Thursday, June 28, 2012

Notions: The Suppressed Writer.

On one of our long train rides home, perhaps from some open mic or bookstore, my best friend and I got into our first argument.

“What do you mean that you can’t write?” I bellowed. 

My teenage self, infatuated with the art of scribing and my knack for the fluidity of it, was furious at what I assumed to be sloth. Her face quailed, longing and anger twisted into the crook of her nose.

“It’s not that I don’t want to write. Sometimes I sit and stare at the pages and nothing comes. Sometimes I cry while I’m sitting there. It’s not writer’s block. It’s something deeper.”

I wasn’t sympathetic. If you wanted to write, you simply had to put pen to paper. At sixteen, I was convinced that it was that ingenuous.

It’s not.

Writing is a courageous thing to do. It takes bravery to pour your soul to the world or even a pocket notebook that might be found upon loss. 

When the people, who look down upon liberal arts, creative prose and English, think of us, they picture hermits who’ve chosen to crouch over laptops and blue lines for the duration of their lifetime.

This is no chosen profession.

It starts a small notion. It’s the butterfly in the pit of your stomach when your first crush notices you exist. It’s the moment where we muster up the courage to pass him a note with yes and maybe boxes. It’s the finale where he marks a non-existent no.

It’s the notebook that calls your name a day later, flipping past all the math equations and doodles, uplifting itself to help you pen your disappointment and confusion.

The short stories you told your mother.
The legal paper that you folded in half, creating your very first “chapter” book.
Your very first poetry assignment: Haiku, 5-7-5, and something about spring.

But every profession has its price.

When’s the last time a good memoir made you contort? Did it remind you that you lack the courage to pen freely? Is it just too damn hard?

I understand. I’ve been there. I am there.

When you are living it, it isn’t drenched with metaphor. There is no simile amongst the concrete. The literary elements and perhaps even the words aren’t there when you’re in the midst.

I am so much more than heartbreak…

literary euphoria,
and wisdoms.

I am Caribbean with a culture and family broken by tragedy and mended by hope. I am a victim of too eager fingers. I’ve carved curses in project benches and spoke on a panel at Princeton. I’ve dated boys who I’ve discovered slung dime bags and discussed Junot on brownstone steps till dawn with nerd-hipsters.

But I am not allowed to tell you this.
I have split myself and suppressed halves.

In the quiet, dark, space of my solitude, I am whole. But when I am writing for those who will listen and reflect, I splinter. I am afraid my mother and father will not approve. I must keep in mind that the story I am about to tell, also belongs to someone else. I cringe at the thought that I might betray you or even one of my past selves.

I am terrified.

This summer, I’ve started a notebook. I wrote this in the beginning of it:

I’ve named you “Blank” and skipped the first couple of pages, praying no one would bother to look in here. If you happen to come across that previous line, reconsider further reading. You’re about to delve into an author’s most personal secrets. I was never good at keeping those anyway. I am worse with the small irrelevant ones that sometimes aren’t my own. However, the ones that crawl deep underneath your skin and try to hide are the hardest to reveal. Wish me luck.

After the first entry, a vivid memory that haunts my dreams, memories started to flood me. Things I simply disremembered or moments that were so repressed that they stood amidst the forgotten.

It was within the flogging of my heart’s memorial that everything made sense.

Writing wasn’t always for you.
The philanthropy.
The publications.
The grandeur.

It was for me.

Putting notions on the page allowed me to say the things that are so often quieted by societal norms. I scribed for release.

My progression has been a dishonest one. Honestly. I went from yelling verbs on slam stages to whispering at literary readings. I used to spit short tales guerilla style competing with the roar of the trains and now I write quietly in a book praying those sitting next to me aren’t peeking at my fear.

Where is the rebel girl who set words ablaze unafraid of the masses’ philosophies?

Was she even stifled then? Only spitting truths when her parents missed shows and for audiences that didn’t quite know her. Did she edit and skip lines when she recognized a familiar face in the crowd?


That same friend came to me years later with the resolution to her issue. We’d placed ourselves on benches, still wet from the summer rain, when she pulled her journal out of her book bag.

“I’m writing again and I’ve figured out why sometimes I can’t.”

I smiled at her knowingly, having come to her conclusion a few months beforehand.

She continued, “It’s the restrictions. When you’re writing on a grander scale, you have to decide what you’re going to show the world and figure out who will be offended by what you write. Sometimes that makes its way into what you want to write for yourself and only for yourself. Other times, you’re forced to decide if what you want to show the world is worth the character’s sacredness and security. Does that make sense Riv?”

It does.

As a writer, do you sometimes feel suppressed?


Ran Walker said...

I definitely feel suppressed sometimes--and I get pissed at myself for feeling that way. Now that I am free to do my art, I find I struggle to still be free WITHIN my art. Being true to the page requires ridiculous courage. But it's so beautiful when we eventually taste it. :-)

Jazmine Denise said...

All of the time. As a person who has lived most of her life almost as a prisoner in her own body always afraid of showing her true self I can totally relate! Yet, somehow I find a way to move beyondthe suppression. Even though its sometime frightening, writing gives me a boldness I never possessed before.

Christina said...

Everyday for the past couple of months, this has been my problem. I'm glad someone has put it into words. My courage is hiding :/

Sean Constant said...

Wow I love it Riv. This made me think about all the times I sat there trying to work up the will and courage to write the things I felt I shouldn't, but only realizing the reason I felt I shouldn't was because I was scared to show me. The real me. At the same time it's the me that I want people to see. No lies. Just real.

Unknown said...

Well put. The courage you speak of goes beyond writing and into our everyday lives. There's a courage that needs to be had when sharing ourselves, going from that safe place of secrecy to being weak and vulnerable. I know I struggle with this, considering I'm just starting a business. It can be tough, but when we know that our story can bring strength to others and potentially allow them to change someone else's life for the better, it's all worth it.

Thanks for having the courage to share!

Veronica said...

Yes, Its the reason why I start composing only to stop again only to start again weeks sometimes even months later.

I often find myself being true--in the beginning--to my creativity and thought processes but then I start noticing that I'm going back undoing and editing things that, perhaps "might be too much for the people," as I say. But in actuality that which first had me oohing and aahing as I composed it, somehow became too much for my courage--or lack there of.

Everything I write is an extension of myself and I dont ever want to be an edited version of ME so what do I do? Stop and cry, leave it alone and come back to it later.

Lately, I've endeavored to push through my trepidation. So far it's getting me everywhere that I want to be. I pray I can continue in this fashion and it'll spill over to my writing. I'm determind to finish that novel even if it's last thing I do!

There's Golden In Her Blues. said...

Writing, to me, is like being able to be a whore in private. I can say things I think but don't feel comfortable sharing. Everyone's a judge, when the issue isn't his/her own. And sometimes, that's too much. So the paper/post-it/wordpad makes it easy. And reading your blogs always makes me feel like it's okay to be open on a page.

Karen said...

I feel this so much. I've been writing but I'm so afraid to let some people see. I've written some and it's on the web under another name but no one who truly knows me has never seen the writing. I have a note book full of stories but I fear letting them out. This just shows me that it takes courage to let it out there and not worry about who will approve.