“Constantly risking absurdity/ and death/ whenever he performs/ above the heads/ of his audience/ the poet like an acrobat/ climbs on rime/ to a highwire of his own making…” –Lawerence Ferlinghetti
It has been a long time since I wrote here. I missed holidays, seasons, thoughts and ideas. I missed the click of keys and the scroll of ideas across the screen. I missed writing.
I have been working to the point of exhaustion since my last post, both in person and online. Days spent on my aching feet and nights straining my tired eyes have been so incredibly long. As I have been working as a TA, grading papers and looking at the process that others go through as they write, I have missed it myself. I envy them, getting space and time and an audience. They get to collect and present their ideas. They get to narrow topics, sift through articles, make arguments and craft titles.
I miss writing. I decided early on that I would write here regularly as I teach, to keep my own sanity. That has not happened so far, but I think it needs to. As I made my way through the text for this course, Ferlinghetti spoke to me. There is a drive, a frightening dare to create. Something inside compels a writer to write, something that is greater than the fear of failure. I miss that push, that scream that demands to be given voice. It has grumbled and mumbled, but I have not given it a chance to develop because I haven’t made time to set it free. I need that time.
In one of the texts I’ve used for teaching, the introductory chapter discusses, at length, the fact that no one is born a writer. Good writers do not exist–they develop. They practice and learn mechanics and understand how to structure a paper. Good writers are made. Which I belive, to an extent. I spent years learning rules and diagramming sentences, identifying thesis statements and formatting bibliographies. I learned to write. I learned to articulate with conviction and support. Great men and women showed me how to make thoughts bigger than they started, how to give them life and send them into the world. They taught me to look at the words of others that came before, see what they meant and mean. I learned to see the bigger picture, the web of people and life and literature that is more intricate and unbreakable than I know. I learned to read and write, and how to read deeply and write powerfully. I learned.
But that push inside me recoils, whimpering, “What about me?” Aren’t writers born to do so? Doesn’t something in me, unique and determined, make me write? Isn’t it the same thing that drives painters to smear the canvas and chefs to filet? Isn’t something inside me special, something that cannot be taught or learned? Don’t I have something that makes me write, something that sets me apart? Or is that all wishful thinking? Is it only true for real writers, those who have something authentic and big to say with words that are not tired? This idea, though meant to strengthen confidence, shook me. If I am honest, I like to think that I am a good writer. I want to be seen as someone who uses words elegantly and effortlessly, who puts words to thoughts that others cannot. I want and like to think that I have a talent or, perhaps more powerful, a gift. I want to think that I was made to write, made to express. Those words, meant to convince everyone that they have the potential and ability to write well, took all of that away from me. Perhaps that has also led to my lapse in writing–I feel doubtful.
The one thing that I have clung to, the one thing that I think I do well, was snatched from me. Even knowing that I have worked hard in school, for years, to learn the skills that the text was encouraging students to learn, stings. Learning to be a good writer is not the same as being one. I want that gift that I am now unsure exists. A skill is not as special, as defining, as a gift.
All of this has brought me here, starting yet again, with the intention to continue. I guess I want to take time for me to continue to work on the skill that I have developed. What I pray is that I find a tiny place inside where I still feel chosen to be a writer, born with graphite and pronouns coursing through my veins. I want that joy, the thrill that string words together brings me. I feel lighter, more agile and powerful, when the ideas are left on paper. I need to remember this intense affection I feel for letters and spaces, and the world they create.
“If I get it all down on paper, it’s no longer inside of me/ Threatening the life it belongs to/ And I feel like I’m naked in front of the crowd/ ‘Cause these words are my diary, screaming out loud/ And I know that you’ll use them however you want to…” –Anna Nalick, “Breathe (2am)”