Monday, April 29, 2013

...How Writing Can Quench Your Soul...

I do not believe many, if any, of you know this, but, I absolutely HATE writing. It is one of the most soul twisting, heart crushing, and convicting things I do when the need arises. And let me tell you what this need feels like: words may spill from my pores, glands, and finger tips, leaving me with the appearance of an Ebola victim if I do not put pen to paper or hands to keys. It is the complete opposite of what my promise ring signifies--it cannot be repressed, held in check, or subjected to self-control.

There is one definitive reason why not writing may, in fact, concave my chest: I was born to do it.

There. I said it. I have readily admitted it. As much as I despise the agony writing puts me in, because it forces me to confront things about myself that I never told counselors for my three years in Colorado. It puts my strengths and heroic flaws all out on the table. It demonstrates how humans experience the Seven Deadly Sins, although I believe there to be many more. My written words can tell you my feelings, my thoughts, my horrors and nightmares, my dreams, my longings, my wounds, my assaults, my struggles, my failures, my triumphs...

I suppose that sounds odd, hearing a writer say how much they hate writing. It is strange to hear a writer that purely enjoys it and writes from that. I do not believe those writers exist anymore, and if they do, they will not for long. Writers like that do not write things that publish. Writers like that write things that only friends and family read and that is rarely the goal of a writer. Writers are tortured individuals. Pull any book you can think of off the shelf and I will tell you what the writer has experienced of piece of in their life: it's all in the words they pressed to the page.

J.K. Rowling says it all the time.

Professors of writing say it all the time.

No wonder editors drink when they read the things we submit.

I am not suggesting that writers, however, are joyless people, because we are not. Our gift, and our curse, is that we feel things deeper than most people do. We have the ability, by talent and extensive refining, to take those circumstances and make you feel them too. If I write from a place of despair, you will be in it with me--I've done it before. If it is a place of hope, you will root for me.

Writers understand what C.S. Lewis meant by the "weight of glory." He may have been addressing believers, but only writers understand the imperative in his word choice. Now, I am not a seasoned athlete. Yes, I did basketball and soccer when I was younger and flirted with the idea of volleyball in middle school, but those quickly evaporated. I started running in college. Here is what I mean: I run because I love it, but also because I hate it. I hate how I feel when I am not running, which has been months now. I am on a low, stagnant. And then I run. I also lack discipline, which I am struggling towards gaining more of each day, but training takes discipline. Your body takes discipline, not punishment. "Weight" is innately heavy, usually a multiple person job, yet Atlas held the Heavens ("Glory") on his back, not out of discipline because he thought bench-pressing Heaven was good training, but out of punishment. He alone. And "Glory." Our light, our goodness, all mixed in with our failures and their shadows. Glory encompasses all of that. How much do you believe you weigh now? How much do you think the person next to you weighs? Would it be easier if you helped them and they helped you? And a third person helped you two in return? And a fourth? Weight of Glory. Powerful words, but could you just believe that? It is hard to do--doubt is part of our weight.

I opened with how much I hate writing. Yet, I followed by saying if I did not write, I may spontaneously combust. Somehow, I have managed to not do that for two and a half years. That is how long I have hated writing and refused to write.

You have to understand: I grew up writing. Evergreen, Colorado, grade school. Pages and pages of spare paper gone each day because I was concocting this great epic that unfolded in Elk Meadow behind my house. It involved wild horses. At eight years old, they are the most important. In middle school, I had binders full of story ideas and began the layout of my first novel. I have rewritten the first 150 pages seven times since then. It may never be finished.

As a high school freshman, we had to write a story about moving west. My group helped me brainstorm, outline, plot, and provided character names. I spent two days in my room generating a fourteen page masterpiece that was turned in on Monday. My senior year, I took three english classes and wrote a twenty-two page short story involving the origins of werewolves in Minnesota from their "Weird" states book. In college, I rolled in declared as an English Literature major with an emphasis in Creative Writing. A novel was in my future.

Sophomore year, writing crushed my heart and shattered my soul. I poured out every piece of myself into all short story, poem, and nonfiction prompts handed my way. My professor told me she believed I had been told my entire life that I was a good writer. Yes, it is true. People have said that about me my whole life.

Well, she said, it is time that stopped because you have a lot to learn.

Insert knife into my aorta and twist. I bled to death that fall semester. By December, I had submitted for a change of major to history and have not looked back, until now, this year.

Every once and a while I will hear a story of a writer that burned out. The longer they wrote, the less profound they became. The more dry they became. It was clear they should probably stop writing for a time. Renew. Refresh. Restart. Writers cannot just stop.

But that is exactly what I did. I stopped writing. I stopped taking literature classes. Every time I thought about writing, I panicked. No story ideas came to me. No new characters names that I could spend hours mapping--ask my father's secretaries, I spent a whole afternoon with post-it notes creating a world and its operational government on one of their empty walls as a high school junior. Everything about it stopped. It was then I believed the greatest lie: I have nothing left to say. That was how I felt. I believed I had said everything there was to say and I was a desert now. No life, just prickly fauna.

Until one year ago, I took my final writing class at my Christian college: Christian Writers. Until last semester when I signed up for Travel Writing because I had room in my schedule. Until three weeks ago, when I would ordinarily find something humorous or convicting I had learned once every few months to share, but now, I have stories pouring from me because of things that had happened at my best friend's wedding.

I can tell you about dialogue surrounding a steamer. I can express the importance of birth control pills and the effect their loss poses to a honeymoon. I am still trying to find a better way to say that I met a man that is 6'8" but have yet to formulate that one.

A lot has changed since I wrote about my conversation with the military recruiter. I have decided it would take a miracle for me to accept an offer from any branch of service. I have decided within the last week that a history Masters is probably not in my future. I have admitted that I am a writer and by putting fingers to keys have declared myself liberated from the poison that shattered me two and a half years ago. I am telling you that I am going to get my Master's in English Writing: Book Publishing and I will run over you with my father's Corvette if you try to stop me. I am writing to say that as I have journaled sporadically over the past year, even in the past six months, my view has shifted.

 I have struggled with being single because a lot of my friends are not. But my friend's wedding taught me that I cannot be self-conscious about being single because you cannot be free with others if you are trapped in yourself and worried about what a smile here or a wink there means.

I have learned that imprisoning yourself within other people's expectations or limitations of your abilities will slowly strangle you into sacrificing the truest pieces of yourself. Yes, I love history, but I know it was not what I was meant to do. Yes, I love Rome and Latin, but I love Literature and Writing and what words produce and I can no longer trade on that.

I understand what it means to be attacked, to be judged, because I have both attacked and judged others. I know intimately the details of being a hypocrite. I believe in beautiful sights and scenes and believe there are two ways to get there: writing and photography.

Quintessentially, I have regained my childhood. Yes, as much as I say I hate writing, there is something that has not changed, my LOVE of the written word and languages and how no matter where we are from photographs, writing, and music, they all convey the same emotions across unimaginable barriers.

Eugene Delacroix once expressed this simply, "What moves those of genius, what inspires their work, is not new ideas, but their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is still not enough."

For the past two years I thought I had said enough. That my soul had uttered its last written syllable. But the amazing thing is, regardless of whether you believe you possess a talent or a divinely inspired gift, as I do, a soul that writes will mend itself. It may take two years or twenty years and it may take you months of stilted structure and frustrating typos to regain momentum, but your soul will mend itself and in the process you will learn to forgive those who inflicted wounds on you. Writing will be the way you cope, how you express your anger and distrust, how you express your love for your family or that one person.

Words can be a grand gesture. You just have to take the initiative.

And sometimes remembering the eight year old little girl, the one in the pink stripe shirt you swear you would never be caught dead in now. Perhaps remembering her, with her back pressed against a glass aquarium pane, her messy curls spilling over her shoulders, and seeing a tuxedoed whale swimming behind her, a goofy grin plastered all over her face--seeing her and believing that as she stands separated mere inches from one of her inspirations growing up--that she knew, even then, that words and not the water were where she belonged.