The longtime writer
November 26, 2011 § 2 Comments
Yay! First blog post!
I’ll admit, I’m a blogging newbie. It feels a bit shameful. But everyone’s a beginner at one point or another, right?
Blogging has been a bit of an abstract concept in my life. I’ve supposedly grown up in a generation bursting at the seams with technological exposure and expertise, and true, I’m addicted to my Facebook and haunt my favorite celebrities’ twitter accounts. In reality, though, I get a bit lost in the sea of iPhones and Macbooks. I even shy away from the latest digital cameras. As a nineteen year old college student, you would think I’d be quite the conessuier.
But I’ve always written. And that’s the point of this blog. At least, for now. I don’t doubt that blogs have a tendency to evolve and change. But for the now, the purpose is my purpose as a writer. In this first entry, I’ll give you a little insight into where my legacy begins.
When I was a little girl I developed a fondness, indeed a love, for the swing in my backyard. I can’t tell you when it exactly began, but at some point I started telling stories to myself (and to whatever suburban animal life might have been listening in) every day on that swing. I can hardly remember what stories I told. Whenever my little sister came out to play, she would sit on the two-person wooden horse swing and stare out into the woods behind our blue cape house. Sometimes she’d be intently listening to the saga of the group of friends who embarked on a daring mission to rescue their beloved dog from the evil pound owners. Other times she would beg me to shut up and play with her instead of acting like a crazy person, dragging my feet into the well-worn hole in the mulch and mumbling nonsense to myself. Rain or shine, I’d be out on that swing. I’d throw my backpack inside the door after school, quickly shout my arrival, and then race to the backyard. My parents accepted it as a lovable eccentricity, though my mother did mention it with some concern at a few doctor’s appointments. In the wintertime after my Dad shoveled out the driveway, he made his way to the swingset and dug out enough space for my feet beneath my swing. Every single day I went out there. I spent hours babbling about characters and adventures and happy endings, never pausing to brainstorm or think of the next twist in the plot. The stories seemed to flow naturally from brain to mouth to world. When my Mom started to fret during a particularly windy fall that a branch would fall and strike my dead, I decided to relocate my creative space for the time being to the bathroom. Mom’s new concern was that I was experiencing constant stomachaches.
I started to write my stories down on paper, persuaded by my grandmother who also had a knack for storytelling. The problem seemed to be that my ideas came so fast and my pencil went so slow. I loved creative assignments in school, though. While my friends groaned and dragged their feet at the news of a writing assignment, my heart would start to race and I’d itch to start right away. In my second grade letter to my high school self, the very first sentence read: “My name is Kellianne and when I grow up I’m going to be an author.” (The word author in the original document, it should be noted, was not spelled correctly.) In my early schooling years, I pursued this goal with determination and passion. Page limits became laughably irrelevant. One school year I wrote a 50 page manuscript about a young wealthy girl who survives the Titanic. Unloved by her parents, the girl finds comfort in her nanny, Diana. As she grows up, however, she begins to shun the one woman who has cared for her as she starts to follow in her parents’ snooty first class footsteps. In the end, her parents heartlessly abandon her and assume she has gone down with the ship. Diana adopts the now changed girl (her name escapes me now) who recognizes that worth is not designated by social class. In the fifth grade, my teacher offered to work with me to publish a story I had written about two starkly different girls who wind up out at sea in a old boat and through a series of wild events discover a treasure chest. The discovery restores honor to the town’s namesake Captain Pete (I think the town’s name was Peter’s Peril, but don’t quote me on that one) who lost it long ago. I never followed through with the publishing plans, though. It excited me to see that my teachers were proud of my ability, but I just liked to write. So I turned down the sixth grade teacher too, who insisted I submit a short story about my grandfather’s magical clock to Chicken Soup for the Soul, and just kept writing. On a long car ride to the Cape, I filled an entire pad of sticky note shopping lists my Mom kept on the refrigerator with a story whose details I can no longer remember. Story telling on my swing remained my prime creative activity, but writing was also very much in the picture.
In middle school and high school, my stories dwindled, though by no means did they disappear. Creative assignments were gone from the curriculum. Apparently such work was only acceptable at the lower rungs of education. Analytical papers on Moby Dick and Great Expectations served as the replacement. I excelled at English courses in high school as I had done in the years before. If a survey asked me what my interests were, my first response was still writing. Struck by creative genius, I would randomly hole myself up in my room on Tuesday nights and write a story, ignoring my mother’s calls to unload the dishwasher for as long as I could. For a while, however, my writing remained sporadic and neglected. College applications and high school theatre and friends and dating took center stage. At family dinners relatives would occasionally joke about the days of the swing and I’d blush in embarrassment. I watched at the start of my senior year as Dad took down the beloved swing, tossing it and a bunch of rotting wood that had once been monkey bars into the dumpster. For my college essay, I chose the swing as my focus, reflecting on my transition from childhood to adulthood. I was surprised at the heavy sadness I felt as I wrote. As I typed, I reminisced about the happy child I had been, how optimistic and passionate, filled to the brim with dreams for my future. Somewhere along the way I had become a hopelessly confused teenage girl, lonely and often depressed, terrified of my future instead of planning it with joy. Attached to all these feelings was writing. Why had I stopped writing? Could I even still? I anxiously wrote a paragraph about a run-down playground coated in ash and graffeti to see if the spark was still there, the talent. I was satisfied that even though I was rusty, that inner writer and all she represented was still alive. I resolved to write.
The second semester of my senior year, I took creative writing as an elective and for the first time in a long time, I wrote. I really wrote. And it came, it came easily, just as before. Though skeptical of hindering my own process with the conventions set forth by my teacher, I adopted a few of her techniques. I filled out character questionnaires and fell in love. The questions sparked a million responses in my head and I could see the person developing in front of me. I started to really love my characters. They were real and felt real emotions and thought real thoughts and I respected them, I promised them I would give them a story. First came Cassandra, a closed off New York woman who had not accepted her husband’s suicide. In her father’s funeral at the close of the story, she comes to grip not only with the death of her husband, but the death of her former self. There was Marissa, a ten year old repeating the day she drowned over and over again. That one was interesting. I had never written from such a young perspective or even in such an absurd situation, and it gave me room to experiment. I wrote long, dreamy sentences that (I liked to think) resembled the ebb and flow of ocean waves. I described her as light and airy, as both there and not, soft and quiet like the ocean on a calm day. I tried my hand at playwriting with a series of scenes about a dysfunctional couple who hate and in many different ways violate and hurt each other, and yet are stuck in place. The piece was called Trash and took place around an overflowing trash can that is referenced in almost every scene but is never taken out. In that class I felt awakened again; nothing can quite describe that rush when that something inside you goes, There it is! Your thing! Your special thing you’re meant to do! It’s right there! Don’t forget it!
My freshman year at college separated me from my writing again (funny how we humans wander off our unique path so many times) when I essentially suffered a nervous breakdown. The new environment and radical change of college life triggered the host of repressed feelings I had hid since I was 12, and my depression and anxiety sprang to the surface. I took the rest of my fall semester off and went to therapy. I say this with complete conviction: nothing introduces you more to your true self than a complete breakdown. I was stripped bare, and all that was left was the pounding beat of my soul. Yes, I felt horribly alone, but for the first time I was forced to see myself, to not be afraid of who I was. For my whole life I had been like a child in the dark, eyes shut tight against the perceived danger of it all, and my breaking point wrenched those eyes open. I saw it all, and I survived.
During those dark times, I resorted to methods of dealing with my pain that did nothing but stall my healing process. I replayed my thoughts, I got angry, then sad, then angry again. I yelled or I cried. And then finally in therapy, I wrote. In the midst of my depression, I had forgotten everything. All was wiped from my mind, everything but the pain. During my recovery I had to write a daily note about how I felt, what thoughts I had, even what I was eating. Just a couple of bullet points, and that’s what I did. I didn’t want to do anymore. But having that notebook, having that…assignment, something in me stirred again. Something whispered deep within, and it was drowned out by the screaming torrent of my mind, but it was still there. It still whispered.
As I shakily got to my feet a few months later (I returned to school in the spring, though still very much in a delicate place), my writing increased. I kept tabs on how I was doing, as I had at the start, but now I was writing three pages every morning. I was writing stream of consciousness, whatever happened to be drifting in and out of my mind’s focus, and it was liberating. I woke up with a heavy heart, and the second my mind shifted to awake mode all the feelings and thoughts came slamming down on my chest like a rock. But I got up and I wrote, wrote hardly without thinking, until I had filled three pages. And every morning the rock slammed down. But every morning I wrote the three pages. And so it continued, until the rock did not necessairily disappear entirely, but something now stood like a barricade between us, something cushioned the blow. Whenever an urge or an ugly thought arose, instead of letting it twist at my heart and breed fear in my stomach, I grabbed my notebook and I wrote. Sometimes I just wrote about what I felt. Other times I’d write positive thoughts. Still other times I’d write out plans of action. What I was writing was significant, but looking back, the writing itself was what was truly important. Writing was and is very much my identity, and by writing, I was making myself known again. I was regaining and reshaping my sense of self. I was saying, I’m still here.
Now in my sophomore year of college, writing is at the top of my agenda. I spend a lot of my time rehearsing for plays in student theatre, tutoring fellow students in the Writing Center, reading endless scholarly articles on the Columbian Exchange, memorizing biology facts for GenEd requirements and, let’s be honest, partying on the weekends. But nearly every day I write. I write something. I write because I want to. I write because I love to. I write because I need to. I write because it’s who I am.
So this blog is a continuation of my development as a writer. In this forum I hope to develop my ability, receive feedback and engage in discussion about anything and everything regarding the art of writing. I will say (via the internet) that I am happy to meet my fellow bloggers and cannot wait to see where this will lead!