My first journal was spiral bound with a big cow-faced cover that flapped down over the front, a magnet in the nose closing it tight. I wrote in it every day until I had boxes filled with notebooks of my life. I think this all went hand in hand with my love for English Class. Creative Writing Projects never felt like a homework assignment and I was an unashamed English Teacher’s pet.
Then, my parents divorced.
Once, as a child, I overheard a big fight. I vaguely remember slamming doors, but I distinctly remember my thudding heart. My mom assured me they would always love each other and I never saw them fight again.
When they announced the divorce, all I could do was think back to that moment and feel angry at her for lying to me, and childish to have believed her. I couldn't handle the custody battle. I couldn't handle my Dad barging into school after I refused to talk to him. I couldn't handle the greasy haired, jeep loving, push-myself-into-your family guy my mom started dating way too soon. When I sat down to write about all of this the page turned into a mess of scratched out lines. I just couldn't find words that made any of it make sense.
In the end, I stopped journaling altogether. Sadly, none of my high school years, my college experience, or the meeting, courtship, and engagement to my husband were recorded. Writing fell by the wayside even after the hurt of their divorce had long been healed.
Then, my first Christmas married, a friend of mine asked if I wanted to join her writing group, without even knowing I had ever written a creative word in my life. The only requirement was 2,000 words, every two weeks.
I hadn't written in so long. What did I even have to write about? Was it like riding a bike, or did creativity die inside you if it wasn't used?
My ego said, “thank you, but no thank you,” but the muse that had waited patiently for so long would not go ignored.
It was fun!
Like the first sip of hot cocoa in fall kind of fun. I loved that the fire in me hadn't completely burned out; I loved feeling like a hopeful wide, eyed kid again.
There was just one little hurdle I kept running into: every scene that should have been emotionally powerful kept falling flat. When I went to write those deep emotions, or when I went to let my characters suffer, I instinctively cuffed my muse. I cuffed her hard.
“Nope, not that,” I told her, “that is too uncomfortable.”
Turns out, writing is really hard when you're emotionally blocked, and the muse doesn’t like being cuffed. I tried to fight it, but writing is a practice in vulnerability. To write emotionally complex characters- the ones everyone likes to read about- I am learning that you have to be emotionally complex. That's why this year my goal is to break down those barriers within myself. I'm going to work harder to be vulnerable, in life and in writing, and this blog is my lab rat. I'm daring myself to be bold. It’s going to get messy, and maybe it won't be any good, but I am going to make a case for writing vulnerably.