Writing and the Self

Published on by Negate This #philosophy #personal


When I choose to sit down and write, it’s a drawn out choice, one that I deliberate on for days on end before finally sitting down and doing it. Of course, time constraints definitely play a part in drawing out this process, but the main point is the avoidance of myself. My desire to write comes from everything within myself wanting to get out after swirling around inside of there for how ever many weeks. It’s like an incubation process, or maybe calling it a fermentation process would be more appropriate. Regardless, writing is my “I” escaping into the world and being put onto the words on this page. Writing requires an awareness and submersion into the self in some ways.

So what happens when all you’d like to do is avoid yourself? I’m assuming it manifests as this writer’s block, or this procrastination from writing. Maybe that’s why the process of sitting down and just writing is so difficult. There does seem to exist a tension between myself and my self. We discussed this in my Existentialism lecture a couple of weeks ago, using an example of a broken phone.

When your phone breaks, you feel a sort of anxiety about the situation, almost lost as you have to figure out what do with your hands and how to position them, or how to stand in the room now that your situation does not include the use of a cell phone, or even where in the room you should be as you contend with the fact that your cell phone is fucked. Should you sit next to it trying to revive it? Or should you lay in bed and come to terms with its state. The producer of your anxiety, then, is not the broken phone, but the new awareness of your presence in the room, and ultimately the presence of yourself. You are with yourself in the room now, not with the phone.

This applies to writing as well. I am with myself now, and as much as I don’t want it to be, that’s a difficult process. I’ll sit here and judge myself, my past actions, my past mistakes, every single facet of my life comes under scrutiny as I apply some kind of moral analysis on it to decide whether today I should hate or love myself. It’s exhausting.

If we think about the “I” in terms of Heidegger or Sartre’s way of thinking, though, there is the ever-present “them” as well. The “dictatorship of the them”. The “them” is present when I judge “my past actions, my past mistakes” because those actions and mistakes are ones done toward “others.” It is not in a vacuum in which these actions are done, but rather they are done toward others, and I judge them based on the morality that the “them” has imposed. So further than just an awareness of myself that I gain as I write, I gain an awareness of the “them”. So am I avoiding myself, or am I avoiding contending with the criticism that may come as a result of the connections I form with you, the reader? And all the readers of this page.


A little less than a year ago, I was reading Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, and was taking notes as I wrote. I recently re-read these notes and I found a little snippet that stood out to me.

“I think back on my life and I think of myself as a bad person, but also I don’t. Whatever conclusion I come up with will be based on traditional ideas of morality and will just be self-serving.”

Back then, I realized that the tension I feel from worrying about what others think of me will only ever result in me making a decision of being “a good person” or “a bad person” based on whichever will affirm whatever view I want to have of myself at the time. I’m a good person when I want to say I am and a bad one when I want to say I am. It’s a useless evaluation of myself based on traditional ideas of morality that I’ve grown past, or want to grow past. Why should I feel bad and guilty about liking the DPRK, or the USSR, or Fidel Castro? About being brown, or short, or lame? About praising liberation movements that don’t adhere to Western standards? About being inequivocally me? Fuck that