I didn’t want writing to be my hobby. I wanted to like music; I wanted to play the guitar for an all-girl rock band, or paint, or design. I wanted something else, anything else, in my heart.
But none of those things were there. Words were.
So, much to the dismay of my mother, I quit high school band- and tried theater for a while. Then speech team, then film club. I did newspaper, and pretty well, but I didn’t like the politics and quit that too, much to the dismay of Miss Brown (who tried to rope me back into it for the remaining six semesters of my high school career). I wanted to write my own style, and newspaper called for a uniform tone.
My high school story tells you a few things about me.
- I was not popular.
- I was a huge quitter.
But it also tells you a third thing, if you listen closely. You see, through all of it, I was writing and reading on my own time. Actually, through all of my education, that has been the one constant. I’ve explored different clubs and social scenes, but writing was with me through it all, like the way every motivational speaker in the history of the self-help industry are convinced God was.
Look, I don’t believe in fate. I don’t believe in destiny. I don’t think everything happens for a reason. I think all of those ideas are designed to make us content with misfortune, and steal our anger when we witness or are victims of injustice.
But for some reason, I find myself indulging in the ridiculous idea that some people were born to write.
Most days, I think I most certainly have no birthright to words. Others, I live through my keyboard.
When I was in elementary school, I remember getting a feeling when I wrote. It was this release in my chest, a direct transfer of difficult-to-express feelings onto wide-ruled loose leaf.
My teachers told me my writing had good voice. I had no idea what that meant. I mean, I wasn’t talking. I was a ten-year old girl who wrote a story about a doofy Labrador that tried to impress the sexy poodle that moved in next door.
But I kept moving my pencil, making loopy letters in smeared graphite and hoping.
I filled notebooks. I spent my weekends reading. When I was fourteen, I saved up all my money to buy myself a laptop because I was developing a writer’s callus. I stuffed computer library after computer library with stories. When I was thirteen, I wrote in my diary, “I am the girl wrapped in words.”
I think a lot of writers (or wanna be writers such as myself) feel this way. Like there’s some God of Writing hovering above the Earth, and blasting the burden of words on babies at random, electrifying them with syntax and the uncontrollable urge to convert thoughts to ink.
Charles Bukowski (I know, I know, but stay with me) once wrote a poem called, “So you want to be a writer?” It begins:
if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
searching for words,
don’t do it.
It feels like that sometimes. Like I’d die if I couldn’t write. I wanted to like music. Then theater. I was okay at both of those things, but since quitting, I must admit, I don’t miss them that much.
But I’m not sure if I could ever escape writing.
Ava Jae from the blog Writability summed up my feelings pretty well. She pointed out that while everyone can learn to write, not everyone loves it enough to dedicate their time to the craft.
My brother is a computer science major (who actually published an app recently). I could never, ever be a programmer like he is. It’s not because I lack the ability to learn the mechanics, but because I’m not inclined to practice. One programming class in high school was sufficient, please and thank you.
Still, I think this attitude has been cultivated in writer’s communities because there’s a lot of literate people with the ability to structure grammatically-correct sentences that are under the impression that they could crank out a New York Times best-seller if they felt like it. That’s a pretty insulting belief to people who dedicate their entire lives to the art form. The pretentious idea that writers are “chosen” is a defense mechanism, really.
Writing, I have learned, like any craft, requires practice. Not only do aspiring writers have to slave away at the keyboard, but we have to spend a hell of lot of time reading too, and examining the structures of our favorite pieces.
And Hell, I still will probably never write a New York Times Bestseller.
But my veins are ink and my words are everything.
So I do it. I face my computer every day. I write for my blog, I write fiction, and a few research papers and article critiques because I happen to be a psychology major. The insides of my eyelids are permanently imprinted with Calibri.
And I make mistakes, and I learn. Some days I’m impressed with my progress.
Other days I’m sure the only improvement I’ve made are my words per minute as a typist.
Nevertheless, I’ll keep on hunching over my keyboard, that’s for sure.
What about you? Do you think there’s a writing God? Did he bestow you with the burden of words? Can you get a refund? Let me know your thoughts in the comments down below. Like this post if you’re classified as a homo sapien, and follow this blog if you’ve ever blinked.
Or don’t. I’m not your mom or whatever.