Stories to tell, and going back to the basics to do it.
February 16, 2011 § 4 Comments
Today’s blog is written by Jordan Hickman from Life Musings.
My mom likes to tell stories. The one she tells the most is the one where I was reading at six months old, picking up books and babbling as if I were actually reading what was on the page before me. Even today, I really enjoy sitting down with a good book and getting lost in a world that is so real yet so foreign to me. What I like about books is the fact they continue to live on. I have read books that my parents read as children, that my grandparents and great grandparents read. Books are something that I am going to pass down to my children, and they will hopefully love them as much as I have. I picked up a copy of a Henry James novel in the fourth grade, obviously not understanding a word. I would not say that I am well read, but I thoroughly enjoy reading. I think that is why I like to write. Reading beautifully written passages and sharp, quick dialogue inspires me to do the same. Granted, I’ve yet to write anything incredibly profound or even anything resembling great writing, but I am inspired to continue and to gain the knowledge and experience to get better.
For many writers there is a process to their writing. Some walk down the street and inspiration comes, for some they sit down every day for an hour and just write, hoping something good will come from it. The problem for me is the many distractions I find that creep up: the dishes in the sink need washing, my husband wants to go to dinner, my phone keeps ringing, and I need to check that social networking site just one more time. When all the distractions have been addressed and hopefully taken care of, I can sit and find my writing voice. Once I sit down and ignore all the distractions for about an hour I am able to finally get something written.
When I finally find my writing voice, I have to draw inspiration from something. I do not have trouble finding inspiration; I just have trouble applying that inspiration onto a page. In high school I once wrote a six page paper over red Jell-o because I liked the way it moved. For me, I get most inspired by others. I remember reading Pride and Prejudice as a young girl and completely falling in love with Mr. Darcy. I wanted to write something about love and forgiveness so I wrote a story about a fox and a chicken who grow to love and respect each other. In high school, I wrote another story. This story was inspired by Jane Austen but I was able to make it my own. While I do draw inspiration from others and from different places, the person I go to for inspiration is God. He, more than anyone, gives me the inspiration I so desperately need in order to write. I love taking the Word of God and writing about it. My relationship with God is something that is so sacred and special to me that I want to share it with anyone who does not know what it feels like to have in control of their life.
I spent some time in Japan, twelve weeks total, where I taught English to people who barely could speak their own name in English. I learned to appreciate the English language. The organization I went with told us not to take an English dictionary with us; we were to define the words they did not know with our own words. I took this literally and was asked to define words such as “is,” “because,” and “life.” This proved to be a challenge. The thing is, I was able to define these words to my eager students. When they still looked confused and lost I just kept simplifying words until they truly understood. “Why” was the most common response. I often find myself asking “why.” Why did I have a hard time defining such simple words? I think I just felt too comfortable with the English language. I have never been completely challenged by it and taken advantage of its simplistic beauty. It took going to a foreign country to appreciate my own language. Now, I make a conscious effort to really understand the words I am using when I am writing. I want to be able to understand why I put my words in that order. I want to be able to understand why a comma goes there but not here. In order to understand all of this I had to get back to the basics, and Japan taught me how.
In 2005, something changed – my brother passed away after a yearlong battle with cancer. Since then I have been struggling with his death and writing seems to help it more than anything. My brother was such an inspiration to me that I want to honor him in some way, which is why many of my writings are about him and his struggles. I want to tell his story, but I am afraid of the finished product. Once his story is finished I will have to let go and begin another journey. For me, the idea of letting go of one of my brother’s stories would be like letting go of him. It’s still just too soon for me. I love writing about Jacob and I would not have it any other way. My style of writing has changed. I have a harder time sitting down to write because all I want to write about is Jacob. There is nothing wrong with that, but I want to be able to do more. I feel as if my writing is raw and emotional and I am trying to reel it in and control it. Since most of my writings are now about my brother I feel as if I have fallen into a monotonous routine and I am now trying to get out of. One of these days I will be proud of something I have written and let others read it. I am starting off small and starting to branch out and begin writing stories that are not about my brother.
I took a writing class in college with a certain professor who is no longer with the university I graduated from. I had a hard time finding respect for this professor when she would only criticize us and explain what she would have done differently. She would show off her writings and make us read them and study them. Something to aspire to I guess. Towards the end of the semester we had to write about what we learned in the class and what we wished we had learned. I learned nothing and told her. Nobody in that class learned anything. I wanted to be told how to improve my writings and make them better, not just being told they were bad. I wanted to know how to correctly incorporate dialogue into a short story. I wanted to be taught the right way to set up my characters and when there needs to be more or less information added. When I got my end of class essay back she told me she thought it would be better for me to find something else to do instead of write. Maybe I am not utilizing the right gift God gave me. Yes, I understand I am not a fantastic wonderful writer. I understand I will probably never make a living as a writer, but it hurt me personally to be told to find another hobby. To this day, so many years later, it is still hard for me to sit down and just write something creative. I used to be able to write a five page essay about a leaf crossing the street, but now I cannot seem to find inspiration and keep a hold on it. I think that class, more than anything, has caused me to rethink things in my life and doubt myself, something I used to never do. This experience in my life has been a difficult one for me but has prepared me for the hardships of the real world. I know there will be people out there who will be brutally honest and want to see me fail. I have learned to embrace this situation and learn from, while remaining positive. I may not be the greatest writer in the world, but I will continue doing what I love. I will continue to get better and continue to craft my so called hobby. If I can inspire others while doing so, then I will have completed my life goal.