If I were a real writer, I would be writing every day. No, I would be writing dozens of times each day. I don’t. Write each day, that is. I write when a) the mood strikes me; b) I have something to say; c) I have a few minutes (hah!) to devote to sitting at my computer creating instead of reading or responding or corresponding.
For years, I kept a journal–somewhat erratically, but I did keep a journal in a physical notebook with physical ink (preferably Peacock Blue) and a physical pen (preferably a good fountain pen, so I could use up my Peacock Blue ink). There are days when I grab an old journal off my bookcase and turn to some random page. It always amazes me that I can often write something readable instead of just a day’s whine or record of boring events. It feels good to remember where and who I was back then, on whatever book or date I chose. It feels good to recognize that I’ve grown, or that I am still the same me, or that something about me has changed (for the better, hopefully).
As easy as it is to pull up a blog post and read what I wrote, it’s not the same as writing things out long-hand. There are cross-outs and carets for corrections or additions; there are side notes either to clarify something at the time of writing, or as interpretations or comments from more recent readings. I don’t feel as though I can do that in a blog. Let’s face it–there is plenty of editing that can be done on a post before it gets published. And everything you write, in whatever final format you believe you’ve achieved, gets put out there for others to share–and maybe laugh at, or cry with, or hate or enjoy. And you know that there are always errors that weren’t caught before you hit “Publish.” And there are other errors after you’ve hit “update” for the seventh or eighth time, at which time you just give up and allow the world to see you make mistakes–that you are as human as anyone else.
There was a time when I was a perfectionist about what I put to paper, physical or technological. I would spend hours and hours on a single email message, or a two-paragraph blog post. When I kept finding really blatant errors in books and stories by my favorite famous writers, I decided that maybe perfection isn’t what a writer should strive for. Maybe being a writer is all about getting out the feelings or the essence of a situation or day or tale or practice piece. Maybe it’s the meaning that counts.
Recently, I read a piece by CurvyLou. She mentions how she looks for the meaning in her work. Over and over, I attempted to respond to her post, trying to tell her that all her work conveys meaning–how she’s feeling, the joy of her color combinations, the excitement of discovering a unique color from certain plants… But the internet service here on the island (St. Martin) is not the best–especially here on the Dutch side (Sint Maarten)–and I don’t think I was ever able to actually publish my comment. And, of course, I was never able to find that particular post again. The point is, I don’t think that, in visual artistic endeavors, it matters what the artist meant; each person will bring with them their own sets of experiences and understandings and lay their own meaning onto the work. As long as people find meaning or a feeling in what they perceive, the artist has done his or her job. If the artist chooses to explain the work, fine: some people will agree; others will wonder how the artist’s intent shows up in the piece; still others will insist the artist had no idea what the final work actually means. The latter are the critics I have to laugh at–the ones who know better than the artist what said artist meant or tried to convey.
Even as I attempted to post a comment to her post, I started thinking about the meaning in the things I post, or the drawings and paintings I am learning to master, or even the things I say. It occurred to me that there are too many times when my social filters fail as heavily as the self-editing of my writings. Do the blunders mean something? Or is a cigar sometimes just a cigar?
This is just another reason why I am not a writer. As I write, I start to meander down tangential paths and have a hard time winding my way back to the point sometimes. It was a lot more evident when I was writing long-hand in a physical book, while technology allows me to touch up what I type too easily. Yet I still prefer to type on a computer than on an ole-fashioned typewriter, upon which every major error means either the use of a lot of WiteOut or retyping the page. The worst part is when the major error that can’t be erased (or hidden behind a white blob) comes at the bottom of a typed sheet of paper. The typewriter was the main reason I hated writing papers in college and decided not to major in English. Even after several typing courses, I still made too many errors, and my typing was just too slow… And I’m off topic again.
How does one become a writer when the mind refuses to follow a straight path? And yet, somehow I always get back on the right road and follow–or blaze–a different trail.
Real writers don’t do that, do they? Real writers stick to one line of reasoning and follow it through–or discover it as they go along. But they don’t wander all over the place as I do.
Real writers make the reader feel something, or learn something, or think about something. Real writers have something meaningful to convey, or convey an idea that has some sort of meaning. All I convey is my words. And those words will mean different things to different readers because… I am not a real writer.