The Burden of Words

by Paige Graffunder 11 months ago in opinion

When Creativity Turns Malignant

The Burden of Words
Photo by Rob Coates on Unsplash

I have been writing for as long as I can remember. I have daily journals that I have kept since I was four years old. As long as I was old enough to write anything that even remotely resembled words, I was writing. I was pouring out all the little thoughts that crossed my little mind. I still journal. I write in it daily, everything that matters to me goes in there. No editing, no purpose, other than to process all the things that my brain decides to torture me with at any given minute. But I have written novels and novels and novels. In my twenties I churned out roughly a book a year, and I could have done more.

Now though, I struggle to finish the shortest of short stories. I find myself getting distracted mid poem. The power of will that used to allow me to destroy myself, and remake myself over and over to get through writing a book, has left me. I don't know how to view that information. Does that mean I lack the courage to follow my convictions? Or does it mean that my life, which used to have no value to me, now means enough that I can't bear to risk it on a book? Perhaps my attention span just isn't what it was when life seemed long enough to do drugs whenever I wanted them. When I could stay up all night, and drink myself silly and still get up on two hours of sleep and work a 10 hour shift, and be relatively chipper.

I hate the cliche that artists need to suffer in order to produce. I don't suffer any less now than I did when I was 20. I just suffer differently. When I was in my early 20s the threat of things like starvation and homeless didn't bother me. That was just the status quo. Eating a packet of ramen, one quarter at a time, was just a way of life. It suited my punk rock, anorexic lifestyle.

But that is not the life I lead now. Now I have to wear business professional clothing to work, and I have to tuck my septum ring inside of my nose. Now I have bills to pay, and a child to support. Now I have to fix toilets, and cars. Now I have to care for the life of more than just myself. No more mattresses on the floor of an otherwise empty studio. No more milk crates as tables. No more falling into bed with whoever would say yes. No more popping whatever pill was handed to me. No more drinking more than one beer on a work night. Now I fall into a bed, that I bought, that sits on a bed frame every night, with the same person, in a house with my name on it. Sure, I still suffer, but I suffer the same as everyone else now.

My body is no longer the cage for my soul. The world is. Society is. Capitalism is. But that existential dread doesn't feel like enough to push me to the brink of death for a book. Even the current events don't feel like enough to stir me into a fervor for writing. It is exhausting writing political satire, when what is actually happening is so much more ridiculous. It is impossible to convey the horrific things happening in my country with just words. Even if I could, who will listen? Who will read them? Who will buy a book when 98 percent of the population of this place is food and housing insecure?

Writing a book now feels like carrying a dead fetus to term. What is the point of traumatizing myself in this way if it will never really live? By the time I edit it and publish it, we will all be dead from climate crisis anyway. And if we somehow manage to prolong our life on this planet for a little longer, I am brown, and female, and queer, a communist, militantly antifascist, and atheist, I will be rounded up eventually into their camps that they are shoving people into by the thousands. I have no doubt, that I will die there.

I have the time to write, if I want to. I have the space and the peace to do it, but I still can't. I have so many stories in my chest I feel like my lungs can't inflate fully around them. They grow in numbers everyday, a roiling teeming mass, malignant as a cancer, and nothing but my pen will quiet them. But I lack the strength to lift it. I can't let them out, into freedom, into life. I don't have it in me anymore. Maybe I will again, but for now, my body is a prison for all the stories I can't destroy myself over.

Paige Graffunder
Paige Graffunder
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Paige Graffunder

Paige is an administrative and HR professional in Seattle, as well as a contributor to several local publications around the city, focused on politics, business, satire, and internet sub-culture.

See all posts by Paige Graffunder