I've always communicated better on paper than in person. I found writing to be an outlet and a haven, as well as a constant companion. When I couldn't find my voice, when I couldn't straighten out my thoughts- I would work it out with a pen and paper in journals filled with rambling, nonsensical and sometimes really good words.
I once had a pen pal in England, back in ancient times when the only cheap way to communicate internationally was through an aerogram. We got assigned a pen pal in school and our only assignment was to write a letter introducing ourselves and to ask a few key questions about their life. My letter was a two page long fantasy. I made up an alter ego of sorts who was way more interesting and unbelievable than my boring twelve year old self. My mother found the letter and was horrified that I could lie for two whole pages. She was convinced I had something wrong with me (note: she still does) in that I couldn't just follow the assignment and not...lie.
But the fake twelve year old self I was trying to present to this faceless British counterpart was so much more fun and exciting. I don't even remember what I wrote or how much I embellished but I remember the feeling I got writing that letter. The words on the light blue aerogram flowed quickly; driven by something I didn't even know existed- the desire to create a story.
I never mailed that letter. I felt too guilty and somewhat ashamed. I didn't know what I had done wrong but the message was received that it was not okay to write a fantasy. I didn't write again until college where I began to fill journal after journal. This time, it wasn't fantasy at all. It was 90% angst and 10% recounting weekly activities. A combination of what's my purpose and what I had for dinner. There was a lot of breakup drama peppered with some existential crises. I've made my husband promise not to let my kids read these journals after I'm gone- it would be too embarrassing for dead me to have my kids read pages of my college romances gone awry. I could just imagine my kids rolling their eyes thinking "why couldn't mom be less dramatic?"
I started writing a blog a few years ago and it morphed into writing for Huffington Post. I'm so thankful for this outlet and the opportunity to not write in a vacuum. The challenge of writing in a public forum, or creating anything for that matter, is staying true to ones voice. To not let readers perception get in the way. To write purely- with no specific reader in mind- is the most authentic and raw endeavor. It's writing in a diary, but for other people to read. It's hard.
I'm writing a book now, I think. I have about 100 pages of words and stories and some fragmented sentences that may one day be bound and typeset with a shiny cover. Maybe. Alternatively, I may just keep writing 100 more pages which will live forever in an iCloud. Writing for real, for an editor and an agent is work. Hard, agonizing, euphoric work. I've written so many SFDs (shitty first drafts) and even when I think it's ready to send, I re-read it and ask myself "besides my sisters, who the fuck would want to read this?" and "who am I to be writing anything?". The level of self doubt and subsequent self-loathing is deep.
But sometimes when I'm vomiting out paragraph after paragraph- it feels like my fingers can't type as fast as the words are coming. I get high on the perfect metaphor. It's divination and I can catch a whiff of what propels real writers. If I can write a few good paragraphs, I feel lighter, purposeful and so connected to earth. Writing grounds me and forces me to explore and express my truths. Even if those truths sound silly a few days later. They were real. They're on paper.
I never appreciated how much discipline and work it entails, though. Because sometimes I sit and stare at a flashing cursor and all that I hear is mind-static. Nothing comes. It's a loud, itchy silence. I get restless and agitated and start the inner monologue listing all the reasons I need to just stop this silliness. But I force myself to sit and keep typing even if it's complete shit. I can always delete it later. I can always edit the crap out of it and make it better. I can always use it as a springboard to a much better idea. There's tremendous freedom in that.
The book is not fiction. Its very real. Raw and gritty would be the genre if I had to describe it. It's just me. Maybe the next book will be an homage to the lost aerogram full of fantasy.