Thursday, March 12, 2009

I've Got No Write

So I had a great moment today. And by "great" I mean "it felt like my insides were forcibly removed through the navel, stomped on, and then shoved back in". Or perhaps "like my soul was ripped from my heart and rubbed against asphalt for a while, before being dipped all raw and oozing into boiling water".

I realized that I am not a writer.

That might sound dramatic, and rightfully so. But it came as a shock to me. There I was, preparing myself for another Thursday full of classes, my mind drifting. I was thinking about how tired I was, due to the sheer amount of YouTube videos I had watched the night before. This led me to consider just how much time I spent online, which led to my blog obsession, which led me to wonder whether there were any out there that I followed and hadn't checked recently. This led me to think about Emily Wing Smith, which in turn made me reflect on the last time I saw her, at her book signing in Barnes and Noble. How cool is it that I know a published author? And then I remembered that when she signed my copy of The Way He Lived she asked if I wrote, and I answered yes, and she wished me the best of luck in my own writing.

At that moment, I stopped what I was doing and stared at the wall in front of me. Because just then, I knew I had lied. I had given a gut answer that didn't hold true anymore, and that fact make me want to curl up on the couch and listen to Radiohead's "No Surprises" until there was nothing left of me but an empty shell, where all that remains is the chocolate outside of a Cadbury Caramel Egg, sucked void of all creative spark (embodied in this case by sweet caramel goodness).

I think this is my first large-scale identity crisis. My entire life, I was The Writer, capitalized and all. From kindergarten to 5th grade, whenever I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would stand up straight and say "I'm going to be an author!" with all the pride I could muster. True, back then it sounded more like "I'm gonna be an authoh" because I coulnd't say my r's, but the conviction I had was worth a thousand words. Even after I decided to be an English Teacher in 6th grade, it was just the paying gig, my service to humanity while I wrote on the side.

That dream is dead now. I haven't really written in years. I did take a Creative Writing class to try and reignite the flame, where I wrote a killer essay (man, can I write an essay, even if it is technically "creative non-fiction"), an acceptable poem, and one disgustingly mediocre short story. None of them had passion. None of them were artistic and beautiful, things that all writing should be. They were just words, and I was merely throwing more subpar material into the world.

This blog was partially meant to resuscitate my writing. But even within the casual confines of blogging, I've struggled to find a voice. It seems that you can't write well unless you know your style, and mine is still nowhere to be found. The tones of my past posts are erratic, and you can almost visualize my woebegone wanderings as I grasp at genre. Am I humorous? Am I a poet? Am I a deep thinker, with new observations about the world around me? Nope. I'm not even a journal blogger, with mundane specifics of my day.

So that's the question I vomit on the screen, my words as stinky and almost as worthy of disdain. Without being "a writer", can I write? Is there a glorious resurrection in the future for me and my work? And is that passion for the pen even still within me? If not, can I regain it?


Ashley said...

I've totally been through this. What I decided was that if I like writing, I should do it. If it makes you happy, DO IT. And you'll find your voice!!!!

The Professor said...

Hey Cat, I could write an epic in response here, but I'll try to spare you.

One nice thing about writing is that there's no rush to succeed at it. It's pretty obvious at my age that I'm never going to play in the NBA, but I could still "make it" as a writer when I'm 70. So if you don't feel like you've found your voice or that your stuff hasn't had the same passion, I wouldn't worry about it. You've got plenty of time. Besides, writers are typically their own worst critics, so you probably have more of a unique voice than you realize.

Paige said...

I don't consider myself a "writer," but rather as "one who writes" and I think you are the same way. I absolutely think you have a voice. Does it shift from time to time? Yes, but it is still quite distinct. You know all that mumbo-jumbo about spiritual gifts? Writing is the same way, we have to exercise it or we lose it.

And you don't have to write some creative writing masterpiece to be a writer with a voice and style. Anna Quindlen, although she is still a creative writer, has written loads of op-ed pieces that are still lovely. As another example, Anne Coulter, may she burn in hell, is merely a political writer; but she is still incredibly talented. Neal A. Maxwell didn't write fiction, but his use of metaphor is unsurpassed in almost anything I've ever read. You don't have to write creatively to be a writer.