WORDS


wordsWords are my power and, sometimes, words represent my greatest weakness.  There are times when I can taste my words as they linger on the tip of my tongue.  My taste buds pick up on the acidic flavor of those remarks, thoughts, ideas that never make it past my lips.  They linger, debating whether they should jump out but often just roll back down, pushing past my still-intact tonsils and reside so bitterly in my esophagus.  The words marinate inside me, causing acid-reflux, making their voice heard while silencing mine.

I struggle to let words out of my mouth.  I am afraid that they will be unrecognized for their true selves.  I worry that they will reveal a part of me that is too fragile and too tender to be exposed to the air.  My words hang back, waiting for a safe opening, an invitation from the prettiest girl at the dance.  In my head, the words spiral around, forming thoughts, ideas, feelings, powerful messages that often never see the light of day.  They remain locked behind bars, longingly waiting for someone with the right key to release them from their interminable imprisonment.  My words are held hostage by me.  I simply cannot speak what I feel or share the emotions that reside just one millimeter below the surface.  I protect myself, ensuring that my words won’t be used against me.

Alas, I am not silent.  I can talk endlessly.  I simply and strategically talk around my words.  I can be pleasant or funny, intelligent or insightful and, in some cases, mean and hurtful but I fail to utter the words that most need airing.  I choose what I say, holding my tongue, keeping the most critical words in reserve. A wrestling match occurs – a battle to release the words, getting them past my lips.  Invariably, the fight ebbs once I sit down and tap my fingers to the keys.  All at once, the bars are lifted, the gates release, the tide flows out with letters forming together to make words and sentences and thoughts and feelings and images so rich, so powerful, so raw, so honest.  When my fingers are in control and my mouth is closed tight, I can tell stories and share my truth in ways that would never be possible otherwise.

As a child, I lived in my own fantasy world, writing stories that depicted the life I dreamt of.  I escaped to a faraway place invented by my words.  I scribbled on loose leaf pages and in spiral notebooks, believing that I could run away from it all and, one day would wake up in another place – in my imagined life.  My stories existed in a utopian world so far away from my own reality, thousands of miles from my own pain and I could quietly sneak off and experience some peace and contentment.  Nobody knew I was gone.  No search team needed to be sent out to look for me.  But, sadly, one day it stopped.  I no longer had the innocence to enjoy my own stories or suspend my disbelief long enough to escape.  I lost confidence in myself and found my words to be trite and meaningless, unsophisticated and untalented.  I was not a writer and had no business pretending I was.  And, with that, I sealed myself off.  No more words came out. Now I would have to navigate around my words, bottling up all the thoughts, feelings, pain, joy, insight.

Then, 99 blog posts ago, it all changed.  I fooled myself into believing that I would write to share some thoughts – all intellect, no passion – to help build my career.  It was purely business, helping me to become a subject-matter expert and pontificate about matters relevant to my work.  I would cement my place in that conversation.  My words would propel me to another level of professional success.

Silly me.

Unbeknownst to me, quietly, hiding out in crevices deep inside, my real words were sitting, waiting in prey, looking for an opportunity to unleash themselves.  They didn’t wait too long.  They didn’t hold themselves back.  No censorship, no editing.  Blog post #2 was quickly visited by my words – the interlopers.  I could literally hear the exhale as they began to release themselves.  After being silenced for decades, they grew louder until there was no room for anything but them.  My words took possession of my blog and insisted on telling the story that I was unable to share in any other way.  They wrestled control and ensured that my inside voice would be heard.  Today, my stories are candid and honest.  They are vehicles to help me move beyond.  I no longer need to escape into the realm of fantasy but, instead, need to embrace my truth and own it.  I need to let it soak into my pores and I need to write about it in order to make it come to life.  Being honest about my life and all the complications that seem so foreign to so many yet relatable to so many others is not difficult for me.  It requires no special skill.  I need not find a map to figure out how to navigate my course.  There is only one road, running in one direction.  There is one lane and it leads me directly to my destination.  No signs to read, no traffic lights to hold me up.  It is an open road inviting me to travel as fast as my engine will bear.  The only caveat is that my mouth is sealed.  The words must come out through my hands.  The story can only be told in one way.  The power can only be released with one type of force.  I have only one tool in my toolbox.  My words have only one point of departure.

While my words flow so freely through my hands, I still struggle with speaking my truth.  I can stand before you, my closest friend or my worst enemy.  I can look you in the eye and hear the deafening sound of the words in my head.  I may want to shower you with love and adoration, acknowledging the power you have in my life.  I may want to share deep feelings or emotions that connect me to you. I may want to ask you to help me heal my hurt.  I may want to cut you apart, punishing you for penetrating my safe zone.  No matter what, I will likely retreat, still haunted by the words echoing in my ears, desperate for them to come out but scared to let them be heard…using my vocal chords. I contain a battle that wages on between my voice and words.  I retreat to my keyboard to unleash all that is so safely harbored in my port.  I set free the words that scream so loud in my head and hope that one day I will trust myself and others enough to speak my truth.

For now, I will be grateful for all that have come along for the ride, allowing me to process and share through these words.  I cherish the opportunity to enlighten those who know me and support those who feel me.  I am grateful that, for the 100th time, I have been able to string my words together into something meaningful that might spark a thought, a feeling, a revelation, a powerful emotion in another.  I am hopeful that my words serve a purpose, have meaning, offer guidance or solace.  As my words enter the sunlight, squinting to see what lies around them, I hope they are embraced and warmed rather than scorched and damaged.

Thanks to everyone who supported me through my first 100 posts and I hope you will stick around, invite your friends along and encourage you to buckle up.  I have a lot more words anxiously awaiting to avail themselves of this blog.  There are so many more stories, so many more words just waiting to reach you and, hopefully, teaching me how to use my words properly.

ON WRITING


typewriter“A wonderful writer has given the best of herself or himself in the work. I think many of them are frustrated by the thinness and inadequacy of ordinary spoken language, of ordinary contact even with the people they know best and love best. They turn to writing for this reason. I think many of them are magnanimous in a degree their lives cannot otherwise express.” – Marilynne Robinson

My friend, and fellow writer, Tom, posted the above quote on his Facebook page yesterday morning.  It stopped me dead in my tracks.  I was in the midst of my typical morning ritual of trying to catch up on Facebook, Twitter and other reading on my iPad.  I literally put everything down and re-read that quote at least five or six times.  I soaked in the words and thought and thought.  And then they registered.

I have often wondered why writing has been such an outlet for me in my happiest and my most difficult moments.  And, while I am a fairly good communicator, I have also struggled to understand why it is so much easier for me to sit down with a pen and paper or at the keyboard of my computer and express the thoughts, ideas or feelings that otherwise get stuck at the end of my tongue.  I love words.  I love the way sentences string together to paint a picture so powerful that rarely an orator can relay the message as effectively.  Of course, there are some amazing storytellers out there but, typically, someone has taken the time to sit down and put those words to paper before they can be articulated out loud.

For most of my life, I shied away from the moniker of writer because I never believed in my ability.  Despite my journalism degree, I did not view my writing to be an art form but rather a utilitarian skill.  I could craft a great article, filled with research, quotes and detailed facts but the imagery and passion required for creative writing often eluded me – mostly because I did not believe in myself.  As I do, I looked at others, admired their craft and punished myself because I didn’t think I measured up.  I never gave myself the permission to just let go and free the words from my mind to see what became of them.  I burdened myself with critical judgments and never permitted a full immersion into the process.  Applying my results-oriented approach that I use in work, I focused more on the end product rather than simply allowing the creativity to take shape.  My creative writing was limited strictly to personal journals which I have kept in abundance over the years because I have always needed to sort out the chaos in my mind and chronicle it in some purposeful way.  Religiously, I would read and reread my innermost thoughts but never shared them with anyone.  Despite the ongoing yearning to empower the voice inside me that drew pictures with words, I struggled with a massive road block between my brain and my hands – and it was all self-inflicted.

It was only a few years ago, when I decided to start writing this blog, that I began to exercise new muscles.  The blog started out of necessity to help me market my professional services. I wanted to present a point of view on business-related topics to help potential clients understand my subject-matter expertise.  It didn’t take too long – in fact, just about 3 or 4 posts in the first month – before my personal story starting leaking through the seams.  The ritual and process of writing this blog created a channel for me to navigate unchartered waters.  It happened rather unconsciously.  I discreetly ignored the fact that I was personalizing my blog posts instead of taking the more business-appropriate, objective position, focusing on facts and data.  Overnight, the flip switched and I had embraced an approach to sharing my perspectives through the art of storytelling.  I realized later – much, much later – that storytelling was my calling card.  People had been referring to me as such for years but I never understood their meaning.  I tuned that out because my brain had no way of processing that notion as it was in direct contradiction to my belief that I had no talent. Suddenly liberated by the unlimited vocabulary of my mind, I had a significantly larger canvas and a broader spectrum of colors with which to paint my pictures.  Like the author of the quote suggests, the spoken word proved inadequate for me to effectively communicate my messages and tell my stories.  By writing, I was freed from the forced constructs that are applied with verbal communication.  I was writing a blog, after all.  I could write anything in any way.  Slowly and steadily, my muscles loosened and I found myself digging through tunnels that had not before been excavated.  With my head lamp firmly affixed and my pick axe in tow, I started plummeting into the depths of myself and began pulling up images and truths that I simply did not know were sitting patiently, waiting to be surfaced.

It’s been 3 years and tens of thousands of words have sought refuge from my mind. And with all that behind me, I understand the author’s meaning deep in my bones.  I can share stories and truths about myself when packaged with words that soften the harsh pain and pretty up the ugliness.  I can articulate profound struggle with a tenderness and generosity, all the while connecting the reader to my story when they have never once step foot in my shoes.  Never would I be able to find the words to speak my story in as articulate or meaningful way.  I feel passionate and alive when I write.  I see words dancing in my mind and coming together in perfect prose.  The energy shifts from my mind to my fingers in perfect harmony and I feel as if I have been set free.  I finally understand why, everywhere I go, in everything I do, I am looking for the story.  I am taking in the experience and imagining how to describe the scene, the smell, the feel of everything going on around me.

For a very long time, I thought I was a little crazy.  I worried that I was defective because I needed quiet and needed to soak in what was going on around me.  In large groups of people I found myself needing a respite in order to process the experience.  I needed to find breathing room and wondered why others did not have the same experience.  I thought, perhaps, I struggled with shyness or was an introvert.  I thought I might just simply be weird.  It was beginning to feel like I was living in a different dimension than everyone around me.  I could not make the noise stop in my mind but I enjoyed the imagery that continually arose from my thoughts.  My penchant for quiet contemplation and melancholy seemed unusual but I secretly valued this about myself.  Only through the outlet of my writing did I finally come to understand that I am, in fact, blessed.  I have been gifted with an ability to communicate in my own unique way.  I have been blessed with the extraordinary power to share my stories and, hopefully, I can bless others by creating an emotional connection along the way.

3 years and tens of thousands of words later, I now recognize that I am not crazy and I understand my truth.  Regardless of whatever else I do, one thing is true.  One thing surely defines me.

I am a writer.

margaret atwood quote