We’re all born liars.
So, it’s not actually surprising that we become storytellers, writers…just liars with a bigger influence.
I lie in poetry, in fiction, in memoir. Do you think it’s possible to not lie in memoir when we only have our memory to rely on?
Here’s a story about how I began lying with a paper and pen.
I was young and crying. I was face down on the couch that folded out into a bed, my own bed at this time. My brothers, as they often did and still do, went too far with their aggravations. I’m not sure what spurred me into grabbing a notebook and pen, but I did with every intention of spilling every inflamed emotion onto that paper by way of ink.
I remembered poetry I’d heard on TV and something inside me told me I should rhyme my tears away.
That was my first poem. It was about red eyes and a red, slick face. I threw it out a long time ago.
But it was in those moments that I found something to use to my own advantage. Admittedly, up until I was sixteen all my poems were sad or angry. Basically, all the good angsty stuff.
Yet, what began as a hobby to make myself feel better became a love for language and all the possibilities is holds. I look at it this way, when I was younger I used writing and now I strive to work with it. To create. Or rather, discover and explore the world around all of us.
You see now?
Where I lied?
All and none of it is a lie.
But here’s why I really call myself a writer now. It isn’t because I used it to emotionally cope and then discovered a love for it, rather it’s a much less dramatic story. Because that did happen, but it’s not who I am as a writer.
The truth is I’m not a writer. Naturally, at least. I hated writing and I hated reading as a kid. I managed to start reading the summer I was fourteen. It helped me cope with the fact that I had nothing to do. This new found “love” of reading spurred this idea that because I love to read, I should write as well.
Someone probably should have told me that’s not how it works.
So, for years I told people I was a writer, I loved to write, and that in the future it was what I wanted to do with my life. I believed it, too. That didn’t make it true.
I went to college for creative writing on that lie.
That’s when I managed to realize, I’m not a writer.
I didn’t love language. I didn’t love good novels. I didn’t care what you said about my writing. I didn’t truly love writing. What I loved was the escape, that is not a love of writing. That’s just a distraction from reality.
When I saw that in myself, I didn’t back down from my lie. Instead I embraced it.
I cut ties with my old thinking and began to think correctly. I was not a writer, but I wanted to be. So, I learned to love language. I learned to read Dickens, Dostoysevsky, and Nabokov. I began reaching for something greater than what I had.
I’m not a writer by nature. I’m a writer who plays with language until it works. Sometimes that takes a way-too-long time. Just call me Fitzgerald (someone told me his first draft of Gatsby was awful, but through editing made it what it is. Don’t quote me on that!)
So, I’m a writer because I taught myself to love the tradition of the craft and to sincerely pursue it, not to the benefit of self, but to the benefit of all.