“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.