When I was six years old, I felt very connected with God. I had a sense of peace about my world, and knew, I just knew, that one day I was supposed to be a famous writer. It was a sense of destiny that was as tangible as anything I’ve ever experienced since. I started my first novel at age 13, something about a plot to overthrow the President. Then the movie Seven Days In May came out, and stole my story line, so I set that novel aside. Then when I was in the 8th grade, our class compiled a literary magazine. I had five poems and a short story published, and was really excited about writing. Shortly after that, I stopped writing altogether, and my joy for writing had gone away. I didn’t know why.
By the time I was in college, I had trouble writing term papers, and in graduate school it was tortuous to try to finish my master’s thesis.
In 1980, I decided to try writing out my thoughts and feelings. I would sit at a typewriter, or in front of a legal pad, wanting to write, knowing that I liked to write, loved to write, wanted to write, yet somehow feeling stuck. My efforts were tentative and halfhearted, and I had to force myself to make the effort. Which was very odd, because of my writing ambitions as a young boy.
Written February 14, 1980:
Right now I feel like an artist standing before an easel with a canvas on it who doesn’t have any idea what he’s going to write. Not even a vague idea. Making him not want to call himself an artist. All I feel is a desire to express myself in some way in words. I want to peel away the different layers of life and get at the essence of it, to see what is really there.
I’ve been thinking as I’ve read and thought about writing the last few days that to be able to write, you have to have a clearer understanding of your own feelings and emotions. If you want to evoke an emotion in a reader, you have to sense what emotion something brings out in yourself, and then try to convey that through words. All of which is a much harder process than I had originally imagined.
I am reading a wonderful book right now, titled The Last Convertible and seeing as if for the first time how truly marvelous it is that an author can lead you where he wants you to go, to make you feel those emotions he wants you to feel. The careful word choice, the arrangement of plot, the details to include and omit, I’m really starting to appreciate all those things.
All of which makes me wonder if I have that talent. I have always thought since I was a kid that I would be a writer, a novelist. Yet, a book I browsed through at the bookstore today contained a passage which stated that the author had seen some brilliant men attempt a novel and have the attempt come off bland and dull. His response was that some had it and some didn’t. Just like athletic ability. You can train all you want, but if you don’t have the talent to run in the Olympics you won’t, successfully.
So what is to be the focus of my writing? Am I trying to write for the benefit and enjoyment of others through an expression of myself? Or am I to write like I would imagine myself playing the piano; making music for my own personal enjoyment whether anyone is there to listen or not.
I’m not sure about that yet. I do know that I seem to write the most easily and the thoughts to flow most readily when I am writing for myself. When I am writing to get in touch with my own feelings, to verbalize on paper. When I have tried to write “creatively” it has seemed stilted and trite. But perhaps that is the key. I’ve got to be in touch with my own feelings and realize what I want to express before I can effectively set an expression down on paper. I must not try for style but just try to express what an event has meant to me. But it has got to be a more precise and in depth examination of what I have seen and felt. So far, I have put down a brief description of what I saw or felt, and assumed that anyone could understand what I was thinking about or was seeing what I saw. This is not enough. It will require more precision.
Also, like I mentioned before, I don’t have a topic. That is always a drawback (he says with tongue in cheek). I’m torn between drawing from my own life experiences and going outside that to just write from my own imagination. The former course has the advantage that it is familiar ground and it may be that I can better treat the subject since my writing on personal topics seems to come more easily. However, it may be that I need to break out of that line of thinking, to free myself up some. Not thinking about the fact that if I just spin a good yarn, I need to be writing thinking that someone will someday read it, but just to enjoy the spinning. And more importantly, to give me the much needed practice. Then if I get on the trail of something which really excites me, I’ll have put in my roadwork and won’t be starting on it cold turkey. Maybe just write a short story or something, and work on revising it and getting the feel I want from it, to get practice at those things I so much envy in good writers.
If I were an artist right now, the teacher would be telling me to loosen up my strokes, that they were too rigid and severe, too restrained. Maybe I need the admonition to just let the brush go for a while and see where it takes me. To just go with the flow and enjoy it, and stop thinking about it so much.
So there I was, writing about whether to write. Was it hesitancy at owning a talent, or was there something deeper? What was going on?
“The Writing Concentration” Ppedrosimonoes7. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.