“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” – Louis L’Amour.
2010. I thought I’d be a writer. I had images of myself spending afternoons at a sunlit desk, typing things that were profound, raw, beautiful, onto thick manila paper. I enrolled in Creative Writing courses. I studied Cobb housing and imagined building one on a field for inspiration.
I would be the woman with the typewriter and a voice. But then I got quiet.
Writing was always easy for me through the years of teenage angst, grief, depression, and resolution. Large changes and small irritants were all fuel that drove me to paper. Anyone who has seen themselves as a writer in any capacity will understand that there is a physical feeling that signals the need for paper and a pen. It’s a rush of ‘word claustrophobia’; they crowd down your hands and push against your fingers and you need to find a way to get them out to relieve the pressure. It’s the feeling after a long road trip: if you just take that next turn, you will be home.
This is the type of writing that I knew and was comfortable with. When my external life normalized, I found that the driving force behind my writing was channelled into tangible venues. As my autonomy increased, my writing decreased. Instead of pooling trapped feelings into words, I let those feelings guide my actions. I got a car and would drive, music up and windows down, until I found the end of the street I had taken. I would go to the gym and lift weights to clear my mind. If I felt creatively inspired, I funnelled that energy into photography. I felt that everything was either too small to bother writing about, or too big for me to do justice to the topic through words.
Last year, I enrolled in a Creative Writing course. Easy grade, I thought smugly, won’t be a problem. It had been years since I’d written anything, and, not surprisingly, I found the assignments immediately overwhelming. I’d sit at my desk, with the sunlight and the thick manila paper, and read the syllabus. 3 submissions of 6 poems each. Over and over again, scanning until the words didn’t make sense, hoping that out of thin air I would find a large topic to tackle.
But guess what? I never did. I got creative.
I poked fun at the professor’s rule that each poem had to have a minimum of 10 lines:
I tried to find my own words by removing someone else’s:
I wrote bitter poems about my classmates and the peer review portion of the semester:
And then I wrote another one:
And, finally, I was done.
Before this class, I was the person who waited for inspiration to bestow its magic on me. I relied on luck of the idea, the urge of the moment, to carry my pen forward. But then I learned what real writers already know: writing will never happen until fingers are on the keyboard or the pen is on the paper. It fundamentally can’t occur outside of actually being done. The only way to start writing is to create the space for that to happen. Draw a picture, write about writer’s block, type ‘jksdlf;jdks;lfaks’ until better words come along.
Desire to find my voice led to silence. Action led to progress.
It always does.
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” – Ernest Hemingway.