So these popped up on my Twitter feed today while I was definitely NOT spending my morning off day dreaming about Brandon Calvillo’s social media brilliance. And they got to me somehow. I screenshotted them and kept them, looking at them from time to time, trying to figure out what it was about them that made me feel so damn “argh” and “blah”. They gave me this feeling that I couldn’t just put into words. Instead, I sat there trying to reason with myself, unable to get full words out at times, replacing them with random guttural moans.
It wasn’t until I had a nice long talk with myself in the shower (which I regularly do, in case you were wondering) that it hit me: I used to be a writer until everyone decided I should be a writer.
When I first got out of high school, I wanted to write. I had been writing on and off since 8th grade. I also had spent the last few years having everyone close to me tell me every single reason why I should NOT write. Now, this was when the internet was first getting to be The Next Big Thing, and everyone seemed convinced that we wouldnèt need journalists and novelists and satirists anymore. There would be a handful of these people out there, who would create content online, and we would all read the same thing.
I know, how so very Orwellian. These are also the same people who stockpiled water before Y2K and bought things like flashlights and candles that were labeled “Y2K Compliant”.
I was pushed into things like Political Science and Comparative Politics, which I had no interest in at the time. So I quit everything, took a job at Subway and a very small writing job as an Arts and Culture columnist for a little underground magazine. It was a weird time in my life I refer to now as my Dark Days (I hung out in goth bars and was kinda sorta engaged to a drumming ninja. Seriously.), and I was a complete shit writer for that magazine. But I was writing. None of my friends or family read it, and a lot of what I got paid to write was complete drivel. At the end of the day, after coming home from work or an art show or from seeing some random local band play, I would write. Not all of it was good. Hell, most of it was pure crap (I wrote a lot of poetry while sitting in a dark candlelit corner of a dingy goth bar). But I was writing all the damn time. And as crap as my life was, my writing made me happy.
Once I moved home, though, all of this changed. Suddenly, my family wanted to see everything I was writing. I could have the barest of outlines for a short story or an article, or even just a few lines of an idea, and theyèd want to see it. They’d critique it, or laugh at it. They were always asking me, “Well who would actually read this?”
The answer to that question should have just been: Me. I should have just kept writing what I wanted to say, what I wanted to write. I wasn’t writing to make people love me, or make people want to run out and buy books a lame-ass poetry by me. I was writing because at that precise moment in time that is what I was feeling, and it needed to be said somehow.
Suddenly though, everyone was convinced that the only reason I should ever write is so people will buy my writing from me. I should be writing with images of dollar bills (or Loonies, as we have here in Canada) flashing before my eyes. I should be tailoring my every word to exactly what people want to hear from me.
And that killed it for me.
So I stopped writing for years. I’d push out the odd little piece here and there. I had one one little satirical story published in an off-campus University newspaper once when I went back to school. But I was more focused on my writing for classes at that point. I absolutely loved pouring over stacks of research papers and figures and tables. Academic writing was like some strange parallel between me writing what I wanted to write, and me having to write what people wanted to hear. As a Criminology and Psychology major, I got to write papers on criminal profiling, eyewitness testimony in wrongful convictions, moral panics, and all sorts of things I had a true interest in. If I had the courage to actually apply for the master’s program here, I would’ve been up to my eyeballs in research on events of mass violence specific to a school setting, and major media influences blamed at the time of each incident, cross-referenced with crime statistics and the release of other similar media not blamed for violent events.
Damn, I’m wet even just thinking about researching all that.
Sadly, there’s no market out there for a BA(H) who wants to write academic papers, unless they’re shelling out the cash for grad school. So, I work in retail selling the devil’s brew. And I want to write.
Problem is, it’s starting all over again. I try to jot things down on my break, and I have people reading over my shoulder. I tell friends or co-workers that I write a bit, and suddenly they know exactly what I should be writing. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve had the same guy tell me that I NEED to write a book on some specific topic because I could make MILLIONS on it.
I don’t necessarily want the millions though. I mean, that would definitely be nice not having to worry about rent or student loan payments or debt anymore. But I don’t want to write something just because it would make me millions. You know?
I mean, I’m not an overly eloquent writer. I swear a lot in my daily life. And I have a hell of a time getting things down in writing. I mean, I can ramble for hours if you let me. I can have intense, intelligent conversations. I’m sure if I really wanted to, I could do a podcast or a vlog of my random ramblings and get a hundred posts out easily. But once I try to get that out on paper or typed out, the words just get stuck sometimes. It’s like I could have the greatest idea in the world, and be able to tell you all about it in minute detail, but once I try to actually get it down it’s the written equivalent of a 3-year-old’s crayon drawing of a giraffe.
I fell into that trap, though, where I figured I was supposed to be writing because I could make money from it. It killed my creativity and the few things I tried to get out where some of the worst pieces of crap I’ve ever written. I wasn’t writing anything for me, I was writing crap I thought other people would want me to write.
So I came back to this blog. I mean, I know why I started it, and it was all for me. I’ve watched as hundreds and hundreds of people around me have been coddled and babied and taken care of as kids and teens and pushed to the breaking point in high school to study and learn. And then one day they’re thrown out into the real world at a university or college and expected to just function normally like a full-grown adult. They don’t know how to budget, or cook, or do laundry. They’ve never had to pay their bills on time or live on next to no money. And I’ve seen so many people fail in different ways. Hell, I failed at some of this crap epically, and I went back to school in my mid-20s! A big part of me starting this blog was because I just wanted to get the info out there that people need to know in order to function sometimes. I wanted cooking tips, and how to grocery shop, because I had to teach myself all of this and I had to watch a lot of my friends fail at this. I wanted to write something personal to me, but applicable to so many people out there, not to gain fame or fortune, but to let people know that they’re not alone.
And I really needed somewhere to bitch about work and roommates, too.
These two simple tweets reminded me of why I ever wrote anything in the first place. In 8th grade, I told off my basketball coach for a bunch of things. He wouldn’t let us play our annual Valentine’s game against the boys’ team because we were not very good, and he spent more time telling us what utter pieces of crap we were than coaching us some days. So I wrote down what I wanted to say and practiced it over and over. When I had the nerve to tell him what I needed to say, he said he’d pretend he didn’t hear that. So I shoved my rehearsal paper in his hand and said, “Well, you can’t pretend you didn’t read it.” And that was one of my greatest pieces of writing ever. He sent it home with my sister to show my parents, and they weren’t even mad. My mother was impressed: I managed to explain myself at least at a 12th-grade level and tell this man off without resorting to foul language. She even said she was proud of me for it once! Writing all of that down, though, getting it out of me and down on paper, that was the greatest feeling ever.
Since then, I’ve lost that feeling. I haven’t created anything just for me in so long, aside from this blog. I’ve been mentally lost in this void, constantly being told what I SHOULD be doing and I SHOULD be writing and just giving up and falling further. My anxiety and depression have worsened in the last few years. My panic attacks are worse. I cry myself to sleep more often.
Just since reading these two tweets, I’m feeling better. I took 3 days off of work this weekend after working every single freakin day in June, so today is technically the last day of my little “vacation”. And I decided today would be a day just for me. I made a kick ass YouTube playlist of some pretty chill and awesome tunes to throw on while I write and clean. And they’re all songs I wanted to hear and I love, regardless of if they mesh well together in a list. I mean, it’s pretty hard to take “Cry Little Sister” from the Lost Boys soundtrack and pair it up with much. And I threw in all the Talk Talk and Lou Reed I could handle. I worked on a list I’ve been playing with for this blog, just things I really shouldn’t have to say to my grown-ass adult roommates but still have to. I wrote this massive shit-post of a ramble. I made a foot rest out of a laundry basket (ok I turned a laundry basket upside down, but it’s still something) and have mentally re-arranged the bedroom. Hell, I might even physically start moving things around tonight. And I think I’ll rewatch some old Twin Peaks this week before I start watching the new series when I’m on closing shifts for a week.
Two little tweets from a man I’ve never met, but whose work I’ve come to admire, have changed my outlook completely. I feel alive and refreshed right now. I have the energy to do things, and for the first time in a very long time, I don’t feel like I completely wasted a day off.
I don’t really know how to end this. I guess sometimes we all just need to feel a little bit inspired, and sometimes we need to be reminded of why we do the things we do. Everything has become about the money these days, and it doesn’t have to be. Go do something for you, Sunshine. Go be you for you. Create, exist, touch people’s lives. And read random tweets from cute little ex-Vine stars, because you never know where you’ll get your inspiration from.