It is of concern to me that, while I love to write, the empty page often glares back at me with a sneer and a smirk. It is taunting me with threats that what I write is not particularly interesting. That vast unfilled paper has been known to laugh at my attempts to be passionate, perky or pertinent.
When I was a freshman in college, I had an English Composition teacher who was the wife of the notable American author John Cheever. That fact that she was a miserable alcoholic and most likely jealous of the young fresh aspiring writers in her class only occurred to me many years later. Then it was purely her ripping criticism of me that mattered. She gave us an assignment to write a poem in the style of e.e.cummings. I was ecstatic. He was then one of my favorite poets and I was both excited and eager to take on the task. In fact, I wrote a couple of poems. Ms. Cheever took my creations and held them up before the class. My heart skipped a beat, thinking perhaps she was about to laud my fledgling efforts. But, no — she told the entire class that this author had nothing better to write about than herself. She waxed on about the pathetic poetry I had poured myself into, as I withered, wilted and just about wept in my seat. It is no understatement to say that day in that class sowed the seeds of self-doubt in me as to the worth of my writing. I composed very little until many years later. And what I did write I never shared.
Now, with the inevitable perspective that those years brings, I can only imagine Ms. Cheever’s own jaded issues and even view her with more compassion than she bestowed upon me. I still am baffled as to her insistence that worthy writing should not be about oneself. In fact, at eighteen years old, what else did I have to reflect upon? And, it still remains clear to me that writing from one’s own experiences brings a light to the work that illuminates both the piece and perhaps sheds some of that light on the process for the author and the reader at the same time.
I write for me. I share it because I have received so much from the writings of others. And I’m not just speaking here of only famous books, nor necessarily even of published pieces. Although I devour books, magazines and newspapers constantly, I also read several blogs. Those authors are some of my favorites. They fearlessly share themselves, their mundane experiences, their epiphanies, their challenges, their successes and mostly their feelings. That inspires me to slog on, blog on.
The writings I filled several spiral-bound notebooks with during my teens are long gone — mistakenly thrown out by my mother in a move. How I would love to see them now. To get a peek at the precocious girl who gushed prolifically about those intense feelings of those tumultuous years would be such a window into myself. I would, however, be much easier on her than the cynical Ms. Cheever was. I’d be so careful not to judge the immaturity contained in those profusions of passion she spilled onto the pages. I would rein myself in with full awareness of the power of my words to impact her confidence in her writing.
So, here I am — sticking my tongue out at those sometimes mocking empty pages I have yet to fill and hugging that young woman who was just doing what she so dearly wanted to do — just write.