I was six when I attended my first writer’s workshop. I was by far the youngest person in the Saturday morning gathering, but I can remember my unashamed eagerness and not registering any sort of limitations on my writing. I took a line from a Garth Brooks song (“…in her faded flannel gown…”) and used it as a present to one of my characters. I didn’t understand the lyric or, as a result, that nobody would want a faded flannel gown as a present. But it sounded poetic, and I’d taken details from my little world and submerged them into my creative one, like any good writer would do.
For most of my life, I have identified myself as “writer.” When people asked me what I was going away to school for, I was so proud and excited to say, “I’ve been accepted to a creative writing program.” I got to spend my days writing, exploring different genres, carving out a niche for myself in this crazy world. While everybody was out getting business degrees or science degrees, I was hanging out with the fine arts kids, hammering away at some serious workshop series. It was actually university that kickstarted my adoration of editing, but it was my love of writing, my need to write, that sustained me, and continues to sustain me.
Looking back over the years, I see now that this thing we call life inadvertently placed parameters on my craft, limiting its free-flowing pattern, stunting the depth of my words.
I won’t lie to you: I deviated from the best outlet I have. I lost my way. I was scared of what I might say. Everything that was building up inside of me threatened to explode at any moment, and I was terrified to let loose those flood gates. If I let it go long enough to write about what mattered, would the rickety foundation I’d constructed crumble in, leaving the pieces of my world lying around me?
I pushed my craft so far away that I could no longer hear it trying to call out to me. I’d silenced that tiny voice just above my heart, that begged me to listen. I was so desperate to not feel anything that the thought of writing anything of true value was too horrifyingly real.
It took me moving cities to realize that no matter how hard I tried to outrun my writerly ways, I’d never do it. My connection to words, my ability to string them together is the only true talent I hold dear. They offer clarity when nothing makes sense, they offer solace when the world is just too harsh, they offer understanding when I can’t verbally articulate what I need to.
For me, what it means to be a writer is this: honoring the craft the gods have bestowed upon you, giving the space and the freedom to allow it do what it needs. However, this takes patience, endurance and conviction. Deep down, I think every writer knows he or she is meant to write. But the trick is to actually write. Every day. Even if it just free-flow gibberish. Writing is writing and it doesn’t matter what it is.
I lost my way, but I found it back, and it has made me wonder whether a writer ever truly loses her way but maybe instead takes a detour, takes the long way around. Gathering tidbits and details to one day weave into the story she was always meant to tell.