The Struggle is Real

I want to write about Jason Palmeri’s Remixing Composition:A History of Multimodal Writing Pedagogy. I want to talk about how much I appreciate his project, his offering of an alternative history of multimodal composition. I want to tease out the ways in which this book helps my own work with rhetorical delivery, especially since a significant part of my own project is reframing delivery’s history within rhetorical theory/practice.

And yet, for the last 3 days or so, every time I try to sit down to do so, I can’t. It’s been a pretty rough week for me mentally/emotionally. My anxiety and depression flared up swiftly and (mostly) out of nowhere, and I’m having a hard time finding the motivation or energy or spark to create, specifically critical writing. I’m feeling comfortable and confident in my teaching right now, which thankfully is keeping me grounded through this current rough patch. I consider teaching a creative endeavor; since I tangibly see and feel the impact of that work immediately, it’s easy to find the motivation to do it. And thankfully, it’s rare that I cannot muster up the energy to read, since 1) I’m a compulsive reader (like, I’ll read the shampoo bottle in the shower)  and 2) reading, to me, doesn’t require the same type of energy, focus, and engagement as composing/creating does.

However, no matter what I do, when I try, how I try, I’m finding myself unable to compose. And this isn’t just affecting my scholarly/critical writing; I’m hitting a rough spot in my songwriting as well. As I said before, when my anxiety and depression act up at the same time, I often lose my ability to create. Sometimes I wonder if it’s a chicken/egg thing — which one comes first, the anxiety/depression or the loss of creativity? Whatever the relationship, it’s real, and I feel it very deeply. It’s almost an identity crisis — who am I, what am I worth, if I can’t do the thing I do best: create?

The musician part of me has been living with this for so long, I’ve learned to recognize that this is temporary; I will write again soon. And when it happens, I most likely won’t be able to stop for a while. That’s a pattern of mine; I hit a lull where the songs aren’t coming, and then out of nowhere I write 5, 6, 7 songs in an explosive burst. More importantly, I’ve learned that when I am in one of these lulls, I can still be connected to my art, my music, by simply playing. Grab my guitar, choose one of my bands, and run through the catalogue of songs; grab my guitar, play some covers, and figure out how to play a new song; grab my guitar, sit in front of some background tv (baseball, football, old wrestling PPVs, mindless reality shows, etc.), let my fingers and brain just wander for a little. You get the idea.

So that’s what I’m doing now. I’m grabbing my instrument, sitting in front of the Pittsburgh Steelers game, and letting my fingers and brain wander. I can’t write about Palmeri’s inviting, accessible, and useful reframing of multimodal writing pedagogy. Now right now. And I’m going to have to (learn to) be ok with that. I have to listen to and learn from my practice as a songwriter — this is simply a part of my own creative ebb and flow. I have to acknowledge that it’s ok to struggle with my work, my brain, my process, my emotions in my scholarship, which is difficult considering the high (obsessive) standards I (and my anxiety) set for myself. Instead of contributing to the feedback loop of anxiety, instead of forcing a creative act that doesn’t want to come, I’m going to stay connected to my art and practice through another (albeit less creative) avenue, even if that means simply reflecting on how my current struggle with anxiety and depression is effecting my scholarship.