It’s been a while since I’ve been at my desk penning a piece, and as always, I don’t know where to start. This one’s a bit personal, so I guess I’ll dive right in.
I’m not an accomplished writer, not even a good one. I’ve quit more things than I’ve started. But why did I start them? Why did I foolishly embark upon a journey filled with words and rhymes and sonnets and novels and posts? Why did I feel the need to spend countless hours glued to a laptop and type out a largely unsuccessful book, which sold a total of 124 copies in its entire lifetime? Why, then, am I still at it? I ask myself this question every single day.
This is not my primary job. This does not pay the bills. I haven’t even written a single piece in over two and a half years. Why, then can I not hang up my fictitious pen and walk away? Why then do I feel a need to look at my unfinished poems? Why don’t I give up and give myself a way out from this gut-wrenching, emotional world of creative writing? Why can’t I let a typo on a flyer go without letting someone know all about it?
The answer probably lies in my past. My favorite pastime as a kid was to read the dictionary. A mint edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, rarely the true companion of a six-year-old, alongside an atlas and a general knowledge book. I imagine a curly-haired six years old me running around wearing shorts, probably shirtless since I dropped food on it during my last meal, sitting in the corner learning about words. Words turned into sentences. Sentences to prose. In a few years, I had notebooks filled with rants about my day, and other things teenagers ramble on about. I had many friends and more notebooks to fill with things I did with them. I’d observe them, and write about them. And then read it back. And write some more. And then eat, and go to sleep. Rinse and repeat.
Notebooks went digital in the new millennium. I discovered my friend’s weblog, as it was called then, and I had to get one for myself. I wrote about train rides and college lectures and first crushes and the associated heartbreak, all in a myriad of languages. I began to receive likes and comments from strangers on the internet. Those strangers, somehow, felt closer than my closest friends. I’d stay up all night waiting for the like counter to increase, replying almost real-time to commenters. My writing was now no more a personal thing, it was public and getting more views seemed to be the thing that replaced my need to have a personal space. I expanded my range on topics and took part in weekly writing challenges, and in a few months rose to pseudo-stardom when one of the sites featured my poems submitted to the weekly challenge, and I had a few thousand likes overnight. The spike in traffic boosted my fake ego, and I continued to write what I thought people liked. But the enthusiasm was short-lived, and soon I began to feel left out.
I should write a book, yes, that is what I should do! That was me in my late twenties, now well employed with only a few hours to spare every day, hours that I should ideally have spent sleeping. I should start small, I told myself, and I got on the self-publishing bandwagon. And I pushed “At First Sight” out of the womb of my creativity, had a cousin proofread it and another friend review it just to make sure I wasn’t kidding myself. Then I pushed the publish button, and I waited.
And waited, and waited.
The only copies that sold were bought by friends and family. Others were ones I gave away to random strangers over the internet. I’m glad I gave those away because some of the kindest and honest feedback I received were from people I gave away the book to. But I didn’t get the validation my ego sought, and in a year I decided to kill the project. That was the deciding blow to my writing career, and I didn’t want to, nay, feel like I should focus on it anymore.
I had many ups and downs in my life. More recently, I met a wonderful young woman whom I married and then fell in love with. We had our tender moments and our stupid fights and makeup sessions, where more than once I ended up in tears not knowing why we were fighting in the first place. I knew then that this was the woman I was always meant to be with, and on some level, she knew this before she married me (but wouldn’t admit in public). And as I walked into the sunrise of my married life with my bride, I didn’t feel the need to tell anyone else about how I felt. My thoughts were hers, and hers, mine. I felt complete.
And yet, somehow incomplete. Those thoughts are precisely what I documented all my early years. What I felt in my heart and saw with my eyes. During my late night talks with my beautiful wife. When I’m in the shower or sitting on the pot. When I’m stuck driving in traffic. Before the likes and the views. Before the comments and reviews. Maybe I should limp on, try to get better?
I’m not an accomplished writer, not even a good one. I’ll still probably quit more than I can start. I’ll still take more of those corporate dollars just to keep the heat on in my home. I’ll still spend time arguing with my wife about what I haven’t done wrong yet. But writing? Should I still be at it?
Yes. Because some things can never be let go of. Writing is such an integral part of me that giving up would feel like I cut off my right arm. Who then, would write about it?