May 16, 2011

Quick! Somebody get me a pen--I need to revise!

I think I'm addicted to writing. I have to write at regular intervals or I begin a cold sweat panic. Maybe I'm afraid I'll forget how to write. Or how to think. Writing is as important to me as exercising or drinking hot beverages. It's an essential part of my well-being.

My craving for composition pays no attention to my amount of free time, nor to the amount of inspiration. To feel the urge to write, I don't necessarily need a co-worker's insightful quip, a life-altering volunteer experience, or even a dislike of a particular brand of shoes. My drive comes from a deep enjoyment of the craft. Writing was my first hobby, back when I named the horses in my stories after my schoolyard crushes and asked I my mother to pen the captions beneath my magic marker sketches.

I've also kept journals throughout my life. Especially during stressful times, these journals gave me a record of the daily struggle to just be "okay." That sounds dark, but writing down my worries always lessened the burden. During my travels, journaling helped me remember the details (and vent the tedium) of living abroad.

I've been experimenting with a six-word journal lately. Each night, I use only six words to describe the day. Many times, I end up with three two-word phrases; but sometimes, I get a sentence that summarizes my outlook on the entire day. I like seeing my existence boiled down to that level. Short, sweet, and written down.

For me, a thought hasn't become real until I have written it down. By the time I write something down, I've tossed it around at least once in my brain. If it passes the initial inspection, I can send it down to my hands for drafting. With writing, unlike casual conversation, I always have an eraser or a backspace key. I can revise my thoughts until I've said what I meant. For example, today I blurted, "I've often romanticized about living in 1930s Germany" to a person I barely knew. Yes, we were talking about a mutual fascination with the Holocaust, but my thought came out as a not-so-secret desire to be a Hitler youth, rather than my intention of saying that World War Two has always captured my imagination and I wonder what life was like in the thick of it all. I didn't try to correct my thought for fear of further entrapping myself in the quicksand of conversation. I simply changed the subject to pets and made sure to discuss German Shepard dogs appropriately, without any nationalism.

In high school, I wrote a poem about the band a friend and I started. Our songs lacked any musical ability, though our lyrics ran circles around anything I've heard since. In the poem, I valued our band practices because I could be anyone I wanted to be, even my insecure and awkward self. Revise my life to be more like a band practice, I wrote. I still like this line, though I have lost touch with our late nights, fake cigarettes and ridiculous outfits. Revise my life resonates with this lifetime writer as a never-ending quest to improve myself every day, with the same care I would take to a piece of writing. Perfection is not the goal, but an ever-improving version of life with more clarity, better examples and fewer adverbs.