I write because I really like to do that, and for numerous other reasons. In grade school, when learning how to shape and form letters into words, it was simply the appointed curriculum I had to do in order to prove myself. Each letter was a picture, an image that when properly replicated, would allow me to say whatever I wanted, or needed to say. And that was of utter importance to me. So, I worked hard at it.
When very young, I was involved in an accident and sustained a serious head injury. Hospitalization and immediate, urgent surgery allowed me to walk away without any real harm. Yet, my whole life and self-definition had been permanently altered. I was told, quite often, that my words were not reliable, that I exaggerated, or even lied. So, the shape and form of those individual letters were far more important to me, than they might have been to my fellow classmates. And the need to excel was even more so. I had something to prove.
That little girl is still alive inside of me. It took another thirty years, before I began to understand even some of what had happened. Yes, I had been changed by my experience, but that only meant that I saw things differently than others. Not that what I saw was somehow incorrect, just different.
I entered college late, mid-thirties, and was told, early on, that I had a gift with words, and how to use them. That same little girl stepped forward and with a great deal of eagerness, set out to prove that statement. And she did. However, she never completely lost those shadowy feelings of wrongness. But, with the help of some very good teachers, she somehow managed to find a balance between those two realities. Which meant that every time she put her fingers forward, she also brought with her those doubts about her own legitimacy and the rightness of doing this thing called writing.
It took many more years, of winning awards, and of being approached by perfect strangers, telling her that her words gave meaning to their own feelings, even healed much of their own self-doubt, before I could sit to write without having to fight off those niggling doubts about my own inadequacy. One morning, I arose and knew that I would be writing, even knew what I’d be writing about, and went eagerly to that endeavor. That doesn’t mean that I skipped the part about rereading and closely examining every word I had chosen. That was just good, sound practice, built over years of ongoing experience. A part of the work that is as important as the first decision to write at all.
The desire to write comes in all kinds of different guises. Here, I am telling you my most basic ones. The deep desire to be heard, to be listened to, and to be understood. There are so many more I could list. But, this is the primary one. Yes, the Call came late, but so much better than not at all. What is even more important, is what I learned by answering that Call.
What I learned is that, the Call came from that same little girl. And the only person she was calling to was me. She needed to be heard, listened to, and understood by only one individual. That would be me. She had been carrying this gift for years, just waiting for the chance to give it to me. Now we sit together to write. She brings her eagerness to unfold those letters and make them stand up and speak. And I bring the Wisdom that she, alone, can patiently unravel.
Do you know why you write?
Elizabeth Crawford 5/23/2017