When I write it’s my desire to open my mind, my soul, and my heart, and pour them into what I’m setting down on paper. Unfortunately, there seems to be an inhibition that prevents me from opening up in such a way, and I feel that my writing comes out flat and lifeless. So I edit myself, because if I’m going to put everything I am into what I write, and the writing isn’t going to be as rich or deep or meaningful as I believe it should be, then it damn well better be perfect. As a result I’m constantly using the backspace key and looking at the little red underlines as I commit typographical errors all over the computer screen. I don’t feel released to just let go and let all of myself pour out.
And I suppose that the problem lies in the fact that pouring one’s being out is not a neat process, but rather a very messy undertaking. Can I truly say that my mind is an orderly thing, or that my heart is completely unstained, or that my soul is as bright as it should—or even could—be?
So what is it really? Am I embarrassed or ashamed that these parts of me are not as perfect as I’d like them to be? Or maybe it’s something far more simple and down-to-earth.
I’ve read great writers describe writing as a chore, a mechanical job that one does, either well or poorly. And I’ve heard as many other writers say that writing is a kind of bleeding onto the page, and just as the ancients believed that a man’s life was contained in his blood, so these writers seem to be saying that the act of writing is like pouring your life out—and maybe even sacrificing it—for your writing.
What do I want? I have wanted to write since the sixth grade, when my English teacher recognized some talent in me. Was she just saying it to patronize me, or was she truthful? Yet other teachers over the following six years had given the same assessment. So I had talent at least up until I graduated from high school. I then used it only sparingly, until I wasn’t using the talent at all. I had grown up, and writing was a nice dream, but not a practical pursuit by any means. I grew up and put away my childish things, and among those childish things was my writing. After all, writing was something you either did when you were a child in school and didn’t know better, or after you had retired and no longer good for anything useful.
Fast forward almost thirty years. I no longer have anyone telling me that writing is of no consequence to real life. And even though I still recognize writing as a dream, I have come to realize that dreams were meant to be lived, not hidden away like so many obsolete childhood toys. And besides, how can I possibly be a father of any use to my children if I don’t teach them that dreams are meant to be embraced and lived, not hidden away and forgotten.
And now I have people telling me things I hadn’t heard since my years as a child in school, and they sound just as true now as they had then. I wonder—why did I come to regard the words as lies for so long?
So I find that maybe I am trying to recall the feeling of being unencumbered and just being able to write without all the turmoil I feel now. I still have a lot to unlearn and I hope to do so soon, because writing was never this difficult when I was childish.
- For My Tenth Grade English Teacher (resurrectedwriter.wordpress.com)