Jan. 22nd, 2007

Meeting Me

Jan. 22nd, 2007 03:34 am
onedayleft: (fill in the blank)
I just wrote this for my EN201 class

Journal Entry #1: "Tell Me about Yourself."

Hi there, it’s nice to meet you. My word processor says it is an honor to be making your acquaintance. My cursor got all happy and blinky when I sat down to write. Well… actually, it’s always blinky, isn’t it? My pen got a bit disappointed, though. It’s new, y’see, so it hasn’t gotten the change to do much writing yet. That’s one thing about me, my writing instruments. For the past year or so I’ve written everything, everything, with one pen. It was a chrome fountain pen with Celtic knot carvings in it. I don’t have any Celtic heritage at all, but it was pretty. The day before classes started this semester my nib broke. Needless to say, I freaked out. I literally didn’t own any other pens. And do you know how hard it is to find fountain pens these days, especially on a college student’s budget? Eventually I went to an art supply store and bought an italics pen. It’s just not the same, but it’ll do, for now.

It seems a bit eccentric, I realize, to start this out by talking about my stationary. But the way I see it, it’s like someone talking about their 1969 Hemi ‘Cuda: you can’t help but talk about the things you love. A pen wouldn’t mean so much if it weren’t for the fact that so much was written with it. Over the course of a year I produce enough writing, outside of schoolwork, to fill a five-subject Mead notebook, college ruled pages, of course. I write fiction. Last semester I tried to write a novel in a month (my pen got left out of that venture, actually.) It was a bit of a stretch for me to even try, but I got some good beginnings and ideas and short stories. But I also write non-fiction parading as fiction. I suppose that’s probably a step up from fiction masquerading as non-fiction, but I often feel guilt about it, and also I worry that outside of my own experiences, I don’t have a single worthwhile thing to say. And, like any writer, I constantly agonize over the idea that everything I write is dreadful and trite and cliché. My friends tell me that they really enjoy my work, but I can’t really expect them to say anything else. I’ve had teachers say nice things about my creative writing (my ‘academic’ writing is another story) including one ridiculously gushing review from Dan Barden that was certainly a spirit lifter, but self-doubt is a hell of a force to reckon with.

I don’t believe, by the way, in modesty for modesty’s sake.

I do believe in writing about the things that you know. I write about a few glorious days under the palm trees of Pasadena, of the scent of the pacific, the music of seagulls and street vendors, and the glow of sun-warmed skin. I fill pages with descriptions of sun-scorched earth, sunflower fields, olive groves, the south of Spain. Of how pine trees around a villa near Seville smell exactly the same as those that open up to the shore of a lake in the mountains of Montana. I write about the things surrounding the Grand Canyon, Hopi Indians and Condors with tagged wings and ice cream, sunsets. I write about the journey because some destinations, you just have to see for yourself. I write about the backseats of cars on nighttime drives through the Midwest, loud music and rushing summer winds and useless conversations that teach you more about life than anything purposeful could ever manage. I try to put down on paper what heartbeats feel like when they’re coupled with the low, dulcet tones of a bass guitar, and what thick, steel wound strings feel like under calloused fingers. About lying on the floor next to circa 1973 stereo speakers, fingers drumming on the carpet, foot tapping out a beat, pulse falling into rhythm as you listen to your favorite album on the record player because vinyl just sounds better. About seeing music rather than hearing it.

I’ve tried, but failed, to write about not death, but the gift of lives, and about lessons embedded in my skin in ink.

I write about the Ohio River, about cell phones, rain, iron fences, and about the importance of a bottle of Jack Daniel’s Old number 7 Tennessee Whiskey.

More than anything, I write about growing up in a different world. Yes, a different country, but it’s far more than just geography. When I think back on it, the first nine years of my life that were spent in England, I often wonder if maybe I just imagined it all, or if perhaps it’s just a book I’ve read. I hate having to word it that way because it’s so painfully mundane that it doesn’t even begin to fit it. That’s why I have to try so hard to write about it, because nothing seems to do that world justice. I grew up with Victorian architecture, with a World War II blitz shelter under the playground of my school, with three parks in my backyard. On a clear day (though there weren’t many) I could see the English Channel from my bedroom Window. Seagulls called from our chimneystacks. I spend frequent evenings weaving through legs at the Plymouth Museum, escaping in my little flowery dress from whatever exhibit my dad was opening. I’d sneak down and sit on the floor in the Natural History wing staring at a beehive through Plexiglas and trying to find the queen, the one with the small white dot on her. On weekends we’d go to the moor or to the coast or to the countless castles or historic houses and gardens. I climbed granite outcrops, my brother, my dad, my dog and I, and looked down over miles and miles of wild land. We had ‘English picnics’ in the back of the Nissan and fed our apple cores to the wild ponies that would surround the car. I body surfed in freezing saltwater, clambered along rocky coastlines with skinned knees, feasted in old pirate taverns and harvested shells in wave beaten caves. And when I write about it, it almost seems ridiculous.

I write about things I know because that’s the only way I know how to write, and no matter how much I write about my life, I never seem to run out of things to say. I only ever run out of ink, and sometimes out of steam.

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