Consciousness Streams: The Itch and the Need to Write

I have to write every day.

If I don’t, the need burns through my blood like a fever. It doesn’t matter what I write about, though spilling my soul is good, I just need to write. The passion for it feels like fire sparking against my fingertips, and if I skip a couple days, it culminates in a huge outpouring of words that leaves me feeling drained to my dregs.

But the problem with this–the biggest, for there are many–is that I don’t always know what to write.

It’s not writer’s block, it’s just an emptiness. My words have been spoken, written, perhaps in other places, other times. My best friend and I have been writing together a lot lately, leaving nothing left for myself during the day. I write about book hauls and short pieces, but they’re not the same. They’re not the outpouring I need sometimes, but it’s hard to grab onto that. It’s hard to find the right words.

Today, I feel like I need the outpouring.

I have the right music, the right setting. A fire crackles in the wood burning stove in front of me. I’m reclined on a soft red couch, my feet up and a steaming cup of white tea beside me, just in reach so I can sip at it between words. My current story project–a piece whose working title is Sojourn, after my favorite Legend of Drizzt book–is open in its Word document, ready for my additions, but the words don’t work for it today. All I can think about is fire.

I don’t know what to write.

Now the words are coming, but not in waves–in sloshes that come unwillingly. I am shaking my cup, trying to spill the right sentences onto my computer, hoping they’ll convey what I feel, this endless need to put my thoughts down on paper, through pen, fingers typing into the early hours of the morning as I try desperately to find a way to help others understand what this means for me, what it is when I say the Itch has me in its grasp.

I cannot escape from it. When the Itch gets me–and it always does–I am powerless before the oncoming storm. My favorite quote from Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves always comes back to me, but instead of reading, it is writing:

“I must write,
I must write,
I must write.”

Semantic satiation is what it’s called when a word no longer looks like a word. When you say it too many times or stare at it for too long, until it looks like some unfamiliar rearranging of letters that could never possibly hold any sort of meaning, a jumbled mess of sounds in your head. The amount of times I have done this, stared at a word until it’s no longer a word, are innumerable; often I will do this when I’m trying to write, staring at the page and the incessantly blinking cursor as if invoking semantic satiation will help me figure out what I’m trying to say.

Sometimes I turn my head to my phone, to the digital readout that projects the time back at me–2am, 3am, 4am. I always think I need sleep before I go back to writing, unsure what I need but knowing it can be found on that empty page.

When it hits me during the day, it’s almost worse.

I’m used to the Itch creeping up on me at night, stealing sleep away and forcing me to power up my computer no matter how many hours pass me by. This is its natural state. When it gets me during the day, I never know what to do. Night is more comfortable, more easy. I can write without being bothered, without being needed. Daytime is the time for most people, and I can never sit unbothered for too long before someone is calling my name–come help clean up the kitchen, go get wood for the fire, do some laundry, etc. etc.

Sometimes, in the afternoon, the Itch will come upon me and I’ll sit down to write with fervor, with passion spiraling into madness, and then just as the words start to flow, I’ll be stopped.

I no longer know where this is going.

I need to write, but when my reserves are drained and the Itch calls, the words that come forth are empty.


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