Recently, a man I’ve been seeing told me that he hasn’t mentioned me to his therapist.
“Things are going well,” he told me. “There’s nothing to say when the feelings are good. It’s the problems that need talking about.”
And I know exactly what he meant, because this perfectly encompasses the dilemma I have with writing. When I am happy, when things in my life are going well, I don’t feel the need to express that happiness to myself. I can just feel it, and enjoy it. It’s when things are not going well that thoughts pile up, waiting to be spilled onto a page. But even then, my expression usually forms itself as fiction. I shy away from any personal writing more cohesive than some melodramatic repetitive complaints scrawled across the back pages of a notebook.
For me, editing is far preferable to writing and comes much more naturally. I enjoy editing creative nonfiction more than other genres. I love to soak up people’s stories; whether or not they end up being deemed suitable for publication, I usually find something beautiful in the honesty of personal narratives, real voices, something meaningful in the little glimpses into people’s lives. I think to myself, “Everyone’s life is made up of stories, and at least one of those stories is worth telling.”
I don’t cook. Not because I can’t, but because I believe there are so many people who are so much better at cooking than I am, that I’d rather pay them to create a meal for me, than muck around in the kitchen on the off-chance that I might create something half as good as a “real” cook.
I find I often don’t write for the same reason that I don’t cook. I love to read and after reading so many fantastic books by so many “real” writers I wonder, “why even bother writing when so many others do it so much better than I ever could?”
Writing, for me, is a lot like music.
Writing has the same ingredients as a song—rhythm, pacing, flow, and lyrics. Reading something should feel like music to your ears.
There are countless of songs that bounce off our heads daily. It rings in our ears. It can act like a soundtrack to our lives. There are multiple things that can be written and have the same effect. Just like words, a song can stick, making a home for itself in our minds forever.
During Christmastime when I was 14 years old, the boy I was dating was over at my house helping my family bake cookies. We had baked snickerdoodles and gingerbread, and we were moving on to my favorite peanut butter cookies. My boyfriend, Gary, was instructed to add the salt. These being cookies, the amount of salt called for by the recipe was quite minimal – one teaspoon for the batch. To anyone who had baked anything before, I’m sure this would have seemed like a normal amount. Gary, however, had apparently never baked anything before and somehow ended up adding an entire cup of salt to the cookie dough without my knowledge. The cookies were on a baking tray and ready to go into the oven when my younger sister, licking the spoon, complained the dough was way too salty. Gary was confronted, the truth came out, the dough was ruined with too much salt and we had to start over.
I read a lot of cooking blogs. If you’re a fan of a bad pun, I devour them. My love for recipes and cooking began during my last bout of writer’s block. I like good food just as much as the next person and have always had a romantic idea of becoming a chef. So, as I felt my writing stagnate and frustrate me, I started turning my sights towards cooking.
I have one of those terrible sounding clocks that blare’s its alarm like a warning of impending doom. The maroon digital clock radio was a Christmas present from my grandfather when I was 8 or 9 and my brother received a matching one in teal. It’s followed me from Connecticut to Chicago and wakes me each morning with one or two blasts of its heinous alarm. The next half hour or so is spent quietly scrolling through my phone, reading the day’s headlines, and trying not to wake my slumbering girlfriend who has only come to bed a few hours earlier after her late night shift at the bar.
I wander into the living room of our apartment, plop down onto the couch while simultaneously turning on the television, and open up my laptop. And despite the fact that I’ve spent the previous half-hour checking Facebook and espn.com on my phone before I open up the Microsoft Word document that awaits me, I can’t help myself from watching the top ten plays on Sports Center and logging into Zuckerberg’s time wasting machine.
I didn’t acquire my driver’s license until the age of twenty-three when I absolutely had to. I went to graduate school in an itty, bitty village Southwest Michigan that had two stop lights, and the city girl inside me stomped her foot and demanded driving skills. A friend -who would become one of my most memorable romantic relationships- offered up his Honda Pilot for lessons, assuring me that he had great insurance and that he was a patient teacher. He taught me all about donuts and defensive driving and the one thing that terrified most new drivers: how to drive on the expressway.
When I’d look over at the expressway as a passenger, moseying along a residential street, I couldn’t understand how the cars were driving so fast, and switching lanes at a moment’s notice. It didn’t help that I knew people who never drove on the expressway, opting to take a longer route rather than merge onto what they considered an accident waiting to happen. But I finally drove that Pilot onto the 31 South toward South Bend, and something happened; I found my lane, the fastest one, and I flew!