prose.