I grew up in a house where literacy and literature were highly valued. Intellectualism for its own sake was not, however.
Becoming wise and earning your keep as an individual with a solid set of core values was more crucial to the development of everyone in our immediate family than touting how many books you read or how many facts you could spout off. I didn’t learn to read early – and in fact, as I’ve discussed in previous posts, I had my struggles with the school system and even wanting to read in the first place.
As part of being a literate and civically engaged (you might say) young lass of about five, my mother told me stories at night and expected collaboration to see their end. On long car trips, the family played word games to exercise our minds. It wasn’t until my later elementary school years, though, that I really started to get into storytelling on my own. Like most typical girls my age, I wanted to be a veterinarian; and I loved cats. (Horses also made the cut, but don’t tell Mr. Ed I picked The Pink Panther over him.) So that’s what I wrote about for a long time.
Then I began to write about relationships. Then human imperfection. It got gradually more complicated and abstract until I didn’t know what reality was anymore.
Most people might not like that. The obscure and the odd has been commodified for a long time, and it’s not that I’m the only one that appreciates it, but if I were to have a conversation online or even (a dreaded, by many, it seems) in-person chat about what a work means, they wouldn’t be able to tell me nor would they want to. Or maybe they would, but their analysis would miss the mark, leaving me hanging with something very surface level.
I’m not the type to beat a dead horse when it comes to analysis. I like things to be very clean; so, when I’m slicing through a movie’s message, for instance, I look for the essentials, explore all possible meanings, and attempt to settle on the best option for what the director and script creator were going for. It’s a good skill to have, and I don’t share my analyses with many people… though I plan to make it more of a habit through ownership of this blog.
The reason it’s a handy tool is not because I can get attention for what I do with it, but rather the practical applications of it. You can delve into rarefied obscenities all you want, and it’s fun to analyze them deeply, even, especially if you’re to continually learn something from watching the best of a particular culture’s cinema.
However, to tilt back toward where I struggled: I couldn’t analyze papers or books initially in high school. Now I’m much better, though not the master I wish I was. I needed an outlet for all this inner speculation. And I found it through my own creation.
This didn’t happen overnight. It took at first months to absorb the techniques my teacher was imparting to me; then I needed to practice with understanding and digesting real media. However, it definitely took years to arrive at the point where I was comfortable enough to call myself a writer, and slap down the sense of entitlement that brings. To do that, I diced and cut my own work into bits, following the guidelines of my predecessors.
I must say, though. That wasn’t enough. At some point you’re just following rules and not getting the “why” or the innerworkings, and your writing is needlessly bloated and clunky because everything inside your document is living according to procedure. People say this a lot, from my experience. Learn the rules so you can break them–isn’t that the phrase?
In a way, I did that, but I also needed to find a way to break out of my own preconceptions. These weren’t so much me going, “Oh, you’ll never be good enough!” or being confined to writer’s block. It was more me being damaged by my own creativity.
I had so many ideas that never got finished. I was led down so many Hansel and Gretel-style candy trails, finally down to the witch’s house where I stood ready to throw myself into the oven after repeated frustrating attempts to fit in with other authors and learn their ways. But I was never quite them, and they never got my mannerisms. It was time to change.
No more being a confusing mix of always being complimented on my talents and slipping through the cracks.
Part of growing up, or alternatively, maturing as a writer (since the hobby has been with me so long) was realizing I’m an individual and I’m responsible for me being responsible. These ideas, no matter how creative I perceive them to be, are nothing if I don’t sit down and put the work in. Responsible writers are not those that are “burdened with glorious purpose”. They’re people that don’t take themselves too seriously, and don’t expect you to, either.
No one is perfect, but at least if you have a sense of humor about yourself, they’ll accept your flaws with a spoonful of sugar.
To an extent, I’ve always had low self-esteem, coupled with a desire to be and do the best. You might think this may be the font of my creativity. You know, that kitchen sink endlessly spewing out dirty water whenever you turn it on, occasionally becoming clear with banging and clanking, but no formal fixing. And in certain ways, you’re right. Writing is a fool’s errand, but only those who believe in the Dunning-Kruger effect finish their manuscripts and/or films.
I’ll leave you with this.
Featured image by Thao LEE.