I Write Because I Refuse to Stop (Writing 101, Day 20)

Four weeks ago, I was asked an important question: Why do you write?  Unsure of how to respond, I gave it some thought and came to the conclusion that I write because I always have and cannot seem to stop.

I’ve learned a few things about myself in the past few weeks.  I now realize that, at some point during college, I lost sight of my identity as a writer. It always seemed like my classmates were so much better than I was.  Compared to their eloquent prose and poetry, my words felt feeble, hollow, and lifeless.  But maybe that is because, all along, I wasn’t doing the right kind of writing.  I took creative writing classes, but I’m not a creative writer.  I’ve won essay contests, but I’m not an academic.  That’s not me.

This place, this blog, these posts… this is me.

So much time has been spent comparing myself with other writers that I’ve forgotten who I am.  Participating in Writing 101 has brought everything back.  My identity, ultimately, does not stream from my classmates, friends, and fellow bloggers.  It comes from myself.  It comes from the fact that there are words bubbling from deep within me, waiting to be released.  The words pester me.  They nag, pulling at the back of my mind.  I cannot keep silent.

At the beginning of Writing 101, I stated that I write because I cannot stop.  At the end, I find my answer has changed.

I write because I cannot stop; I write because I refuse to stop;  I write because this is who I am.

Friday Coffee Share (Writing 101, Day 10)

It looks like our weekly coffee date is happening a few days early!  Our assignment is to write a post as if you’re in a coffee shop… little do the heads of Writing 101 know this is something I do every week.  Given that it’s an assignment and I’m quite busy this weekend, let me make you a cup of something… What is your favorite drink?  I want to make sure I have it…

If we were having coffee, I’d let you know all sorts of trivial things.  We got four inches of rain yesterday.  My older brother took me to a pro baseball game in Minneapolis the other day.  (The Twins lost, but it was still fun!)  My younger brother called me from college and we talked on the phone for over an hour.  I’m going to the Renaissance Festival on Sunday and a concert on Monday.  (I’m in for a busy weekend.)  We’re reaching the peak of orchard season, which means work life is high stress.

Mostly, though, I’d gush about my kittens.  The momma keeps moving them from bush to bush.  They’re starting to wander around, so she has a hard time keeping them in one place.  Yesterday, during the thunderstorms, she moved them into the woods.  This morning, I practiced my herding abilities and lead them back to a warm cat house.  They’re getting very tame.  If they hear my voice, they come over and crawl on my lap.  We’ve slowly been giving them names.  So far, we have Herman, Charlotte, Pip, and Carlos.  We already have people lined up to take two of them, which is sad, but I’m glad they’ll have good homes.  Do you have any name suggestions for the remaining three?

If we were having coffee, I’d let you know that it has been so fun getting to know you.  I know, it’s hard to truly get to know someone over the internet, but over the past few weeks I have interacted with so many wonderful people because of Writing 101.  I love the assignments, but I think it’s even more fun seeing how you all respond to them. I’ve never been much of a commenter before this course and I’m finding that I like being pushed out of my box.  It makes for great interactions!   Thank you so much for reading and engaging with my blog, but more so, thank you for writing such wonderful posts of your own.

Now that I’ve chatted a bit, I’d like to turn things over to you.  If we were having coffee, what would you have to share?

There is Always More to Learn (Writing 101, Day 5)

My younger brother recently turned twenty. On his birthday, we jokingly pointed out, “You’re not a teenager anymore, Sam. You no longer know anything.”

It’s amazing how age and study decrease your sense of importance.

Recently, I graduated from college and, if I learned anything in my four years at the University of Minnesota, Morris, it was that I am incredibly small. There is so much, no, too much to know. Even in my area of study, literature and writing, I feel like I know nothing.

If I decided to get a doctorate in literature, accumulating deep knowledge of texts and cultures from times gone by, it would take the majority of my twenties. Even then, my knowledge would be limited to a single subject—Victorian novels, Renaissance drama, Romantic poetry. I could study for years and years and barely scratch the surface… and that is in my field!

There are so many avenues I wish I could have visited in college. If I could go back, I’d up my Communication minor to a major and take as many rhetoric classes as possible. I’d insert a minor in Art History just because I love the subject. I’d delve into more History classes. I’d take another course in Gender, Women, Sexuality Studies, simply because the topic is culturally relevant and fascinating.

But college is over. Maybe I’ll go to graduate school someday, but that’s at least three years down the road.

Education truly is a gift. Through it, you learn how small you are. You learn that your point of view is one of millions. You learn to empathize with those who are different from you.

But academia is only one kind of knowledge. Now that I’m out of school, it’s time to pursue other studies—how to be a responsible adult, how to be good to my family, how to blog well, how to keep strong in my faith, how to take joy in every day. The biggest lesson is learning what I want to spend the rest of my life doing.

The beauty of education is that it really never stops. Inside or out of the classroom, there is still so much to learn.

This post is inspired by an assignment for the Blogging University class Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration.

The Marrow of Life (Writing 101, Day 4)

Henry David Thoreau once wrote:

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.

I haven’t read beyond the first chapter of Walden, but I’ve been to Walden Pond.  I saw the place Thoreau built his little cabin.  I walked the same paths, put my feet in the same water.  The funny thing about Thoreau’s escape into nature is that he really didn’t go that far.  The pond by which he spent two years is only a couple of miles from Concord.  My friend and I walked there from town.  So, although it made for some beautiful self-reflection, Thoreau wasn’t in any serious danger.  But I digress.

I’m no scholar of Transcendentalism (my focus is actually British literature), but I love what Thoreau gets at here.  He goes to the woods to find what it is to live.  He strips life down to its barest essentials.  He digs deep, gets his hands dirty, and finds what it is to be truly alive.

Have you ever gone to the woods?

When I pose this question, I’m not talking about a stroll through the forest.  Nor am I wondering if you’ve spent two years living as a hermit in the wilderness.

Have you ever, to use Thoreau’s words, sucked the marrow of life?  Have you ever started a journey, forged a relationship, created something with your hands, that made you understand what it feels to be truly alive?

I know that I have tasted the marrow of life.  I have glimpsed life’s bright light.  I have experienced moments of complete wholeness and peace.  But it has always been fleeting.  It is always a taste, always a glimpse, always a moment.

I want to live like Thoreau.  His words aren’t those of someone who is timid.  His words are bold.  He doesn’t want to exist; he wants to thrive.  He wants to cut broadly, shave closely, to drive, to be sturdy, to be strong.

I don’t want to live what is not life.  I want to bask in the simple pleasures of every day.  I want to find work that brings meaning not only to myself, but to others.  Although I wish it to be, I’m starting to realize that life doesn’t have to be large.  It doesn’t have to be filled with excitement and movement to be meaningful.  Thoreau certainly wasn’t having epic adventures as he tended to his garden and walked through the woods.  Richness can be found through simplicity, through solitude, through taking time to be still.

So, dear readers, let’s be like Thoreau.  Let us go to the woods.  Let us suck the marrow of life.  Because what an awful thing it would be to reach the end of our days and discover that we hadn’t lived at all.

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This post is inspired by an assignment for the Blogging University class Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration.

I Don’t Know How to Stop (Writing 101, Day 1)

Today’s assignment is to answer a question that isn’t actually as simple as it sounds: Why do you write?

My gut reaction: It’s complicated.

I could say I write for a lot of reasons. I write to lose myself; I write to find myself. I write to know; I write to forget. I write because it’s akin to breathing. I write to make my thoughts clear. I write because I am. I write because I write.

Those reasons sound beautiful and poetic… they’re the kind of thing you’d imagine a writer to say. But are any of them actually true?

As long as I can remember, I have been writing. When I was eight years old, I decided that my greatest ambition was to see my name on the cover of a book. This dream persisted most of my early years.

Growing up, I wrote because I was good at it. At least, that’s what everyone told me. I remember in fifth grade I wrote a little essay on the importance/value of reading and, during my parent-teacher conference, Mrs. Klinke told my mom that it was phenomenal. In eighth grade, we had to craft our own stories based on Greek Mythology. Mine was fifteen pages long and my teacher gave me a special award because, in his forty years of teaching, it was the best he had ever received. In high school, I was on the Speech Team in the category of Creative Expression, enabling me to perform my own work. Once I had two years of competition under my belt, not a meet passed where I didn’t make the final round. I even went to state. As long as I’ve been writing, I’ve been told that I’m good.

Many years, fairy stories, embarrassing Harry Potter fan fics, and creative writing classes later, I realized that although I love to write, I don’t want to write books.

College quickly dissolved any notions that I was a great writer. Sure, I had a natural knack for words, but I was constantly blown away by the work of my peers. Among such storytellers and poets, I realized that I lack the drive, dedication, and attention to detail to make a career of the craft.

Still, I continued to write. I was the weird kid who loved essays. When I sat down to work on an essay analyzing spirituality in Dracula or artists in Biographical Novels or constructing allegories about Courtly Love, I would enter zen-mode. It felt like being underwater. Everything in the world faded away and nothing existed but the text I was grappling with. I would bury myself in the library for hours on end, emerging rumpled and triumphant. It was so satisfying.

I loved my time as an English major, but the farther in I got, the more I realized that many of the standard careers were not for me. Teaching? No thanks. Copy editing? Too much detail. Creative writing? WAY too much detail. Research? I’d suffocate.

During school, I wrote because I had to and I loved it. But now that I’m out… why do I write?

I’m still not sure I know how to answer that question.

I suppose I’ve been writing for so long it so long that I don’t know how to stop. It’s habit—something that has been part of my life since I was eight years old. I can’t imagine my life without it.

That’s why I blog.

This post is inspired by an assignment for the Blogging University class Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration.

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