I’m not a prolific writer. I don’t have a body of work to speak of. A few decades ago I worked as journalist for the lesbian and gay press in Sydney. More recently but not that recently, I had a short play staged at the Battersea Art’s Centre in London. I don’t exactly keep a journal. I don’t have piles of filled notebooks. If you were tidying me up after death, you would find I had not written nearly as much as you might have supposed.
It has caused me immense pain, this whole not-writing jig. I’m full of writing but not much of it hits the page. There is a writing path I have not followed. This is true at the most literal level, because I haven’t applied any discipline to the matter. I’m terrible at discipline and have to play tricks on myself to achieve quite basic results. These days, I can mostly do that with good humour, though it hasn’t always been the case.
I have given myself endless torture and grief over my depressive inaction. I have made myself into such an abject failure, for not doing. I am only now, starting to understand this is a key feature of my depression. And being able to offer myself this budding understanding makes a lot of difference. I realise how bound by attachment to outcome I have been, in the potent realms of things that matter. Things like writing. I have been very afraid of letting go of key ideas about my life. Terror struck that if I let go of what matters, then nothing at all will matter. What I seem to be discovering via this enquiry, is that the way we (I mean me, of course) hold what matters, is more mysterious and paradoxical than it might seem.
A few things have slipped out of me recently. Not in a vacuum and I do salute my tenacity, notwithstanding the lack of discipline. As these notions, long guarded and clenched, float off airily, I am bemused to find myself in a place where not mattering is a brand new taste. I surely know that imagining what something will taste like and actually putting it in my mouth are different things, but it seems I forgot.
I am standing in debris and old rope, groping about trying to meet myself in a new landscape. Maybe, I won’t write any of the books that live inside me? Maybe, I won’t buy a house or find a partner? I’m certainly not built for all the proximity of the latter, even if it has taken a long, old time to work that out. And I have a home for life. Maybe, it doesn’t matter that I don’t own it? Saying such things doesn’t make them true of course, so it is with humility and a certain wonder, I can report back, that Not Mattering, is proving to be a blessing. And welcoming my depression is proving to be an extraordinary doorway to paradoxical comfort. I thought not mattering would be empty, and it is, but this empty is full, like a wide open sky or a desert.
Speaking of paradox, the comedy of the story is that I am writing this. I’m writing more regularly than I have since working for a newspaper. I’m reporting from the front line of my depression and I’ve got a bit of a rhythm going. A tiny discipline even, like an accident. A twice a week sort of riff, a bit of a lifeline as I said to someone yesterday. A lifeline, because of the strange intimacy and connections via the internet. There are so many of Leonard’s cracks in technology. It’s entirely different to writing into a notebook in total solitude, though it is solitary. That’s why it works for me. I like solitary with cracks. That’s the beat I dance to. I write. I proof read. I don’t mess with it or try and make it better. I trust the dance as much as I can. I write. I press publish. I breathe. I keep going. I don’t know if this will be my only writing. It’s just what I found when I stopped chasing writing.