So, there I was, staring blankly at an empty word document, wondering how on earth I was going to fill the page in front of me. And, not just fill the page with mindless garbage, but something with substance. Something that people want to read and hopefully glean something from. I had not done this since college, and I quickly remembered why.
On the contrary, when I was approached with this project, I legitimately looked forward to it. It’s almost like I thought of myself as a writer; a daydream that quickly turned in to unadulterated fear as my deadline closed in. What I had a month to do, quickly turned to days, and then hours. Instead of trying to make my submission better, I was frantically looking for reasons to tell Adam why I couldn’t hand anything in. That seemed easier to do than finish what I had started.
Writing, when looked at from afar, seems like a simple task. You formulate a topic, organize your thoughts, and put it to paper. It’s talking, but with a pencil/pen/keyboard. I had to do this for 12 years of public schooling and 4 years of college. Writing is easy, right? It is anything but easy, at least for me. Before I start writing, I have thousands of ideas and topics that come to mind:
“I could write about political affiliation and what it means to everyone.” I start that project, get about 300 words in, realize I’m out of gas.
“Oh, I know, what about the gun issue? I have fairly strong feelings on that subject, that will make for great writing!” About 400 words hit the page before I’m unconscious.
My mind races with word after word, which seem to fall in an unorganized mess on the document I’m trying to prepare. What I have pictured in my head, is rarely what is written down. There is zero organization, and all I can think is that it really shouldn’t be this hard.
So, that’s why I chose to write about…. writing.
It seemed easy enough, on the surface, although I couldn’t have been more wrong. I found myself at a literary crossroad, where I wasn’t sure which direction to take. I would start down an idea path, only to find that it led me nowhere. It is amazing how quickly an idea can fade in to nothing when it looks giant in your head. My other issue was my seemingly small tackle box of vocabulary. I forget that the only real source of writing I have done over the past 15 years is via text message.
“LOL this isn’t fun, brb while I look for inspiration.”
I started to look for reasons as to why this was such a challenge. I communicate daily with people because of my job, and I’ve never been known as a quiet person, so communication and a revealing of ideas is easy for me in that context. Writing is the exact opposite. What you say in conversation is fleeting, meaning once it is said you don’t see it again. Writing is permanent, always there to stare at you with your imperfections.
My other issue is that everything I do in a literary sense currently, is already laid out in front of me. You need a well-versed email written, I’m your guy. An email has a direction, and I just need to take the conversation there; steer the literary vessel to safe harbors. This project had no such thing, no direction other than what I could come up with myself. And that is where the problem really was, my lack of creativity.
Can you lose creativity, or does it just manifest itself into something else? Maybe my creativity was replaced by some facet of fatherhood or being an adult. Maybe creativity gets crushed the older you get? Likewise, being a creative person isn’t always a welcome thing. It can be frowned upon or thought of as weird or different. Thinking out of the box usually doesn’t follow social norms, so it is uncomfortable. Maybe I am just uncomfortable? Maybe I fear that what I write, or even worse, how I write, will be laughed at. It’s looking down at the murky waters below, and just jumping in to the unknown.
But, in the end I jumped. Maybe not immediately, but I did jump. And, the reality is it felt good. It felt good to accomplish something I didn’t think I could do, even though it took longer than it should have. It felt good to express myself in a new medium. It was an honest awakening, and one I needed. I don’t know how many of these projects there will be, but I look forward to the challenge. Hopefully, I can grow as a writer and become more comfortable in my skin.
Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?