The Golden Ages
Reading and writing were activities that came as naturally to me as breathing did. I had already developed a healthy appetite for reading by the start of school, which only grew more and more each year. It wasn’t long before I could easily pass a Saturday with a new book in hand into the wee hours of the night under a blanket with a flashlight to finish it one swallow. I had only emerged from my solitary confinement after numerous coaxings from my mother for dinner and the occasional run to the bathroom.
When I read a book, I wanted talk about it endlessly. I wanted someone else to experience and relive the tales with me. I wanted to pull others into what had become my world for a short period of time.
Imagine my delight when starting in the third grade we were instructed to start writing one book review a month for the entire school year. Nine full months filled with reading and writing and sharing. I was in heaven.
But I quickly learned that writing one book review a month wasn’t enough to keep me satisfied and started to churn them out each week for extra credit – just for the FUN of it. I had discovered the marriage of reading and writing. I could now gush about my favorite book, share my experience and continue to read with a renewed sense of purpose. I wanted nothing more than to capture all of the words, to make them mine and share them with the rest of the world.
Book reviews turned into creative writing essays in the following year. I looked forward to class assignments that required creativity and composing stories. I aced them with flying colors and always exceeded the length requirements. I attended Saturday community writing courses, eagerly showing up with my notebook and new pens, hungry for a new assignment and ideas.
As I grew older, I joined the after-school writing clubs and attempted to write my own novel in my spare time between school, reading and all of the other activities a 13-year-old would engage in.
The Dark Ages
Ahhhhh…..those were the golden days of my writing. Free, flowing and unabashed…..Then came college.
I had to learn how to write all over all again. No longer was creativity front and center on the stage. Instead, it was APA style. My writing became – academic and dense. I wrote and wrote and wrote… more than I ever had in my life. Papers, reports, dissertations. Charts, statistics, footnotes, reference points littered the pages.
Words started to become just a means to complete a course. It was the food to just survive and I tasted no sweetness as I swallowed it down without even chewing. I just wanted it all to be over and quickly. At the end of my bachelor’s degree program, I had written a 120-page dissertation – practically a book! At one point that had been my dream but I only rejoiced being done with it.
Graduating college meant I had also graduated into full-time work – and with that also more formal writing. Working in a hospital setting means lots of… you guessed it… writing. But documentation is far removed from the style and type of its creative cousin and even more … than its dissertation sister. Patient documentation is observations, objective and succinct. It must be devoid of emotion or opinion since that would require a Ph.D. or project your own issues and feelings in place of the patients. Daily entries were expected and then full reports monthly. My life was full of writing still but lacked any fulfillment. Sure, I took pride in my documentation. I had mastered the art of writing from a distance and catching finer details while keeping things brief. I was applauded for my skills and often nominated to conduct peer reviews and mentoring.
Growing restless overall, I looked to broaden my horizons and increase my options. A few years later I went back to school for my Masters in Business Administration. And signed up for courses overflowing with… more writing. I quickly adapted to my new found vocabulary and business jargon. It was at least a change of pace from the medical terms and approaching, allowing me to take a bit more liberties in my presentation and discussions.
I took on a new role as a director in a local mental health clinic and as such, I was inundated with composing emails, memos, protocols, policys, proposals, and once again reports. Communications and correspondence took on new colors but were more of the same ole’ same old. More carefully constructed pieces of work that reflected business goals and objectives, reviews of data, and requests for information.
A few years passed, along with them, my passion for writing. I had merely become adept at spewing out and disseminating information in a non-biased, objective, intellectual and dry manner.
Then one day an acquaintance approached me about writing esports news, specifically about Dota 2, which was something I had been heavily entrenched and invested in for the last few years.
The idea was stimulating, if not panic-inducing and after getting over the initial shock of working outside my comfort zone, I accepted.
My first introduction would be to focus primarily on news reporting. A typical day would include writing at least 2-3 articles focused on the hard news such as roster changes, tournament announcements, event recaps and anything else that would possibly creep in, falling into a similar category.
My supervisor had a degree and extensive experience in journalism. She mentored and molded me in the same fashion and I was working the beat using active voicing, catchy headlines, inverted pyramid formats and referencing all of my sources. I learned how to research and use quotes to back up my statements and omit any personal pronouns and opinions. I was sure to provide on the facts and steer clear of speculation. I merely referenced rumors but kept a safe distance from providing any commentary on them.
From there, we moved into editorials and features. A whole new world opened up and while the daily news allowed me more freedom than ever before to color outside the lines, features were a blank canvas, begging for a masterpiece to be done.
But none came. Instead, I approached them the same way I had been re-wired to write – objective and mostly sterile. She encouraged me to be more creative, to find a voice. I experimented, I read Pulitzer prize editorials, I sank into the works of other sports reporters and tried to mimic and capture what I had seen or admired.
I was able to craft pieces for the news and editorial that had more flair and a dash of verve. I felt confident that my work was solid and robust. I was finding a balance between the reporting the facts and striking a pictorial of the matter.
I hadn’t created any masterpiece, nor had I really found my panache or voice, but I was satisfied and felt that familiar hunger for writing return. I had tasted creativity and wanted more.
I wanted to tell stories again.
Then I sat down to write…. and sat… and sat… Nothing happened. I tried to force it out. I tried to coax it out. I tried to beg, shout and negotiate for the words to come. All that showed up was some drivel and unrelated, unconnected sentences strung together. It should have come easy. It should have been natural! After all, it was when I was only 9 years old wasn’t it?
But I just couldn’t. I was and am a writer for crying out loud. My jobs, my focus has always been around writing of some sort. I knew the rules, the nuances, the theories.
Its not that I didn’t have the creativity or the ideas, I was full of them. Furiously writing down notes in my beautiful moleskin, storylines, tensions, dialogue, twists… they all poured out of my head…but stopped there. Just clips, just one-liners that lead to nowhere. I just couldn’t get them to form into anything on the page more than that. Connecting the dots and stringing it all together.
I thought perhaps part of the problem was sitting at a PC. I had become like Pavlov’s dog, the pc signaling it was time to be serious and academic. So I took to paper and pen. That plus the change of scenery, going outside made it easier, but still, I was struggling.
I turned to the advice of writers, from Steven King to books with titles such as “The Emotional Craft of Writing Fiction” and “Wired for Story”. I took a very studious approach to find ‘solutions to my problem’ instead of looking to draw upon inspiration and cultivation.
I was at my wit’s end, about to give up on the idea of writing anything more than news reports or academic projects.
And then I took the plunge. I sought out a mentor, I started to meditate and I pushed my boundaries and challenged myself. I completely shifted my way of thinking and approach to it all and reached out of my comfort zone and routine.
I swore that 2019 would be the year of cultivation, and I was going to nurture my writing, my creative spirit and the stories that are waiting to be told.
Its only February and already I have reached new heights and opened new worlds. I have re-connected with my creative love and passion for fiction, but I still have a long road ahead to feel comfortable with my work.
One step and day at a time though!