Thursday, July 30, 2015

Why I Write

This week's Flash Fiction Challenge is actually not writing fiction; it's writing about why I write. Here it is:

Why I Write

   I can't remember the first time I sat down and wrote something of fiction.  I can, however, remember the first time I had a favorite book: Golden Book's "The Pokey Little Puppy", because in my young, impressionable mind, desserts and puppies were a double-win.  (And still are, as a matter of fact!)
   I've always loved books, and I read hungrily and fervently from a young age.  (I had serious coordination problems when I was younger.  Sports were out of the question, but reading always came easy to me.)  My favorite pastime was to go to the library, check out the maximum number of books, and read them all in the two-week period before they were due.
   I had a lot of difficulty expressing myself as a child.  My parents tell me that I took a long time to learn to talk.  My brother, who was two years older, would speak for me.   
   When I finally did start talking, I had a speech impediment.  I couldn't pronounce my "Rs", and had serious problems acquiring a normal speech pattern.  This, combined with my lack of coordination, made for a very awkward childhood.  It was very isolating; even in my family, no one else had my issues.
   It wasn't until my freshman year in high school that I found my own voice through writing. Something clicked.  I realized I could write the way I always wished I could speak.  I learned that my family, all of whom were overbearing, could finally understand what I was trying to tell them if I put it in writing.  
   Through writing, I could make myself clear without being talked over or interrupted.  Through writing, my thoughts, which were otherwise horribly snarled together, would magically untangle and set themselves in order.  Through writing, who I really was could come through, unobscured and untainted.  Through writing, I was made to be understood.  Through writing, I was made whole.
   Over time, I was able to work out some of the kinks in my verbal communication skills.  Menial jobs that included repetitious phrases helped me to improve my speech patterns.  But writing remained -- and still remains -- my most effective form of communication.
   There were times in my life when I didn't write.  Caught up in Pursuit of the Practical, I was ultimately unfulfilled.  I knew there was something missing, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it.  It wasn't until my last newspaper job, after a five-year hiatus from the journalism industry initiated by a layoff, that I realized why I wasn't functioning properly.
   I needed to write.  I needed to express myself, to reactivate that part of my brain that I had abandoned.  So I blew off the dust and cleared away the refuse in that part of my psyche which I never should have neglected.  I Googled writing exercises, and found Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenges.  
   Immediately, I knew I was back where I belong.  His challenges sparked my imagination and lit a fire that I had allowed to die out.  His writing inspired me.  And his advice encouraged me to embrace that which Everyday Routine and Pursuit of the Practical had made me forget.
   For some time, I shied away from becoming a novelist.  It seemed too daunting.  I didn't think I had the attention span for it.  
   And let's just say I was late to the NaNoWriMo party; I actually didn't even know what it was until I saw it in Wendig's blog last fall.  I was afraid to start it then, but a part of me wondered ...
   This past Spring, the local Nano group I had joined on Facebook mentioned a writer's conference that coming weekend.  It was the single most influential weekend I've experienced in a long time.  
   It was more than just the sessions, which were amazing and inspiring.  For the first time, I finally felt like I was surrounded by my people!  I could sense the kindred spirits all around me, and it was invigorating and refreshing.  
   My entire life, I've been misunderstood.  I've felt like a misfit, even in my own family.  On the Briggs-Meyer's scale, I'm INFP.  After researching this personality type, I've started to better understand myself.  (Of course I've always been "weird" -- those with my personality type comprise only 4% of the population.)  
   For this personality type, writing is an ideal career.  When I first saw that, I casually dismissed it, having been brainwashed for years to believe that the Pursuit of the Practical was the only way.  
   This summer, I finally decided to take the plunge.  My first Nano of any kind, JuNoWriMo, was an eye-opener that broke major ground for me.  I was challenged beyond anything I had ever done, and I realized my personal limits in writing were just arbitrary constructs that I had created out of fear.  They weren't based on reality.  
   Breaking through those walls taught me that I could do anything I set my mind to.  Before June, the most I'd ever written in one day was 3,000 words.  On my novel-writing journey, I had two days where I wrote 10K words, thanks to word sprints and word wars.  I completed 50K words two days before the end of the month.  And in July, when I participated in (and completed) Camp NaNoWriMo, I wrote 15K in one day.
   Writing can be a scary thing to pursue, when everyone around you pressures you to join them in the Pursuit of the Practical.  What they don't realize is what is practical for them can be death to someone who is meant for creative pursuits.  
   What is truly practical for me is to embrace who I am as a writer.  To stop hiding behind socially-mandated norms.  To stop making excuses.  To stop numbing my brain and allowing myself to be lulled into complacency with hours of television.  To stop the bullshit.
   Why do I write?  Because I must.  For me, to try to exist without it is to deny who I am at my very core.  It's every bit as necessary as breathing.  To not write is to stifle my creativity, my potential, my very being.
   I have outgrown the cage that was built for me by well-meaning people in my life, and by myself.  At this juncture, it's either: spread my wings and fly, or allow my wings to be clipped by limiting beliefs.  In refusing to fly, I would sentence myself to become haunted by the ghosts of unfulfilled potential, and cursed to forever wonder what my life might have been, if I had just been brave enough.  
   As a certain three-eyed raven from GRRM's novels is fond of saying, "Fly or Die."

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