I Hate Everything I Write
The process is the same every time: I sit down to my computer, look out over the swingset in my backyard, and open the giant can of self-loathing that I keep under my desk. My fingers move across the keyboard, and I stare at the words on the screen with white-hot hate, unable to believe that such wretched drivel comes from my brain.
I consider getting up and folding the self-renewing mountain of laundry that occupies my peripheral vision, or opening a browser window to look at spring break destinations (never mind that spring break is eight long months away) or simply pouring myself a bourbon and sobbing.
But I don't. I keep typing. The words come slowly, haltingly. The syntax is all wrong. I can't remember the words I want to use (self-renewing? really? there must be a better word than that) and wonder if I've had some kind of stroke or if my last migraine simply robbed me of my understanding of the English language. My tennis elbow—not the result of swinging a tennis racket, which I haven't done since high school, but rather of the endless hours I spend attached to my computer mouse—flares up, causing agonizing pain in my right arm, so I put on my brace. Now I not only hate the words I'm typing, but also my own body, so decrepit in my middle age that I can't even type anymore without pain.
I delete everything I've written, start over. I hate the new words more than the old ones. A tightness spreads across my shoulder muscles and I start to think about when my next chiropractor's appointment is, and my mind wanders off into the dark, wondering how our ancestors ever survived actual physical hardship in these ridiculously fragile, cantankerous bodies, so easily pushed out of balance. Then I remember that our ancestors didn't often live to the ripe age of 39, and I should be grateful that vaccinations and modern antibiotics, coupled with the lack of natural predators in suburban Cincinnati, have kept me alive long enough to complain about a sore elbow.
I return to the work, stunned by how little I've typed in what feels like half of my life. The sun is setting, I have a deadline to meet, and still, still, what I'm writing is simply garbage. Forty-five minutes now, I've wasted on typing and re-typing the same lines, searching for a better word when really, what I need is a better talent. I bemoan my obvious lack of said talent, and think of my heroes—writers of fiction and non-fiction, blogs and books—who, I am quite convinced, sit down at their computers and pour beautiful, fully-finished drafts onto the page, shooting them off for a light dusting of editing before they are published to great acclaim, National Book Awards, Pulitzer Prizes and (on Medium at least) thousands upon thousands of claps. The nonsense I'm currently pounding out will be lucky to have one fan, let alone enough to reach any sort of momentum.
Still, I forge on, noisily battling with my keyboard—the one with the broken back leg so it no longer approaches ergonomic correctness—working and re-working the idea I had when I sat down until it becomes something more than a catchy headline. (Is there anything worse than coming up with the perfect click-bait headline, only to realize halfway through your piece that what you are writing in no way resembles that headline at all?) My daughter and my partner drift in and out of the room, asking questions that all get the same answer—I'M WRITING—even though they can clearly see that what I'm actually doing is pretending to write. I'm obviously avoiding cooking dinner or helping with homework while poking at the keyboard and swearing under my breath. Or out loud. Mostly out loud.
I curse myself for taking too many days between writing sessions. I know full well that I do better if I try to write at least a little bit every day, but this week fell apart. The kid wouldn't sleep. I had four huge deadlines at work, plus that networking thing that I had to go to. Then the lawn had to be mowed and the bathroom floors steam-cleaned and I had to spend at least a little time playing cards after dinner. I haven't written a word in two weeks, and now I regret everything. The dust on my creative gears is so thick, they may never move cleanly again.
And yet, I type. And delete. And type some more. I swig white wine from a water glass, and eat dark chocolate, and type. I think about getting up to open the door for some fresh air, but I've finally caught a rhythm and I don't want to quit, so I just breathe stale air and stare at the outside world just beyond my desk, typing. The words flow more easily, the ideas come together better, and I stop hating every single word I write, settling for loathing every third word instead. Sentences come together and I can get more than a third of the way down the page before deleting swaths of words. Before I know it, there's something of value on the screen, something I wouldn't be mortified to publish, something I might even like.
Twenty more minutes of this, and I can push back from my desk and know that I've at least created a piece worth returning to, and editing, tomorrow. But before I got there, I had to wander in the desert for a while, spiraling from one bad sentence into an indictment of my entire life, questioning all the decisions that have left me spending my evenings and weekends chained to an Ikea desk off my dining room instead of doing whatever people who aren't trying to be writers do. Laughing, maybe. Or speaking words out loud. Things I can hear my neighbors doing on this Sunday night.
But. But. When I've finished wandering, and I've put on paper something even halfway decent that other people might read and benefit from, I can stop hating everything I write, and find a little value in the time I've just spent pounding the keyboard and cursing my choices.
At least until the next time I sit down at the keyboard.