Refine. Hone. Distill. The self is a text, too.
I have never thought of myself as a writer.
By now, I imagine that it’s fairly clear that I see myself as a type of distillery, the filter through which the written word flows, and my job is to remove the volatile elements that obstruct a reader’s understanding. (Also, as an academic, a reader, a thinker, I wrestle frequently with repetition in the literary world…the same thing said about the same writer by different voices in different classes or articles or books–yet somehow everything I edit is new and dynamic and therefore interesting to me). I spend a lot of time immersed in other people’s thoughts: projects I’m working on; reading for all sorts of reasons, from the novel to the daily online article; and anything that relates to grammar or editing, from the evolution of acceptable parts of language to the most pertinent style updates. A reader, an editor, but almost never a writer.
And then I remember that I’ve actually been writing since I was six years old with my first diary entry in a kitten-covered vinyl volume with a useless lock and flimsy key. Recently, I went on an expedition through the attic at my mom’s house trying to find the typewriter on which I tapped out my first short, short story at age eight (which was about a mischievous kitten named Molly–I really liked cats.). I wrote bad poetry in spiral-bound notebooks all through junior high and high school, and journaled enough that I have meticulous chronicles of things I would have otherwise long forgotten.
By the time I got to college, MSWord and a private MySpace blog bore the brunt of what I had to say. Somewhere along the line, the habit of writing fell off, and I’ve forgotten to think of myself that way, even though I wrote prolifically through graduate school, both for personal and academic means. And then I graduated, with a passion for reworking and refining the words of others, and my own got lost somewhere along the way. Or rather, set aside and neglected as things often are when don’t have the security of family or school orchestrating the “minutiae” for us: food, shelter, health insurance.
Over the past year, I’ve found the impetus and the time to begin writing again. First, I revisited the analytics of academia, getting a few article ideas working and researched. Then I moved on to a creative idea of some length, and it’s proving to be the most difficult thing I’ve ever written, since generally I deal in literature- and grammar-based analysis or nonfiction musings [read: rants] about human relationships, communication, and interaction.
And I find that it makes me a better editor. To be an author keeps me actively involved in the medium through which I practice; I see the English language, with its abundance of rulebreakers and irregularities and nuances, as a beautiful mass of intricacy which can be played, simultaneously like a game and piece of music that evokes a reaction even if you can’t name why. When I edit and do not write, even if I still read as voraciously as usual, I can get lost in the mechanics and the parameters that I’ve learned; I can forget the rush of joy of a thought that turns into a run-on sentence as it tumbles out over itself, or the trill of satisfaction at a well-played word. When I read and edit, but do not write, I can still hear the tone and feel the intention of author toward audience, and can still apply my understanding of grammar, et. al., with a utilitarian eye toward both writer and reader, but the personal knowledge of what it means to be an author fades a bit into the background. Because now I am Editor, and not Author; I’ve assigned myself to one perspective when I should have both, or rather all three, because I am Audience as well.
At any rate, this blog will integrate itself as well, hopefully, into my writing life. I have read in more than one place that Rainer Maria Rilke sat every day and wrote. With one pen and stack of paper for correspondence, and another set for verse, the poet (what a limited word!) practiced his craft every day and in various ways. Lately, I’ve been using that as a challenge for myself, that, regardless of what I work on or start from scratch, I’m writing something each day, making sure to keep myself seeing language from all perspectives.