Thursday, June 2, 2016

Exploring Inspiration

At this point, all I know is that I've been inspired to write.

Growing up, I always did well in the English/ELA classes of elementary, middle, and high school. I loved to write whether it was smaller essays, longer book reports, poems, fiction, and even non-fiction. There were different ways outside of academia that I managed to write and they were fiction and non-fiction and adapted with my age.
The Notebook: When I was in middle school, I befriended a girl who loved to write fiction herself and she and I would write back and forth in a notebook about our lives and the lives of the fictional characters who we had started to create. Eventually, a group of four of us wrote back and forth in a notebook about our lives and about those same characters. We had created a world that might one day be published and we loved to write the stories and lives of the middle school and high school girls who were similar to us in so many ways and different in so many ways. I don't know how it happened, but I did eventually grow out of writing in the notebook. Maybe it was because other students started to notice what was going on and asking questions. Maybe it was because my teacher saw me writing in it one too many times when I should have been paying attention in class and I got in trouble for it. Maybe it was because our friendship grew apart and the original instigator of the notebook moved across the country to meet more of her family. All that I know is that the notebook ceased to exist and the characters within it ended their stories on a cliffhanger.

The Book of Poems: As a middle schooler, I found myself experimenting with different types of writing. My parents noticed my fondness for it and decided that it would be okay to give me a computer monitor in my bedroom (no internet connection!) where I could practice typing and be able to use Microsoft word to type out whatever I believed needed typing out. I decided to start writing poems and had what felt like hundreds of poems typed out on my computer. I would write about my uncle's death and my brother's annoyances and my own tormented life of teenage angst. I remember rhyming "strife" and "life" a lot. These poems I let my parents read because I craved their approval and secretly wanted them to know about my emotions even though I pretended I didn't want their opinions or thoughts on my life. I remember feeling that I had a talent for poetry, although looking back I know these were all simple rhyming poems that you might find in a Shel Silverstein book of poetry. There was no hidden meaning except for one poem about a kite whose string was cut - I believe I was looking for some independence of my own at the time. Everything was cut and dry and easy and fun, but even so, I loved my poems and I have literally no clue why I stopped writing poetry. Maybe it's because I turned to prose?

Mood: In middle school (maybe high school?) I used that same computer to type out a couple chapters of a real book written by me and brainstormed by me. I had characters and a concept for the plot and I had started writing some real full-length chapters about a girl with some witchy talents. I printed it out and gave it to my parents so they could edit it for grammar and give their thoughts. I remember writing a prologue and two chapters and I, again, do not know why I stopped writing. It's possible that the computer left my room when we moved or that it crashed one day and never fixed itself again. It's possible that I ran into a serious case of writer's block and that my teenage mind, instead of buckling down and trying harder, just ran off into the next obsession. But I stopped. I still remember the basic plot line as a 25 year old, so it clearly meant something to me! And yet the book has been over for at least 10 years.

Journals: Like most of my readers, I have stopped and started a series of journals throughout my 25 years. I would be gifted books to write in for birthdays and Christmases and be so excited to fill the pages but after getting about two weeks in, start to write less and less often. I found myself returning to journals in times of crisis (or what seemed like crisis at the time) and every month or so writing another four or five pages before forgetting the whole thing again. My mom noticed that I wrote in journals regularly at one time and wrote to me in a journal (what I think, to this day, is still the best parenting technique). She tucked the journal under my pillow for me to find and read on my own time. After I read it, I decided I would write back to her and she and I began to correspond through the journal in lieu of face to face conversation. Going through puberty and being an adolescent was hard and I went through periods of despising my mom and her rules and refused to communicate with her because she just didn't understand. Ugh, the angst. I wish I could just go back in time and shake myself - if my mom had been my best friend a few years before it happened for real, I could have saved myself a lot of suffering. The journal provided us with a way to speak to one another - she found a way around my angst and suffering and managed to get through to me and allow me a place to be heard without damaging my pride. My mom is brilliant.
You'll notice that all of these mediums for writing died off without explanation. As I wrote more and more reports and papers for school, I lost my love for writing and reading outside of homework. I began to hate the books we read during and for class and I forgot how to read for fun since I was forced to write and read for work. And college didn't change that. When I entered school, I was excited and ready for changes in my life, but amongst those changes did not arrive a love for reading and writing. The papers and reports got longer and my love of writing dwindled until it was barely noticeable against the mountains of work piled in front of me.

But I did notice it happening. I could tell that I wasn't reading for fun anymore and I started to refuse to read altogether. I ignored our readings for class (unless I actually liked the professor and found myself truly interested in the subject material) and did just enough skimming to get through class. I picked quotes out of larger readings without knowing for sure whether I comprehended the entire reading or not. I guessed and I got lucky. But even though I had managed to eliminate reading for work, I still hadn't gotten back into reading for fun yet. I was at a crossroads with no clue what options I was facing in front of me.

Fortunately, after graduating college, I was forced to write a blog. I committed myself to a year of mission work in Africa and promised to write a few times a month as updates to send home to my family and friends who supported my cause. As I wrote, I remembered that I loved to write. I remembered that I was good at it and that I loved to be heard and listened to. I loved to use my writing as a way to explore myself and my past and my present and future. I loved every piece of it, even the obligation. The love of writing was back and the love of reading followed immediately as I filled my free time abroad reading books rather than falling to YouTube and Netflix to pass the time. Thank you, stricter data usage charges in South Africa. So I wrote and I read and then I came back home. And do you think the habits stuck?
Hell no. I still read. Not regularly, but I read. I have a favorite author and I have a library card that I have never used. I have an Amazon Wish List filled with books that I want to read and stacks of books next to my bed and my partner's bed (on my side of course). I have a few that I am in the middle of right now, but I am also completely caught up on most of my favorite Netflix shows and may have even started to watch them a second or third or fourth time through (hey, Gossip Girl). But I don't read like I want to. I'm hoping when I have a steady job, I can buy a chair and a table and a standing floor lamp and create the perfect reading nook in my apartment - but that's a long time coming. I still don't feel like I have earned the label "reader". And I certainly haven't earned that of "writer". But here I am anyway, writing like I matter.
I've been inspired to write, and that is all that I know. I don't know what to write. I don't know what medium is for me and where I will best be heard and appreciated. But here's a blog post anyway. Here's where I'm coming from. Now I guess I just need to figure out where I'm going. Maybe next time I'll have some answers.

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