I used to be a writer. There was a time when I would shut myself inside our study with a fire burning my belly. I would stare at the blinking curser, waiting for the fire to become a light — to compress itself into a form or substance that would make its way from belly to finger tips. Patiently (except when impatiently), I would contemplate the blankness of a new document, a clean slate that begged the question: were these words necessary enough to interrupt this quiet space? (Knowing very well, as all writers do, that quietness is hard come by). And, would they be hot enough, strong enough, potent enough, to, one day, set the whole world ablaze in holy fire?
I used to be a writer, stitching up the seams of old thoughts and the things happening outside my window. This was my occupation: to watch and wonder. I would see the world through eyes of meaning, plowing the earth for beauty and truth and (dare I say it) glory. Gently, I would spread the soil with my fingertips as they clicked away at the keys, searching hungrily for any glimpse of heaven in the earth.
I used to be a writer, scrutinizing every word and fitting phrases together like puzzle pieces spread on a tray. I would fit them together in every configuration till the picture that stared back at me was both my own and Another’s. And when I had poured my entire self into the project, having given it everything I could muster, including my sweat and tears, I would put it away — a practice in patience and deference, deciding not to decide on these words until we had time apart.
I used to be a writer, like a mad doctor who put away his patient, not saying when she would return to check on his condition. And when I did return, though I would feign distance and indifference, I could see my heart beat in every stitch and vein. But that didn’t stop me. I would tear apart and put back together, deleting and erasing and sometimes crumpling the whole thing up for the digital wastebasket. Sometimes (though rarely) it would see resurrection; most of the time, I would start again.
I used to be a writer, barely able to push publish on a sacred, finished piece. It felt both too wonderful for the world to behold (I feared it was easily misunderstood), and yet to be what it was created to be — to be writing itself — it must be shared. It must be read. It must be subjected to the invisible masses of lingering, hungry, hasty eyes. It must live in libraries and on computer screens and sit tucked next to bed posts with a cup of tea growing cold nearby. This is that for which it was made — that for which I was made, the writer.
I used to be a writer. But now, I am an instagramer. No time to plod the earth, I tap a line for content, looking for easy metaphors and gripping pictures. Fitting time and truth into 140 characters, and churning them out one by one by one by one. There’s no time to be a wonderer, there are screens to fill up, consumers’ time that needs to be killed (and I am here to kill it for them).
The writer in me can name all the casualties of this new role: consumers who used to be readers, truth that used to be examined, earth that used to be considered, silence that used to be respected. But the real tragedy happens inside of me, and though I can barely look it in the eye, I can name it too readily: the belly fire cools.
And I am left with a question as old as the earth (or, as old as the instagram app): who now will set the world on fire?