I recently went on a cleaning spree in my tiny apartment. Closets were gutted. The monsters under the bed were demystified. Surfaces were dusted until there was no more dust to write messages in. (I know. Gross. I’m ashamed.)
In the process of purge, I found many fascinating things to distract me. The mother load? Old journals and notebooks full of stories. I spent my weekend taking a mortifying trip back to one of the more awkward points of life (high school) and reading stories I wrote in my twenties (hilarious).
However, I was shocked by how many stories there were. Sure, they were cheesy and weird. I’m very thankful for the gift of spell check across the internet, as my spelling was (and still is) pretty atrocious. I couldn’t come up with a plot to save my life. EVERYONE in my stories talked. (Dialogue was apparently my gift.) There are novels that will never be published. Pages and pages of hopes and dreams were wove into fictitious characters across the lines of those spiral bound volumes. But none of that mattered to 20-year-old me. This girl, who spun crazy adventures, wrote simply for the pleasure of writing.
As I turned the last page on the last notebook, it was bittersweet. It was sweet because I’ve realized fiction is not my game (see aforementioned aversion to plot) and have found a love for telling real life stories and sharing observations. It was bitter because somewhere along the way I lost the joy I found in writing. In the wasteland between imagination and adulthood, I let growing up choke my desire to be a true storyteller. I began to define my writing by how others would perceive it or I wouldn’t write at all for a fear of being wrong. The biggest disappointment? At times, I felt like I was writing as a shallow woman. Or perhaps even worse, like a person who had willingly ignored all the reality she had to face.
In these moments, I wonder at the struggle of truth in writing. There is such a war when it comes to creating and much of the time I feel unprepared to be a solider. Then I realize I surrender too quickly. Flannery O’Connor wrote, “You do not write the best you can for the sake of art, but for the sake of returning your talent increased to the invisible God to use or not use as he sees fit.” Finally I understand this is where the war begins – seeking to claim honor for a gift that’s been given to me to bring glory to another; and it’s only in my appropriate surrender of my gift to Him that this war can end.
So what about you? What battles are you waging right now? Or on a lighter note, what’s the most embarrassing/funniest thing you’ve found from your past when cleaning?