If This Is a Gift, I'd Like to Return It

For me, writing is at once an otherworldly and almost visceral experience.

They say our greatest strength is our greatest weakness. While I acknowledge this is very often true, I have my own slant on this viewpoint. My contention is that the greatest of our natural talents, (our "gifts," as my family is fond of calling them), are also our greatest burdens, sources of anxiety, and migraine-inducers.

Ask anyone in my family what my "gift" is, and they'll each tell you the same thing: "She's a writer." They'd all be mistaken, but even that won't get me off the hook. In truth, and to a certain degree, I understand their confusion. Yes, I have an intrinsic knack for writing. I have a pretty substantial vocabulary and a sturdy command of the English language. I can cut you down to the height of a pushpin with no more than six words, all without a single expletive. Catch me in a brighter mood, and my proclivity for words will build you up until the Empire State Building, the Space Needle, the Eiffel Tower, and every other national landmark imaginable cowers in the shadows below you. In person, I'm undoubtedly one of the most inarticulate, awkward and self-conscious speakers you'll ever encounter, even in a one-on-one conversation. On paper, I'm a wordsmith. There are a couple good reasons for this, but to innumerate and describe each one would require several lifetimes. For now, let's suffice it to say that I attribute my proficiency with the written word more to my cerebral nature than the existence of any unused natural talents.

Sure, I do become inspired now and then, at which times that I'm happy to ride the wave and see where my writing takes me. I've had a go at almost every genre, but my favorite place to dabble is creative writing, particularly poetry and prose fiction. I've also had my share of success with my writing: teacher praise, a stint as a staff writer and department editor on my campus newspaper as an undergrad, even publication in a local periodical on my 18th birthday. But am I a writer? Surely not. I'm no writer; I'm just a dilettante.

Anäis Nin, one of my favorites, was a diarist. She brought attention to the blogging scene decades before the birth of computers and the actual internet. She was brilliant; a visionary, a poet, a philosopher and a master of words. SHE was a writer, and she put it best when she advised in her writing "If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don't write, because our culture has no use for it."

Who am I to question the authority of one of the greats? I don't always “breathe” through my writing, so I don't always write. If I need it, my writing is there to resuscitate me when the weight and burdens in life start to suffocate me, but I don't write fluff. I'll never give Nicholas Sparks or that chick who wrote the TWILIGHT series a run for their money. I'll never be guilty of recycling the same story, passing it off as more than it is by staging it in different settings, disguising the characters with new names, and changing the title. And, as far as I can control, I'll never write anything too clichéd or derivative because I agree with Anäis that it is useless, and why would I waste my time polluting pop culture with any more trash than is already there?

My father's been trying to push me to write for as long as I can remember. When I graduated from high school, he bought me a copy of Dr. Seuss' Oh, The Places You'll Go and inscribed it with the message "Never stop writing! It's your gift." When one of my toughest undergrad professors advised me to publish a research paper I had written because "it's really that good," my father told me he was proud and that I should follow her advice. (I didn't). Lately, however, he's been even more persistent and resolute about it. Most recently, he told me all he wants for Christmas is for me to have one of my pieces published, a simple enough request for someone oblivious to the reality of exactly how difficult that is.

I don't think he's even considered the eventuality and, most likely, actuality that even if I do submit my writing for publication, it won't happen. He doesn’t seem to understand the enormity of the scale on which both statistics and luck are stacked against me. When I asked what I should do when my writing is rejected, he matter-of-factly replied that I'd better wrap up the rejection letters and hope that Christmas doesn't come this year, shaking his head as if I'M the delusional one. It’s on that note I finally arrive at my reason for even riding the wave of inspiration into this piece to begin with:

For me, writing is at once an otherworldly and almost visceral experience. Sometimes I feel like a medium, challenging the inspiration into words. Other times, it’s raw and primal; an instinct I have to fulfill, and not without warring with myself. I had prolific periods, and I have long-running ruts when nothing comes to me for weeks or months. Either way, it can’t be forced, which is why my greatest gift is also my greatest burden, fear, and source of anxiety.


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