How do you write when you cannot focus? How do you concentrate when things happening in your life are too big to handle, too private to share publicly, and too painful to ignore?
In the past, whenever I sat down to write, I kept to the classic style of writing; the unwritten understanding, shared by the writer and the reader, that ideas presented in a piece should be presented as if they were objective facts, even if the writer is sharing his subjective perspective. Classic writing is a window to the world, as seen by the author.
This kind of style, thought subjective at its core—like all writing, from poetry to equations that describe the inner workings of the universe, unable to do without the ever-present observer—requires a degree of objectivity and discipline on the part of the writer. The decision of what to show and what to omit cannot be careless. You write to the benefit of your reader.
But if all our worlds have shrunk this year to the size allowed by the pandemic, my world has shrunk even more so. First, to the size of our Berlin apartment, and then, after my wife’s cancer diagnosis in October, it shrank—and I with it—to the size of space by the bed where a caregiver sits.
How am I supposed to create anything constructive from that vantage point? In the circumstances I find myself in, how do I find the degree of thoughtful, positive energy I always tried to share with others? How do I write something useful to anyone but myself?
A writer can write about anything for as long as his writing remains at least slightly rooted in his lived experience. But my thoughtful, positive, and generally upbeat reality has ceased to exist. What remains right now is the madness of a creative mind, beating against the walls of the cage it found itself in, grasping through the bars for something better, for what used to be the norm, but now remains out of reach.
The reality of my life is such that I don’t want to share it with anyone but those closest to me, and even then, only those who can bear it. This time, this place, this period of my life… Is there anything about this that’s useful to other people?
Every article I draft, and I’ve drafted dozens, trails off, thoughts unfinished, proof of my dwindling concentration. And yet I am drawn to the keyboard, to my pen and a blank paper pad, even if nothing useful comes out of it.
A writer wiser and more experienced than me told me to capture even the worst experiences because their value reveals itself over time. So that’s what I did.
I also want to tell you I am still here. Please know I haven’t forgotten and that the silence on my part was not negligence or laziness, but a struggle to create something, anything that could make your life a little better.
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