When I have truly understood the nature of beauty then I will be able to write. At every junction I have stopped myself from creating. Yet I become fixated, more and more, with the idea of creating the Beautiful Thing. From my hands, I want the most redolent piece of fiction to come. I want the movements of my body to tell a story, each limb being a volume. I want my voice to corner and to capture the essence of humanity that eludes so much of us. But I cannot do any of this. I sleep, and wake, with the idea chewing at the fibres of my brain. Ballet dancers, en pointe, graceful as swans, must narrate what I want to make. There must be a humidity so sad, over my Beautiful Thing, that the eyes of others sweat profusely.
I think the reason I haven’t been able to write so much is the hole that I willingly dig in myself. I keep digging, and throwing sugar and porn and music and shit books at the hole, hoping that one of these things makes a dent big enough to strike the gold of inspiration. Nothing works, I say, when nothing works. It’s disgraceful. Disgusting, even. I am not a real writer.
I remember the very last piece I wrote. An ugly duckling, I call it now, that was learning to be beautiful. I loved it honestly. It was half of a story I didn’t plan on finishing, but went back to occasionally to indulge myself. I told this half-story with crazed and truthful deliverance, showing the person closest to me in a terrible light. I’d written some parts in holy anger. In a fit of guilt and re-emerging affection, I edited these parts out. These are times in my life I long for, so badly, times I wrote so much I needed to drain the excess.
Creation is a difficult thing. In pursuit of my Eden, I have fallen flat more than necessary, really. Make it easy for me, my muse! Let my burden abate. But there is nothing but silence and a blank computer screen. I share my sorrows with other writers because we full well know our craft isn’t heart surgery. It seems futile to scribble and footnote and proofread, when we could be saving lives or leading the next technological revolution, doesn’t it? Telling my friends I didn’t know what to write about, and that it left me scared shitless, was like telling them it was awful to carry a weight that absolutely no one was obliged to. It felt self-martyring.
We live by the traditions we are born with, whether we like this or not. As your mother trudges to church, propelled by nothing but visions of absolution, so you trudge to your desk, hoping to write something like divinity. As your uncle drinks every cider, lager and stout ever made each day, so you imbibe the the works of those who came before you, like so much water. My traditions have always resembled those of my Nigerian family members. For them, it was their presence in the vice of alcohol, religion, or food. For me, it is an ongoing war with self-doubt and lack of motivation. And it is important to note that each of these struggles, passed down from the worn hands of every generation, has almost brought those relatives to certain death.
In the Blood Orange number It Is What It Is, Samantha Urbani sings these lines:
Time will tell if you can figure this and work it out
No one’s waiting for you anyway so don’t be stressed now
How do twenty-three words beat a path that I haven’t been able to find, let alone travel, in all seventeen years of my life? They are things of magic. As I take up my pen now, and begin the sweet, arduous journey of creating something Beautiful, I repeat this lyric again, again.
Illustration by Van Hong (website).