"When you write a story, you're telling yourself the story," he said. "When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story."
Your stuff starts out being just for you, in other words, but then it goes out. Once you know what the story is and get it right - as right as you can, anyway - it belongs to anyone who wants to read it.
- @StephenKing, On Writing
Of late I've had a problem with my eyes. They constantly pulse with an ache like muscle burn and have essentially gone dry. You know the expression "no tears left?" My eyes have gotten so bad that sometimes, when I close my lids, my eyeballs stick to them. I've been taking fish oil pills and eye drops to remedy the problem (and thankfully, they're starting to accomplish something), but all that's really doing is treating symptoms.
The truth is, my eyes are sore because I've pushed them past safe limits of usage. Working on this or that, always more hours, always more demands (which almost always originate within), I've forced them to stay open when they wanted to close, squeezing every drop of productivity I can out of them, both through reading and in writing.
It's fun to say "work hard, play harder" and all that and suggest that sleep is for the weak. It's not such a good idea to actually believe it. You can truly push your body's limits to the point where you snap the rubber band of resilience and don't bounce back. My eyes are case in point; I broke my body's instinctive reflexes. Now I'm periodically told I will go for long stretches of time, especially in anything involving mental engagement (like a conversation) without blinking at all. Creepy, is how it's been described to me. My unblinking eyes, unwavering focus is creepy.
This is half of why I'm taking a hiatus from blogging; my optics issues just happen to provide an excellent metaphor for the other half.
My eyes, through internal pressure, no longer close of their own volition. It's not a conscious thing to rest, to take a break. The same holds true for my writing.
I am well-known as a prolific, insightful, occasionally brilliant writer. Occasionally, because sometimes, but not all the time, I'll craft a phrase as profound and powerful as it is a delight to read. Considering how many thousands of words I write, daily, I would certainly hope this to be the case. It's a bit like the stopped clock, only in reverse.
That's what I do; I write. I wrote lots, I play with ideas, I play with words. The more I put out, the more I find the essential narrative that weaves the various threads of my interests, concerns and hopes together. I have disciplined myself to crank out more content than almost anyone I know. Other people look at my record and only wish they could match the output. Which is a bit like a casual drinker wishing they could their liquor like an alcoholic.
Therein lies the problem. Like my unblinking eyes, writing has become a reflex, the state that in most people is reserved for pause. I don't write, then pause - writing is the work, the pause, the alternative, the everything. I will often sit at a computer, cranking out content, straining my eyes, fingers wrists for hours, during hours that would be better used sleeping.
Thing is, writing isn't supposed to be a state of rest - it's an action meant to serve a purpose. It's a craft meant to serve an audience. While I do have a decent audience - hundreds of people from around the world visit this blog daily and I couldn't begin to tell you how many look at my slideshare, or other blogs - I couldn't in all honesty say I'm writing for them. I'm not writing for myself, either; I just write.
If I'm going to be egotistical to assume I've got something worth saying, I should be narcissistic enough to make that writing accessible for my audience. Brevity, clarity, strong through-lines of though without an unwieldy amount of tangents. I'm not doing that. My essays read like On the Road, a rambling, burning bush of tumble weed criss-crossing my mental landscape. It invites no one on the journey, it just blazes along. Writing has become breathing, only more like breathing in paint fumes to dull the cognizance of something else. What that is, I don't know, but I owe it to myself to figure out.
I also owe it to you, dear and faithful reader, to re-learn how to write with you in mind.
So, CCE is going on a writing hiatus. If you see a piece pop up on this blog in the next few weeks or so, consider that I've fallen off the wagon and feel free to poke at me to stop. Social media will be different; I'll do less, but my SM also serves a purpose. If I'm producing content for other spaces, it damned well better be paid, or I've simply fallen into the same trap in a different location.
If you're reading this, I do hope you miss me. I hope my eyes recover enough that they remember how to close on their own.
When I'm back, I hope both my words and my eyes will be worthy of your attention.