I’ve never thought of myself as a “writer.” Oh, I love the English language, to be sure. I savour new words the way I imagine an oenophile enjoys fine wines: testing them on my tongue, rolling them around in my mouth to get the full flavour of them.
I’ve enjoyed writing for most of my adult life; in fact, I credit having kept a journal for saving my sanity at one period in my life. I even started, a bit self-consciously, to write the precursor to this blog a couple of years ago.
But “WRITING”? (Quote unquote, capital letters.) That was for people who had something to say or a story worth telling. At best, I thought of myself as a scribbler, a journal-keeper, dipping my toe into the writing pot but not really jumping in. A dilettante, in short.
Surgery a few months back, complications that resulted, then a broken rib, and lately the demands of a fun but stressful volunteer computer project, have temporarily put paid to any recent scribbling efforts: I’ve been either too sore, too frustrated, or too just plain busy to write anything!
Then, just the other day I began to notice something rather bizarre: in the course of ordinary business emails to a friend, lo and behold, entire paragraphs of personal “stuff” having only the most tenuous connection with the business at hand, began to burble out through my fingers.
Whatever the typed form of verbal diarrhea is called, it appears that I’ve contracted it! My fingers have become hostage to a mind that is literally spilling over with whatever it happens to be gnawing on, and the stuff spews out like some kind of irrational – not to mention personal! – volcano of words.
Now this may be all well and good for a private journal or memoir, but it can be a mite embarrassing to imagine what the recipient must be trying to make of this stew of gratuitous information. I’m just lucky that she’s a friend.
I’ve been mulling over this strange phenomenon; and bizarre though it may be, I think there’s a message here, an SOS, as it were. And the message seems to be: Hello Up There: Get off your duff and Start Writing!
At the very least, sitting down with the express purpose of setting out thoughts and feelings and memories and insights in some kind of visible form has always provided me with a way to clarify my thoughts and feelings, a chance to put it together and see where I’ve been coming from, as well as possibly catch a brief glimpse of where I might be headed. Writing clears my head. I actually think better with my hands on the keyboard.
Having starved my mind of this means of expression in recent months, I’m beginning to suspect that these little blasts of what might indelicately be called “mind-crap” have been creeping up on me unawares because at the moment they have no other means of reaching the light of day. I’ve been too busy looking the other way.
So there it is, and here’s my newly-discovered truth:
If you begin writing for the purpose of finding out what you really think and who you really are – and you keep at it – you will inevitably smack up against a surprising discovery: this stuff is addictive!
And apparently no amount of telling yourself…
(a) that it’s completely egocentric to focus so much on the almighty moi – and what’s more, to do it in public, heaven forfend!
(b) that it can’t possibly be of even remote interest to anyone else, so why bother sending it out there into the world at large anyway (never mind the likelihood that only three people will ever find it).
(c) or any of several other rationalizations that I store at the tip of my mind to keep a lid on this thing…
has any effect whatsoever!
The truth is, I think we’re hooked, ladies and gents. Writers, writer wannabes….same boat, different decks. I may be down in the engine room, but apparently I’m right there on that boat, sharing space with all the rest of us, everyone from folks like me to the literary giants.
Just this morning, I read the following passage on Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew’s website. Elizabeth is a novelist and writer of spiritual memoir. As I read and thought about what she said, I realized that her words offered dignity and meaning to what I’ve always assumed was just some kind of personal quirk, nothing to really take seriously.
Here’s what Elizabeth has to say:
“Writing is a chance to participate in creation. We create by listening to our inner voice, in all its whimsy and profundity.
We create by heeding the will of our stories, following their lead into sharper insight and then out into the world, where they spit and spark in others’ hearts.
Just as we can cast words into the future and then reel ourselves forward into a new way of being, our creative work can bring wider, radical transfor-mation to our communities and culture.”
My first thought was, Well, I’m not sure about the possibility of any words of mine actually bringing transformation to someone else; but if the least they do is clarify my own life’s journey, transforming me in the process, then they are certainly valuable…to me.
And yet, as I write these words, I know that this isn’t nearly the whole truth; there’s more to this need to write than just clarifying my life for myself. A huge part of what started me writing in a public venue was the strong need I felt – and feel – to cast my own little word-net out into the world.
I believe that this urge is connected with my passage into the crone years, where – ego aside – I’m discovering in myself a drive to connect, to mentor, to share my own experiences and feelings and cautionary anecdotes – and yes, yes…perhaps to light the path for someone else, even if that light often falters and even if, for a moment or two, it sometimes fails.
After all, our world today is overrun with words, words, words – and I fear that unless things change in the world, reading will go the way of the dodo anyway.
But this doesn’t change a thing for me. It seems that in spite of the challenges and in spite of this immense and endless sea of words in which I am just a tiny cork bobbing along willy nilly, I am bound to tell my stories, impelled as I am to leave my own, albeit insignificant, mark:
Susannah Was Here.
Namo Amida Bu,