It’s rare that one of my inner monologues finds its way from my brainwaves to my fingertips to the computer keyboard, so let me be swift and painless lest the mood to get this down deserts me.
I’ve seen a lot of posts (mostly on Pinterest, because I fulfill the basic white girl stereotype) about how to write. “Writers write every day!” they shout from their safe havens behind my Mac’s screen. “Writers feel the need to write every second!” they claim, desperately grasping for a way to convince you to just write, damn it, how hard can it be?
Well, it may not be hard, but it certainly isn’t easy for people like me.
People like me, with severe DeQuervain’s tendinitis and carpel tunnel. People like me, with a too-strong passion for playing the piano and– guess what else?– writing. Passions so strong, they destroyed the nerves and tendons in my hands and wrists.
I can’t write with a pen and paper for more than ten or fifteen minutes at a time. I write fast, I write in cursive, and I don’t write for fun. I write like it’s the end of the world, like the building around me is coming down and I have seconds before my own demise. I write like the words I write will be the only words anyone will know from me.
I don’t write in the way that the word implies. I don’t put pen to paper often. I don’t open up a blank Word document and go to town.
I “write” in my third eye.
[cue dramatic music]
Allow me to elaborate.
Long car rides are my favorite. I “write” best on long car rides. I put on a single song (last time, it was Goodbye by Who Is Fancy for eight hours straight), stare out the window and let my mind “write.”
I “write” in my head; I see everything like a movie. I blame my dad for that; he instilled in me a love of movies, and it translates to my “writing.” Usually, I start with a character. Usually, it’s a woman. Then I put the character “up a tree,” as Strunk says in Elements of Style. I put tigers under the tree. I put myself in the character’s skin and I “write” my way out.
Still a little lost? I’ll keep going.
Remember Barbies? I had a notoriously large collection of Barbies, started by my older sister. I remember counting them on my basement floor with my mother, when I was four. I had 22 Barbies when I was four. Twenty-two dead-eyed plastic over-sexualized female characters, ripe for the “writing.” I’d get a new Barbie every so often, and add them to the cast list. When I was eleven, a friend gave me her entire collection of Barbie accessories, including a plane, a full zoo and, yes, more Barbies.
I played the shit out of Barbies.
I’d spend countless hours on the cold, hard floor of my basement playroom, creating plot lines and character analyses, background stories and subplots and character arcs and foils. I’d create narrow alleyways of story, I’d riddle the floor with haphazardly strewn love triangles or surprise plot twists. And I’d remember where I left off every time I came back. And if I “wrote” myself into a corner, I’d start a new chapter. New subplots, new angles. At some point, I got to where I could remember the relationships between every single Barbie, remember their back stories by heart and how they were all connected. By the time I was fourteen (okay, I know it’s embarrassing that I still played with Barbies when I was fourteen, but I didn’t care and I still don’t!) I had a set cast list of about eight of my favorite Barbies that had been in the same characters for years. Two, in particular, I remember clearly. My favorite doll, Anna, and her boyfriend, Ken (yes, Ken, okay) had been dating for probably two years or so (in real people time, I’m not kidding you). I remember feeling like I’d just finished reading a book when I “wrote” their marriage. Like when Andy in Toy Story 3 looks back at his childhood sitting on a stranger’s stoop and thanks them. Those Barbies, like the toys in Toy Story, weren’t just toys. They were my original outlet, my first stories. I loved them, those stories. I loved creating them, I loved acting them out, and I loved finishing them. They were the only stories I could finish without feeling like something could’ve been better.
I don’t write in the conventional sense. Writing doesn’t require putting pen to paper or fingertip to key. Writing doesn’t demand, doesn’t ask anything in return, doesn’t need commitment. You do your writing how you want to do it, when and if you want to do it. If you don’t like writing every day because your words are too precious or you feel your writing should be a crime of passion, then just write when you feel it’s right. Write in your mind; it’s much more flexible. In my mind, I’ve created fully fleshed out characters that have never known the page. I’ve drawn the maps of countless imaginary places, without ever once touching a writing utensil of any kind. In my head, I’ve walked through my plots frame-by-frame, capturing every detail from every angle.
I used to hate myself for being a terrible writer, for not writing every day, for not defying the doctor’s orders and writing anyway like a normal rebel would do. I looked at those posts on Pinterest, and felt my writer’s soul wither away into itself, curl into its own shame. But I won’t do that anymore.
There is no one way to write. You have to pave your own, and that’s what I love about being a “writer.”
So go forth, and “write.” Or don’t. Whatever.