Words on Words

Today is Tuesday. On Sunday, I got home from work, angry. My job right now isn’t the worst job I’ve ever had. There are definitely perks that I’ve never experienced before, like affordable healthcare and an almost livable wage. But when it comes down to it, I wake up at 6AM and get home a little before 6PM. Essentially, 12 hours out of my day is centered around being at a place I don’t actively want to be, and doing things that I don’t actively want to do.

And this is life. I get that. I’m an adult. But I’m also a person, and society doesn’t always recognize that these are two different things. An adult is an archetype; responsible, hardworking, conscientious. A person is a lot more dimensional. We don’t always do, say, and think the correct things. So, even though I accept that I should accept that my life should be drudgery, there’s a person in my head, screaming, “FUCK THAT!”

And that voice has gotten a lot louder over the past few years. Say what I will about the entertainment industry (and most of it is bad), being immersed in artists for almost 5 years taught me how indomitable a spirit really is. Like, it’s not a joke or a stereotype that a lot of comedians struggle with depression. The natural oversensitiveness that artists are subject to is exacerbated by an industry that is designed to overwork and undervalue them.

That spark that artists have within them can’t be blown out by the strongest wind, or quenched by the heaviest rain, or smothered by a mountain of sand — at least, not without that level of monumental effort. And the whole world feels it when that spark is finally destroyed, whether that artist ever “made it” or not. Because we ARE more than our khakis.

All of that to say that I came home from work on Sunday and realized that so much of my day, so much of my energy is stolen by a corporation that could and would replace me without a blink if I were to quit or get fired or die — right now. So, how is that I can always find the energy to make it there on time and put as much of myself into every call or email as I can manage that day but at the end of the day, I can’t be bothered pursuing the thing that I really want to do?

I want to be a writer. I want to make a living at it. I want to change the world with my words. I have a thousand creative hobbies and a soul-sucking job and those are all things that I use to distract or excuse myself from writing. Because writing may be the scariest thing that I’ve ever done, and it never gets less scary, no matter how many times I’ve done it.

If I make a necklace that comes out shitty, I take it apart and put the pieces of it away, knowing that I’ll make something better with those pieces when I come back to them. When I doodle a shitty sketch, I throw it away. I forget it ever existed. When I crochet something that I hate, I unravel it, re-ball the yarn, and toss it back in its basket. But just the idea that I’ll write poorly will stop me from writing, for months.

Don’t get me wrong; there are SOME stakes with other artforms. Of course, I want something that I spend all of that time and energy on to turn out well. But I don’t expect anything I make out of beads or yarn, or both, to change the world. I don’t need anything that I make out of beads or yarn to change the world. But words — words are what shaped me — not my body or my career or my khakis — but my personhood.

I’ve never been moved to tears by a purse or a bracelet. But I was recently purging some old papers that my mother had written on (it’s only been 9 years since she died, give me a break). These weren’t important papers. They were old receipts that she’d organized into envelopes. On the front of each envelope, she’d written the name of the month in bold, decorative letters in a myriad of colors. Green for March, pink for February, etc. with little doodles of shamrocks and hearts for those respective months.

October 2009 was written with a copper sharpie and highlighted with pink squiggles and underlines. In smaller letters, she’d written “Happy Birthday Crystal!” I peeked into each envelope to make sure there weren’t any hidden gems; poems or songs or letters to strangers, encouraging them to be the amazing people she already knew they were.

There wasn’t anything filed in the envelopes that didn’t belong there. But damned if the idea of throwing away all of that work didn’t hurl me into a hurricane of grief. So, I did the adult thing and deposited my snot and tears into a quick succession of tissues, and then threw the envelopes away. But I did the person thing first and took a photo of every single envelope in that old shoebox. Just like my mother did the adult thing and kept all of her receipts neatly organized, but did the person thing and made it pretty.

We can pretend like we are this civilization that goes to work and pays its rent and erects another skyscraper that nobody wants to work in. And we are. But we’re also this other thing that can’t help but make that skyscraper sparkly or blue or round or shaped like a crescent moon or built to support the world’s largest and most ridiculous swimming pool.

So, I got home from work on Sunday, furious that 12 out of my 16 waking hours is centered around having the same three conversations, over and over, all day, forever. And I said to myself, I have to be able to write for a living. It’s the only thing I can think of that I want to do with my life. So, I have to write. I have to be able to write on demand. I can’t let my creative energy be quenched by fear, before I’m ever asked to write anything.

I started this blog with the intention to explore every story prompt I could find. On Sunday, I wrote 3 stories. Yesterday, I wrote 1. Today, I realized that my rage from Sunday was all gone. All I wanted to do was settle back into my complacency, watching YouTube videos where people criticize other people who make art wrong.

So I thought, do I still want to be a writer? And I vaguely registered that I still did. And then I realized that I really liked the stories that I wrote Sunday and yesterday. And I wasn’t sure if I could keep up the momentum of writing well. And I realized that I have to give myself permission to suck. These are all determinations that I have made before. To write every day, to dedicate my time to pursuing what I really want to be doing, to let myself suck.

And maybe it’s not bad that I end up fighting the same battle every time I sit down to write. It means the stakes are still there. I still give a shit. I still need to change the world. It doesn’t matter how many times or how many ways I try to take the pressure off. The pressure is on, baby. We’re changing lives, here. Or, at least one. My life counts, too. So, it’s 9:43PM on Tuesday night. Bed time is 10:30. Let’s see what pile of crap I can come up with in the next 45 minutes. And maybe tomorrow, I won’t have to give myself an hour-long, 1300-word pep talk.

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