One thing I learned many years ago in my very first college writing class: do not begin every sentence with the word I. In fact, try to start as many sentences as possible without starting with I. This is something that despite everything else I must have learned in college, always stays with me when I am writing. The essays and stories I wrote in that class in 1987 are still boarders in the basement of my home. They have lived in a Rubbermaid bin for over 25 years and have moved with me from apartment to apartment. And there were a lot of apartments.
Don’t ask me why I have carried them through life without ever taking another glance their way, because I wouldn’t have much of an answer. It’s been sort of a badge of honor of mine to never re-read what I’ve written. Maybe it’s not so much a badge of honor as a way to protect my heart and mind from cringing at things I’ve put down on paper. Awkward phrases and run on sentences. The class, Creative Non-Fiction, still lingers in my memory. The stories I and others wrote about hurricanes, accidents, places and people from our lives. One essay was about my dad and it was the hardest thing I had ever done. I can recall showing it to my mom, a story about a man of near Saint status and I could see the pain of someone who had always been there for me, wondering why I hadn’t written about her in this way. That would have been much harder than writing about my dad. So many layers I wasn’t old enough to unravel yet.
Lately I’ve been wondering about the origins of my need to write. How far did it go back? Why didn’t I stick with it? Honestly, I found the work too hard. When I was young I didn’t have the stillness required by writing. The patience to let the words come to me when they were ready. Instead I went along a path that was good enough. I made money to pay the bills I needed to pay (sometimes by working two jobs) and I didn’t make the time to write in my free time unless I was puzzling out the answer to a problem in my journal.
The years in between are gone now. But hopefully there are still many more years ahead to make it up to the writer inside myself who refused to die.