December 19, 2011 § Leave a comment
Yay, finals are over! Back to blogging!
I am so glad I’m going to have more time to write now that I am on winter break. Now I can reintegrate my morning pages into my routine and work on some new pieces! Getting back into the swing of things after a considerable hiatus is always challenging. Often there’s something that keeps us from jumping right back in even though we know we love it, even though we know it makes us happy. That pesky something can keep us from writing for a few days, perhaps a week, or in my case, years.
When I was younger, I wrote constantly. I was always scribbling something, poems or short stories or sometimes entire manuscripts. As I got older my writing dwindled away, right around that awkward, painful adolescence period. I stopped writing regularly was when I was about 12 going on 13, alone and gawky and as confused as anyone on the verge of becoming a teenager. At the time it wasn’t a conscious decision; my mind simply wasn’t as free anymore. It was burdened by obsessive thoughts of not fitting in, my changing appearence, and finding out who I was. Pen didn’t connect as seamlessly to paper. Writing had always been natural to me, something I didn’t think about, something that just happened, something that had been praised by my teachers all throughout my academic life. And then suddenly, it was forgotten. What had long been my identity was lost. I went running full steam ahead down that path to nowhere, questioning my worth, my abilities, even my sanity. It would be awhile before I walked, tired and worn, back to where I was supposed to be.
I think these workless periods are a very important thing for writers to discuss. It’s not like you’re taking a vacation, a perfectly legitimate option for other professions. We write because it’s a passion. We write to understand ourselves in relation to the world outside. We write to understand others, to solve problems, or to never solve problems and just keep asking more questions. It might seem existential or over dramatic, but if you’re a writer, you know it’s all true. Taking a break from writing disconnects you from yourself. For me, that was most definitely the reason I stopped, though I didn’t realize it at the time. Simply put, I was afraid. I didn’t know who I was anymore. I was afraid to dig deep inside, afraid to look. Writing meant facing the changing person within, and I couldn’t do it. I’m not going to call it cowardly; I’ll call it human. If I had actually sat myself down and forced myself to write, maybe things would have made more sense. Maybe they wouldn’t. Either way, it can’t be denied that I ran away.
No matter what reason we come up with, disregarding our art can always be traced back to one culprit: ourselves. As I’ve said before, writing is an intensely personal activity. You write down in your own words what you believe, what you wish was, the joys and pitfalls of the human experience and then in many instances, showcase it to the world. That requires quite some courage, so it’s only natural that we sometimes tend to back away from the challenge. Fear of failure is ultimately the fear of self-hate (I can’t take credit for that, I read it somewhere). We aren’t really worried what people will think; we are worried how what they think will shape the way we think of ourselves. I am well-aquainted with fear. I grapple with it in many areas of my life and in every instance in which it has won, I have paid the price. Fear suffocates writing. Don’t let it. Writing is your voice. Breathe. Be heard.
I know it may seem scary/ borderline terrifying, but you need to sit your butt down and write, write, write. “Morning pages”, writing three page stream of consciousness in the mornings, is a good way of getting past your inner critic. Don’t freak out over sentence flow or word choice. Just keep writing. Who cares if it’s a piece of crap? This isn’t going to be Pulitzer Prize stuff. This is for you. Write about how you feel like you can’t write. Unleash all that pent-up frustration on the page. It’s been said before, but some of the greatest stuff is borne out of pain. I find that often it’s not just the pain-it’s the frustration of pain not going away. Use it. I promise you your gift hasn’t gone away. It’s still there, but talent is nothing if you don’t pick up the pen.
I believe in you. Go do what you were meant to do.
December 1, 2011 § Leave a comment
All my life I feel as if I have been pushed to describe how I feel. As a child I spent three years in a hospital after a toxic exposure, experiencing multiple symptoms from chest pains to sinus infections to seizures that doctors had difficulty figuring out. While I made a full recovery, my environmental sensitivities have persisted. Whenever my symptoms start to interfere with daily life, I’m back with the doctors, watching them scratch their heads and peer into my face and ask, “So, could you explain to me again how it feels?”
In mental recovery as well, I had a hard time describing my emotions. I regarded a lot of my feelings as scary, things I could hardly understand myself, never mind put into words for somebody else. I’ve found that writing can help. Here is an example of an emotion piece.
When all the world pushes itself together, into a massive and mighty chain, strong and united and utterly indestructible. And there you are, but you might as well not really be standing there at all. You’re substance, but are you? This powerful force, this chain, is certainly more real than you. It is undeniably present. But you? What is there to prove that you are really standing there or two feet, swaying, the colors blurring into one, the heat rising in your face, your heart hammering in order to make itself known, screaming that it exists, fighting against the cage of your weak and pathetic body? You move against the chain, one foot in front of the other, but you’re stuck. The colors, still blurred, change in shade, from blues to reds. The wind is practically bursting your eardrums, infesting your brain with bugs of terror, that breed, multiply, hijack. You continue to try to move, but your limbs are growing heavier. The blood in your veins is turning to lead. But still your heart is screaming. It beats faster against its prison, throwing itself in the walls, rolling around your ribcage and throwing a fit. It is here. It is here. It is here. A small part of your brain, still free, hears the din from below. I am here, it thinks.
I am here.
Your mouth moves.
“I am here.”
The chain is utterly surprised. It recoils. It senses strength. It binds itself tighter together, suffocating itself, turning inward. It lashes out at you, and you fall, bleeding. But it doesn’t matter, because your brain is still firing and your mouth is still moving and your heart is jumping and running and pulsating and screaming louder than the wind, louder than the colors, louder than the ugly chain.
And now the chain is falling apart, and people, real people, are falling out, gasping for breath. They are certainly real. They are flesh and blood, but much more than that too. That is for certain. The chain does not exist. This startling thought runs through the group. It never existed in the first place. It was an invention. The reality is this: they are people, lying, seemingly beaten, on a hard, solid foundation. They are gasping for breath like fish thrown unexpectedly onto land. And their hearts are hammering, announcing their presence to one another, making themselves known.
December 1, 2011 § Leave a comment
A man is walking down the street, his lips twitching as he makes eye contact with others. It is by no means a smile, but at least a polite twitch, showing that he knows the rules, that strangers on the street should acknowledge that there are other strangers on the street going places and doing things and thinking thoughts. He is wearing a very nice beige suit, well pressed. It is a bit tight on his elbows and this seems to be a nagging annoyance to him and he shakes his arm as he walks, his Rolex bouncing along on his wrist. His brief case is worn, and yellow papers stick out at all ends, covered with deep blue ink. He notices me on the bench; the lips twitch. I smile widely and this throws him and he glances back in surprise, wondering who the girl on the bench is with the red hair. In a second though, he has forgotten-damn this suit, and the arm wiggles.
Then comes the woman, dressed in her Sunday best and smiling widely at everyone she sees. Her teeth are bright white and the people that pass her nearly cover their eyes or pull sunglasses out of their small purses. A blue flower, sparkling with sequins, blossoms in her hair. The dress is of the same shade but flows like water, rippling over her large stomach and tickling the knees of anyone who passes too close. She stands firmly in the middle of the sidewalk, a force of nature and the people keep walking, keep moving, keep thinking, and she is just a woman in blue with a flower in her hair…
A girl stumbles on the sidewalk and her white white skin becomes red red. She’s a pretty girl, young and fresh. Her hair is brown and silky and shiny, coiled tight in a bun. She frets for a minute, bracelets jangling as her hands reach up and claw at the strands of lovely hair, pulling and tearing until the tie comes free and the hair streams down, covering up the red of her cheeks. She glances around, looking like so many lost and pretty girls, looking, I suppose, to see if anyone noticed that trip, that carelessness, that moment when vigilance stole away from her. Her eyes meet mine, girl with red hair, just sitting on the bench, and her eyes surprise me. They are big and wide and child’s eyes, and they seem sorry, sorry for everything, sorry they’ve wronged me, sorry that nothing has worked out as planned. I feel as if she has swallowed me whole in them, but I am not trapped. Rather, I am free. She has freed me, she has seen me, she has seen.. .And then she is darting away, and I am girl with red hair on a bench, and I hear her bracelets jangling but no longer can I see the eyes, and without the eyes she may never have been here at all…
There is a girl with red hair sitting on the bench. Her hair is curly, a careless curliness. It bounces around in the breeze, skimming her shoulders, tracing the outline of her chin. It seems to entertain itself, fluttering around in the breeze, rubbing against her reddened cheeks, a child desperate for play. But the girl is too busy for that sort of nonsense. She is quite busy existing on the bench. She has to focus on breathing, for starts, and seeing too, and then really seeing, which requires much more concentrated effort. A man on his way to work sees her smiling at him, leg bouncing up and down, shoe dangling dangerously from her toes. A woman in blue walking to a church meeting spots the girl on the bench smoothing her skirt and tossing her hair, pulling at the curls, toss, pull. The woman looks away and back again and sees the girl furiously writing in a notebook, and then stops, seemingly distracted by the blue of her dress. And now the pen is off again. The woman smiles, remembering when she was young and spent her Friday mornings sitting on benches and writing in books. A long time ago, though, she thinks to herself as the wind ripples her dress. A young girl is late to class, busy with thoughts about that boy she likes and the parents she misses and the schoolwork she has yet to do. Tears start in her eyes as she pushes down the street, as if working against an unseeable force, and her breath comes in sharp, painful jabs. Her eyes dart along the people on the street, the buildings, the trees, but she sees none of it, she sees the boy and the parents and the schoolwork and her tears…and a girl on a bench. With red hair. Red curly hair. The girl is sitting and watching and her hair is down and she looks quite pretty. Her curls flutter in the wind and…and the girl trips over a brick jutting out of the walk and her face flushes and the boy and the parents and school all rush back and she pulls down her hair to hide the tears. She waits for them to come, concealed behind her wall, seeing nothing anymore. Yet they do not. They will not. Her heart beats. The painful stab of breath reminds her that she is here, standing on a sidewalk in a city far from home. She opens her eyes and sees the girl, the girl with red hair, the girl sitting on the bench, looking right at her. And the girl’s eyes surprise her. They are big and wide and child’s eyes, and they seem sorry, sorry for everything, sorry they’ve wronged her, sorry that nothing has worked out as planned. And then the young girl moves, she walks down the street, she does not look back.
And I am a girl with red hair watching the people go by and I stand up and walk with them, walk with the people, the people on the street.