Ever since I became the focus of certain political and legal pressure, I’ve been scared of reflecting too casually on thoughts or feelings filling me. For a time, this blog became more like a broadcast station than a personal journal. I also became guarded because the people closest to me, the ones from whom I gathered the most strength, were no longer supportive, despite their best-intentioned efforts.
Suddenly, the publish button on my blog no longer represented mere readers, but a malevolent and tumultuous world filled with people willing and able to hurt me personally, professionally, and—at least in theory—physically. Rather than write and publish, I retreated to the safety of first, second, and third drafts, followed by an editorial review, and yet more drafts. Publication became an act of resistance, not merely an act of literary vulnerability.
My previous process was possible only because I had the people-power to support it: smart friends willing to hold me to my own standards of critical thinking and intellectual integrity. Conversation constituted the conceptual drafting of arguments, which were refined through additional private discourse until a short essay-like post—still in my own, often harshly, unapologetically and painfully embittered words—was produced. I was at times, and may sometimes still be, wrong-headed in my assertions, but I had enough safety in my relative obscurity to explore the theoretical terrain I had ventured into.
When the pain we were in forced my confidants and I to cease communicating regularly, I didn’t know what to do with myself. In some areas of my life, I still don’t. But I did figure out how to keep thinking, and how to keep writing:
- Externalize my internal monologue by posting copiously to Twitter (via my own site, for data portability and anti-censorship purposes; more on that in March).
- See what sticks, either because I keep talking about it or others pick up on something I’ve said.
- Collect bits of related material in more postings or on a public scratchpad, such as my Tumblr blog. Sometimes this is all that was needed, as the collecting of material resulted in a post here on its own.
- Write a long-form that connects the dots between these multiple pieces of disparate but related material, first in a draft that’s shared with a trusted few if I’m feeling scared, unsure, or lack confidence, then more publicly.
I like the thoroughness and academic rigor this process brings to my writing. But, I am lonely. This process does little to ease my emotional state, even while it hones my intellect. Direct human influence through conversation—the intellectual equivalent of touch—is replaced by the (sometimes literally) filtered thoughts squeezed through the cold, narrow distance of the Internet. And I miss being touched in all the ways that word implies.
I am trying to recapture some of the utility that spontaneity, that sharing first drafts, can bring. I did not spend much time analyzing this post for how I can be attacked for writing it, although I know I can be even as I acknowledge that this particular meta-reflection is less susceptible to attacks than other thoughts are, and so I am risking less hitting the publish button now than I may risk in the future. But I feel fragile and weak and, despite my purported prolificity, I often feel stressed like a bowed wooden plank under the weight of an immense load.
I would like to finally leave the safer confines of thoroughly well thought out posts. I wish I had a more reliable network of confidants with whom I was able to converse face-to-face frequently and consistently and who pushed the bounds of my thinking in doing so—but I don’t. And so I guess if there’s any point in writing this post at all, I’m writing it to ask you to touch my mind in the same way as you, dear reader, are letting me touch yours.
I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do it—this was not the post I sat down to write when I sat down some minutes ago to write. But what better post in which to ask for such a thing than a post for which I did not write a second draft?