Monday, October 23, 2023

On writing, reading, and feeling

I've forgotten how to write for fun. Business writing, I've got that down pat. I even offered to help an artist friend of mine with all the assorted applications and whatnot. But writing for fun isn't a thing I do anymore. I don't email anyone in my personal life, although I used to. Texts, DMs, tweets (is that still a thing?) are one-liners. I used to be a good writer. I could be a good writer again? It's not like riding a bike.

I also stopped reading for a long time. I feel like that's related. For the most part, I stopped consuming thoughtful words. I'm trying to start again, but I feel delicate. My friends still shared thoughtful words, mostly on Instagram and I guess later, Threads, and maybe BlueSky (is that how you spell that?), and of course everyone's newsletters, which I absolutely love because it reminds me of the golden age of blogging. When we all shared, when we all read, when we all knew each other.

I spent the weekend with some people who don't know me well (and some people who know me very well) and occasionally they would ask, "How do you know so-and-so?" and the answer, invariably, was "The Internet." I'm 37 and many, many of my friends are people on the Internet. "My friend Erica is in Durham this weekend." "My friend Diana is into F1," "my friend who lives on the west coast," "my friends are in Vancouver," all these threads spread all over. 

On the drive home, my husband's mom noticed me rolling my wrist and asked why, "Oh, it's just carpal tunnel. I've been typing at a computer every day for the past 25 years." TWENTY FIVE YEARS.

If you had asked me, back when we unpacked that first Gateway into the family room and onto the computer desk that everyone had in the 90s and I started playing Myst and exploring AIM chat rooms with my mom, if you had asked me then to predict what this newfangled toy would bring to my life, I sure would not have been able to predict this. 

My friends are from The Internet. My husband is from The Internet. My work is on The Internet. 

I used to read everything I could get my hands on. I remember that in my family's house in Florida, my parents had this huge, unreasonably huge, en suite bathroom, and kept a basket full of books and magazines on the floor of the water closet. And I was 9, 10, 11, and I shared a bathroom with my younger brother, and I hated it, so I would go use my parents' bathroom, and pick up things from the basket and reading them, and hours later, someone would knock on the door of the bathroom, and there I had been, reading Fahrenheit 451 or Animal Farm with my legs asleep. 

I can't read everything anymore. It hurts too much. Were we, as a people, meant to see all and know all and feel all? By consuming every single person's thoughts, are we forgetting how to connect with our own? How much of what we read is right? Hearsay, sensationalized, made up, planted? How much is unsolvable, unfixable? 

A common icebreaker is to ask what your superpower would be, you know? I used to say, "To speak and understand and read all languages," which just sounds so wholesome and inclusive, right? But I don't know anymore. It seems so heavy.

I used to write, I used to read, I used to be able to manage all these feelings. Maybe I can again.