The Things Writers Carry

The idea of carrying has seemed to come up in my life through the last few months. The words of E.E. Cummings have turned over in my mind: "i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)." In reading Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, there is a certain sense of questioning that come with it. I have questioned my own burden, the things that I carry. I carry the literal: water bottles, my phone, notebooks, a mood ring I wear only semi-ironically. It seems that the literal objects I carry day in and day out have come to define me, just because high school students find it easy to categorize people by the things that they can see. The things that we carry are heavy and light, obvious and secretive, literal and figurative. I am not one to travel lightly; I am a writer whose only cargo are my stories. I carry words with me, undoubtedly. Words have made me heavy with the stories of people: those of strangers, those of the ones closest to me, those of characters of my own design. I am the architect of my own heavy lifting; the weight of the narratives that I hoist exist because I have created them in the first place. My stories have made me a beast of my own burden.

My grandmother has told me that I have writer hands, worn and creased from oars and tired playground equipment and experience. My hands hold stories, she tells me, stories of too many nights using them to gesture, too many scars, too many calluses from wooden pencils. In a literal sense, my hands hold my writing. Deep in the skin of my palm, I carry a sliver of pencil lead, serving as a perennial reminder of my most defining quality. My hands carry the physical, too: pens, notebooks, books, all things that give me my ability to write.

The stories I bear contain multitudes. They are light and intimate; they are unwieldy and awkward. The thoughts that rattle around in my head come to me in different reincarnations as time goes on. I convey the same ideas in accordance to my present reality, tailoring the same story to fit my current experience. I have an intense feeling that these stories will never leave me, making them the things that I will ultimately, always carry.

With the words I hold comes fear, something in which I carry no words for. I have found that my stories can entrap me and allow me to hide behind them. They say that writers and women experience the most intense forms of Impostor Syndrome, and I'm both. Being a writer means no stone is left unturned. Being a writer has forced me into thinking that I must comprehend, transcribe and compartmentalize every experience around me. I get caught in habit that writing is my responsibility, and then end up bitter about my proprietary nature over my stories. I struggle with the feeling that I am taking ownership of something I am not entitled to, that I have collected the things everybody else carries and synthesized it into my own.

I have both resented and worshipped my ability to write, even if neither are productive, but that feeling has been carried through my whole life. I was published on a major writing platform, but I have not even looked at the webpage because I am too worried to see what strangers have said about it; I went to a conference of writers, all as experienced as I am, and every one of my questions I asked began in an apology. My feeling towards my work runs in circles, making it so I can't decide if it is self-created fear or something much larger. I have carried with me the assumption that I am not authorized to feel proud of my work.

With all the things that make my work painful, the stories I carry hold a power that breathes easy and unbroken. I have tucked away and turned my rancor for my work into something to write about. I have understood the painful the things I carry to be a rock at the pit of my stomach. Acrimony will not make it go away, so fixating on its unpleasant edges won't help. Instead, I have taken the time to unpack the cargo I bear. Once I have begun to understand the rock inside me, I have begun to see that it is less obstructive than I may think. I have come to understand that my ability to wield words is one of the only things that can't be taken away from me. As writers all have to come to terms with, I have to come to realize that I am deserving of the things I carry.