My whole life I have wanted to call myself a writer. In third grade my best friend (still to this day!) and I created a series of stories chronicling the adventures of Pely and Ely, the Elephants. They voyaged to the jungle and moonlighted at circuses and spiritedly gallivanted across the world. The books were bound by old manila folders with the tabs cut off, clumsy illustrations on the front and “professional” synopses on the back. I found one recently and was a little embarrassed for us; they’re silly and sometimes nonsensical. We were, however, blissfully proud of our work. I also came across a large file in my parents’ house with a collection of projects, essays and reports from my pre-college years. One of these elementary school projects was a journal I had authored from the perspective of a pioneer girl moving west. Having no recollection of this assignment, I can only imagine I channeled my obsession with Little House on the Prairie to fuel some of the writing. Nonetheless, I was shocked at how well written and detailed it was, surprised that nine year old me had the imaginative mind I keep wishing for now.
Another box at my parents’ holds some of my better compositions from college. These are analytical, a striking contrast to my early silly, but creative, fiction. I loved researching, evaluating, formulating arguments or analyzing poetry because it still produced something unique from myself, it gave me a voice. While I don’t particularly like speaking, I do want to be heard and I want to have something to share.
So why have I not continued to practice this thing that has made me feel proud? Outside of on again, off again journaling I have not attempted to make writing a real part of my life. Journaling is powerfully therapeutic when I fall into the deep mental holes I’m prone to do, and here and there I even try jotting down some poetic verse, but it’s time to commit and get at it! My hesitation of course comes from fear of failure: failure to come up with original ideas; failure to appeal to any particular audience; failure to choose the best style or genre (fiction, short stories, novels, essays, research, humor, philosophy, advice..?). I avoid starting anything that does not offer a guarantee of success.
I have no idea where my commitment to a daily writing practice will take me, but I have to remember that those elementary school projects prove creativity is hiding in here somewhere, my constitutional law papers show I can effectively research, evaluate and express complex ideas, and my history of journaling confirms my natural hunger for putting pen to paper. Likely I will be a bit all over the place, and I’m not going to fulfill my childhood dream of writing and photographing for National Geographic, but to follow Charles Bukowski’s advice, if I’m going to try, then I’ve got to Do It, Do It, Do It.
roll the dice if you’re going to try, go all the way. otherwise, don’t even start. if you’re going to try, go all the way. this could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives, jobs and maybe your mind. go all the way. it could mean not eating for 3 or 4 days. it could mean freezing on a park bench. it could mean jail, it could mean derision, mockery, isolation. isolation is the gift, all the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. and you’ll do it despite rejection and the worst odds and it will be better than anything else you can imagine. if you’re going to try, go all the way. there is no other feeling like that. you will be alone with the gods and the nights will flame with fire. do it, do it, do it. do it. all the way all the way. you will ride life straight to perfect laughter, its the only good fight there is. – Charles Bukowski