January 14, 2013 by Kriscinda Lee Everitt
So, about a week ago, some thing apparently accosted me unawares and implanted itself in my brain. Some sort of alien monster-thing. The only way it can be detected is by my strange behavior, which, though usually strange enough, has been particularly strange as of late.
I’ve been writing like crazy.
Like, a lot. I mean, I expect to have a total of 20,000 words by the end of today, and that would be just a week’s total.
Whoop-dee-flippin-doo, you say. So what? you add. Well, yes, good point. A lot of ink slung about. Big deal.
Well, for me, it’s a pretty huge deal, for a number of reasons. I graduated with an MFA in creative writing in May of 2011. Since then—after feverishly (literally) finishing my thesis—I’ve written very little. Maybe, I thought, I had burned out in grad school. Considering I had burnt out my thyroid, I might be plausible to think that maybe I had also destroyed the little writing organ inside me. I squeaked out a few short stories here and there (one has actually been accepted recently, so it can’t have been complete crap). I was writing, but it was always like pulling nails.
And, in fact, writing for me, most of the time, has been that way. There’s some bullshit rumor going around writing circles saying that unless you’re driven compulsively to write, you are not a “Writer.” There are all sorts of other symptoms to this condition “Writer,” most of which contradict each other and none of which ever seemed to apply to me. Because I have never really been compelled to write. In fact, anything I’m good at, I rarely feel driven to do. Most folks don’t know that I can actually draw really well. I used to draw often, but stopped doing it when life got all serious and I found myself with a lot less time than I had in, say, high school. But people expected me to be an “Artist,” except that I rarely felt compelled to do it. If I felt like it, I did it, and when I didn’t (which was often), I couldn’t. Not likely to make a living with that track record.
And so I assumed that, regardless of talent, because it didn’t just flow naturally and consistently from me, I could not be described as an “Artist.” This was a depressing conclusion to come to, because, really, it was the only thing I was good at.
I discovered later in life that I was good at one other thing: writing. But, again, like the art, it wasn’t coming like I ate, breathed, and slept. Sitting down and writing, more often than not, was a sadistic exercise in frustration. It was only satisfying when I managed to force myself through something and what came out on the other side was something I didn’t hate.
I know this is the experience of a lot of writers—writing is hard, it doesn’t come easy, blah, blah, blah. I get it. But it was frequently not just difficult, but downright torture. And the constant advice to persevere coupled with the many definitions of what really constitutes a “Writer” had never helped, and, in fact, made the whole process so much worse. Particularly having already gone blindly and without counsel through the whole “I’m not an artist” thing.
Then I woke up a week ago and for the first time, ever, I feel like a “Writer.” And I don’t have an explanation for it, except that maybe it’s possibly having accidentally found what it is that I need to write/enjoy writing.
When I chose to go to grad school for creative writing, it wasn’t an easy choice. Because I actually love academia. Let me clarify that: I love doing research on subjects I am intensely interested in (I was not in love with the politics of academia, nor was I interested in teaching, which is how academics get by). But as I went through my undergrad years, I minored in writing while I did my more serious academic thing. By the end of my junior year, a teacher took me aside and said to me about something I’d handed in, “I think you could get this published.” Meanwhile, my academic focus (18th and 19th century Gothic literature) was getting me disparaging looks around the department, and so, I decided to go for the creative writing. I always thought, well, I can still do some amateur papers here and there, so something.
My graduate thesis ended up being exactly what it was that I wanted to do—a combination of gothic and history that required a certain amount of research to be able to pull off. Unfortunately, I was so sick of it by the time I graduated (I don’t work well under the pressure of semester-designed deadlines) that I steered clear of anything remotely like it. Until now.
I’d been doing a lot of reading, mostly biographical or non-fiction in general, and it occurred to me, quite out of the blue, that I should write this thing. I had a vague idea as to what it should be, but what it is is a combination of historical, literary, and gothic. I can’t even really get into it here, but it’s the kind of thing that, once it’s finished, I’m going to be really excited to talk about the process. And the process is an exciting (for me) combination of creativity and research, which is exactly what I love.
And I think that what’s kept me from discovering this has been a desire to write everything. And by “everything,” I mean, everything that I read. Because I read a lot of different stuff, from genre, to literary, to academic, biography, non-fiction this, that, and the other. And I tried to be more serious than I think I really want to be. It wasn’t that I was forcing it—I do like serious work. It’s only that I didn’t realize that just because I like to read something doesn’t mean I really, truly want to write it. And so, somehow or another, I managed to figure out not just that I am a “Writer,” but also what kind of writer I am. And upon reflection, it’s a fact I can not only live with but be proud of.
So, I’ve been getting up in the morning and before anything—before food, before coffee—I am compelled to come in here and start writing. I haven’t been struggling to reach a paltry 500-word count for the day, but have been tapping out 2,000-3,000 a day. And when I stop, I already know what I’m writing the next day, so I can just wake up, sit down, and write.
I had no idea it could be this way. And I don’t feel particularly concerned that it might, just as suddenly as it came, leave. A door’s opened, and now, instead of fearing it might close, I’ve got a key, so it doesn’t matter if it does. Whatever it is, however it happened, it’s about damned time. Now all I need to do is continue to keep up with this blog. It’s hard to post here when there are so many things I want to write!