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The page isn’t staring at you.

It’s not alive.

No, it is staring at me.

Everyone needs a hobby. Everyone wants something they can say it’s theirs, and no one else’s. You want a hat to wear at a party and impress people; at the very least you want a conversation starter. An ice-breaker or a topic you can chime in and add your seasoned perspective to.

No one wants to be the guy who has nothing to say.

When you’re building the little bubble you’re going to call your comfort zone, you inherently also figure out what you’re into. Sports, romance movies, spy novels, JRPGs — we have evolved into a species that abhors boredom. At no point is a well-meaning young adult in a civilized nation really allowed to say “I have nothing to do”. We all have infinite things we could be doing, most of them reachable for free and through minimal effort.

It just keeps staring at me.

I used to spend hours looking for time-wasting games to play on my phone. Without that, my phone is a tiny box I carry around to call Ubers and talk to friends who are at work. I used to think my phone needed to justify itself — really, I used to think every single purchase needs to justify itself. Why would I buy a video game if I don’t want to play anything in it? Why would I upgrade my computer if I don’t need anything new? There’s no real end to this sentence. I still think that, I just decided the words looked better in the past tense.

When you’re trying to make a personality that goes beyond what you like, you run into the uncomfortable situation of figuring out what you can do. It involves figuring out what you can’t or won’t do. It usually feels good to think something is stupid, go try it out, and be vindicated when you’re not into it. It feels extremely not good to want to do something and realize you’re not at the baseline you thought you were going to start at.

I didn’t decide I wanted to be a writer. I decided being a writer was the only form of expression I felt I was okay at. Nothing really came out of dance and music, I was terrible at sports, and I never gave acting a shot. High school was a string of dodging opportunities to better myself. The fear of failure was never truly high, because it never felt like there was anything else other than failure. At least when I wrote I could go back and think, hey, I think 70% of it is trash, but there’s 30% that I don’t mind saying I had a hand in coming up with.

It doesn’t feel like it’s mocking me. Everyone says it’s supposed to mock you. Is it bad if it doesn’t mock me?

But, eventually, writing felt good. I could do dialogue. I could word my words better than most people around me. I could actually get to the end of a story and feel like I illustrated something; good or not, it was something I wanted to do myself. Aced Writing tests and got some of my things published in the local newspaper. So I figured, this was what I was supposed to do with my personality. Figure out what tropes are, figure out what themes are, figure out what I’m supposed to do with that.

A lot of fanfiction, and a lot of unfinished authorial stuff later, I realized writing wasn’t really that interesting when I just regurgitated things.

I mean, I wrote a lot about my favorite characters. I could either call them their names or I could make new names for them, but it wasn’t long until I was just rehashing the last stories I liked. Avatar: The Last Airbender suddenly had a lot of Egyptian imagery. Xiaolin Showdown suddenly had a lot more dark storylines to it, because, as a kid, dark was cool. My original stuff copied off of my friends’ original stuff, which copied from their favorite shows, anime and books. As I grew up, so did my tastes, and so did my stories. They just never grew into something I wanted.

Suddenly it was a shame to waste so much time doing something someone else had already done. Writing was another dead end. I didn’t have it in me, according to myself, really the only judge I had that didn’t talk back.

Real artists steal, is what I was always told. It always felt like a cop-out. Successful artists kept feeling more and more real. Because I wasn’t successful, I started thinking it was because I didn’t like stealing. Yeah, it’s not that I wasn’t unprepared. I just didn’t want to do it like everyone else. Surely that’s more defensible.

It’s not mocking me, but it’s definitely as tired as I am. We’ve been here before. It never results in anything particularly interesting.

The word interesting gets thrown out a lot in my head. After writing stopped being always fun, it became a matter of having hot takes; FRESH NEW IDEAS that no one else had tried before. I had a lot of opinions — I could screech about unimportant topics for hours. I made a career out of it in college. So writing should just be a matter of organizing those in a concise, straightforward manner. I liked concise and straightforward.

But then I would find myself in front of a blank page, and then have absolutely nothing interesting to say. The white page would stare back at me like an abyss I had no business looking at. it never mocked me, but as far as I cared, it was all the same.

The fact that there is no way to really portray this without sounding like a massive asshole, crying after a full meal about how their new toy wasn’t their favorite color, probably didn’t help come to terms with any of it.

Feeling like you have nothing to say is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Everyone has something to say — it might not be particularly novel or well-thought out, but everyone has a reaction to input that they keep brewing inside their heads, whether they know it or not. It might come out fully formed when you’re figuring out what you’re gonna order to eat that night, or it might come out at the worst possible time, when you’re trying to focus on an important task. But it does come out. Your brain is always working on something.

Brains require stimuli. They wither without it. If there’s no stimuli, they’ll create some. They’ll go through old memories, figuring out new opinions about things that happened five years ago. They’ll stage entire conversations about topics that quite frankly you don’t feel like you really grasp, but you sure like thinking that you do. They’ll write entire novels and compose entire symphonies while you’re in the shower. The comfort bubble you formed informs every subconscious thought your brain will have, because it’s the stimuli it has access to. Nothing you care about is thrown out, just renewed and recontextualized.

And then brains let it all go, because you never bothered training yourself to hold on to that feeling. If you did, you would have done something with it.

Writing is another skill you have to train. You need to know how to get from A to B, even if you start somewhere else entirely first. You need to know what your shortcomings are, and how to circumvent them. To have a passion and never do anything with it makes that passion wither away just like any other muscle. People inherently know this. It just doesn’t matter until their first day at the gym.

If the page could tell me something, it would tell me I’m about to run out of steam. We’ve been here so many times. It’s become very rote. Start an idea, develop the idea, abandon the idea.

But all ideas are abandoned. A lot of people try to say their work is done, but talking about it, going through it in your head, rereading it to make sure you got your typos out, it’s all part of working on it. Ideas live rent-free in your head and you can only try your hardest to get them out of there before moving on to dealing with the next one. But they always come back, one way or another. So, you don’t finish an idea. You abandon it. You conclude your working on it and throw it out, hoping it’s good enough that it doesn’t sound like absolute nonsense to anyone who’s not you.

It might be relieving to get a new idea out, but it’s not comfortable to do so. It’s not comfortable to finish something.

A lot of people hate conclusions, and it’s not like you can blame anyone. The axiom that endings make things meaningful only goes so far to stop the lizard brain from wanting more. The electrochemistry that keeps your personality going demands that you feed it more input, and it likes what it already knows. To stop and get accustomed to something else could have killed you in olden times. Why risk going out of your bubble?

Why risk doing something new?

Because if you don’t, you wither away. Everyone knows that.

The page doesn’t smile back at me. It’s a page, it’s obviously not alive. But I am somewhat relieved that I got to the end of another one. It’s nice to know I can still organize thoughts that are somewhat connected to each other. It doesn’t calm the anxiety of trying to be done with something, but it definitely feels better than doing literally nothing.

There is no bottom line. Doing it is enough; it doesn’t have to always be good. Make a bottom line when you actually have one to make.

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in Opinion Piece, Personal Narrative