Writing used to come much easier for me. Thoughts invaded my mind late in the midnight hours, obstructing my sleep, beckoning me to get out of bed, turn on my laptop and get them all down on paper, in concrete before they left me, never to be seen or heard from again.
I used to enjoy it. Writing in the still of the night, just the glimmer of my laptop illuminating the keys, a cup of coffee on the nightstand to my right, always invigorated me. It gave me a sense of purpose and a presence that was unmatched by any other activity ever. I used to write a blog and every day was a new adventure into the unknown. Which words and in which order would they make their way onto the page? I surprised even myself, coming back to some piece I wrote months or years ago. I’d say “Wow, I wrote this?” I was as enthralled to read it as the next man, holding onto every word, watching the story unfold, imagery painting a mental picture.
Writing gave me peace. It was my blanket after a heartbreak, as if covering myself in my story somehow eased the pain. It didn’t cut as deep because I put it on paper. And ironically the words I could articulate so easily got stuck in my throat in the times I was forced to tell someone out loud about my thoughts and feelings and why I felt the way I did. I don’t know why. I just do. To discover the reasons behind my feelings would be a journey that neither you nor I can ignore. It’s got to be unraveled. It’s got to come apart or rather come together on a sheet of paper, in fiery words that both enlighten the both of us and suspend time by looking inside of me at any given moment.
Out of the heart, the mouth speaks, or rather the pen writes. People say liquor is a truth serum because in a drunken state, one cannot lie. Well, a blank sheet of crisp white paper staring boldly at me through a computer screen was my liquor. It begged the truth. In first person, or third, a memoir, or fiction, what came out always, like vomit from my belly, was the truth, of which, more often than not, I was previously unaware.
I call myself a writer because I write. And of the masses who have a certain talent with the pen, I consider myself one of the lucky ones because I’ve been published and paid. When I got my first thirty dollar check for a piece I wrote for Clutch Magazine, I was elated. It was something to write home about, literally, since I sent a mass email to the family announcing I was officially a writer. No more blogs that generated no revenue and became a headache to keep updated in those slumps that plagued me during bouts of writer’s block. I would work hard and make a living at this thing. And I did for a while.
I became a regular contributor for Ebony.com by night and broke into financial writing for an investment firm by day. $100. $500. $1,000 per week. My life was my springboard, writing about my love affairs, my children, and my faith. And then, I got tired. My day job in finance took over, with the demands of the stock market, corporate insincerity, and money hungry scoundrels. This is not who I am. I’m gentle. I’m loving, probably to a fault. Corporate America is hard…in texture and in labor.
I quit my gig at Ebony.com after the Digital Editor edited my words a bit too much. That’s not what I said. I didn’t feel that platform was representative of my voice. And then, my mind went blank. My standard for writing had shifted. I’d read the greats, Toni Morrison, Khaled Hosseini, Wally Lamb, Stephen Carter. Their words glided effortlessly onto a page, and projected a motion picture onto the screens in my mind. They told a story without telling a story. They merely presented the evidence and it was the reader who connected the dots. Their prose, so eloquent. Their pace, precise. Their meaning, deep, like it had been buried far beneath the earth’s surface, but was uncovered like a treasure chest through the unfolding of their story. Why can’t I write like that?
Pop culture was paying but I wasn’t interested. I don’t care who Beyonce wore at the last MET Gala. North West never did anything for my soul. Brangelina can’t change the state of race relations in this country, or teach me a lesson on self-love. At least I never saw them do it. Writing what was popular made my fingers hurt and when I struggled through the pain, what developed was a lesser me, a piece that conspicuously lied about my identity.
So, I took a break from writing. It was supposed to be a month or two to reorganize my thoughts…wait until I was inspired again. But the months rolled by like a tumbleweed in the desert. My mind was dry. I watched movies, listened to my favorite songs on repeat, meditated on my life’s occurrences looking for that spark, that beginning line of a masterpiece that gripped me in the brief moment between my head hitting the pillow at night, and my mind drifting off to Never Never Land. I was on guard even in my dreams, looking in crevices and well hidden places for a story idea, a beautifully written paragraph, even a powerful word. There was nothing.
There are real stories of course. But, I’m not well enough versed on the Syria issue to write about it intelligently and while I now find myself in love, I’m not ready to share that part of my life with the world. Although I am certain he will be my husband in due time and our story is one made for a feature film that would far surpass “The Notebook” success, the fact is we’re not married yet, and no one would trust the story to deem it a genuine Happily-Ever-After.
When I sat down to force myself to write, I stared at a blank screen and was occupied instead with what I should make for dinner tomorrow night or how I was going to pay my bills this month considering my cash flow had substantially diminished. When I forced my hand, my writing showed it. I’d finish half a page and read it over. This is crap, I’d say out loud. Nothing flows. The words are clumsy, and I really don’t even feel like doing this.
Writing is not fun anymore.
I hate writing. I find it to be an incredibly arduous process that stretches me to uncomfortable limits. But yet… I love having written. I love finally finishing a piece that was back breaking to write so much so that it could be easily compared to having my teeth pulled, being set on fire, or having all of my nails ripped from their nail beds simultaneously. The journey is rough, but the product is beautiful. The product reminds me why I did it, laying first eyes on a baby I birthed from my womb.
After a year of calm repose, it was this revelation that quickened me to be stern with myself.
You are a writer.
So if for no other reason than to exercise my mental muscle, I opened my laptop up to a blank page and decided to write about how hard it had become to write. Then I waited to see what would come out.