I stand at the edge with my toes curling over the side. What lies beneath is the deep end of the pool. I have no idea what is hiding under the murky water. I don’t know if I will be able to pop back up to the surface and stay afloat. All of the uncertain unknowns will not keep me from jumping though. This is what I need to do.
I am a writer.
Never, in my wildest dreams, did I think I would pound out that sentence. I am a writer and this new blog is the beginning. I’m leaping into this whole writing adventure, hoping and praying I won’t belly flop then sink to the bottom. Even if that happens, I will be devastated, but still proud. Proud that I actually jumped.
It was an unusual road getting to this point. I have absolutely no official credentials to back myself up. Nothing on my diploma or resume screams writer. In school, at all levels, I hated the writing portion of every class I took. Granted, I inhaled every book they assigned. I consumed writing like it was air but I never produced anything of value. I always turned in the bare minimum after procrastinating the assignment for as long as possible. Just looking at a sylabus that outlined some sort of essay or research paper made me want to pull a warm blanket over my head. I took a multitude of avoidance naps in college. Essay tests gave me cold sweats. I would take a million multiple choice or fill in the blanks anyday. I could memorize facts like a champ, but put a blank piece of paper in front of me? No way. Not going to happen. Writing was so open ended, so ambiguous. It scared me.
I hated performing in that way. Writing was not a good assessment of my knowledge and critical thought. Well, maybe it was, I was just aprehensive of where it would take me. I knew it would force me to dig deeper and think harder. It dared to ask for more than a regurgitation of facts. There was interpretation and hidden meanings to uncover then explanations and logical supporting details to relay. It was so much extra work and even though I was a good student, I avoided it where I could.
There was a time I tried to improve my habits. A history professor offered an opportunity to turn in a draft ahead of the due date, for anyone to get helpful feedback for the final product. I decided to take her up on that generous offer. I was fascinated by the content of the class. The colonization of Central and South America was extremely interesting, but I knew my writing skills were sub-par. I held my responsible, over-achieving head high as I turned in that rough draft.
After a week, she passed the handful of copies back to the few students who were actually serious about the class. I quickly flipped through my copy, expecting to see a few helpful changes and an overarching, “Great Work!” Instead, I saw a sea of violent, red scratches on every. single. page. Everything but my supporting quotes were crossed out. The “feedback” on each page was simply, “No,” or an even more helpful, “NO!!” I was crushed. I went home to my dorm and called my dad. I sat in a puddle of tears while he consoled me and gave me the great advice of seeking additional feedback during this mean lady’s office hours.
Looking back on the situation, I see a few faults. From a teacher’s perspective, it was lazy on the professor’s part and the unused art of constructive critisism could have gone a long way. There wasn’t even a, “See me later. We’ll talk more about how to improve this disaster.” I knew writing wasn’t my area of expertise, but this, this was a new low.
Later, I calmed down and met with the prof. It turns out, she didn’t like my thesis and didn’t really care that I had even attempted to support an idea that she disagreed with. I ended up having to rewrite the whole paper the way she saw fit. By spelling out her own interpretation of the colonization of Latin America, rather than interjecting my own findings and opinions, I pulled a C out of that paper.
This is why I never liked writing in school. I always had to write for someone else. I had to make sure I covered certain points or write a certain way. I had to make the grade and please my only reader. It never felt creative and the beauty was always elusive.
Blogging has been different. I get to chose content and style. I get to write whatever the hell I want. Basically, there’s nobody here telling me what to do and if you know me, that’s a big plus.
I also get to interact with the readers. The me-too’s are so comforting and we get to discuss some real life things. Even if we aren’t all in the same life situation or hold the same beliefs, I love the community and connection that blogs can create. I always want this blog to feel warm and whisper, “Welcome home. You don’t have to pretend here. We all know life is good and hard, let’s figure it out together.”
I’ve heard many writers say they knew they wanted, or rather needed, to write because if they didn’t get the words down on paper, they would go crazy, or explode, or die, etc. I’m not like that. As you can see, I’m quite the opposite. I’ve always had an aversion to writing. I would break out in a cold sweat if someone even suggested personal journalling.
I’m not sure why it took me so long to figure out, but for me, writing is a tangible way to process thought. Most of the time I don’t have clear thoughts in my mind. I just feel all the feelings, then react. It’s not until after the hurt is spread that I can put labels on my thoughts and feelings. Obviously, I know this is not a positive mode of operation. I have so much swirling around in my brain, there just aren’t words attached. Writing helps me get ahead of this unhealthy cycle, or at least, learn from the situations in which the cycle has taken over. When I write, I discover more of who I am. The jumble of feelings are translated when I see them down on paper or on the computer screen.
Maybe my aversion to writing didn’t come from my lack of skill. Maybe I was afraid that digging deeper into my soul would hurt. Maybe I was scared of what I would find. Would I like who I saw? What would I do if I saw ugliness and disfunction?
Since traveling down the writing road, I have seen some icky things. I was ashamed by parts of me that aren’t refined. Its funny, but if I wouldn’t have peeked into the darkness, I wouldn’t have discovered the parts of me that were beautiful. There are pieces of my soul that I am proud of. Who I am is both ugly and beautiful. I would not have glimsed the paradox if I had not sat down and messed up that blank page.
I know I have only scratched the surface. I know there is more hurt if I keep going. But if I don’t leap off this edge, I will miss out on the art. The beauty will stay hidden. I want to see it all.
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