From last night.
For the past two days I’ve had an insatiable appetite for an emotional state I couldn’t quite define. It plagued me; I felt distracted from some purpose to which I thought I ought to dedicate myself, and felt increasingly dismayed at my inability to hone in on this rapaciousness that at times would feel consuming, and other times simply maddening. The answer to my queries came, however, tonight when I went to lie down for bed and I developed a stabbing headache. Naturally, I tried to endure the pain for ten minutes or so, hoping my fatigue would outweigh whatever pain I’d been experiencing, but after the pain persisted I decided I ought to write. Writing, for me, is usually the most satisfying means by which I go about working through and deconstructing my feelings and emotional states, but as I turned on the lights and looked at my laptop, the thought of using any stentorian apparatus other than a fine, ball-point pen and a thick, rough sheet of canvas paper seemed utterly dissatisfying. Something about the method of typing seemed to necessarily set me up for failure, and disservice my ultimate goal—to fulfill and satisfy this indefinable emotional craving.
I thought deeply about what possible underlying implications I’d learned to associate with writing on the computer, and nothing came to mind. I then imagined what I’d be feeling were I writing my feelings—about, to, or for anyone—on that thick, rough sheet of canvas paper with the fine ball-point pen I previously mentioned. Thinking about the medium itself brought about a certain satisfaction: the way you can hear, smoothly, in long, full strokes, strokes that have a heartiness to them, a sense of fullness that trumps any sort of hollow, frail clacking a keyboard can emit, the pen running against the coarse grain of the canvas, the sight of fine ink bleeding frenetic, caffeine-driven calligraphy, how the process of handwriting is its own sort of unique, emotionally cathartic residue from creative abreaction—every thought, word, misstep of creative judgement, erasure, strike-through, every rush to convey a thought before it escapes, each superfluous second you hold your pen down against the paper as you struggle to collect your thoughts and move on to the next sentence, how a period, symbolically, can be dense, large and opaque, signaling a firm, assertive close to a clause, or a faint wisp of a translucent point signaling that the space between this clause and the one that follows is insignificant to the importance and weight of the thought yet to come, as if it were tacked on in a hurry and so as not to get in the way, but to mark its place. Handwriting doesn’t tell you, it demonstrates; it doesn’t instruct the means for understanding, it reveals the various means through which understanding is made possible.
It’s this nakedness, this exposition to one’s internal monologue as its elicited from whatever creative stimulus, that I feel makes the process of handwriting, and reading things that are handwritten, so powerful. Handwriting rejects any sort of feigned sentimentality through its inability to be anything but wholly and unabashedly authentic and self-exposing: I’m rushing; I’m scared; I don’t know what to say; words fail me; my thoughts surpass my hand in speed; this is too much for any corporal measure; I wanted to correct this; I chose to leave that; I choose to express the words I can not myself spell, though I want the sentiment—the feeling, the meaning—conveyed anyway; this is my style; this is my font; I am old but my hands are young. No pretension, no flourishes, just writing.
Recognizing the potency of handwriting revealed much about my own anxieties with communicating to others, and elucidated the nature of my persistent emotional craving. Where writing via telecommunication suppresses sentimentality and emotional authenticity under either the strict regimens of academic, professorial, or journalistic prose, renders the sexiness of a cursive font inconsequential, and enforces a certain emotional stiltedness that can’t be breached, and encourages you to polish your product, handwriting supports the foundation of your creative impulses by representing the manifold components constituting it, and positively illustrates your flaws, limitations and individual capabilities unabashedly. I’ve written numerous letters to friends—close, less close, and now completely alien—expressing genuine sentimentality, thought and feeling, that have been compromised in effect because of the limitations and conventions of the computer—the way typeface rounds out the warmth in the curvature between free-floating sentences, or the way any sort of expression of love or gratitude has to be processed-then-filtered through several different apparatus and computer screens before reaching the intended recipient, something inorganic and disarming about lacking the autonomy to slant your letters the way you choose—or naturally come to do—or to fill the entire page.
And it’s when writing becomes a disarming process rather than a revealing, cathartic one that writing becomes stilted, when love is rendered unintelligible or muddled, and when you find yourself looking at a letter to a friend you wrote a year ago, expressing your most genuine and heart-felt anxieties about your relationship, and about the possibilities of inter-racial dynamics of any kind, a letter you thought would come to define—plainly, unadorned—something really special between two people, that you try to look back at that letter and can’t because it seems too processed and alien. Not a failure of language, or of personal capability, but of convention. And when we find a convention, a medium, to express ourselves clearly, that wards off the shiny, metallic lure of crude electronic depiction, that allows to have our thoughts transmitted through the most intuitive, organic measure we can, our work becomes less of a product and more of an augmentation of a true, organic, recognizable and individual person.
It’s what I’ve been looking for and what I’m trying to master: how to render and depict your resolves as meaningfully as possible, to have your thoughts and feelings imaginable in foresight and recognizable in retrospect, to have the purgation of your emotional wills seem constant and consistent within a larger, almost teleological narrative upon which we have coherent frames of reference and logical, tangible prospects—to not feel like a problem while representing yourself, but rather empowered to construct and facilitate meaningful and fulfilling solutions, not so much about writing by hand than it is about writing with sensitivity, clarity and craft so we may express the myriad components of our identities as constituting some whole, as opposed to stilted, clumsily composed fragments. And maybe, more roundly, the process of unapologetic self-exposure, liberation from pretense, and a firm resolve towards expressive clarity can mean that I, personally, can be my own person, complexities, infelicities, contradictions and all, can see myself less as a meaningless and unsatisfying packaged product, and more as an evolving, dynamic corporal ball of am intricately constructed self.