Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Go back to the beginning

Pretty much since I could pick up a crayola and scrawl words on paper, I've been writing.

As a child I played by myself lot. My sister is five years older than I, and while she did her time on a regular basis - a nine year old cobbling together some sense out of the gobbledygook my four year old brain cranked out - I often found myself alone, wandering around the woods, making up stories.

These weren't stories about fairies or unicorns and for some reason a I felt a low grade anxiety that my topics of choice were less than magical. The themes ran in the arena of "Personal Doom Scenarios": run away orphans, crippling diseases, the Holocaust. At one point I recall playing the matriarch of a tribe of pandas on the edge of extinction.

(When you look at it like that, it's easy to see why the neighborhood children steered clear after a while.)

When I was in the fourth grade, with a better grasp of language, I discovered writing short stories. The focus centered around me and my best friend Ryan's detective club. We didn't actually have a detective club in real life, only in the stories. I would churn out plots reminiscent of Scooby Doo or the Bloodhound gang, and - in a late Cold War twist - would have us bound for Antarctica in the hands of some nefarious Ruskies.

Everything I thought about my coming life had to do with writing. Every essay or short story I turned in got raves from teachers or friends. The path seemed clear.

But somewhere along the line, I stopped.

This standstill did not occur overnight necessarily, nor was there a direct coincidence with my turning to theatre as a creative outlet. I think I lost faith in my writing, totally repulsed by everything I put to paper. I came to the conclusion that I was unable to just "talk plain", as Flannery O'Connor says, I believed my words flowery and I was embarrassed by what I put down. That self editing became my undoing.

Something I have come to understand about myself is my vicious need to be perfect right out of the gate. It's as if every word, sentence or paragraph must be birthed fully formed like Athena from Zeus' forehead.

I almost never rewrite...many of the plays I write are first drafts with a few tweaks here or there. And it's not because I think it's perfect. It's because I will see the imperfections and destroy what I've done.

As you might well imagine, that sort of thinking is rubbish and I feel as though I have lost something because of it.

Hence, this blog.

In recent weeks, I have recalled how important writing is to me, how therapeutic, how fun and freeing. Technically, I have never really stopped. I am still telling myself stories in my head, forming sentences and phrases I like, composing narratives. Even writing emails is a form of expression I am most comfortable in.

It has been a long time since I have written on a consistent basis so I am a little rusty. A lot of the mechanics of grammar or syntax have been long lost. (Not that I was a slave to those things anyway...but they do help when making oneself clear.) But I think I know now that writing is something I need and I want to improve at it.

This blog will be an outlet for that writing. A place for essays, thoughts, stories, daily journals, whatever. I need to write every day (right now, I am away, so I may or may not make it through this week...but I thought I'd give it a shot anyway) and so I will. I am determined to put stuff up on a regular basis, whether or not I think it's any good. At a certain point you just have to put yourself out there and all else be damned, you know?

Maybe I should get cracking on that Tribe of Diseased Orphan Pandas that Survived the Holocaust story.

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