I remember the very moment I fell in love with writing. I was young, not quite a teenager, and my imagination was splitting the seams of my skull. I could alleviate this pressure somewhat, as well as occupy my time alone (and I was a lonely child), by conducting large scale battles between tiny, imaginary soldiers. I don’t remember what these soldiers were—no doubt gargoyles, ninja-vampires, and beasties of that nature—but I remember seeing them vividly. I picked up on language quickly, and soon enough was able to manifest some of that experience that had been previously confined to my head.
The first thing I remember writing that I liked was about a wizard strolling into an encampment and making warriors drop their swords because the hilts had grown red hot with a wizardly flourish. Pretty cliché stuff, yes, but not to me, not at the time. To me writing about that magic was a magic in itself. It was pure joy. I was delighted. The possibilities were fucking intoxicating. I could create anything I could imagine, and my imagination was snorting and virile as a young bull.
That love affair with writing has been a difficult one, however. I remember someone in high school saying to me, with a hint of jealousy, that writing came so easily to me. Oh, how wrong that person was. Because I had a knack for it, I felt responsible for developing it as much as possible. And I don’t care who you are: learning to write well is hard. If you don’t think it is, I’d wager you’re not pushing yourself. In fact, at times I was so focused on trying to write well that I lost the joy of it. This magical pastime that I thought I loved because it gave me such delight was suddenly a maddening burden. I have always felt compelled to write, though I have not always written. This state is one of discord—I feel guilty about spending my time engaged in non-writing activities. My angst builds, I berate myself for being lazy instead of just getting to work and that spiral adds to my other spirals. Once I discovered the sweet oblivion of alcohol it was a wrap.
I’ve always considered myself a writer, even when I wasn’t writing. Kind of like a non-practicing Christian or something I guess. When I am writing, especially when I’m writing in a disciplined and frequent manner, I feel like I’m utilizing my time the best I can. When I’m not writing, I feel like I am wasting valuable time. As I approach my mid-forties, I realize how limited that time really is, and I regret how much of it I have squandered on hangovers and recovering from psychotic drug binges. Regret is useless, and I don’t engage in it often, but when I do it’s because I’ve lost time with my children or my writing.
I have recently renewed my commitment to the art of writing, which had become very difficult. So difficult I felt I’d lost the ability to do it well, and the joy that stems from that. Watching your dreams die is bleak indeed. However, I haven’t given up yet. I kept writing whatever I could, sometimes just a few chicken-scratch repetitive thoughts in a journal. If I couldn’t rub two thoughts together enough to write due to black depression or apathy then I’d read. Reading is brain food for writers. Eventually, I started building stories again. Parts of them anyway.
Tonight that persistence has rewarded me. I caught a creative wave rolling out of the ether and rode that bitch with the almost-forgotten childhood joy of imagining. I’m as happy and fulfilled in this moment as I am when I spend time with my children. And bothers and sisters, it is a god damn refreshing breath from that wasteland sensation of inevitable failure. I wish each and every human being the experience of absolute joy in whatever endeavor he or she engages in (provided you’re not hurting anyone in the process—if you are I hope the world around you corrects your error and quickly). I think the planet could definitely benefit from a little more happiness, and a little less suffering. But you know, wish in one hand, shit in the other…..