Uncategorized | August 25, 2011

Anna Quindlen was the first person to hear me say out loud that I wanted to be a writer. I had never read a novel by Quindlen, but knew of her because my dad tells a story of his sister’s childhood friend who would call the house only to have him answer and ask if her refrigerator was running. Apparently this friend grew up to be a famous novelist. My dad took me to see Quindlen my senior year of high school because it was an unofficial fact that I was going to be studying creative writing in some capacity for the next four years. The fact remained unofficial because despite my interest in creative nonfiction, I could never commit to identifying as a writer. During Quindlen’s reading she spoke about a disdain for the whole process that made me feel like maybe I did have some place in the writing world. Until this point I thought that people who called themselves writers felt constantly compelled and inspired to write, but this author shared something I could identify with. She said, “I don’t think I like to write.”

Of people who identify as creative writers it seems that there are two types, the ones who carry a small notebook and write in it and ones who carry a small notebook and don’t write in it. I am a member of the latter. The first group has seen the first and last pages of a Moleskine while the second group is still trying to figure out which pair of pants they left theirs in. The first group says things like “I got a lot of writing done today” or “I feel like writing.” The other group says things like “I took a nap today” or “I feel like napping.” Obviously I’m over-simplifying and in the mood for a nap. The distinction may be better made that for some writing is a hobby and for others it’s a masochistic chore.

This classification is not meant to divide good writers from bad writers. Identifying my peers based on how many times they retrieve a tiny pen to write in a tiny notebook hasn’t been divisive at all. Instead it has allowed for the creation of extracurricular writing workshops for those who wish to spend more time writing among people who enjoy the same. For people like me, it has made it ok to admit that I don’t always love what I love and that it often gets in the way of doing what I like. This contradiction has served as my roadblock in identifying as a writer. I’ve made attempts to be write-ly along with my other blank-notebook peers. The purchase of a pink journal was my latest attempt, but these attempts have always started and ended the same way. I still have the only diary I have ever owned. It is smaller, more pink, and less used than my current journal. It also reflects the same confusion I have each time I try to start a personal blog or jot down inspired thoughts; who am I writing to? The result is the feeling that I’m talking to myself. I admire and envy the writers who can filter their world from reality to page. These are the writers who talk to a stranger, see a potential character detail, and have the writer’s instinct to reach for a pen in their pocket. My filter is muddy.

In my writer journal it takes me 40 pages back to find my most recent inspired-to-write entry. I flip past dozens of jotted down Google Maps directions, a thumbnail sketch of a girl’s neck rash in the shape of New Jersey (that’s what the caption says anyway), notes on a Hawthorne story, notes on developing pictures in a darkroom, notes on the Greek alphabet, and three outlines of my left hand made to look like a turkey. When I do get to recognizable creative writing, I end up on a page with one fragmented detail that I kind of like although it’s not particularly revealing. It says, “Like the guy whose Gatorade bottle matched his shirt. There’s no good shade of orange.” Another sentence below it says, “Every time I see him I think, ‘Why does he walk that way?’” It was not my most profound thought.

Sometimes I just write so that I can look like I’m doing something while I drink coffee and smoke in public. It seems that most days I’m motivated by due dates and expectations more than an innate need to share, but what has become apparent to me is that I am no less of a writer because of it. Quindlen said something else in her reading that I identified with. She said that despite the annoyance, frustration, pain, and procrastination, her passion for writing is revived with its completion. At the end of a perfect sentence, I feel giddy, and then I nap. When I complete an essay, I feel accomplished, and then I nap. When I know that my writing has reached an audience, I feel significant, and then I open a beer. For now, those moments are enough to alleviate the grief that I am always carrying around in blank notebook pages.

I have made recent progress in trying to be a more active writer by dedicating a page of my journal to “Blog Ideas,” although the grocery list has already crept in. Stay tuned for my next post. Works in progress include, “Something art,” “That short story that made me gasp,” and “Frosted Mini Wheats.”

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