How do you write?
Why am I asking? Furthermore, why am I asking no one in particular? How do you create something without direction? Or is there always direction? Does the direction sometimes make itself known AFTER the work is done? Or was the direction always there but missed?
Summer of my sophomore year of high school, I spent three weeks at Marshall University after being accepted into this intensive arts program. I was one of 15 or so theatre students. One of the requirements was that we spend a few hours a day immersing ourselves in the other categories: Dance, creative writing, vocal music, visual art, and instrumental music. Interdisciplinary time they called it. Writing was my first true love and I looked forward to the two hours or so a week that I spent with Kate Long, a professor at Marshall and the creative writing teacher. She taught in a way that I had never been exposed to. By then I had been through ten years of public school and the careful structure and imagination-squelching guidelines made me nauseous.
So imagine my disbelief and delight when Kate Long, well-educated English professor, instructed me to look into a box of miscellaneous knickknacks, aggressively silence the negative voice of writer’s block she called Agnes (and personified with a red wig on a styrofoam head), and write whatever I damn well pleased. It was magical. It was cathartic. It was liberating. It was empowering.
I have always been fascinating with words. As much as I dislike admitting it, I am easily bored. I like to pretend that I have many scholarly interests, that documentaries are my reality TV, that I eagerly dive into the works of Shakespeare, Hemingway, Austen, that I regularly listen to albums from beginning to end. I’m a lying asshole. I’m ashamed– I dread reading no matter how good I expect the book to be. My most recently watched show on Netflix is Gossip Girl. I have to grit my teeth and lasso my focus just to resist skipping to another song after one minute. I like instant gratification, hate montages, prefer my television fast-paced and sexually charged.
Which is why I find it so strange that I have been talking to myself for as long as I can remember. I can’t believe I am putting this down in words on the internet. I don’t mean “talking to myself” exactly– it’s more embarrassing than that. I create scenes and scenarios with no warning, any time I am alone and the mood strikes. I’m not me. I’m a girl (who has aged right alongside me) I’d love to be. Sometimes it’s dramatic and sometimes it’s tongue-in-cheek. I always assumed I’d grow out of it, and it’s now something that is so intrinsic to the deepest, truest version of me that most people don’t ever know. It’s interesting– I believe that we often never know the most basic facts about the people we meet and grow to love. For me (realizing now that incidentally, I don’t think I’ve ever told my best friend that I often stage one-act plays with myself) it can be explained simply: I’ve done it for such a very long time that it’s almost as natural as breathing or blinking. And keeping it to myself has little to do with my pride, as few things truly embarrass me anymore, and anyway, I haven’t consciously thought about this hobby enough to decide how embarrassing I really find it. It’s just a split-second decision, like deciding you are indeed hungry, feeling the urge to scratch your nose, determining that it’s time to smoke a cigarette. It isn’t something I think about any other time than when I am seconds from doing it. Just as I wouldn’t bother telling a good friend that I have been blinking for years, I have never been bothered to talk about this. It’s so deeply rooted inside of me that ironically, I overlook it altogether.
But I digress. (Sweet Jesus, did I digress.)
I am generally dependent upon technology for my entertainment. The exceptions to this rule are a measly two. I can amuse myself for hours by a) pulling imaginary dialogue out of my ass at any given moment or b) reciting narratives and dialogue pulled out of the ass of someone much more brilliant and accomplished than myself.
Words excite me. I like to breathe life into them in the most eloquent way I can muster, and I like to spit them out, also in the most eloquent way I can muster. (Should “spit” and “eloquent” ever be neighbors? Shut up, Agnes.) I carried a steadfast devotion to my imagination for the first 18 years I was alive, allowed the real world to cut it out of me and convince me to betray it, and now, haunted by the absence of such a force in my life, I would like it back. I am taking it back. (In the immortal words of Taylor Swift) It’s the only thing that’s ever been mine.
“The future has an ancient heart.” -Carlo Levi