I am not a writer. Not in the sense of having ferociously studied the craft, or put in herculean amounts of effort, and definitely not in the sense of just cruising along on some sort of supernatural talent. But, I have found that writing is a process that helps me in my life. It offers me a method of grabbing some flighty or unruly thought in my mind and subduing it to a place where it is still. Once motionless, I can, through writing, look at it from multiple perspectives, poke at it, tear it apart and see the material it is made from.
Writing is something we do alone; in our heads, face to face with the mirror of a blank page. I need this solitude. I have to confront my problems solo. I’ve never been able to talk to people until after I first talk with myself. Writing is that conversation and it is a step toward sharing my feelings in the world.
When I decided to do the #52essays2017 challenge, I was excited to have a motivating project, a structure to push up against, a goal that I could meet, or exceed, or ignore. A goal would inspire action either way. I was naïve to think that I could keep up. Of course, life gets in the way. It is nearly impossible to write in a productive way when you are walking for 20 days through the mountains of Pakistan, especially after you lose your pen. (ha!) But maybe the challenge helped me to try a little harder. I got behind when illness took my attention. I got behind because once you skip one essay it gets easier to skip more. But, the fact that this challenge involved a group of people was a big help. I knew that lots of people were probably behind. People who had more creditable excuses: kids and stressful jobs and personal challenges. Some days these folks inspired me into continuing; other days their commitment contrasted with my laziness guilted me into continuing. And so I wrote.
I’m not going to lie. There is a lot of crap in my 52 essays. But it’s my crap! And under some of the crap, there is a glimmer of something that shines. Is it a candy wrapper or a coin? Either way, it calls out. That little piece of shiny honesty probably could have remained obscured forever had the writing not churned it up with the crap. I am so proud that I produced a bunch of noise that revealed a few modest a few modest melodies. The glimmers. I don’t really care that no one else can see them but me. Because doing the personal essay challenge wasn’t about finding my creative genius. Rather, it was about finding joy in doing something that may always be clunky, but joyful for me. It was about accepting the reality that writing for “writers” requires more dedication than I have right now, that it demands more practice, that I could benefit from honing better technique and spending some time reflecting on what my own writerly gifts might be. And that’s me and that’s okay.
In this #52essays2017 challenge, I experienced such a freedom in being able to be ugly, awkward, messy, un-edited, raw, grammatically incorrect, metaphorically lost, fundamentally flawed and/or obnoxiously dramatic (I am pretty sure I was almost always dramatic!) It was okay, because I AM all of those things – and this personal essay writing was about me. What a revelation! To be free to be these things on the page and therefore be these things in real life and then know that everything I was doing on the page, was something that I could control on the page. And that those pages had a real-life counterpart – in me. Perhaps I could read, revise, rework, erase, reorder … edit … ME!
I want to thank Vanessa, a person I do not know and probably will never meet, who has given me the gift of this challenge, which is really mostly a space. It is a valuable space filled with this learning opportunity and this sense of freedom. Thank you.
I am still not a writer, but perhaps I am something else … I am certain (mostly!) that I am human – a human engaged in the process of learning about what it means to be living here and now. And I am certain that writing helps me do that. For that reason, I will continue writing. With gratitude.