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What It Is and What It Wants To Be

I've been pecking away at my manuscript and the essay writing struggle is never ending. One of the earliest conflicts I face with a fresh essay is the tension between what I think the essay is and what it wants to be – It's like the essay is my wayward TV dramedy middle child. Sigh.

When I'm writing an essay I compile all my thoughts about a subject, relevant memories and pop culture references. Sometimes, there's certain pesky memories or references that don't seem like they belong but refuse to be brushed aside. And at some point, I realize the thread I've been trying to weave in about a surf movie from the 60s is actually what's out of place because this essay isn't about how x isn't y, it's about how they're both z.

I know that the common advice is that you just have write the shitty draft and at some point you'll write yourself to a point of illumination. But the stubborn Capricorn in me can only commit so much time and effort into writing in a direction that clearly isn't working.

I still attempt it. Torture myself with the inability to write and then also with hating the words I do get down because they feel so pointless. Then, at some point, like 4AM this morning, when my mind is all dreamy, it's as if the essay begins to write itself and I'm just there to follow along and hop up at some point and frantically make notes.

I want to tell you it's okay if you're this kind of writer too, but it's scary being this kind of writer when you have major deadlines and no clear writing practice to make your progress toward said deadline evident. Is it foolish to trust that it will all come together in the end? Maybe. Which is why I split the difference and force myself to do the things I know don't work for me while I bide my time waiting for what will.

At some point I have to let the essay be what it actually wants to be about and I suppose at some point I'll learn to allow myself to be the kind of writer I actually am instead of the one I wish I were.

What's the most frustrating aspect of your writing life?

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