Sustaining

I’m writing differently now. When I first got to college, I remember how I would agonise over the first sentence of any piece. It had to make an impact, it had to be different than anyone else’s first sentence, it had to make whoever was reading it remember that I had written it.

For a long time, much of my writing would ramble. It would be flowing, then it would bubble and gurgle, and suddenly it was spilling all over itself. I was excited about writing; I was excited about explaining everything that I was thinking, every process of thought, every connection had to be written down. If anything was remaining or left behind in my mind, I hadn’t written authentically; I hadn’t been honest.

So when I went to college and was a part of serious writing classes for the first time, I couldn’t ramble. I had to contain myself, I had to contain the words that struggled to burst onto the screen through my fingertips – I had to structure, and acknowledge a reader other than myself, someone who cared about what was on the paper, not what was left behind.

I wasn’t unhappy doing this, but it also meant that writing was now difficult for the first time – it did not flow anymore, and I knew that a writing assignment announced in class meant that I would go back to hostel and sit at my desk for an hour, figuring out the best way to begin a piece. When I did find that beginning, the agonising was always worth it.

But I also began doing something else. Instead of coming to a piece with the intention of opening something, I was now coming to it with the intention of closing it – of structuring it perfectly, of feeling around for its paragraphs, of tying the piece up so that I could put it away, and disengage.

Over the last few months, I’ve tried to undo that. It takes consciously telling myself not to decide what the writing will be, before it is, letting it go where it wants to go. This is not easy in the beginning. I hated the things I wrote, and was sometimes embarrassed about posting them on the blog. I kept at it, because I had to find a way to open with writing, again.

To some extent, I think it has worked. When I open MS Word, I am not terrified anymore. The whiteness is not intimidating, and does not demand that I fill it, then leave it alone. I’m starting to see each piece as a part of a process, not a part of a place that will keep it. My stories are beginning to leak into each other, and some days, I actually stop writing before I have finished all that I want to say.

I don’t know how this is going to work. But my writing is stretching, spreading its arms and yawning and laughing. It is not crouching somewhere, hugging its knees; it is not compact anymore, and I am less scared than I used to be. It is learning how to sustain itself.

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