“I am a writer, because I write.” – Cheryl Strayed
I’ve always written, in some form or another, since I was little. I remember the first time I let myself be overcome with expressing myself on paper, it was in the fourth grade at Edgemont Elementary School, and I was asked to do a report on eagles. Not the band or anything, the bird.
Back then you had to actually go to the library to find out any information other than what your parents and social circles could tell you, so off I went. I was also given permission to use my parent’s precious typewriter. Awesome.
For a nine year old, my finished product of four pages typed in 11pt font with .5″ margins, was quite the feat, a bold achievement. The hard part came when I concluded my story, after days of research and hours of writing, and suddenly realized I had to read the thing aloud to my class. Panic. Mortification. Me, the painfully shy kid who didn’t say a word to my dad until I was three (as they tell me).
But I was so in love with my words. My amazing accomplishment. All my work and preparation and the time spent on it. I learned everything there was to know about eagles, and I was proud of what I’d done.
It was the longest four pages I’ve ever read out loud in my entire life, and I was speaking at NASA speeds to get through it.
A couple of years later I won a writing contest and was invited to a creative writing weekend seminar at a local high school. I loved it. I wish I still had what I had written that weekend, because I have had moments over the years where that particular instance of sitting in the orange chair with the attached desk, surrounded by complete strangers of all ages, and staring at the various writing prompts on the blackboard and seeing my notebook in my peripheral below me, and I can taste that precise sense of wonderment I had in that exact second. Like this would feed me for the rest of my life. This joy, this particular love.
I became a mom at a young age, and when she was little I started doing Christmas cards to send out to the family. I had helped put together a calendar at my job, a print shop, and was also overly proud of the research I’d done and months of work I’d put into the calendar — photography and captions — that I bought thirty or so calendars to send out to family and friends. I wrote a cover letter, and a poem about the holidays, and to this day I’m embarrassed I actually sent the thing out. I always picture this one aunt of mine, a perfect lady, reading the poem and telling her husband how tacky and immature I am. Bleh.
My Christmas cards have morphed into another expression of myself, I cram them full of photos of my beloved family, and try to write a paragraph about each of us with as much humor as I can pack into a fun shaped card that stays within the confines of a first class forever stamp. I send over 100 cards every year. And I get compliments all year long. I love it. I love wordsmithing our lives, an entire year, into a 5″ x 7″ synopsis.
I have, very privately, begun novels and given up on them once I run out of steam. They never quite go where I want them to go and I have a horrible tendency to change tenses while writing. Ruins the whole thing.
Last year when I started going to a therapist, she was poking around my edges to find my passions, still being the socially shy and awkward girl of my childhood. After several sessions she jumped up while I was talking about who-knows-what drama and exclaimed, “That’s it! You’re a writer!” I curled into myself in her chair and tried to hide. “Oh no, not me…”
My homework was to make a space where I could write, and just write. For me, and no one else. Whenever I want, whenever I can. To get over my fear of if it’s good or worthy or even readable. If I’M good or worthy. To NOT GIVE A SINGLE FUCK if anyone ever reads it. It was for me, because I needed to write for ME.
The next few sessions she pushed the issue and soon I had enough courage to share with my husband that in addition to obsessing over reading (my record is 133 books in one year), I had a super secret inner desire to write books.
I got a laptop, just for me, just for writing. I started a chair hunt.
And a couple months later when lying on a Reiki table, and somehow being brave enough to share with my friend that I was starting to write and it felt good, she said I needed to write a blog. Cue the deep breathing into a bag.
“Anonymous. Private. No one will know who you are, unless you decide to share personal info.”
A couple months after that, and I had talked myself into having an anonymous blog. Writing about whatever the fuck I want to write about. And then battling with my inner critic, the monster that doesn’t think I can do a damn thing. At least not well. That guy’s an asshole. But what I’m learning is that he’s part of the package. I just gotta realize he’s a jerk and stop listening to him.
A few months into blogging and I decided to share with my sisters. I didn’t die of embarrassment. Then for Mother’s Day I wrote something for my wonderful mommy and shared it with her. I didn’t die then either. This seems to be going okay.
Recently I listened to a podcast of Cheryl Strayed, where she talks about Writing Like a Motherfucker, and she said one of the most beautiful phrases I’ve ever heard…
“I’m a writer, because I write.”
For no other reason than it’s what she loves, and what she’s always done, and what she will continue to do, even if she never sells another book or article, and people stop visiting her blogs. It’s just what she does, because she can’t not write.
I love that. I get that.
I write for me, because, as my (current) favorite musician Macklemore says…