I said

Hi guten tag

What I need more than anything in the world Iʼm pretty sure is a writing practice. If you have it in you to have some kind of diagnostic conversation with me — and not letting me trick us out of it —  that would be a great, great thing for me. 

She said

I can and will help you with that

What are some thing you might like to get out of the writing practice 

I said

A reason to live?

It is about documenting what Iʼm doing — what Iʼve done, whom Iʼve met, whatever — if nothing else 

She said

And what stops you from doing this

I said

This what I canʼt answer 

That question makes me feel like breaking down 

I donʼt know if I believe ADD is a real thing 

But I like canʼt do anything 

I used to, with drugs 

And I donʼt want them 

And I think maybe the muscles can be developed to transcend that

And I just want someone to tell me I have to do X minutes or pages at Y time every day 

Without having to use drugs 

She said

Okay we can start there but at some point the bad thoughts need to be singled out and thrown away 

I said

The documentation is the most important thing right now 

Itʼs the thing that if I can be on top of, I will feel more okay about dying suddenly 

She said

The documentation is of how your time is being spent? 

I said

Just of being alive. 

I guess to name the importance of it is to articulate some conviction of my own singularity, which as you know I am persistently reluctant to do 



Remember that time I told you youʼre my perfect reader? 

It’s the intersection of the stuff that makes my friend Ted talk about a show he made up called Rachel Has a Really Interesting Life and the time you said Iʼm more a writer than anyone you know  

She said

You are more of a writer than anyone I know and Iʼm happy to talk to you more about that today or anytime you ask me to. 

I said

Okay Mary, itʼs like this: things that make me feel like I really am accounting for — justifying — optimizing — my existence are going places and doing things and talking with people and telling other people about it. Thatʼs my purpose. My reason for being. Thereʼs more, specifically about hoped-for impacts, but thatʼs at the core of it. And…Iʼm ready to do that. But I donʼt know how to write anymore, or maybe I never did, whatever. Some of it is that I donʼt really read, but more of it is about the muscles, the sitting down and doing it for stretches at a time, or for doing whatever the version is where youʼre not sitting and you work in many short spurts. My mind is just…chaos. Have you ever seen the movie Yellow Submarine? Remember the part when — who? — it must be Ringo — Ringo — takes, hmm — who? — I think itʼs Old Fred — the attaché from Pepperland — in search of the other Beatles so they can unseat the Blue Meanies and restore peace, and they go into this endless hall of doors, and behind each door they open is something crazy, like George tripping to sitar music or a train barreling down, and every time they go through a door and shut it behind them, leaving the hall empty, all sorts of crazy stuff comes out of the other doors and runs across the hall and into a different door? Thatʼs how my mind feels, and also I donʼt really know any of the things that equal organizational skills, which is an inadequate phrase for what Iʼm trying to name — it just was never part of anything anyone ever taught me — and I think I could learn them, even at this advanced age, but I donʼt know where to start even deciding where in the day to brush my teeth for the first time. Like itʼs 3am on Saturday and I still havenʼt brushed my teeth. Like, the last time was before I went to bed on Thursday night. Because it’s not clear to me where in the daily order of things that matter teeth-brushing is supposed to happen. But I digress. Itʼs just chaos in there, and I think I can start to develop these muscles — really lean into the athleticism of writing and build a practice — but I need some directive, or some prompt, or some…invitation. Iʼve been hiding in the apartment, yes, but also, Man, in the times when I havenʼt been, Manuel said some amazing things about music and racism and tactical empathy and I saw a band from Mozambique and drank some kind of cloudy green elderberry raw wine and met all these Caribbean and African guys whose White people English is accented with German and they said some amazing things about post-war colonialism and racism and writing, and wow the urban sociology of the jokes at the English-language comedy show, and the incredible Anglo-Serbian person who writes/takes photographs/does comedy/does voice acting I met, Oliver, the one who is on his third tempestuous marriage and was fake-unintentionally brushing his fingers against my bare thigh with the swaying of the train car, leaning in to listen to me read him The Marriage Plot on the U8 back to Alexanderplatz, and HE said some amazing things in categories Iʼm too tired to list creatively. And Iʼm not writing any of it down. This is what makes me feel like Iʼm wasting my life, because Iʼm merely living it; I am not sharing it. Iʼm moldering in the apartment because I think I need to stay here to Write and Get Stuff Done but I donʼt know how to organize the time so that I can do stuff and then be done and go out to live more life because I can trust the system, trust myself to maintain the things that matter to me while also continuing to live instead of being worsening the ever-growing backlog of things I need to write down, to tell someone about but havenʼt. But. sometimes I tell you things. Also sometimes — less often, on the whole, these days — I tell other people things, too. My best documentation — my best writing — happens in a surprise letter of some sort — a series of texts with the right degree of engagement from the other party, an email that I didnʼt set out to write at length. To you, to Cedar. To Taonga, when Iʼve let myself. To my dad and, to a lesser extent, mom. In a journal, I donʼt know whom Iʼm telling. Me? I donʼt buy it. So…maybe Iʼm a writer — I do want to know more about that opinion of yours, but when you think the time is right — but Iʼm not writing. Which would be okay, except that I want to be writing. I mean maybe I shouldnʼt be mad at/impatient with myself. Maybe Iʼm not. Maybe this is right on schedule. So, okay. I want to write again. Without prescription amphetamines. And I need some kind of daily process-oriented activity — maybe thatʼs a better word than task, which I think does have a product-oriented connotation — maybe itʼs a rule? — a prompt, really — an invitation. Like, I canʼt organize so much as sentence into the abyss, never mind a cogent essay, but telling someone something lets all my mind particles just fall into line because itʼs an emergency, not a drill, and there is no choice but to just get in formation. Probably thatʼs not accurate neurology but the point is I can like filter and organize and produce excellent turns of phrase for certain audiences of one. 

Scroll to Top