I’ve always written to get something out. Whether it’s the journal I’ve kept for more than a decade, the stormy poetry I penned as an adolescent (and sometimes still do), or even this blog, writing for me has always been about what’s inside. It was therapy, a way to work through the thoughts and emotions that I couldn’t make sense of otherwise. I’d find myself coming to surprising conclusions by the end of a journal entry or a blog post, often things I hadn’t even thought of before I took pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. It would start off with a rant, a wailing of personal wrongs. Why doesn’t he like me? Why can’t I find a job I really like? School/my mother/my friends/my boyfriend/this guy/the weather is driving me crazy, I just want to scream! I’m in such a shitty mood and I don’t know why. I can’t think straight, I can’t get out of bed, I haven’t been to the gym in a month, what’s wrong with me? And as the words formed on the page, I’d delve deeper, realizing that I didn’t really want that guy as much as I thought, that I was looking in the wrong place for happiness, that things weren’t so bad, that I had the answer to my own complaints all along. Or maybe I’d discover nothing. Maybe I’d walk away with a lot of scribbling and no answers, but I felt better.
I never realized how much I relied on writing as an outlet until I tried to use it for a different purpose. Last November, I participated in NaNoWriMo, trying to write a full novel in a month. And while I managed to get pretty far into a story idea that’s been haunting me since high school, I didn’t finish it and still haven’t. And when I went back to edit and possibly finished it, I threw my hands up in frustration complaining that it was shit and I’d never be a “real” writer. How could people say I was a good writer (and plenty of people have said it in reference to other things I’ve written) when I produced this crap? Either they were lying, or I was only fit to write snarky, self-deprecating blog posts and academic papers. Since I figured my professors and random strangers wouldn’t lie just to flatter me (although my friends might), I accepted the second conclusion, buried the half-finished manuscript and went back to doing what I was good at. I racked up A’s in class, slobbered my random thoughts into a black Moleskin, and did my best to be coherent on this blog.
But like that story that refuses to die, the itch to write something else came back recently. Helping a friend slash his writing to bits to be built back up into something better, I felt the familiar pang of wanting to create. I wanted to craft something other than my usual self-centered rantings and academic arguments (though I am proud of my ability to make any point plausible regardless of whether I agree with it). I wanted to be a storyteller. So I timidly put fingers to keys and tried to conjure up the magic that others seemed to readily command. And I came up blank. Not simply blank, but blank and spitting mad. Why was this so hard? I could bang out a 700 word blog post in half an hour, a five page paper in two hours, a 500 word film review in an hour, a well-worded press release in forty-five minutes. Yet a short story was blood from the stone my brain had suddenly become. Not even a drop. Not even a beginning. Just sitting in front of a blank screen, praying for words to come, but nothing did.
Well, that’s not entirely true. Things did come…mostly a string of curses directed at myself. I made excuses, saying I had other things on my mind. I had to find a new job, Roo and I are starting a business together, I still have grad school plus my nine-to-five, this blog, a Meetup group I organize, and all the random things that go into trying to have a life. Writing could wait. But it kept nagging at me. Occasionally I’d even open a new Word document, tap out a couple words or sentences and give up in frustration, going back to focus on “important” things. Except writing is important to me. It’s something I’ve secretly wanted to do since I learned to read. That wasn’t just going to go away. Of course, I wish I could say that this revelation has led to a burst of creativity I’m struggling to contain, but it hasn’t. What I have though is something nearly as good: determination. All I need now is a bit of luck and a touch of inspiration.