Moments ago, pen in hand, I imagined painting what I was about to write. I’d never imagined painting words before. I’m wondering how I would paint the sentence that just appeared. How am I writing this sentence? Mind and body are mysteries. So far this experience with pen in hand, this blue ballpoint pen that I bought along with four others at a nearby art store last week moving across the page without lines as if on its own, has happened without struggle. Maybe that’s a bad thing. Then this last sentence, along with all of the preceding ones, disappears, as if it had never been written. This is how writing should happen, isn’t it? The word should in the last sentence makes me anxious since I’m just writing sentences. The real work behind the appearance of these words, one at a time, is in subjective reality beyond my control. Or so I believe. For some reason it’s hard to admit that I don’t know what I’m doing while I’m doing it. Such is the life of a writer, or it’s how I’m imagining my writing life right now. Who knows what images will come to me in a moment or two, when the blue ballpoint pen is no longer in my hand.
I was about to write myself a note in my journal so that I wouldn’t forget something when I wrote: I don’t want a vacation. Maybe part of me didn’t want a break from what I perceived as craziness in my head. Perhaps craziness would be too much for me to handle on my own. Sometimes I want to believe that there’s room for only one in my mind: the crazy one. These sorts of mental confrontations can be difficult to deal with in words. Maybe part of why I write in a journal is to help myself become aware of the conflicts in my mind. Imagining in words can do wonders to create inner calm, even if for only moments at a time. Time itself sometimes reveals new sides of itself to me in a single sentence. The work of writing a single sentence requires passion. I’m seeking something passionate in these sentences, or maybe passion is seeking me. Past and present tenses have become one. I no longer feel crazy. Maybe I’m ready for a mental vacation, if only for a moment. Soon part of me will want a break from calmness. Writing these sentences shows me, once again, that there’s room for more than one in my mind. It’s as if I can see my mind in action in this journal, one sentence and word at a time. Writing doesn’t let me forget where I am: in my own head and body. I imagine my body saying: you almost forgot about me. Craziness helps when words keep appearing as if the word end didn’t exist.
Writing this sentence has overwhelmed me. As a lifelong stutterer, this feeling isn’t new to me. I don’t know where to begin, even at the beginning. I must be writing to myself. Otherwise, wouldn’t I have a clearer idea of what I want to say? This question makes me wonder whether I should prepare myself a coffee before writing another sentence. I almost wrote: before creating another sentence. I wonder how writing and creating and caffeine are connected in my mind right now. The verb wonder has now appeared three times. What do I desire to know about? Perhaps a possible answer to this question overwhelmed me in the opening sentence. I might desire to discover what feels so threatening that I almost failed to finish the opening sentence. The appearance of the word failed in the previous sentence surprises me. These sentences feel mysterious, and maybe mystery and uncertainty lead me to believe that failure is the only possible outcome in this situation. In other words, I might’ve been convinced before writing the opening sentence that I couldn’t succeed in finishing this paragraph. Some days are like that for me, when failure surprises me from behind, so to speak, before a single sentence has appeared, as if part of me wishes that the page remain blank. Does that same part of me also wish that my mind become a blank? I equate my mind with this paragraph. Maybe I’m afraid that by the final sentence both of them will be blanks. I wish I could believe that more caffeine would solve my creative problems. A possible title comes to me: Fear of Empty Writing or Mind Space. The end has arrived. I wonder whether all of these words have helped me to discover something about myself.
Three days ago I thought I lost my mind. Four days ago I thought I’d found it. Both of these mental events happened here, at my desk, which makes me wonder what might happen next. I thought that my mind, or body, or both, had become more predictable. Change doesn’t happen only outside of me. It also happens on the inside, where mystery prevents me from knowing with certainty what happens moment to moment. Am I curious to know what might happen next, or am I afraid to face the uncertainty of what kinds of inner experiences I’ll have today? Rigidity and frigidity come to mind. I don’t want to change how I experience my mind or my body. An unwelcome sentence arrives: this attitude sometimes leaves me cold or unimaginative, as if my mind and body were agreeing on something. What might that be? Perhaps that repetition likes things to remain the same. I almost wrote religion instead of repetition. In high school, I forgot what happened the day before religiously. Who wants to remember losing one’s own mind? Another word demands to appear on the page: congeal. As a high school student, fear seemed to block me from imagining and thinking. In this paragraph, I’ve struggled to form thoughts from images and words. Yet I don’t feel as if I’ve either lost or found my mind. It’s been here all along.
The images behind the sentences I wrote overwhelmed me. So I wrote fewer words, fewer images arrived, or the ones that did troubled me less, and they didn’t seem to interfere with the words that appeared on the screen. These words I’m writing now constitute a fresh start. It might be time for the overwhelming images to return. I’m lying on a couch, the same one I do in reality, in the same therapeutic space where I entered and left several hours ago, and I start to scream. The last four words appeared without my permission, and I wonder whether I give too much or too little importance to the “I” who gave permission. In reality, I’ve never screamed in a psychotherapist’s office. I’ve been speaking on a psychoanalytic couch for nearly a year, and I believe my voice has never made me as uncomfortable as it would if I were to scream. I’m not a screamer, or am I? As I reread the last two sentences, I found myself rewriting the clause, I’ve been speaking on a psychoanalytic couch, in my mind: I’ve been screaming on a couch. The overwhelming images I mentioned in the opening sentence have become all too real in my imagination. I’ve been a stutterer since birth (I’m trying to allow free association more say in what appears), and what I know of the human mind from personal experience seems inseparable from the difficulties I have in listening to my own voice. Stuttering can be a sort of scream for help. One’s voice, or one’s voices, need experience to be heard as they really are. The images of a screaming me are about pain, pain I experience as a human being, and I imagine these images saying to me: scream, scream, scream, scream, and learn from your screaming voice.
I was waiting to pour myself a cup of afternoon coffee when an unexpected sentence formed itself in my mind: I can’t stop writing. I was standing motionless, my hands unoccupied, when these words came to me. It was an unusual day for me in that I’d yet to write a single sentence. Yet it seemed as if sentences had been writing themselves in my mind all day, beyond conscious awareness. They’re sentences for the future. I wanted to write this last sentence down before I forgot it. Sentences for the future intrigued me. I left the kitchen with my cup of coffee and was about to start focusing on the editing work I had to finish before the end of the day when another thought arrived unannounced (I almost wrote uninvited): the sentences themselves aren’t important. The books that they’re leading you toward are what matter. I was more frustrated than I realized. My eyes told me I had a lifetime of books on my shelves. I stood in my office, glanced at hardcovers and paperbacks before I sat down and returned to work, and I thought: my reading future is before me. Then I was seated at my desk, editing words someone else had written, when a related thought came to me: the books themselves are less important than the new attitude I might develop from reading them. I didn’t have time to wonder what this new attitude might be. The words time and attitude seemed connected. Sometimes time brings us new attitudes. This was another sentence that seemed to say: I couldn’t concentrate on my work. Something else seemed more important, and that something else was part of my future. There was something in me, an attitude, that was unborn. Now I was ready to focus on the editing I had to do on the screen. Sentences might continue writing themselves in my mind. As a writer, I couldn’t complain about that.
When I read that the psychoanalyst of Budapest celebrated his fortieth birthday on the day he wrote the letter I was reading, I wished I could forget how old I was when Spanish became my second, or maybe first, language. Sándor Ferenczi sounded sad in his letter to Freud. I was sad before I’d finished reading the opening paragraph. Translation has seemed to become part of this writing experience of mine. What kind of translation is at work here? Emotional translation comes to mind first. Ferenczi’s letter, written in July 1913, has affected me in a way that remains unclear. I was sad. I am sad. I was thirty-five when I moved to Madrid and immersed myself in learning a second language, which I’d failed at in high school. This last clause appeared on its own. I seem to be doubting myself. Ferenczi wrote of inner struggles in his letter to Freud. When he mentioned his psychoanalytic work with patients, I was uncertain how he felt about the work. Uncertainty can lead to creativity. This last sentence helps me remember that my heart beat faster when I read that Ferenczi had turned forty on the day he wrote the letter to Freud. Freud has become part of the uncertainty I’m experiencing as I write this sentence. For years I struggled to read Freud. I still do. His correspondences discovered me one day in a Madrid bookstore a decade ago, and I’ve been reading them ever since, both in Spanish and in English translations. I also have several volumes of Ferenczi’s correspondences. It’s as if these books on my shelves have something to teach me that I’ve done my best to avoid. I’ve been avoiding Freud’s major works, such as The Interpretation of Dreams, less this year than in the past. Another of his works, Psychopathology of Everyday Life, has been my evening reading for a few days. Changes seem to be happening inside of me. I hope the translator in me can keep up with them.