I find long, sustained writing jags to be difficult now that I’m attempting to write creatively again.
Let me tell you a story. I wrote poetry in high school. No, not like that, no journals or black note books or any of those other stereotypes. I was good, I won contests, I got published. I was that thing you are before you become a poet, like Poet Junior. And I wasn’t the only one, there were some fantastic writers in my classes that kept me humble and made me jealous. We were writers, and it was rad.
I don’t know why the others did it. I know they had issues, the bad memories and failed, fumbling early relationships they wrote about. What we were saying was not original to the world, of course not! We were 14, 15, 16, girls mostly. I’m certain original things can happen to you when you’re that young and I’m positive you can have original thoughts, but we were learning, and the biggest thing we were learning was how to express ourselves in a unique way. We were learning style. As someone who used to teach writing, I can say that style is a difficult thing to teach. If you have it to begin with, you have it, but like many “natural” talents, you have to eventually learn to control it, teach it do what you want it to do. If you don’t have it, you can get it, but you gotta write and write and write again, and write better.
I know why I was committed to doing that, back then. My family situation sucked (mental illness, a terminally ill person very close to me, no brothers and sisters to turn to to share the burdens, no friends that were like family, the rest of my family 700 miles away), and I was so inward-turning. One alone might have not made me turn to writing, both together made it an attractive hobby. There were nowhere for the thoughts and the feelings to go after awhile. Language and images and stories about people who weren’t me helped get them out. I loathed writing about myself, just like I loathed writing about myself. But in fiction and poetry, the people didn’t have to be you. As I was taught in my English classes, it was presumptuous to presume that the narrator and the author are the same person. That was armor plating to me, they could criticize my writing all they liked (which I learned to love as part of the process), but to criticize me would be their mistake.
About that introversion: do you know when you go one way for so long, you get entrenched, then try as hard as possible to push in the opposite direction, so hard that you overcompensate? That’s the struggle I’ve gone through with my desire to be alone and my desire to be with others. Not to say it was very hard (it had moments of difficulty, like anything), but only that these two instincts in me were directly opposed. For a long time I didn’t know how to be with others and enjoy it, then for a long time I didn’t know how to be alone and enjoy it.
When I was deep in the former, I wrote and wrote and wrote again, and it was like swimming through a calm lake; work, but work that came easily to me.
When I was in the throes of the latter, when I sometimes still am, I am too “busy” to write, and spend all my time trying to find things to do with others, then doing them. But the pay off is so nice! I love my friends, spending time with them is never a bad thing. For many reasons, between grad school and a long relationship, I hadn’t gotten to see my friends as often as I liked for a few years. Now I do, and I’m trying to enjoy it while it lasts. So, it’s hard to break away from that to do an inherently solitary activity.
As much as there are workshops and writing groups and peer reading/editing and marketing and book readings, “making” writing, putting the words down, means being alone for a long time. A long time spent thinking your thoughts. All of this is just to say how I hard I find this now that I’m a halfway sociable person. I love the story that I’m writing (whether it becomes a novel is questionable, but with my long-windedness, it’s probably inevitable), but I find it hard to spend any time with it, when there are friends and games, work and chores. I’m wary of going to deep into my own mind again, as if I’ll somehow never come back out, or revert to how I once was. I don’t want to go back there, not entirely.
Today I was reading about the turn towards modern thought/philosophy in the Renaissance (right after finishing a zombie novel, eclectic reading material for the win!) and got excited about writing again. It’s going to be hard to squeeze in this week, what with me going to spend time with all the nerds this weekend, but I’m going to try!