I am not a writer. I know that. That you may be reading this now is more a testament to my stubbornness than any creative talent I might possess.
It has been a couple of weeks since I’ve posted anything. In that time I’ve written no fewer than 4 posts, on a wide variety of topics. One was about a recent trip to Stockholm. Another was on growing up poor. I wrote a post about my first few weeks in college. They all suck.
More than likely most of these posts will eventually see the light of day, my ability to write is dominated by my ability to criticize. Nothing is ever good enough. Nothing is interesting. My writing is boring because I’m boring.
Last week I got up early, filled a thermos full of hot coffee, grabbed my journal and headed out. I hiked to a rocky summit near my house. Looking east, I could see for miles, over many hilltops and sleepy valleys, the morning fog just starting to dissipate. The morning sun was cresting over jagged rocks to my left, heralding the start of a beautiful summer day. There I sat, alone, with my journal and my coffee, experiencing this panoramic scene. I assumed that if I was writing in a place like this, I might create something worth reading, ideas worth sharing.
I opened my journal, took the cap off my favorite fountain pen, put the tip of the pen on the pristine paper, and… nothing.
It was there, sitting uncomfortably on some hard rocks, cold from the morning wind, that I realized my problem. I am more interested in the romantic ideal of being a writer than I am in actually writing. I want people to “see” me on the top of that summit, with a steaming thermos of coffee in the morning sun. I want them to see me with my journal, furiously writing. I want them to think any prose flowing from my mind to the page must be the stuff of legends. But the reality differed greatly from the ideal. I was still writing dribble.
It wasn’t a total loss. Some of the words I wrote were insightful. I wrote that I’m enamored with the “look” of writing than the actual words. My hike to quiet rocky outcropping high on a hill, the panoramic view, the journal and the coffee, was a commercial to creativity. It was a Hollywood montage of images to make people think that is how writing works. It was how I thought it should be.
I don’t think I’m different from most people. We all think that we have innate talents, just waiting for us to recognize them. And while there may be some truth to that, the reality is for us to grow our talents, we have to work. Hard. Yo-Yo Ma didn’t just pick up a cello and start to play beautiful music. He had to put in endless hours of practice to achieve mastery of his music.
For me, I thought I could pick up a pen and write. It may need some work initially, but I’m a pretty smart fellow, I have the skills, right? Wrong. I thought I had the 2% inspiration, I forgot all about the 98% perspiration.
But as I mentioned above, I’m stubborn. What limited success I’ve had in life has been based on an intrinsic desire to prove people wrong. Of course, in this case, the person I need to prove wrong is myself. But I’ll keep trying.
I’ll put in the time. I’ll practice, practice, practice to get better at this. Why? Because I KNOW that I have something to say, even if I don’t know what it is yet.
And if my inner critic is right and I never get better? Well, this may be dribble but I’m still writing it. It’s the poor saps like you who may be reading this that really have to suffer. Besides, as I sit here, in a local Starbucks, jotting all this down on a pad of paper, a cup of coffee right next to me, at least I LOOK like I can write.