I’ve always been a writer. Words on a page have come easily to me, naturally, for as long as I can remember. I talk a lot, too, and I’m good at that too, but when I’m writing my thoughts come to me in already complete prose, an architecture of paragraphs emerging fully formed like Athena out of the skull of Zeus.
(See? Only a writer would use such a hyperbolic and frivolous reference. Spare, I am not).
It occurred to me, while looking through the stacks of the local library, that I used to write stories. Now I write mostly these blogs, or Facebook posts, or essays or work memos-all informational, and while I hope entertaining, all based in my own head, my own personal voice. I’m not sure where the shift happened, or when. But I can remember-now, for the first time in a long time-night after night in my twin bed spent writing, well past the time the house got quite, and I should have been asleep. Writing with a pencil on lined paper (college rule only, thank you very much), about far away places, weaving in mythology, folklore, religion. Sex, too, from what I understood of it at the time. My fiction always explored the things that fascinated me, and that I didn’t understand. I didn’t journal, I didn’t keep a diary, I wrote fiction.
In middle school I remember this writing project included a boy I was “dating”, dating in this instance to mean for this one particular week we held hands on the bus. He tried on all the girls in class like we all tried on new shoes. I don’t remember if he ever found the right one. But I remember the writing. It was an elaborate epic, about a woman in what I think was supposed to be medieval Ireland or Scotland or somewhere British Isle-y who found herself suddenly in the company of a band of fairies (faeries, because #culturalaccuracy) who were battling some sort of evil mega-faery, and they needed her help. The Roman invasion was also involved in there somewhere; there was strong rebel, native rights message at the core (probably because Palestinian children are raised with some serious thoughts about occupiers). The story is fuzzy, but I do remember that this boy and I would trade pages back and forth, writing sections overnight and bringing them to one another in the morning, trading ideas on the page. At some point he lost interest and I continued, but I don’t believe I ever found an ending.
I discovered profound joy in sharing ideas that way. Of having someone read my writing, and appreciate it. Collaborating and finding a story together. I don’t remember caring all that much about holding his hand on the bus, but I remember caring deeply about that story. I cared because then, as now, my words are my most vulnerable expression. If you want to know me, if you want to love me, read my writing. And then engage with me about it.
The number of men I have dated since who have taken no interest in my writing baffles me, in hindsight. The number of men I’ve dated who I’ve hesitated to tell about my writing, or share any of it, should be evidence of how few men I’ve dated who I trusted to actually like me, or show up for me. I’ve always been protective of writing (and singing for people, but that’s a story for another day). It feels like I’m asking someone to gently rub their hands all over my heart, and hope that it still works the same way when I put it back in my chest. Blogging started, years ago, as my attempt to feel less vulnerable about my writing, to be more brave. And it’s worked, but mostly by changing what I write about. Snark and sass and politics (geo-, body-, and sexual-). Dating mishaps and misadventures. Personal revelations. But I don’t share with you, dear reader, my imagination, my hopes and dreams, my girlish fantasies. At some point I decided (was coaxed?) to put away childish things, to take on more serious matters. I don’t think it was one thing that lead me to this conclusion, just the ordinary brutalities of being a dreamy, dramatic kid in a hard, suspicious world.
And perhaps that’s why the story, and that experience, and the memory that came to me today, meant so much: here was a person who read those words etched on my heart, and found joy in them. Who didn’t make fun of me or tell me I was silly. A boy no less. How lovely.
I write now, mostly in the first person, to express myself, to understand how I think about things, to share those ways of thinking in the hopes of persuading others. But there’s an entire interior landscape I have let lie fallow. I have covered it in career and bills and appropriate adult milestones. I’ve salted the ground with expectations about what life should be, about how I should be in it. But today, despite all my efforts to the contrary, a new green shoot came bursting forth from my memory.
There are worlds yet to be discovered, and words yet to be used to describe them.