March 03, 2010

Writer's Blockheadedness

I love language, and somewhere around freshman year I had a teacher ask to submit a writing piece to a lit magazine. I took a lit course as an extracurricular in college and got reamed for my writing style; such is the result of getting reamed earlier in college for being 'too literary' on engineering lab reports, I suppose.

What I'm trying to say is that I don't ever remember dreaming of being an author. It's only as I've been writing and submitting a piece here and there that I look back over my shoulder and see earlier things scattered along the path that led me here: the book I wrote that took me to a Young Authors convention; the poems I wrote for sports seasons, family birthdays, and just because. The persistent (though sporadic) journal entries. I think I have writings/journal entries for every year going back 20+ years.

In spite of writing being a long-standing way in which I express myself, I often dread it. Sitting at a keyboard means facing down internal daemons.

"Just look at how long it's been since you wrote anything of importance."
"Why do you keep putting this off when others have told you this is a gift?"
"What kind of a writer are you, that you can't even sit down for 10 minutes a day to write about your kids and keep regular updates in a file for them?"

When I do sit down, I can type in stream-of-consciousness (like now), and it feels like a release of pressure. Whether I write a publishable piece or not, framing my thoughts/struggles on the page has always helped me. When it comes to making words say what I want them to, though, they become unwieldy and my lexicon is suddenly insufficient.

Communication has the possibility of telling someone what you're thinking, but also how you feel about what you're thinking and perhaps a shade of how others have felt about your thoughts. I'm all for denotation (the technical definition of a word), but it's connotation (the social perception and mood surrounding a particular word) that drives me. 'Dark' and 'inky' could be interchangeable, but the latter sounds and feels more image-oriented and poetic. A person can lecture or berate someone about a poor choice, but a berating implies more scorn and contempt. It is possible to paint with words; their colors just aren't visual.

I think most, if not all, writers have a vision of what a finished piece could say; most, if not all, will feel deflated after finishing something because it falls short of that vision. Sometimes by rewriting, sometimes by editing, that vision is reached, but rarely.

I promised God several years ago that if I got a solicitation for a written piece, I would submit at least one writing to it. I have not succeeded in keeping that promise, since I didn't write or submit a piece for this last request. Now I have another request from the same individual; the deadline is May, but the earlier I submit, the better. I think I know of something I could write, but words cannot express how I dread facing a blank page to start writing it out. Once written, I'll have to leave it alone for at least a week or two before I attempt editing. I rarely like anything I've written right after I write it. It seems to take somewhere around 2 years before I can read a writing and not feel like I dropped the ball somewhere.

So... I'm off to spend some time with my journal, then hopefully to shower. The writing piece will hang over my head for a while longer, I think.

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