My desktop background is a 1980×1020 Django Unchained poster: An orange silhouette of Dr. King Schultz and Django Freeman driving a horsed stagecoach through a vast place. It looks cool, draped tightly behind the desktop folders, like the sort of thing that’s worth fixating on.
Every time the ole’ laptop boots up, before the folders appear, there’s a moment when it looks like two men are galloping slowly across my screen. Sometimes I look at it and, secretly, I imagine myself riding on a horse behind Dr. Schultz, with a good view of the enormous molar on his carriage, all three of us silently listening to Annibale e i Cantori Moderni’s Trinity: Titoli.
I’m typing this up on Evernote. But, before I continue, I should probably tell you what this post is really about. I’m tempted to say that it’s about me and how I’ve allowed myself to descend into the abscess-filled depths of writer’s block, but that’s giving it too much colour. It’s about quitting. I am still scraping up the words to get around it, so I figured I should start by telling you about Evernote. And how I got here.
I started using Evernote back in 2016. Around this time I had made up my mind that I wanted to write. I was fresh off my first year of campus and I teemed brightly with naiveté like an egg yolk. I had a bunch of things I wanted to say and I felt the splitting need to express myself through an ambitious medium. So, surprise surprise, I got myself a blog; a white themed space accorded to me by the benevolent folks over at WordPress. I gave it a exciting title and, with a sturdy resolve, an amassed readership of about 6 friends and the green canvas that is Evernote, I was set.
I’ve always considered myself to be a guy with a fairly doused sense of humour, so, at the least, I was going to make people smile. Evernote had this green-colour-theme thing that sort of made you feel eco-friendly, like you were saving the world one keystroke at a time. Some days I typed with one hand, hesitantly, proudly, like the keyboard owed me words. (Like I imagine Miguna Miguna does). And some days, I could write for hours. Days I felt a violent release of words—a literary ejaculation, if you will.
I guess what I’m trying to confess is: I have spent the better part of a year convincing myself that I can write.
It’s an inordinately vain thing to say out loud, I realise, yet, I find some measure of comfort in the fact that I’m aware of it. I believe that being aware of one’s shortcomings on some level reprieves one of fault from said shortcomings.
For every article, the goal has been to bleed up 1000 words and, in the end, with luck, take a step back and say “It is good.” You’d think the sheer smugness of it would be enough to see me through (the blasphemous innuendo notwithstanding); but still.
It’s a process that, with time, has grown increasingly disheartening (and anemic), and now, there’s a cajoling voice in my mind that has begun to question
my self and the choices that I he/she/it has made. It is the voice of opportunity cost. It has forced me to assess just how much of this is truly out of passion, and even now, as I write this, it screams: “For what, Tony? For what?!”
I’ve been trying to make a break into fiction, but, as you may have noticed, I am unable to churn up anything doesn’t end up being some self-analysing BS and I’m really just waiting for someone to call me out for this.
Day by day, there’s a creeping feeling that I’m losing my pen. (This is a metaphorical expression that I’m hoping will catch on. It refers to the fleeing, or the feeling thereof, of one’s motivation to write stories). If there was ever a time to say, “You know what, I think I’m getting the hang of this thing,” it certainly isn’t now.
Sadly, I can no longer claim truthfully that any of this is emotionally rewarding. Every time I sit down to write something, I feel, distinctly, like a man who is desperately searching his elbow pit for a vein in which he can slowly infuse an ink-filled syringe. A fiend’s quest for dopamine.
Now, sitting here—one year and 22 posts later—staring at Evernote and its leafy snippet view, trying to string together words for this piece, this which I have been putting together since April, I feel an overwhelming urge to just stop here and post it as it is.
But, on the other hand, I can’t. Because, as much as I might deny it to myself, the simple truth is, I enjoy it; this meta-writing thing, this hedonism. I mean, look at this, I’m up to 850 words here and I’m barely midway! But see, again, that’s the tell, isn’t it? That’s how you know it’s gotten unhealthy. When it start to become enjoyable, trippy.
Self-indulgent pursuits, they say, have a way of morphing into violent delights. And violent delights.. well, you know the rest.
What it really is, the root cause of this ambivalence—A stark inability to see writing as anything other than a self-inflicted burden? Unresolved trauma caused by WordPress statistics? Mere petulant whining?—I couldn’t tell you.
Honestly I don’t even believe we’re wired to know ourselves like that, on such a prime level. Sadly our emotional metadata (why we feel what we feel, or, put loosely: self-self-awareness) remains beyond our intellectual reach.
What I do know is: this is me, now. With nothing really but the company of my bloated yet hollow words, a movie poster I stare at everyday, and a firm belief that I can solve all of my life’s problems with a bunch of adjectives and asterisks.
My smallest sis, Niki, 8, loves to run and skip and jump ropes when she comes home from school. I try my best to play with her when I can, indulge her in the ole’ catch me if you can, but sometimes you see, I can’t, I’m busy, so she’s forced to contend.
Recently I took the time to teach her a home-improved version of pictionary which I’d devised for her. She got excited by it and, in the fun of it all, we made a pact that we’d play a round every evening.
But, once again, as I often do, I’d written a check my body couldn’t cash.
“Aki si tucheze ile game?!” She pleads in the evening.
“Woi, Niki, natype kitu kwa laptop sahii. Acha tutacheza kesho.” I promise.
” Tonnie, jana ulisema tu hivo!”
“Kesho jioni ukitoka shule tutacheza. I promise.” I promise, again.
Then she retreats disappointedly, though she hides it from her face.
From her fading footsteps I can almost hear her reassuring herself, “I’m sure he is just busy with his important laptop and his important university documents that need to be typed up. Tonnie is a good brother. He will be ready to play kesho. Tonnie is a good brother.”
> For [i] in Kesho
> Kesho = Kesho + 1
> Print “Lame iterative excuse”
Now she has given up on me. Now she just plays with chalk alone outside until it’s dark, then she comes in the house, eats, and then when it’s time to sleep, she walks up to my bedroom door and whispers through the key hole, “Goodnight, Tony.”
To which I unconvincingly shout, “Umeenda kulala aki? Acha nakuja kukufunika.”
But, eventually, when I head to her room to tuck her in, she is almost always asleep, deeply, already in her sheets. And the worst part is, sometimes I will walk over and sit next to her bed and whisper, “Goodnight, Nicole.”
Not because I think she might still be awake, but in a selfish effort to make myself feel better.
I’ve been checking my stats and you will be happy to know that I have a Norwegian reader. (I’m just now learning that a Norwegian is someone who comes from Norway, not Norwegia). I’m convinced it’s not spam because I have convinced myself it’s not spam.
As I write this now, I realise that I don’t have the foggiest clue about Norway (and/or Norwegians); and that’s a shame really because I was looking forward to filling this space with some good old Norwegian funfacts.
Fortunately, I do happen to bear some knowledge about the country that borders Norway. And that’s Denmark.
Firstly, people from Denmark are called Danish. Like the pastry. Secondly, and most importantly, it is the home country of Mads Mikkelsen: Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal.
Mads has that weird face that has always stuck with me. The kind of face you instinctively know is of a man you can’t trust.
But, then again, the man is 50. And, while it has always given me nightmares how he served a man eat his own leg in an astonishingly cuisined dinner, and how he says things like,”How’s your wife, Jack? Why don’t you bring her over some time, I’m looking forward to having her for dinner,” he is undoubtedly an invaluable national treasure to Denmark and I guess I oughta proud of him in that way.
I’m oughta be proud of myself too for knowing something about Denmark. Thank you, Norway guy.
I want to end this post on a happy note. I don’t want to drag this out for too long so I’m just going to say it. I’ve decided to take a leave of absence. This is a PSA directed to the vast entirety of my readership. All 6 of you.
I’m taking a break from the blog. This could be partly due to said crisis, but, if I’m being quite honest, it’s mostly out of lethargy. A couple of months or so. A year, tops. Nothing long-term.
During this time, I intend on performing an activity people often describe as “looking for oneself”. I want to catch up on life: read some books, shed some weight, teach my sisters chess, maybe look for that special someone who I’m told is out there for me—someone for whom I can purchase relatively expensive chocolate from time to time in order to satisfy the social conventions involving romance and chocolate—put myself out there, as they say.
I also want to get that tattoo I’ve always wanted—achieve the quintessential writer’s look. Perhaps get me a cardigan and a camera. (And develop hyperopia while I’m at it. You know, so that I can see things differently).
Also, and finally, I want to get shot. With a firearm. Not fatally of course, ha, that would surely defeat the purpose of the exercise. I’m thinking the fleshy web between my toes would be a good place to start. My reasoning is simple: I want to know how it feels to get shot so I can come here and describe it with words.
I could always do it in fiction, true, perhaps in a crime short story where the protagonist, Jamo ((secretly the antagonist, but you won’t know this until the ninth chapter when he opens his old, dusty, nondescript khaki bag to reveal that he had the money the whole time)) gets shot in the thigh. I could conjurely describe the pain as “brilliant and unrelenting, like a hundred bee stings at the same place”—but without empirical knowledge of such an intimate character arc, wouldn’t that be cheating?
So, yeah, that’s happening. I’m off to see my doctor now so we can plan this whole thing.
In the meantime, you won’t hear from me for a while. But, if you ever feel the need to read some inane anecdotes about inane things while you’re on lunch break (or on a toilet seat), feel free to gloss over my Instagram page.
My first post ever was titled “Maiden Voyage”. It was supposed to allude to exactly what one would suppose it alludes to, a beginning. I believe it to be my greatest creative achievement, that title.
So, in a feeble attempt to latch on to whatever remains of that dried-up well of ambition, I named this post thusly.