I scrawled this essay in the evening of November 9, 2021. I have not touched it since. It is the first in a series of short essays I will be sharing on The Scale called Come scritto: Essays I won't edit.
Though I write constantly, the business of living a life steals time. I can't always revise. I can't always spend time picking up strands and threading them together to create a clear, inerrant arc of thought. Lacking this time has often kept me from sharing what I've written, which I feel is a shame.
Another shame, though, is that while the work of revision is an intended act of improvement, it often functions as an act of concealment. Buffing out rough edges is one thing. Distinguishing rough edges from truths needing attention and expansion, as opposed to elimination, is another.
Knowing whether the urge to eliminate comes from fear or wisdom is yet another.
This project is an attempt to move toward a sense of confidence around my regular work, especially in a medium as casual as this one. It is an attempt to sharpen my attention to pieces of insight I might otherwise run from, and to express the tension I experience as a neurodivergent, non-binary singer and writer trying to forge my own path while divesting from constructs that invalidate my personhood.
I hope some of what I share can be affirming or challening for you...
I think a practice I need to cultivate is reading my own writing. I value output more than I value reflection.
I find this even in my reading -- with 'output' here meaning the volume of works consumed, the act of consuming; and of consuming quickly.
I do not reflect, at least not with intention.
I reflect passively, as if on accident.
I think though, often under the influence of this and that. And on the other end it is as though not even a wisp has been retained: all lost.
I do have a way with thoughts. A sense for them that when wittled away proves something true and not previously expressed, at least not in that way by me. The things I feel make such meaning and I think -- I ought write that out.
And then I think, with what time?
I think: I'm comfortable seated.
I think: my pen is across the room, my book in the next. Would take at least two trips.
And, as I don't act, it all accrues and weighs somehow against me. The weight of what has not been preserved.
The desire to have my thoughts lined up as pretty things to look at.
And then, from there, the worry that such is not a way to think of thought.
The cheap thought that I am drawn to is: for whom am I preserving the thought? And the answer I feel is right (by way of a moral judgment) is: none other than myself.
The moral judgment says a thought intended for an audience, written out to be transmitted and undervalued for living in any state preceding in that -- without value if it cannot become transmittable -- the moral judgment is that a thought like that is a thought driven by capitalist forces I reject.
And in a way that is true, because I do not owe anyone my thought. I am not here as a thought factory to be leeched upon after having been discovered supple.
But what position am I to occupy if in fact I want to share? Where am I to go, and how am I to reconcile with my moralizing self who sees any pressure put on me by me as a negative by-product of a system oppressing me and others like me and others unlike me?
I think it is for this reason I must share unfiltered, for I know my work can be made good, but I know also that the labor of good-making is a constrictive labor, a harsh labor that forces me to shuffle and reshuffle impulses that were complete initially and yet somehow became obscured through the imagination of audience, through the anticipation of reception. And the pain of that anticipation breeds yet greater pain, prolonged and made cruel and stuck in waiting for something which may never come -- and by the time of its release, by the time of its recoil, has transformed once true and succinct impulses into Sunday School lessons devoid of their urgency and devoid of the erotic, embodied experience of uttering that brought them first to be.
Bryce McClendon, they/them