When I was a kid it seemed so much easier to get words down on paper. I had impressed my fifth-grade teacher with sunsets described in brilliant hues and that had planted seeds of hope that one day I would be a writer. I carried a journal everywhere I went and scribbled notes about affectations and read the dictionary to broaden my vocabulary. Perplexity was my favourite word.
In grade nine I attended the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, at the encouragement of my English and Humanities teacher. The workshops were forgettable and overpriced but I convinced myself that I was a real writer in a room full of other like minds. There was a poetry workshop in which the guest writer literally told us to look at random objects in the room – ceiling tiles, table legs, coffee-stained nylon carpeting – and compose a poem. My inner asshole scoffed at the joke of a class but I maintained a polite facade in the interest of feeling like an artist.
In my senior years of high school I took on the role of writer, editor, and copy editor for the student-run school newspaper. ‘Saders Ink: the brain child of the intellectual minority student populace. The publication was mostly a place for the honour roll students to bitch about socio-economic inequalities; thus, it was a flop of a project. It turned out the stoners didn’t care much about our political ramblings. Enthusiasm waned and the newspaper just… fell apart.
I didn’t write much after high school. Years passed and life did what life does best and eventually I accepted that I was never going to be a writer. I turned away from anything remotely related to the creative writing community out of self-preservation and focused on logic and fact and method. I was devoid of expression. I landed a job in accounting and clung to the comfort of the process like a life raft. I had never really made peace with my non-future as a writer, because you can’t really make peace with something that you avoid, and soon the wound began to ache in an almost imperceptible way. Like the way your ears pop when you change altitude, or the taste of yogourt that’s just started to turn. I knew something was wrong but I had no way to describe it.
Some years later I started attending group therapy sessions for female survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Part two of the three-part group was to write your story as a survivor. I really struggled with the exercise; because I had not flexed my writing muscles in so long, I no longer knew how to describe or even identify my experience as a survivor.
I was emotionally stunted and it had begun to show in even simple social interactions. I could no longer carry on conversations because I simply could not find the words. I was loathe to let people in – as cliche as that sounds – because I didn’t know how to speak emotionally. I was adept at stating the facts of my life, “Hi, my name is Shannon, and I was beaten and molested as a child. How are you?” because I could always count on cold, hard facts. But I spoke about myself as an observer, and that kind of separation from your own experiences tends to turn people off.
Neil Gaiman’s advice to aspiring writers is to just write. He’s got the right idea, for sure. Since I first sat myself down and struggled with writing my first post on this blog, I feel that not only can I write, but I am a writer. I have noticed a marked improvement in the quality of verse with each instalment. I have also noticed one other perk: I feel more emotionally confident and expressive.
So, as I sip at the dregs of my merlot, its black cherry flavour dancing on the roof of my mouth, I form a resolution. A promise to myself and to my readers (because you are the ones inspiring tonight’s 4 A.M. wine-infused blog post) that I will break old habits or die trying. I’ve done my time in my self-constructed prison. 2015 is the year of candor. It is the year of memories. It is the year of ash and blood and graphite and wine. This is the year I stop being a victim of my past and I make it my bitch.
This is the year I am to be naked, drunk, and writing.
“If you wish to be more than a typist of words, you have no choice, you must extend awareness further than society wants it to go. You must travel in the mythic and living landscapes that lie outside of and beyond the statistical mentality. You must enter dark waters.” -Stephen Harrod Buhner