Lately, There Have Been No Essays
July 23, 2018 § 9 Comments
By Chelsey Clammer
Lately, I’ve been writing sentences that begin or end with “lately.” (Now with both, apparently.) Perhaps it’s my way of welcoming the reader to my words, to my present-day life, like I’m giving her a status update. Though the number of people who have read these “lately” essays is roughly zero because I have yet to finish any of them.
Lately, I’ve had a hard time final-drafting my essays. I got close to finishing “June Bugs” (opening line: “I’ve been talking to June bugs lately.”), but then I ran into the problem of elocution. Within “June Bugs” is an entire narrative thread that discusses my relationship with my ex-husband by using the word “elocution” to define how we can’t resist one another, even post-divorce. But as I worked on what I thought was a close-to-final draft, I found out that I had the definition of “elocution” all wrong. This, of course, relocated my essay’s meaning from the land of This Is Brilliant to the wasteland of FML This No Longer Makes Sense.
I first came across “elocution” when it was Dictionary.com’s word of the day—a nifty notification I receive on my phone through the company’s app. This ensures that I learn a new word every morning, 8 am. When I first read elocution’s definition, I thought it was a term that meant being able to speak in a controlled and elegant way—something that doesn’t happen when I’m around my ex-husband/current boyfriend. (Yes, we’re dating because that’s just how we roll. Also, interesting side note: the morning after our first sex-rendezvous, that day’s word of the day was elocution). So I wrote a whole essay about love and how when I feel the rush of a crush brewing into something more, that mutual desire sizzling into something else, I lose my sense of elocution. That is, there isn’t anything controlled or elegant about the ways in which I love. Elocution’s actual definition, though, is that it’s simply the way in which a person controls/delivers her own speaking patterns—elegance isn’t necessarily a part of this.
Lately, especially during that last paragraph, I’ve been wondering if this essay is interesting to people who aren’t me.
I’ve also been wondering that if I were to actually finish this essay, would the reader make it to its last sentence. This is about interest. About how I’m still interested in dating my ex-husband, regardless.
I have come to realize that finishing these essays has been difficult for me because I’m writing stories I haven’t yet finished living. That is, I start essays about my narcissistic ex-husband and how terrible he was and how invisible, disrespected, and abandoned I felt in our marriage and then, during mid-essay-revisions, he and I hook up in real life and I lose my sense of elocution around him and so then my essay no longer feels totally true or fair because I guess I have my own zest of narcissism (I am, after all, an essayist), so of course I have to do revisions and explore how our marriage always felt like a battle, like we were forever competing for the top position on the priorities totem pole, and how we were both victims of disrespect. Revisions then begin to feel overwhelming, like a solid run-on sentence.
Though lately, my ex-husband has been pissing me off because he’s a self-involved ass-hat who said he has better things to do than listen to me bitch about frustrating things like roundabouts and essays that are based off of incorrect definitions. Also, when I tell him that I can tell that he’s not listening to me, he then mocks me because that’s helpful, and I’m back into that invisible space, and back to revising the essay I just revised because my ex-husband is a narcissist and terrible, and I, of course, have nothing to do with that.
Lately, things keep changing.
Or maybe things aren’t changing but I’m just questioning the true definitions and descriptions of my life’s main relationship.
Though I do have a few lines stuck in my head that stand true, regardless:
“I’ve been talking to June bugs lately.”
“I lose my sense of elocution when I’m around him.”
Re: “_________, regardless.”
How I’ve been ending sentences with the word “regardless” because to me it sounds like that one word holds a lot of complex narrative power, regardless. Like how our love for one another is powerful and super-complex, regardless.
How I begin sentences with “lately” and am now starting to end them with “regardless.” How these are my writing patterns. How I also begin sentences with “how” if “lately” is not already in that sentence’s lead-off position. How I’ve witnessed other writers begin their sentences with “How.” How I don’t know if this irritates me or not.
Lately, as I’ve been writing this essay, I have been considering the structure of my sentences and therefore wondering about redundancy. Time and again, same thing over and over. Like all of those “lately”s. Like all those attempts to date my ex-husband.
Though I guess repetitive sentence structure is better than no sentence structure because lately I have had a hard time with not only finishing essays, but with getting past that first sentence, too. It has something to do with performance anxiety or maybe just the innate knowledge that I’ll never finish writing the essay because I won’t be done living the story for a while. Things change. Flux. Ex-husbands become boyfriends. That said, I did get myself to begin this current essay. I think it’s all about that first “lately.” How my repetitive sentence structure is my fallback when I don’t know what else to write and maybe that’s okay, like how we always return to love, regardless. At least right now I’m writing, which is perhaps only because I know that my relationship with my ex-husband can’t mess up this essay because I am now writing an essay that knows how to exist without him.
I’ve been using the word “finally” as its own sentence lately because I need to convince myself that one day, when I write an essay about my ex-husband, that last “finally” will remain fact. How our relationship will have to eventually come to a conclusion, for better or for worse, together or apart. Either way, there will be a “finally.”
Lately, I have stopped wondering about why I begin my sentences with “lately,” and have instead been wondering about how things will end. How it is that I know I’ll eventually have to reach that final “finally” in both word and meaning, regardless.
Chelsey Clammer is the author of BodyHome, and won the Inaugural Red Hen Press Nonfiction Manuscript Award for her essay collection, Circadian. Her work has appeared in The Rumpus, Essay Daily, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Hobart, The Normal School and Black Warrior Review. She teaches online writing classes with WOW! Women On Writing.