NDJ:8 Oren Gozlan, PsyD, CPsych

Writing, an Act of Love and Hate

What counts as writing? Is it an act of putting our thoughts on paper? Writing involves a medium. You write on something, like canvas or paper. But what about the writing that is done on the body? Of tattoos, cutting, or surgery? If we think of writing as an attempt to symbolize, one that is not immune to our trauma, then our symptoms also become a kind of writing and our memories, a type of archiving. Analysis too is an act of narrating, we can say, of writing and re-writing, and re-writing….

Perhaps this is why it is difficult to talk, let alone write about writing. There is something about actual writing, putting one’s thoughts on paper that places oneself in a fragile, vulnerable position. An encounter with foreignness. As I let my thoughts out I also depart from a phantasmic hold I had on them.

Writing is also destroying, taking apart fused meanings that could be kept whole only when not uttered. Speaking and writing are acts of language that remind us of our incompleteness and death. We can never write all we mean, and no word can capture its own meaning. When I write love, does the word convey the intensity, the pain, the fragility that I may feel? Words brush against meaning and cannot guarantee recognition or understanding.

To whom am I writing/speaking? The reader embodies a kernel of the self, returns as otherness, foreign and different, to whom I desperately attempt to convey intelligibility or hide in obscurity. Writing is a form of love-making with an unknown object. Unknown, because like the purloined letter, one never knows the addressee, even if one consciously intended the writing for a particular other. In linking thoughts, whom am I uniting as well? Like free association, which is never free of one’s anxieties, helplessness, and other feelings left over from infancy, writing is never free of one’s forbidden loves and hates. Whom do I destroy in my creativity? From whom do I separate in articulating my subjectivity? In daring to speak my mind? To whom am I teaching a lesson — an act where teaching and beating become united in an unacknowledged fantasy? There is a sadomasochistic pleasure in writing, a fantasy of being beaten as one writes.

As I write, I return to a place of helplessness, unarticulated anxieties, dependency. The blank page that awaits my purging also represents the utter wordlessness of the infantile world — a return to a scene where touch, pain, helplessness, and eroticism are indistinguishable, where pain and pleasure are fused. Writing in its pain and pleasure is both an active struggle to capture ideas and a wish to be “pregnant” with ideas – as such, an act that requires passivity, letting ideas come, even those that are uninvited. But it is also an act of watching, much like the beating fantasy: one is watching one’s ideas form at the same time one is forming them, and in this act of thinking about one’s thinking, one is no longer one, but fractured, split: a subject.

Writing is creating and creation involves loss. In writing, we let our thoughts wander away from us. We cannot control what other thoughts these will encounter on their way, what theory can be made from these links and so, what theories will forever be given up, replaced, and lost – lost in a sense of transformation, a giving up of stability, of knowledge. In writing we can also lose our gender, writing as man or woman, or feeling masculine/feminine in our writing. The erotic insinuation of writing lies in its appeal to an Other, an act of desire, a push to create. Writing may unsettle our very concept of ourselves as known, recognizable, and whole. As one gets closer to the enigmatic object of one’s creative writing, one is able to create meaning but it is always incomplete, fractured, requiring an imaginative refilling of the gap – so that we come to conceive of ourselves as riddles.

Writing, then, is an act of creating that depends on dismantling and on attempting to capture the object that is irretrievable once lost. The place that cannot be filled by knowledge becomes an incubator for conception, which creates demand for an answer — followed by a response, always a traumatic response, an attempt to stop time.

But writing is also an act of hope. Our narrative becomes a novel through the radical hope of imagination, the ability to tolerate waiting for something to emerge that may outstrip the capacity for understanding and touch the unknown.