Writing. Why do I Write

Thursday, August 27, 2015

I am starting to feel comfortable about blogging. I imagine there will be a time when I spend more time blogging than I do journaling.

I have always wanted to write, and I have always written. I have vague recollection of typing out nasty things to say to my sister. I think the typewriter was taken away from me.

I wrote stories. I wrote letters. I journaled. My life is so well chronicled; it would be a shame that I didn’t “convert” into a famous writer person since I have so much. So much shit. Most of it is only worth the price of an already used piece of paper. Since electronic what do you even call a document that doesn’t really exist, at least not in a tangible form. Everything I write, mostly, is on the computer, so that means it’s not worth anything.

I don’t really believe this. It may not mean much to anyone else; I couldn’t sell my journals at a garage sale, yet alone to a publisher, but they mean so much to me. Back in 1983 I wanted to write every day. I wanted to have the discipline. It took a couple of spiral bounds to get me going, and once I arrived in Oregon, the journals increased tenfold or more. I can look back from about 1985 and for most days of the year and read what I was doing.

The content is rather weak. It’s not much different than the farmer in Vermont I once met who had written down the weather. Snow. Rain and Precipitation. Temperatures. Too many single digit temps for my liking. He wrote down the animals he saw. A regular census taker.

There are times when I throw off inhibition and write what’s really on my mind, though most were relationship problems, family, friend, and lover, and not really what was burning deep. There was always this sense that someone could be reading my journal while I’m still alive, creating a solid wall of what things I could or could not write about.

I learned early on in life how words can be as painful as punch in the nose or a kick in the groin. Maybe more. I was journaling for a high school social studies class, and I said some nasty things about my father. Our relationship was such a love-hate teeter-totter for so many years. I don’t remember doing this on purpose, and I am not very good at putting things away, but I happened to leave my journal open and in a location that my dad had ample times to notice it’s existence. There was nothing that said it was private. I don’t even think my name was on it.

My dad didn’t say anything about it until many, many years down the road.

When I ask myself why I write, why I am compelled to write, I have no answer. Sometimes it’s not like I want to, but it’s I have to. For the most part, my voice that says you gotta write, has been satisfied with the journals to myself, letters to friends and family, email, and now hopefully a once a day blog. Now these things are not quenching that desire. Maybe writing is an addiction and the only way to appease that voracious need is to turn writing into a  profession.

I have been thinking about this and talking about this for years, and years. Ever since I started writing, I have written stories. So many of my teachers were so frustrated with me because I could go on and on and on. I hadn’t any problem coming up with something to say. I just had the problem with mechanics. I hated them. I could care less if I had a complete sentence. Paragraphs were a waste of time. I drove my teacher’s crazy. How do you grade a paper with A for creativity and an F for mechanics. Sometimes creativity won the battle, but mostly mechanics would trump ingenuity.

After I tore my ACL and MCL and was told I couldn’t be a PE teacher, my fall back was to be a writer. I’ll get a degree in English and see where that goes. While at the University of Oregon, I explored creative writing classes. No one told me to buy a pair of boxing gloves and full body armor. These were upper division classes for mostly Creative Writing Master students. Not some floundering Junior and Senior undergraduate who couldn’t understand Chaucer even if the translation was spelled out for me.

AbuJaberBirdsIf it weren’t for the wonderful support of Diana Abu Jaber, a visiting professor, I probably would have broken all of my pens and pencils, smashed my computers, burned all my books, and swore to never acknowledge words ever again. I would have stopped speaking to them. I didn’t produce much to be critiqued, but when I did, I felt as if I were in the ocean with sharks. Talk about a feeding frenzy. I probably still have the stories and the comments that went along with them.

Today I commend myself for never giving up. I have met some amazing writers and teachers down the road. Paula Gunn Allen was one of those that inspired me.

The one who motivated me the most to keep writing was Ralph Salisbury. Such a sweet and supportive teacher. When I showed him an F on a paper that I had done for a stick in the mud professor that didn’t see creative nonfiction seriously. So what that I really didn’t have a walk with Virginia Woolf as I stated in my paper. She did tell me about her life. I did show I had learned how to research and write about Virginia Woolf. I had my sources. Remember to keep in mind that I was still at that time much, much better creatively than structurally. I probably still have that paper. It’s possible that upon a weatherheadk_11.cc_09052011review, Kingsley Weatherhead was correct in failing me. But anyway, when Ralph looked at the paper, he saw the creativity. The mechanics, he always told me, can be fixed, but it’s hard to fix imagination. You’ll have editors, he would tell me.

Switch gears. Athletics has always come naturally to me. Maybe there is some connection between creativity and athleticism. Quick mind, quick body perhaps. Maybe there was a purpose in my developing an amazing Sarcasm ability that can be downright lethal. If I am not paying attention, I can cut some one down with a mere word or two.

When it comes to my ADD, that doesn’t happen when I am throwing a ball. Maybe that means I’m only partial ADD. Only my right brain has it. Or would that be my left? When I wanted to get better at soccer or hockey or lacrosse or bowling, whatever, and there really isn’t a when, as it wasn’t until recently that I had learned to accept mediocrity. With the way my body is battered, I’m learning to even accept lower than mediocrity, but that’s a different blog.

I’ve told this story a zillion times, but it’s the only way I can quantifiable show what I mean. I was a horrible bowler when I first started, and I have the journals to prove it. My backup ball had me in the double-digits most of the time. It wasn’t long before the beast within me said that this wouldn’t do and basically took over my body. My goal was to raise my average every year. The more I bowled, the better my average. The better my average, the more I bowled. The more I bowled, increasing my average got harder and harder. That bowling ball that I had been pushing up the hill and been picking up weight, so between that and gravity, it got to be a tough battle. I stuck with it. Sometimes I had to rest and pause and re-evaluate and add things to help me become better. I went to seminars. Drove all the way to San Francisco to work with some great bowlers; three of which happened to come from Oregon. Marshall Holman, quite the marshallholmancharacter. Dave Husted. Nice, mild man. Maybe there were only two from Oregon.

I studied the game, I practiced. I entered every tournament possible. I had no life. Or bowling was my life. At the peak of my ability, I was average over two hundred. I had had three perfect games, two in league. I was inducted into the the Eugene Women’s Bowling Hall of Fame. I was bowling on an average of a hundred games a week.

I have been wanting to translate that drive into my writing. It’s so easy to measure if I am good or not in bowling. Well, it’s actually rather easy to measure if I am good nor not in writing; it just takes a different mode of scoring. I have to ask for opinions. I have to get my writing out in the world so I can be told what I need to work on. I’m not looking for whether I am a good or bad writer. I already think I am a good writer, and that’s what really matters, right? What I am looking for are ways that I can improve my writing. I’m willing to do the work, I just need to know what I need to work on. How are my mechanics even.

As I think about the wall of three, four, five inch three ring notebooks that are filled with my journal or the two hundred pages a month I’ve got electronically, I think about all of this is like practicing to pick up a ten pin. It’s not fun to just throw at the ten pin, but to make it automatic, that’s what it took, a lot of repetition. Writing isn’t always fun, like that ten pin, but if I want to get better, I have to start doing the drills, the receptive not so much fun stuff. Up to now I’m settled on being less than mediocre. It is time.


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