writing, reading, & creativity pt. 1


I've been an avid reader and writer for as long as I can remember.  My mother can probably tell you when I wrote my first story, but I don't remember the exact day, because I don't (can't?) remember a day when I couldn't read or write.  I wrote short stories and poem throughout my teenage years, and to this day, my best poem is still the one I wrote for an early high school language arts assignment.

When I transitioned into college, I wrote differently.  I learned how to write academically, how to write to please the teachers, and how to craft my paper into a winningly persuasive argument.  Mechanics.  I remember my persuasive writing professor telling me over and over "how good" my writing was, but I only half-believed him.  I left creative writing alone, to tend to my grades.  For my British Lit class, I wrote a continuation for a play, and it received a better grade than my previous explications and analyses.  I began to wonder, Why have I neglected this kind of writing, this creative kinda stuff?

I continued writing for classes and professors, summarizing and exegeting and arguing and analyzing and outlining and sometimes pontificating.  Towards the end of my undergraduate studies, I began a blog, because I had thoughts I needed to process for myself.  It was mostly in the same vein as what I was writing for other people, and sometimes in the same voice and tone as theirs.  You can see for yourself if you brave my archives (n.b.: my current opinions are just those; they do not reflect what opinions I may or  may not have possessed several years ago).

I ventured on into graduate studies, writing in the same vein as before, only more intensely and more frequently.  I posted on my little blog infrequently, because writing for academics sucked what little ambition I had to update it.

It was then I rediscovered poetry writing, and I felt a sense of creative renewal. It was wonderful! How could I tap into the creativity I had as a child?

Confession: even though I wrote "for myself on my blog", I was actually writing for people.  I liked to pretend I had a grand audience, and I thrived on positive remarks.

I used to think that attending seminars, conferences, and workshops would help me write more, to help me tap into creativity, but I've had a gradual epiphany, lately, thanks to the crash course of Story 101Sarah Bessey (also here), and Lauren Dubinsky, and numerous tweets these past ten days that have more or less said the same thing.  Ever have one of those weeks when everything you read seemed to say the same thing?  Yeah, it was one of those.  And the message shouted at me was this one: DO NOT BE AFRAID.

I noticed, when my blog [I] took breaks, that these were my reigning thoughts: I'm not interesting enough.  I don't have any ideas [that anyone would like].  I'm not that good of a writer, after all.  Who even reads this, anyway?  People don't like deep thinkers.  People are lazy.  I'm lazy.  I'm tired.

I could easily convince myself to "take breaks", but in reality,  it was Fear holding me back.  I wanted to protect myself from criticism and rejection, the kind that my psyche interprets as a personal failing, a slap on the face of my identity .  That Fear  was accompanied by Pride.  That's the Pride that binges on the back-patting and acknowledgements of talent I only believe half-heartedly, even though it feels good to bask in the moment.

When I ponder what happened to my young creativity, I can't help but think it's Fear that's been growing larger and larger as I grow older.  Child-like trust and innocence? Not really.  As I learned what people could do, and how they hurt, my shades of Cynicism grew darker, and Fear and Pride held me close inside my warm shell.

Oh, laziness always peeks over my shoulder, but Fear and Pride are my constant companions.  And the only way to lose them is to do the opposite of what they tell me to do. So, I am doing just that.  I am writing.

I'm writing, because I can.  I'm writing, because this is the best way for me to tell any story, at all.  I'm writing, because I love words.  I'm writing, and as I write, I pry the fingers of Fear and Pride off my wrists, and find that creativity is not so far away, after all.