My heart woke me crying last night.
How can I help? I begged.
My heart said,
write the book.
I remember the first story I ever wrote. It was on a square ruled A4 size notebook that I had bought for a class whose lecturer never showed up. I hated that story. It was a cheesy romantic tale full of sacrifice and pain and courage and all those awesome things a 20 year old dreams about when he thinks about love.
My friends loved that story.
For the life of me I couldn’t tell why.
I had sat down on a rainy Saturday afternoon and laboured into the night writing it, not knowing where I was going with those characters, and yet still trusting them to lead.
When I had finally laid down my pen at around 11 pm, I couldn’t bring myself to read it. An existensional dread engulfed me and I was naked in the market place.
There was relief that it was complete, but hard as I tried to love it, I just could not.
It was not perfect.
I still remember the look of incredulity on this guy’s face after he’d read it.
“You wrote this?!”
I dragged a smile to my face and nodded (I think it was more like a grimace).
“It is awesome!”
Before I could halt the decay, the tale had been passed around and the tag ‘writer’ duly attached to my person.
Something in me gloried. For a moment I had an identity all of my own, and a place to belong. The question of identity had wracked my soul for days on end and here now was a person I could claim. A writer.
Then I remembered how crap that story was and I knew I was a fraud.
I had read brilliant works before, and at that time I had just discovered Tolstoy. His stories were the standard I aspired to and here I was masquerading as a writer and with one story I couldn’t hold up to the sun.
It was terrible.
I walked around in a daze.
A part of me urging me to write another and a louder voice hysterically laughing at my cheek.
I finally made another attempt at the craft with a tale no one read, which I submitted to an online writing contest and duly forgot about it.
I got no feedback.
I wasn’t expecting any anyway.
When my laptop crashed and I lost it amongst other things, it finally suffered the natural death that had been coming.
So I got busy with work and life and an occasional poem and a post on the blog… My heart cried for more but I was able to calm the storms within.
I never got back to writing the long form, God knows how many times i started something and soon gave it up as crap; until sometime this year when I woke up with this insane idea that just seemed to take flight. My blood raced and in the humdrum of daily life I sat down and wrote a brief outline of the story and its introduction.
Then my demon came back.
I started seeing all the possible ways in which it couldn’t work, a chorus of laughter ringed in my ears and for a moment I stopped.
On a bright Sunday morning, when I should have been ushering folks in to the morning service, I lay in bed thinking. Light that shone through my windows pierced to my soul. For that moment I was able to see clearly.
It was there in my relationship with writing.
It was there in my romantic relationships.
It was the reason why I worked so hard and drove my self so hard to please others, and be at peace with them, even if the cost was my joy and well being.
It was the reason why I always pushed myself back into the shadows when an opportunity arose and would be content seeing others struggle with things I might have done effortlessly. If they couldn’t see it, then I definitely wasn’t perfect for the role.
It was the reason for much.
Perfection has always been my Achilles heel.
So I am learning to stare deep into the abyss, and let myself fall.
I am writing.
I am speaking.
And I am living out loud.
It is scary, but I am doing it anyway.
I am learning to enjoy creating for the joy of creating.
I am learning to enjoy my sentences, and to recognize they’re not jail cells.
It doesn’t have to always rhyme to be right, it doesn’t have to glow to flow.
If there’s heart and blood and grace in the labour, then that’s okay. And as we keep at it, one day, without us knowing it gets as close to perfect as is possible on earth. When it gets to that point, and becomes the means through which a life may find grace and healing; then we will not have lived and laboured in vain.
I keep writing.