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Leonardo Dicaprio, in Don't Look Up, yelling.

I don’t write every day. In fact, during our first class for the semester this past week, I asked my research writing students to share one thing they liked about writing and one thing they disliked about it. When the question was turned to me, I said “I don’t like writing. It’s hard and I while I like it when it’s done, I find the process pretty excruciating.”

I shared this comment somewhat as a joke and mostly as a way to demonstrate that not all people who are ostensibly “good” at writing find it particularly enjoyable. (Based on my students’ faces when I expressed my comment, I quickly followed it up with a better explanation.) But I do mean it. I have, over the course of my life, largely fallen out of love with the practice of writing.

There are many self-narratives I can conjure to rationalize this feeling. For example, most of my orienting texts and philosophies are from:

  • poststructuralist traditions that emphasize that texts are all about power, anyway,
  • materialist traditions that ask whether there even is such a thing as a text, anyway, or
  • Buddhist traditions that push me to (un)think beyond concepts and discourse altogether. Who would want to write having internalized all that?

Of course, there’s the tricky element that these are all terribly inaccurate reads of poststructuralism, materialism, and Buddhism in the first place. But hey, self-narratives are supposed to be bullshit!

Really, I think there’s probably only one reason why I don’t write every day: I don’t write every day. As I get older (and continue an ongoing Zen practice), the most profound realization I seem to be having is the over-reliance on thinking vs. versus just doing. And I don’t mean this in some sort of boomer-ific “those that can’t do teach think” sort of way. I simply mean that, in many respects, thinking provides an enjoyable steam-valve to release pressure that might be better released in other ways.

In the case of my writing practice, on one hand thinking about writing (which I do constantly) is far less effective than just sitting down to write. That’s a better release of mental energy. But honestly, it’s most often the case that there is simply nothing to write about, nothing worthwhile to say that’s not being better said by others. I’m not interested in forced “hot takes” because, simply, they feel forced to me even when writers I enjoy offer them.

Part of the writing practice, to me, increasingly feels like I need to let go of writing in order to do it effectively. It remains unseen whether this will result in better writing or, eventually, none at all.

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