I am finding that I am now comfortable in referring to myself as a writer. “Yes. I am an independent artist and writer.” Imagine that!
In declaring myself so, opportunities have come along to fortify this identity. In the past months, I’ve worked on several projects that involved writing some kind of narrative. It helps me see writing as more of a profession and less of a hobby. It is a skill, so to speak– a marketable skill. It could even be talent. When I don’t know what else to do, I write. When I was putting the pieces together to start a blog, I was overwhelmed with the power of words. So, I wrote about writing.
The excitement and challenge in writing occurs together with the process of transporting ideas from a non-verbal world of connection and possibility to a verbal world of structured capacity. Along the way, prospective words travel along the subconscious, sometimes rerouted by doubt, frustration, and distraction. Bitten nails and forgotten laundry are a little price to pay for the erratic sequencing of words that land on the paper with some representation of the meanings intended. The most exhilaration arises in the process of writing as magnificent ideas come forth, bellowing in delight at their chance of existence, so loudly that their true meaning is barely audible.
I haven’t always been the writer I am now. I loved to put words and ideas down on paper, but for quite sometime the process evaded me. In my early years of academia, the pieces of work that I put the most passion into were often the ones that came back with red marks scattered about. Defeat.
One particularly painful experience came my first semester at a university. I had been taking courses at a community college for three years prior, and had felt as if I could be… possibly… good at writing.
Midterms came. I submitted a paper on the political organization of chiefdom society. I focused on my experiences working in the archaeological labs near Cahokia Mounds. I proof-read and edited like mad. I worked hard. I was elated. I felt like I had threaded together experience, reference, and course content into a three to five page term paper. It felt good.
The following Monday, I was stunned by a D-. One sentence was underlined toward the end of the paper. A note followed, “This is the only relevant sentence in the entire paper.” It hurt. I cried. I got angry. I said mean things about the instructor. But eventually, I recovered from those pains and even the subsequent comments that suggested that I lacked the logic to write as an archaeologist.
In time, that was just fine with me. I found an academic niche that suited me within cultural and environmental studies. I gained the capacity to write a 88 page thesis that prompted my advisor to say, “Within these pages, you have found your voice.”
I have, yes indeed. I have.
I now write a blog, in journals, and to friends. I write grants, project plans, budgets, grocery lists, letters, emails, resumes, and much more to come. Writing has become a habit. It has become part of my life. A part of me. It is my voice. My voice, that I share.