The first journal entry I ever wrote – that wasn’t an assignment for school – was about Macaroni and Cheese and Hot Dogs. I haven’t dined on this meal in over a decade, but it must have been a staple for me as a kid, ranking up there with grilled cheese and chicken noodle soup. The entry, of course was none too scintillating. In my gangly five-year-old handwriting, I eked out a few awkward sentences about my lunch. I imagine I was very satisfied with this entry, though I’ll never know for sure. After all, I don’t remember writing any of it; I have, now, only the remaining artifact – a smaller-than average journal with a maroon faux-leather binding, lined with gold and complete with a lock and golden-trimmed pages (both of which, I think, are a nice touch).
There is a sort of beautiful simplicity in writing as a child. One is hardly really introduced to the world, with all its tedious demands for achievement and perfection, and the only approval one really seeks – if any – is the approval of a caring parent. Writing, then – liberated from the conventions that will belie it when one gets older – becomes a wanton romp through the flashing lights of the illuminated mind, a means for expression that places no additional demands on the expresser. Writing, when you’re young, is creation at its purest and most joyful. But then, perhaps living, when you’re young, can be much the same, at least if you’re fortunate enough to have a happy childhood.
It’s no great secret that creativity becomes sullied by adulthood. I’ve heard so much in educational talks. I think it was speaker Ken Robinson who cited a study that asserts we actually get less creative as we grow up, presumably because our school system doesn’t emphasize the right type of thinking and talent – or at least, not enough of it. Which is why, perhaps, we should consider it a veritable miracle that some writers perform the way they do. What are these lucky adults doing who can write with the carefree irreverence of a child, and is writing really a carefree act in adulthood, to some adults? So far as I’ve read, so far as I’ve heard, the trick to being a writer – such as the word is – is to write. This, to me, makes a great deal of sense. If internet memes are to be accepted as true (and of course, we must be cautious here), Ray Bradbury once asserted that all of his friends who consume literature and write avidly have a prolific career (at least, that was the gist of his statement).
So I trudge the fruitful road of creation, and I try to write. To an extent, I’ve always done so. Shortly after my riveting account of eating macaroni, I started buying journals with pretty pictures on the front. I’d sit on the couch on a summer afternoon pouring out details in my journal – what I did that day, what I saw, how I felt. I guess I still didn’t feel encumbered – and this happened throughout elementary school, middle school, high school, and some of college – to write for an audience, to focus on “topics of relevance,” to seek anyone’s approval or pat on the back, to have an end in mind. There was plenty of time, then, to be a writer, in the famous, journalist or novelist sense of the word, and in the moment, I was merely playing, hoping that my play would lead me to produce something with my hobby one day. Often times, I was very pleased with the product, too. I loved to learn new vocabulary words and integrate them into my writing, or to try to describe the color of a beautiful sunset. I would even write fiction stories with friends – in middle school, and again in college.
But there is a large, dark part of me that is hopelessly pessimistic. I’m hesitant to share it, but, here it is: sometimes I think, for all the supposed wisdom and insight that comes with getting older, something is lost, too, when we transition into adulthood. It was, after all, Joni Mitchell who said, “Something’s lost, but something’s gained, in living every day.” Many writers, similarly, are interested in disillusionment and the loss of innocence. Such things happen. When is change the same as growth? When is it not? Do we sacrifice something, even through “growth,” that we cannot recover?
I read, over and over, that from a psychological vantage point, “play” is highly valuable for adults – connecting with someone, and then delving into a craft with abandon. But as I’ve gotten older, as I’ve lost that carefree innocence, I’ve come to face a terrible dilemma. I seem to have forgotten how to play, or at least, how to do so effectively. Writing, for me, is the best chance I have at play. I don’t really see myself painting a picture of any value or weaving a basket any time soon, and I’m not much of an athlete, so I may as well get lost in a writing project. But I am 32 now, and I want my writing to be purposeful, meaningful. I want to be a “good writer.” And so often, as I’ve shared in a post on my other blog, I become lost in the insidious realm of relentless self-critique, a dank, foggy, swampy sort of crevice that frustrates me, disrupts play, and makes me stop.
To tell you the truth, I started writing this post today because I needed a subject, which is the story of my writing life as of late. If I’m not blogging about horror, I’m in desperate want of a subject. Fiction, which has always been my ultimate goal, is ridiculously hard for me, but I wanted to write something today, despite that barrier. I feel like at the end of the day, if I just devote some time to writing, for the sake of writing, then all is not lost. Feeling too hesitant to start a fiction project or personal memoir, and not much in the mood to write about horror, I decided to write about writing, and my own challenges with it.
The end result of that decision was this post, which, I admit, is a little depressing. And, unlike many of my blog posts, I won’t be advertising it any time soon. It’s sort of a secret little post to share with those who stumble on my number two blog project, this often ignored blog, 1000 In a Decade, that I return to every month or so. I needed to express myself, and I’ve reached some semblance of a conclusion. The only thing I can figure to do, when I earnestly want to write but don’t know where to start or question myself unforgivingly, is to write anyway. So I will continue to write, continue to try to make writing “play,” and, perhaps, I will covertly post these dramatic posts on this blog. I may not be creating a miraculous work of fiction, but, I am creating, and, I think, any finished creation is to be celebrated. So that’s what I’ll aim to do. I’ll aim to celebrate my creations. And I wish you the best of luck as you create!