Stephen Fry makes me smile. Have a look-see and a listen-hear…oops I mean here:
Writing has become my best friend, my one true love, and my savior, but it wasn’t always this way. I didn’t always believe in words. I didn’t always believe that writing could cure sadness, defeat or anger. Coming of age in the suburbs was tough for me. Although I belonged, I felt incomplete and I felt like an outcast. I think it’s because I always felt different than the people I hung out with. I came from a home different than most and I grew up quicker than my age had required. I was a teenager enjoying the ride but I always felt like something was missing. Suburbia lacked inspiration and because it lacked inspiration I often wondered about other places different from where I lived. I was trying to find myself in the midst of boredom and doing the same thing on a different day. Boredom gave me the ammunition I needed to strike my dreams with courage. I was starving for an adventure and always felt like I belonged somewhere else. I still feel that way, for the most part. I suppose that’s always been the motive needed to drive myself out of Suburbia. While I was planning my future getaway I was in search of someone I could trust with my secrets, my thoughts and my vivid imagination. As hard as I searched, I wasn’t able to find this in people so I found it in writing. I had found comfort in words. This is when I fell madly in love with writing. This is when writing saved me.
The ideas in my head became a collective group of friends and my notebook became the place where I carried them safely. This eventually led to writing a book (which I hope to have published one day). Writing became my outlet and a great pass time. Although I enjoyed writing, I didn’t think I was any good. I also didn’t think being a writer was possible, mainly because some teachers downplayed it as an occupation. They often equated success with status and high paying jobs. It was odd to me that the books we studied were held with such high regard, yet being a writer was not an occupation put on a pedestal. It wasn’t until the last day of my last year of high school when I learned to believe in my writing and that being a writer is possible. On that day, I passed by my Writer’s Craft teacher’s office to pick up my assignment and to say goodbye. This moment where we exchanged words changed my mind forever. He handed me the book I had written for the class assignment and said: “You should be very proud of this.” I jokingly asked him if he was talking about the same book I was holding in my hands. He nodded and confirmed that he was indeed speaking about the book I was holding. I explained that I loved writing and wanted to be a writer but I didn’t think I could be one because it didn’t seem realistic. I remember he looked me dead in the eye and scolded me for not believing in myself. “You should be very proud of what you’ve produced here,” he said pointing to the book, “keep at it and who knows, maybe one day I’ll be picking up a book of yours from a shelf.” He seemed to have more confidence in my writing than what it was worth. Nonetheless, I did what he told me to do. I kept at it. His words inspired me to write and write and write. This is when I fell in love with the idea of becoming a writer.
Although the relationship between my pen and I was a beautiful thing, it was a love affair that ended early. University changed me into a callous writer, afraid to be creative. I had become a writer who found it difficult to write essays about beautiful books because I couldn’t demonstrate their beauty in structured papers, which consisted of a thesis, argument, and quotations. These beautiful books were being picked and prodded instead of being appreciated for what they were. I was a victim of subjectivity and I couldn’t find happiness in writing anymore. I despised writing. I was no longer inspired to write and it felt funny. This is when I decided that being an English Literature major wasn’t for me anymore. I hated it. When I discussed this with a professor, he told me that I should give up, maybe take some time off school. When I look back I can’t help but smile. I realized that it was probably the best advice he could have given me, not because it was the right advice but because it was the wrong advice. It gave me the fuel I needed to believe in myself. I chose not to give up and decided that I was going to switch my major to something I liked. So that’s what I did.
After I switched my major, I fell in love with learning and with writing again. A professor of mine gave me the confidence I needed to re-visit the writer I used to be. She commended my writing style and analytical skills in an essay I had written on Baudelaire’s poems and encouraged me to enter the essay in an essay competition. I was reluctant at first but decided to enter it anyway. Although I didn’t win, I proved something to myself. I proved that if I want to be a writer, I’ve got to dig deep and put the writer within me to good use. I learned that you have to face your fears by putting your writing on display. If you don’t succeed, it’s okay. Failure is the greatest thing because it makes you better. I learned that giving up is easy and persevering is hard but if you want to succeed you have to keep at it. I also realized that writing was still something I wanted to do. When I look back, I’m happy that I struggled. It’s made me more confident in the decision I’ve made to do what I want to do. It’s a labor of love.
To me, writing is not about failing or succeeding. It’s about sharing a part of yourself that you didn’t know you had. For the most part, this is the role that writing has played in my life. If someone tells you that you can’t have dreams of being a writer, a musician, a painter, tell them to put a sock in it. You should also share this quote by Dominic Owen Mallary: “Our lives are mere flashes of light in an infinitely empty universe. In 12 years of education the most important lesson I have learned is that what we see as “normal” living is truly a travesty of our potential. In a society so governed by superficiality, appearances, and petty economics, dreams are more real than anything, anything in the “real world.” Refuse normalcy. Beauty is everywhere, love is endless, and joy bleeds from our everyday existence. Embrace it.” After you’ve shared this with them, reveal the largest grin you could ever display on your face and tell them to return to their boring life of expectations. These people will make you believe that your dreams are only dreams and that’s as far as they go. They claim that you can’t be an artist in the real world. In the real world you need to have a real job. For the longest time I believed them. Why couldn’t I have dreams of being a writer? Why had I for so long avoided it as a something I really wanted to be? I’m glad I don’t anymore. After completing a university degree and holding a 9-5 job I’ve realized that there is so much more out there in the world that is more fulfilling than working to make money. Working a job you hate to make money is the least fulfilling thing, to me anyway. I’ve learned that if we pound at our dreams and work hard at achieving them we can become that somebody those people made us believe was just a fictional person. There is so much more to life than living it according to another person’s blueprint. Where is the pleasure in life if we can’t accomplish the things we want to, for the sake of our dreams becoming a reality? What do we know if we don’t try? Fall in love. Life is too short to not be able to do what we love.
Question for you: What have you fallen in love with? When did you discover your passion? …Let’s have a chit-chat.
My eccentric hippie Writer’s Craft high-school teacher would often begin our classes with free writing exercises. When he first introduced this idea of free writing I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. One of us asked: “So you want us to write about whatever comes to mind, grammatical errors and all?” He flailed his hippie hands and said “Yupp, now write. Write whatever.” I remember looking down at my piece of lined paper with my pen in my hand just begging it to move but I couldn’t help but reminisce about my grammar preaching, sentence structuring, coherent campaigning school teachers without shuttering. I was faced with a challenge- free writing. You wouldn’t think so, right? I mean, writing whatever you want about whatever you want should be easy. Think again. It’s the hardest thing known to student kind. How could I possibly write freely when I had been molded into a student who had learned that freedom and writing don’t go hand in hand? I wish I had kept some of those writing pieces so I could go back and read some of them. On second thought, no. It would probably make my skin crawl. I’m telling you, old habits die hard. I am by no means a writer who can participate in free writing. I’m what you would call an O.C.D writer; a writer with perfectionism running through her veins with an incessant brain twitch that irks me and manically taunts “Naa, read it again. Something doesn’t sound right. Read that sentence over. No again. Find a better word. Not good enough. Find another one. Okay, read it again (times 20).” This is not the exaggerated truth either. It’s become my worst nightmare. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve gone mad. Perhaps I have. This is going to be a tough one to explain to my patients –just kidding. I’m not a psychiatrist, just someone who may be in need of one.
So could I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? Out of some good fun I thought I’d take an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder test. I have to add that this test is online. It’s an accurate diagnosis too, given by the one and only Doctor Web (I hope you sense my sarcasm here). If you’re curious like I was, try taking the test here: http://psychcentral.com/ocdquiz.htm. You might giggle at some of the questions or you might panic. Giggle, please. It might do you some good. This test is beyond ridiculous. You have to read some of these questions. They’re kind of silly. For example, Question 10 reads: Have you worried about acting on an unwanted and senseless urge or impulse, such as physically harming a loved one, pushing a stranger in front of a bus, steering your car into oncoming traffic; inappropriate sexual contact; or poisoning dinner guests? Well there was this one time at band camp…
So upon taking the test I clicked submit and waited for my results. I scored a 2 (0-7 –O.C.D is unlikely). Well thank goodness I thought. Now I suppose I can return to reading and re-reading, editing and re-editing without a concern in the world because I’m okay. I’m okay. For a moment I thought…ah well, never mind. Just because I may read my writing 10 times over (sometimes 20) before I submit my post or I make sure that every comma is properly placed, it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with me (don’t judge me). I just want my writing to be perfect (even though it’s far from it) and I don’t think I’m a writer who is any different than the others. It just means I care and I’m concerned about whether my reader will understand me. It’s writing without giving up. I haven’t lost my marbles, err I mean words…yet.