This post originally appeared on my tinyletter, Where is my Mind?
I’m on a mini-writing retreat at the house I grew up in. My mom took the kids to a cottage, leaving me home alone, without any responsibilities, not really, except for the dog, and so I have a week to just write. Today was Day 1.
I got breakfast with two of my best friends from high school, and then lunch with my dad. We took the dog for a long walk along the lakeshore, and I found a little path that leads to a rocky little beach, complete with a chair someone left behind. I vowed to come back when the heat had broken a little in the evening, heat that was still nothing compared to back home, in Virginia.
I wanted to work from here because my mom’s yard is delightful, and I can sit outside and write while the dog snoozes in the sun, listening to the birds and the water from the little pond and waterfall they put in years ago when they took down the above-ground pool and turned the yard into a flower garden. I wanted to work here because I can walk to the water, walk along the water, sit by the water, be near the water again.
My first task was to edit an essay, one that I am struggling to write. It is for a collection about surviving rape and how it informs our work in higher education. I’ve submitted two drafts, and on the second one, I was admonished by the editor, stop moving in and out of time.
Of course, ADHD time isn’t linear, but it wasn’t just that. I changed the beginning of my essay: Trauma isn’t linear.
When I tweeted that out, I was informed that there is something called “trauma time” and I started to research it and suddenly it became really clear why I struggle to tell this story, why my narratives around this are the way they are, and it isn’t just about ADHD time, it’s about trauma time as well. As put by Robert D. Stolorow: “it is the ecstatical unity of temporality – the sense of stretching along between past and future – that is devastatingly disturbed by the experience of psychological trauma. Experiences of trauma become freeze-framed into an eternal present in which one remains forever trapped, or to which one is condemned to be perpetually returned through the Portkeys supplied by life’s slings and arrows…all duration or stretching along collapses, past becomes present, and future loses all meaning other than endless repetition.”
I made the essay linear, or at least more linear, I try not to move too much in and out of time and now I hate the essay. I hate the essay so much.
And then I decided to revisit my Bad Female Academic manuscript.
Which was a mistake.
I spent $1k on developmental editing and I’m even further from figuring out how to salvage the manuscript. The reader report that prompted me to seek out professional help, the words keep ringing in my ears…who is the audience for this…what is the point…what’s new in this story…why is she repeating herself…where is the call to action?
The action is the writing, or at least it was, when I was doing it. The call to action wasn’t as much a call, it was a manifesto to write, to tell your story, to speak your truth, to speak my truth. That was the call. The writing itself was the call.
But maybe that isn’t enough. Maybe my narrative isn’t unique enough, compelling enough. Or maybe it’s my writing, the way I’m telling my story. Maybe there is no call, only abandoning teaching for something more sustainable, something that lets me be myself, all of myself, instead of a piece of myself, fragmented and broken. Maybe Bad Female Academic was about putting myself back together after being broken, the unmaking of an academic but the making of myself.
I don’t know. I’ve dropped the thread, and I don’t know if I’m going to be able to find it again.
So I end my day sitting at the edge of the water, reading science fiction, listening to the water, watching the sunset, enjoying the breeze off the lake. I’m here to write, to edit, and to research my book about here. I’m going to ride a bus and do the route beginning to end. I’m going to walk and walk and walk my neighborhood. I am not from here anymore, I haven’t been for a long time – I’ve almost spent as much time not living here as I spent living here now. But I carry this place with me, always, and I have to try and write a conclusion to reflect that reality of home but no longer home.
And then, I’ll get some of the first edits for Reconstructing ’95.
“Why do you write like you’re running out of time? How do you write like you’re running out of time?”
I wrote Bad Female Academic, I wrote my blog, like I was running out of time, like I was writing for my life. I’ve always written like I’m writing for my life.
I have to get the words out.