Thursday, May 8, 2008

Why I Write

Jess just wrote a great essay about the therapy of her writing. In keeping with that theme, and as the other half of this blog, I want to talk about writing as well, or at least the driving forces behind my writing.

My online career started back in middle school. I think it was sixth grade, but it may have been seventh. I still hadn't started instant messaging, and when my friends would talk about their new screen names or how many people were on their buddy list (such were the conversation starters in my school at the time), I felt out of place and sadly out of touch, like a parent trying to understand this newfangled rap music or a historical figure who wound up traveling through time and landing in the present day. Writing, I thought, involved a pen (never a pencil) and paper. If I wanted to talk to someone, I had a phone and a bike. And if I wanted to talk about my feelings--because yes, I had feelings back then, complicated feelings that I didn't fully understand but still managed to affect me and keep me up at night--I had a psychologist for that.

But then my friend showed me her LiveJournal, and I was hooked. She's a great writer, and even then, her penchant for writing, for fantasy and metaphor, through her amateurish clauses dangling behind misplaced semicolons and allusions to bands I'd never heard of, I could tell she was talented. I read her LiveJournal every day, and created an account so I could comment on her entries. It wasn't long before I wanted one of my own. Actually, what I wanted was an almost religious following, hundreds of commenters poring over my every word, sympathizing with my sadness and chiding my enemies, arguing amongst themselves about what I really meant and how I really felt. But I was a seventh-grade nobody, so LiveJournal it was, and from the moment cooldude88's LiveJournal was born, I considered myself a Writer. I kept my LiveJournal for years.

My LiveJournal, looking back on it (or rather, thinking back on it; I have regrettably long since deleted the account), was perhaps too honest for a public forum. I'd talk about my day, my friends, the peeks at other boys in the gym locker room and the lazy sunset dropping in the sky, the fights I got into with my parents and the disconnect I felt with my younger brother. I talked about administrative atrocities and unfair grades, what I was wearing and why I liked the Shins, what made me feel different and the ways I could be exactly the same as everyone else, the latter of which is certainly every adolescent's deepest desire. But it was very honest and very public, and it got me into trouble more than once. One of my friends would read something I'd written about them and then ask (or yell at) me about it, and even though I was flattered by the attention, I was truly surprised that they'd actually read what I wrote, that people read my LiveJournal.

I don't know if it was ever therapy for me. I mean, I got my feelings out in the open, and it felt good, but I can't say that my LiveJournal got me through any specific problems. It's one thing to talk about your problems, and quite another to do something about them, and I fear that I too often assumed that those two actions were one and the same; by writing about how much it sucked to not be attracted to girls, I guess I thought my hormones would magically realign themselves and I would be normal. On the other hand, if therapy is nothing more than the release from private burden by sharing your insecurities, then my LiveJournal indeed became my surrogate psychologist, and we met with frequency.

Eventually one of my posts got out of hand and pissed a lot of people off, so I decided that with the end of my East Brunswick education would come the end of my LiveJournal, and the day I deleted the account was funereal. Yes, I copied and pasted the entries into a private Word document, but after numerous laptop crashes and a faulty flash drive, I'm not sure they are accessible anymore. I'm okay with that, thought. As nice as it would be to reread the words that more or less defined my adolescence, I'm not sure I need to get back to that place. Not that I've forgotten who I was or denied my past, but I've come to New York and changed in a lot of ways, and the important things from my childhood I've taken with me, and whatever didn't make it probably didn't make it for a reason.

Today I have two outlets. There's this blog, that has both personal and practical functions. I tend to view this blog for the most part as an exercise in blog-style journalism, commenting on the news stories that outrage or excite me, or maybe venting about college and how crowded Broadway gets on weekends (seriously, people with strollers, learn to walk.) Of course, it's also a personal venture, and sometimes I question the decision to write entires about certain things, because it should be obvious by now that I'm pretty neurotic, but I don't know if that's the best--or even, day I say, more honest--projection to give of myself. Like, some of the things I write about here and open up for comments are things it would take me months or years to share with real-life friends, and it's easier to write about things than talk about them, but the more I think about that, the more I wonder why that is.

And then there's my pseudo-journal, a locked Word document I update every so often when something horrible has happened. Whenever something goes really wrong with my life, I update it, and it does make me feel better to get those words on paper. I've been scared to write some of the sentences that appear in that document, knowing they contain truths I'm still not ready to admit. The secret crushes I've harbored, what bothers me about the people to whom I am closest at this school, aspects of my life of which I am ashamed, the time during orientation I cried alone in my room because I hadn't made any friends and thought and feared the next four years would be just like this, an extension of my ostracized adolescence, and I could hear kids drinking and laughing down the hall but all I could do was pity myself and call my parents every few hours pretending the reason I was upset was because I was sick--all these things make up that document, most of which I will never show anyone ever, even if I become a famous author and am offered a hundred million dollars to reveal my secrets to the world in a special-edition, leather-bound edition. The words in that document are my shadows, trailing my mistakes and lingering on the page like light dancing against a wall; those words feel alive, ever so distant yet freshly written, a verbal museum of all the shit that's hit the fan at NYU.

I still consider myself a Writer, because I think anyone who writes as a method of expression is a Writer. And that's what I do, I express myself. I articulate the fears that would otherwise stay inside me and poison my conscience, and I put into words the memories in my mind that organize themselves like a Rolodex, popping up whenever needed, each one perfectly tailored to fit almost any situation. I started writing not so I could better understand the world around me, but so I could be honest with myself, so I would know I had an outlet through which I could vent about all the things that piss me off, and so entry by entry, sentence by sentence, word by word, I could become a better writer. In other words, I started writing so that I could never stop.

-Josh

1 comment:

Nayoung said...

Love this. It's entries like these that make me love your blog so much.