What is it about writing that is so gratifying and so frightening at the same time? I have been keeping a journal – off and on – since I was about 20. Alot of my early independent writing was done when I was in high school, in the form of notes that I never passed on to my friends. I still have a pile of them, and they clearly reveal that I was a teenager in the 1980’s. ‘Like, gag me with a spoon.’ (shudder.)
When I was 20, maybe it was on my birthday, I went to CityCenter with a guy friend who later was my boyfriend for two days before we realized that we were not really interested in each other. We are still friends, though, through chance meet ups around town and the occasional facebook note. Cyber friends, I guess. The journal I bought was bright yellow and blue with repeating prints of an Andy Warhol rendition of cows. I especially loved that it was unlined. I filled that journal up completely.
Since then, I have probably started 10 or 12 other journals, and brought them to varying degrees of completion. I find it interesting how much I have changed in the time since the first journal. Of course it has been 18 years, but it’s a lot of change, to my way of thinking.
I used to be mortified if anyone read any of my work. Now I’ve written a (n unpublished…) novel, I have a little website, I make comments on Facebook, and I blog for all the world to see, should they care to take a gander.
I’m not sure that Mortified has the capacity to convey just how shy, trembly, sick I felt if I knew someone’s eyes were scanning my very own words. I hated it, but of course like any good passion, there was an equally strong flip side. I desired intensely for people to have read what I had written and to receive the praise I would demurely say that I didn’t deserve.
Hence, despite wanting to crawl into the nearest hole while ‘being read’, I have shared my writing. I wrote a few little poems for an improv show I was in during high school – I am forever thankful to my improv troupe for their reactions. Let me set the scene for you: We knew that we wanted to do a sketch about people in authority taking advantage of their positions – even the smallest amount of authority seems to go to some people’s heads. I was up late one night writing, and I decided to try writing something for that sketch. I wrote a series of short poems from different points of view – a judge, a crossing guard, scout leader….I don’t remember the details, really.
What I do remember is bringing in my poems and telling the other cast members that I had written something, but I didn’t want to read it. They said I must. Since I didn’t want everyone to hear, we went into the girls dressing room, they kicked out some non cast member who was in there, and they all encouraged me to read the poems aloud. I did. I remember that I felt my voice was not even audible, but they heard me, and then they used the poems in the show.
I think that’s when I started to realize that not only did I like writing, but that writing has a power. There is something about the written word. There are other forms of communication – speaking, music, video, plays and so on, but the written word, besides being essential to many other forms of communication, stands alone.
Even while everyone decries the internet and advancements in technology, it seems to me that what a lot of the internet consists of is people reading and writing. Different forms – not a printed book, but reading and writing none the less. I mean, here I am blogging my little heart out, and here you are reading it, so what does that tell you?
I think the fear of writing comes from an essential fear of being oneself and being rejected. And once words are down on a page and released into the world, you really can’t take them back. You can apoligize, you can claim that something was a typo, but it’s still out there. And in writing. A solid piece of evidence about how you felt or thought at a particular moment in time.
For most situations, there should really be no fear – how you felt about this or that is probably inconsequential. But once in a while it’s important, and you have to have the sense to know when that is. There is only one sentence I have ever written and sent out to someone that I truly regret.
It was when I was in Mexico, thoretically studying Spanish. I received a call from a friend of mine, and she was insensed because of something my ex-boyfriend had said. I do not have any memory of what made her upset, but at the time it made me upset, too. I was so angry about whatever his offense had been, that I wrote him a post card. All I said on it was, “You are such a f****** pessimist.” And I sent it.
I’m blushing right now at the memory of that. How very wrong. What a rotten thing to get in the mail. And he really was a nice person – he didn’t deserve that. But it also illustrates the power of words. I think it’s just that power that makes writing both gratifying and frightening. I, for one, am going to keep on writing, even if it scares the hell out of me.
Thanks for reading. Peace out. Sheila