If you’d ask me just 24 hours ago, “how’s the writing going?” I would have told you that I was making progress; that I would be attending a workshop this summer on the East coast (where my heart seems to still be). I wouldn’t have mentioned the hundreds of words I’ve thrown away or the anxiety and embarrassment of a recently workshopped piece that I had grown to hate even before I submitted it. But that’s what I mean by making progress. I’m learning discernment and all that jazz. So I still stand by that statement but now I have more questions about this writing thing.
It started with the short story I’m working on. I knew what I wanted to write about. I knew what characters would be involved. I knew exactly how the story would go (sans the ending). I knew this because the story idea was instigated by my curiosity of someone else’s life. I’d heard some of her story and wondered what it might be like to recreate that world. I did some character sketching, wrote out the story in a way that might fit the plot then went back to fill in some unanswered questions about the characters in the sketch. By then I had used up the last sheets of paper in my writing pad. I started in a brand new composition book. I like writing by hand for the first couple of drafts because the fresh pages make it easy to come back to the story. A whole new book was like a whole ‘nother level. As I wrote the story this time, it started me in a direction I hadn’t actually planned, it didn’t fit the plot that I wanted and then it ended at a point I wasn’t expecting it to. Confused, I put my pen down. I’d figure it out later.
Then today as I typed it up, I kept feeling stuck and my mind would not allow me to just type it as is and fix it later. I left the word document open promising myself I’d get back to it after the Ghana v Burkina Faso match and then again after I scrolled through Twitter to see the slander from the Nigerians (oh the colorism!).
After I tired of Twitter, I took to my Google Reader. I had meant to read the Skinny Black Girl’s most recent post “On Crafts & Callings” yesterday so I started there. It resonated with me in such a way, I’m up at 1am still trying to piece together my thoughts on it:
In this Kanye West College Dropout-influenced generation of larger than life dreams, multiple sources of income, and innovative ways to avoid working for The Man, it’s rare that people speak passionately about hobbies. Cultivating a skill or talent is met with the immediate expectation to eventually monetize it, often before becoming even moderately skilled or talented. But what of doing something you’re good at for the pure joy of doing it? Because it’s the only time you feel complete? Because to not do it feels like a denial of your nature?
Yes! When I “discovered” I was a writer, I felt at peace, I finally knew what my purpose was. I, like SBG, had used writing as a way to communicate beyond my introversion and shyness; it was my catharsis, my way of thinking through things (as I am doing with this post). I don’t know any writer who feels differently. But where SBG is comfortable with her gift being used for this purpose I am unsure. She has definitely reached me and others with her words so it’s not self-serving on her part but I’m doing all kinds of mental acrobatics trying to figure this out for myself.
Why am I writing this short story? Who will it serve if it finds its way to an audience? Why won’t I let it be written the way it wants to be written? Why am I even going to this workshop? Am I allowing other writers to create the box of what being a writer is supposed to be about? How do I write from my heart without riding the waves of my emotions?
I’m realizing that though I discovered my gift (one that I will continue to give thanks for by cultivating it), I’m still very much in search of my purpose (which could very well be an ever-evolving thing).