Words are powerful things. They evoke emotions and awaken all five senses. Who doesn’t automatically taste or smell hot cheese and tomato sauce when they hear the word pizza?
I have kept a journal pretty consistently since I was fifteen years old. That is eleven years of words. Words that describe my thoughts and feelings, at any particular moment, that I felt were worth recording.
In my journal I have a sheet of paper from last year when the tornadoes hit Cullman. We didn’t have electricity in our house for days. This left me a lot of time to explore how I was feeling.
Some days my thoughts overflowed from my journal onto other scraps of paper. Even though it has been over a year since that time, I still can’t read that sheet of paper or the other entries. I’m not ready yet to remember how I felt then, to refresh those memories.
I’ve written about a lot of moments over the years. Many of them were good. A lot of them were not so good. It makes me uncomfortable reading over some of it. Recalling the emotions and thoughts I had can be difficult.
Sometimes your view of yourself is different from reality and that can be hard to face. I read back over some of the things in my journal from when I was in high school.
Those pages were written by an angry and unhappy girl. I don’t remember myself that way, but going by what I wrote, I was.
Not only that, I haven’t always done things I am proud of. It’s easier to forget about those things I suppose. I wrote about them though, so they are there in ink for me to look back on.
Writing in a journal can be a perilous thing for someone like me. I am a very private person and keep a lot of things to myself. I write about my personal experiences for myself. For the future me to look back and see how far she has come.
The idea that someone might come along and read it is another thing that makes me afraid of what I’ve written.
Just this morning I was deep in thought and wrote in my journal about it. I am uncertain how I will look back on what I wrote, but I still want to remember the thoughts I was having in this time.
I think that is why I keep writing. Even though the things I’ve dealt with scare me sometimes, or make me uncomfortable, I am still glad to have the record of my past.
I am glad to remember what certain people meant to me. To have details of important days in my life, written from the point of view of the person I was at that time.
It’s not all bad, either. A lot of times I’ll pick up a journal I’ve written and start reading to find myself smiling and laughing.
I also have a habit of sticking other things in the pages, like pictures. I picked up my journal the other day and a photo fell out that one of my friends had written a beautiful note to me on the back of.
It may be bittersweet at times, but what’s the point of living if you can’t remember what you’ve been through?
In 2004, I participated in National Novel Writing Month for the first time. I loved it. I completed an almost 60,000 word story in less than a month that year.
I signed up the next two years and hope to do it again this year. I wish I could recreate the excitement and wonder I felt that first time. It was great.
I strongly suggest you challenge yourself to complete NaNoWriMo if you like to write. It allows you to write with abandon and create things you never expected or imagined.
The following is from a story I started in 2005 for the contest, but didn’t complete. I turned in a different story that year. It could use some editing, but I feel it has potential.
I had met him on my fifteenth birthday. He was my best friend’s brother. The ideal mate to the minds of all teenage girls alike. He smiled, one side of his mouth higher than the other, one of his front teeth slightly crooked. He brought me a gift, sloppily wrapped in Easter paper, little white and yellow bunnies holding painted eggs adorned it.
He shook my hand and said he was pleased to meet me. He had azure eyes, that was what grabbed me. They were the deepest, yet brightest blue I had seen. His name was Arken, the most unique name I had ever heard. I thought of dark rainforests, oak trees, sunlight filtering through leaves.
We quickly became inseparable and I found him to be the most original human being. He knew all the stars by heart and read Tolstoy. He was only five years older than me, but at the time it seemed like an era of difference.
Arken didn’t care what anyone thought of him, so it didn’t bother him when people made remarks about us being together. Three years later, we were preparing to leave, to just pack up one night and slip out without a trace. We wanted to become the wind, gliding through the world, unseen.
The ring on my finger was small, the setting coming loose and my skin underneath turning green. We were young, in love and restless. I slung my duffel bag over my shoulder, was turning back for one last look at my house in the early morning when I heard the phone ring.
Running, I reached it before my father could wake up. I whispered a greeting, but I wasn’t heard over the crashing waves outside our patio door. I had agreed to seeing a doctor the week before, my father having heard me throwing up my bologna lunch. I knew something was wrong, but I had other worries. All much more important than my own health.
If Arken had known I wasn’t feeling well, he would have put the trip off. The shrill voice of a nurse came through the earpiece. I dropped my duffel bag when she told me the results of my test and asked if I would be willing to come in the next day.
I didn’t hear the upstairs shower start two hours later. Still standing in the hall, my army green duffel, the handle held tightly in my right hand. So tight that my nails dug into my palm and I was bleeding, staining the putrid olive a rust brown. The phone hadn’t made it back onto it’s base and it beeped continously, injecting itself into my brain and making itself at home.
A knock at the glass paneled patio doors made me jump and as the pain in my hand seeped into my consciousness, so did the beeping. Hanging up the phone, I calmly went to the hall bathroom and rinsed my hands, kicking my bag full of lost promise and running away into a linen closet.
My breath fogged the pane as I leaned in and opened the door for Arken. He looked worried, a little scared, even. I took his strong hand, the long fingers with the stubby nails and lead him down to the beach. We walked in silence for a time, he watched my profile and I stared at the shore, making up names for the colors of shells before me.
My news changed his world. Arken was surprised, happy and he wanted to do everything for me. He tried and wished to be able to give me the world on a silver platter. We made different plans. A week after my eighteenth birthday, Arken and I were married on the beach behind my house, the home I had grown up in, the place I had wanted so much to leave behind.
But now that Arken and I were together in that house, it didn’t seem so bad. We were happy. My father gave us anything we asked for. I painted my old bedroom in blue and eggshell yellow, an optimistic color scheme of a terrified teen. I set it up as a dream nursery. Not that I wasn’t happy with Arken, with my baby, but I was scared. A fear that held on and was the undercurrent of my life.
It may seem like something that a lot of people say when they reach a certain point: “I’ve always wanted to be a writer“. There’s lots of variations on this sentence, and some days I feel like I’ve heard everyone say it in some form.
For me, that statement is the unwavering truth. I have always wanted, more than anything else, to be a writer. To this day, I am horrible at doing multiplication. I can pinpoint exactly why that is. I have vivid memories of working hard on a book I was writing and illustrating, instead of paying attention when my teacher happened to be teaching that subject in elementary school.
The book was about baseball and some schoolchildren who played on a team together. I wish I could find this “book” now, but it’s lost to my childhood, much as whatever math skills I may have developed are lost.
I recall a day in 4th grade when my best friend and I loaded our backpacks with Sweet Valley High books, carrying them to class with us. I opened up my bag and my teacher looked at us and said, “This isn’t a library! Put those away and leave them at home from now on.” Even then, I knew there was something fundamentally wrong with being reprimanded for bringing books to school.
I love books. The feel of them, the weight when I lift one, the smell of them. If I could someday have a book full of my words, arranged into sentences by me, my world would be complete. When I started college, I immediately declared my major as English. I was going to do it. I was.
Then, somewhere I got lost. I stopped trying. I changed my major. I found other things that I was going to dedicate myself to. Things that I could make a living from. Things more acceptable to society, whatever that may mean.
I moved recently and I went through a lot of boxes that were left untended. I was amazed by the amount of stories I found that I had written over the years. For years, I had been writing and storing my words away, forgetting them.
Reading over some of it, I was impressed. Admittedly, I was also embarrassed by a lot of it, because some of it was truly awful. There was something there, though. I hadn’t remembered writing some of it, and it was good. It was something I would have picked up, spent good money on, and read. I had written something enjoyable and entertaining! Imagine!
This got me thinking. Maybe all my searching over the years for my “thing” was just a long journey back to where I began. Maybe I was always meant to write. I’ve always been drawn to it, that is certain.
So I’m giving it a try. I’m taking courses to help me improve, and I’m trying to get my work out there. This blog is a part of that journey. I’ll be sharing stories with you, asking questions, and hopefully reading your stories, too.
I’m wondering at what point I will be satisfied that I am a writer. If I write each and every day, does that make me a writer, or do I need people to read my work to feel like a writer? These are things I want to find out.
This evening, I came across a story I started in 2008 and never finished. Here’s a part of it:
The twins were born on a beautiful afternoon in the fall. The nurse left the curtains open in the hospital room, the sun shining brightly on the legs of their mother. Their father would later remember the deep auburn color of the leaves on the tree outside the window. He would describe the color of those leaves in more detail than anything else he had experienced that day when he told the story of their birth.
The girl was born first, a dark head of perfect hair, deep blue eyes, tiny little fingernails and porcelain skin. Her father looked on in amazement. She was the love of his life. Then came the boy. He was born half an hour later, with splotchy skin, black eyes, no hair or fingernails. He was a normal baby, but after the perfection that was his older sister, his father barely glanced at him.
Their father cuddled the girl, humming softly. Their mother loved them both, respectively, but the boy held her heart. This possibly was caused by her husband never giving her a chance to hold her daughter outside of feeding time, but the cause is not the issue here.
The lines were drawn from day one. Girl belonged to father and boy belonged to mother. Mother and father didn’t even consider that, above this, more than anything, the twins belonged to each other.