Why I Didn’t Write This Year

I didn’t write much in 2021. Every time I sat down to do it, which wasn’t very often, I froze up for fear of communicating the wrong thing, in the wrong way. At least, that’s what I’m going with. I think I romanticize the reasons I don’t do things, just like I romanticize the reasons I do. I didn’t write because I was afraid of failing, but I also didn’t write because I was so tired, all of the time.

I was tired of hearing myself say the words “double vaxxed.” I was tired of sirens. I was tired of my own face and all the ways I insisted on hating it. I was tired of the nihilistic cycle of the manufacturing and disposal of consumer goods. I was tired of reading about climate change and tired of caring about it, and I was tired of questioning whether or not I even did care about it, of fearing that maybe everything I said I stood for was just an exhausting performance to accumulate social capital.

I was lazy, too — I just didn’t feel like it. My aversion to energy expenditure prevented me from writing in the same way that an accidentally activated child lock prevents a full-grown adult from opening a car door — with infantilizing efficiency. But instead of confronting this resistance and strategizing a way through it, I sunk deeper into the back seat. Now my writing muscles are sad and flabby. Now I am forcing myself to write about why I spent so many months not doing that.

I also didn’t want to write this year because I felt persistently incapable of forming my own opinions. I consumed absurd amounts of information in 2021. I was perpetually bloated with other people’s assertions, my head was always heavy with narrative. But even as I sought to increase the speed and efficiency at which I consumed information (a soul-eroding practice that unfortunately feels like a civil and professional duty, at this point), I was unable to match this manic consumption with any sort of capacity to digest it.

My mind, unlike my digestive system, is not organized to transform external inputs in a manner that ensures its optimal perpetuation. I gobble up a lot of information that I don’t really know what to do with, it just sits heavy within me like eight pounds of undigested carbonara. I suck it up but I don’t break it down, I put it away but I don’t process. Writing is refined thinking, as they say, and since this year (all years?) my thoughts were other people’s thoughts, it felt irresponsible to record them.

Why else didn’t I write? Because I started to feel like declarative sentences were an act of tyranny and that maybe we’d all be better off just dancing. Because I felt like nothing I wrote was good or funny or honest. Because I perceived the act of writing to be unbearably narcissistic. Because I felt that any declaration by any writer about any issue was violent and reductive, that it had been forcefully extracted from a complex system for self-serving purposes, like an ugly little footstool whittled from the trunk of a 1000-year-old Douglas fir.

Maybe I had to stop writing for a while in order to remember why I write in the first place, or maybe that is a retroactive imposition of meaning onto an arbitrary break in productivity. Writing, like any exercise, is not particularly pleasant (a fact that I’m still stupidly resistant to), and I just really didn’t feel like putting myself through that this year.

But here I am again, writing. It was not easy to finish this stupid article, but I did, and there is some meaning in that, just like there is meaning in running a half-marathon or having a tricky conversation with someone you love.

I didn’t write very much this year because I didn’t write very much this year. I simply didn’t practice. I will try to write more in the new year, and maybe that will help me feel more like myself again, or maybe it won’t. At the very least I’ll have challenged myself to the daily pursuit of something “purposeful”—which is, I’ve been told, one good thing I can do with all this time.

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Molly Henderson

Molly Henderson

humor writer, editor, tinker, tailor, solider, spy. more at: mollyhenderson.ca