For the Writers

I always thought writers had to be tortured souls in order to create anything of value. Anything that anybody would want to read. I eventually talked myself out of that notion. Today I had a different thought. I don’t think writers have to be tortured to create, I think writers are tortured because they have the need to create. Let me expand on that. The need is deep, it’s irresistible. In my case, I kept coming back to it after years of denial and suppression. The “tortured soul” comes not from life’s challenges, but from the self-doubt. The need to create followed by the absolute notion that everything you churn out is as vile as fly-covered pig shit rotting in the sun. It’s that feeling that anything you put on paper feels simplistic, shallow, juvenile, and vapid. That puddle on the sidewalk has more depth.
This isn’t a plea for pity. God no, don’t pity the fool that thinks they have enough talent to write something that anybody wants to read. No pity needed. Indeed, the true writer pounds the self-doubt into the ground while they march forward. We torture ourselves, creating something better, something worthwhile. Without self-doubt, it would be a world full of mediocrity, filled with dreck you would never want to read. Thank God for self-doubt.

Say it with me, “I am a writer”

I was buying wine Friday night. I got carded. I told the cashier that I was flattered, considering I’m old enough to have children that are of legal drinking age. I got over my initial burst of pride when he put on glasses to check my ID.

He rang up my purchase and told me the total due was $19.70. While I swiped my card and cycled through the screens on the keypad, he reminisced about how good of a year 1970 was for him. He mentioned music and some songs in particular. A pleased look took over his face, along with a smile. Not the overdone, comical, huge ear-to-ear type of smile, but one of those smiles you get when you don’t even realize you’re smiling.

We were just about done with the transaction when I blurted out “I’m writing a novel that is set in 1970.” It was out of my mouth before I knew what I was saying. I’m not one to bring up my writing with people I don’t know. I stick to discussing it at school, with family and close friends, on my blog, at writing festivals, or at my writers group. I don’t wear it on my sleeve.

He started asking me questions about my story. My transaction was complete and there was a line behind me. I had put myself in an uncomfortable position. I felt like I was being interrogated by the police, shackled to a table with the bright light shining in my face. “Confess! Or else.” I gave him some vague details. As I did I noticed that the woman in line behind me was leaning in with her head turned and tilted to hear what we were talking about. I took my bag and left the store.

As I walked through the parking lot, I realized that I had just admitted in public that I am a writer. The amazing part was that nobody heckled, snickered, or pointed at me and laughed. They showed interest instead of laughing at me and my silly dream.

I am a writer.

04-27-2013 PHX to MSP

I look out the airplane window at the sun disappearing behind the mountains. The colors of the sky are indescribable. Red, orange, yellow, and blue across the horizon. It’s like seeing these colors for the first time. The colors would normally cause admiration and fascination, today it’s only sadness. The beauty of this place brings only sadness now. I pull out my notebook and start writing about what I see, knowing that if I don’t, all the emotion of this moment will make it impossible to remember the details. Years from now I’ll try to remember this moment, the moment I said “good-bye”. Because this is it, it is now. I never said it in person. I spoke it when we spread his ashes in the desert. But I didn’t feel the finality until I saw the mountains disappearing outside this window.

It’s difficult to write with tears gathering. I lean back to take a break and I flash a memory of a dream I had a few months ago. I dreamt I was on a plane. I saw myself from above, writing in a notebook. The interior was dim and I saw orange and pink hues glowing through the window. In the dream I could not see what I was writing. Even though I was watching myself, I could feel that I was sad. A deep sadness, an unfamiliar sadness. I remember waking from that dream and feeling dread. Something I didn’t shake for a while. The dream had felt so real. I could not figure out where I was in the dream. I couldn’t figure out where I was going or what I was doing.

Today I figured out where I was, where I was going, and what I was doing. I dreamt this months ago. I don’t want to dream anymore.

11-14-2013 – While I was waiting for an appointment earlier this week, I was skimming through one of my numerous notebooks and I found these words from April. I felt that almost seven months later I could finally transcribe them. I wanted to record them for myself. I’m not really sure why I’m sharing them here. Maybe for my siblings. Or maybe for therapy.