Friday, April 18, 2014

A Writer Writes

I remember telling my mom when I was about ten years old that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. I wanted to be lots of other things too, including an Academy Award-winning character actress, a famous ballroom dancer, a singer, and a preschool teacher. But I remember writing my first story before I turned five and on all my reports from elementary school my teachers would comment on my creative writing ability.

I wrote sometimes excruciating poetry and attempts at novels as a teenager. I had ideas all the time. I carried a notebook everywhere with me and I saved my best poems in a special notebook. I very rarely let anybody read anything because I would feel like I was going to pass out. If they liked it, I instantly felt like they were just being nice, and if they didn't like it, I was crushed.

When I was eighteen I got a job as a nanny and moved away from my parents' house. With that job and the maturity that came with being financially responsible for myself, I dropped everything creative I had once done. I stopped sewing, drawing, crafting of all kinds.

And I stopped writing. Everything I re-read seemed silly now, and I rolled my eyes at every overblown phrase, every Thesaurus-laden sentence. I even burned some of my old poems and stories because they were just so ... bad.

After a few years, I tried to take it back up and I found that my endless well of exciting ideas had dried up. I never had flashes of inspiration for stories or poems any more and when I tried the attempts were far worse than anything I'd ever written as a sentimental teenager. And that was it for me. I gave up. I had an old binder of stories and a notebook of poems that had survived and every once in awhile I would look them over and smile when I remembered what it felt like to write with the next lines popping into my head faster than I could write them down. Somehow I felt like the poems and stories I wrote that way weren't "mine", that since they were so effortless I couldn't claim any credit for them. Those were the few that I didn't mind showing people.

I told myself that if only I had "learned" to write "properly" I could maybe write a novel, or a book of short stories. Too bad that I'd missed out on that opportunity at a young age. Too bad.

In the last year or two I've been making changes and taking risks. Nothing as easy as bungee-jumping off the Grand Canyon, either. Oh, no. I've done things like freely admitting mistakes, and starting my own business, and making huge changes in the way I look at my life. And I've started writing again.

It started at first as little anecdotes about my little boy to post on Facebook. I found myself carefully writing the brief paragraphs and ruthlessly cutting out unnecessary phrases, selecting the word that perfectly communicated what I was trying to say. As a teenager, I would go through a sentence with the Thesaurus until it was unrecognizable and ponderous; as an adult I find great pleasure in communicating the same information in one sentence as I originally had in three.

This blog is a step toward boldness, for me. I'm not normally a shy person but the idea that I'm presenting my writing to a potentially vast audience is completely terrifying. I have eight unpublished blog posts and I'm sure I'll be adding to that collection too. But I'll keep writing. Because, as Billy Crystal said, "A writer writes." Whether or not anybody reads the words I write, the act alone brings me great enjoyment. And that makes it worthwhile.