There’s always been this feeling in me that I’m not really a writer.
Partly, I feel this because I know what writers are. I’ve been around them my entire life. I was born to writers. And my siblings and friends have always been writers. I’ve seen them all sifting through piles of paper marked in black and red, or looking out of windows maturely, with a pencil in their mouth.
Watching them, I would sometimes feel a story rising up in me, and I would dash to find a paper and pencil of my own to write it down. And I wrote a few. I still have my first story, written in green.
But so often the story would rise up and out of me, and I couldn’t find it again. And I wouldn’t really try. Outside the wind was gentle and warm, and there were always more stories to find out and away from my desk. Why sit there and try to make one?
I was never as disciplined or as eager as the writers around me. Instead, I grew up dreaming, but people make you grow out of that sort of thing.
It happens slowly. Somewhere in high school, maybe a little younger, people start losing those dreams. They stop imagining worlds that aren’t there, or the worlds of other people. And neglected worlds start to shrink. At least, mine did.
I learned that to dream, that was an exercise. A discipline all in itself, worthy of protection. So now, finally, when the stories swelled up out of me, I wrote them down. My notebooks from high school are filled with ideas in the margins. Half-made poems, short story beginnings. All of them secret, but there. In this way, I finally began to learn how to write.
But I wonder if I ever really became a writer.
A major in writing at Calvin certainly helped. I learned how to make a convincing argument, the math of a sentence, how to love the sound. My writing matured. My world grew.
Still, I watch the writers I know and love around me and find myself respectfully jealous. They have maintained a discipline to their writing I want. They are rigid in typing out five hundred words a day, in crafting new ways to say old things. I see them hard at work, exploring. I once imagined I would be like them, writing movie scripts, novels, essays. I studied hard to be like them.
But I don’t work in a profession where I use my words like I used to. Emails aren’t exactly poetry, and there’s no room to scrawl a story in the margins. More than this, writing now has to be a time sculpted out from the day, and that time is beginning to feel self-indulgent. How can I justify spending the time that I have quiet, alone in my head? Now—shall I say post-calvin?—I wonder if my world is shrinking.
So I’m teaching myself, again, how to imagine. Childlike, with no end goal in sight. I’m making myself see stories everywhere—in the people I meet, in the news that I read. I’m trying new things that challenge me. Visiting new churches that think differently than I do. I’m out there exploring, and filling myself with stories. For now, they will keep.
In the meantime, I’ll be dreaming.