Wednesday, July 06, 2011

The writer once I was

I used to write all the time. I have folders upon backpacks filled with scribblings. Poems, random musings, journals, fun quotes I found and saved in the hopes of topping chapters with one day, the unfinished Elizabethan love story (72 pages worth!) I started when I was 13. :) I wrote my first story when I was five, and as the years went on, I was almost ridiculously prolific. I was a sucker for lengthy, sometimes almost Dickensian descriptions, historical accuracy and multi-syllabic words. And letters, oh the letters I used to write to my cousins, the occasional overseas pen pal, my best friend from kindergarten (we wrote each other letters beginning in third grade and didn't talk on the phone until high school. We kept on writing in to college, and didn't see each other physically until I was in her wedding in 1999). I've kept most of the letters I've received, and wonder often about the fate of mine.

In the last several years I've started short stories (and actually finished a couple), two novels (one made it to 30-some odd pages, the other about far) and only a handful of letters (most, in fact, were only cards). Last year a good friend from high school and I decided we would write letters to each other (she now lives in Texas). We wrote each other exactly one letter a piece and then I, well, I kept meaning to write, and then months went by and I haven't written her a letter since.

And I was a dedicated, one might say obsessively Victorian-like journal keeper. They're all mismatched, my journals, some large, some small, one a book of bound graphing paper, filled to the margins. Some of my entries are about serious things like family events or school. Mostly they're silly musings about boys who I spent entirely too much time worrying about and obsessing over. In recent years, there have been more writings about faith and my walk with and toward God. But the last time I did any serious journaling was in Rome and immediately after I returned. A year and a half ago.

And of course the ironic thing is that I write every day. I'm lucky in that I make my living writing. It's what I got that creative writing degree to be able to do. But I feel like many of my stories for the paper are mundane and lacking in creativity, boxed in by inch counts, dumbed down and shortened for people who don't have long enough attention spans to read to the end.

Maybe that's my fault. But sometimes I wonder if my creativity has vanished or simply gone on an extended hiatus. I have ideas occasionally, but I'm lucky if I get beyond writing them down. They come at the most inopportune times, while I'm in the shower or getting ready to go somewhere. The majority of the time, the last thing I want to do when I get home from writing at work all day is sit and write some more. Writing used to be a joy for me, a necessary outlet almost as integral as breathing. Now, mostly, it feels like a chore. I at least tried to keep my hand in at one point. Three or four years ago I used to play a game with my editor: I would try and use big words in stories and see how many she'd let me keep, or how many actually made it into the paper the next day. Once I managed to squeeze in triumvirate, and was most proud of using prestidigitation several years ago. Now we have this new rule that no story can exceed 20 inches (roughly 500 words), and I wonder how much further we can be curbed and still be able to tell a decent story.

My editor now jokes with me occasionally that I'm really sitting at my desk writing my 15th novel (the number keeps growing) and that I'll complete it by lunchtime. If only. It was never my dream to write the Great American Novel, not really, but to have one well-written one that I'm proud of published? Now that I dream of.

And I know this post smacks somewhat of bitterness and regret, but I don't want that, ultimately. God gave me a gift in my writing ability, and I don't want to waste it. Sitting here typing, I realized I can do something about that. While I think Lent would be the ideal time to rededicate myself to writing creatively or introspectively every day, I need to get back in the habit, and I shouldn't have to wait until next spring. I should be able to discipline myself to do that, writing a little (not on the computer, but by hand), whether it's journaling or something creative, be it ever so meager an effort, for the next 40 days. I'll start today...well, as it's after 1 in the morning, later today, although this post should count, right?

I pray for the intercession of St. Francis de Sales and St. Maximillian Kolbe, patrons of writers and journalists, for their help in sticking to my resolution. Counting it out, 40 days from today is August 14th. I can do that.

I just realized August 14th is St. Maximillian Kolbe's feast day. I sit here amazed.

1 comment:

Rita Green said...

Just a few words written by hand, hold the mind and heart captive in that moment.