Story Time

Most people have something they can lose themselves in. Some people lose themselves in dance.  Others lose themselves in the discovery of tastes and flavours. Sports are another way that people free themselves from the trappings of everyday life. Then there are the arts, photography, painting and poetry. There are a whole lot of wonderful ways in which people relax, and after watching a violinist lose herself in her craft, I felt compelled to figure out what it is that I love to lose myself in.

After much contemplation and a discussion with my husband, I realised that writing is one of those things.  Reading and walking are others.  But here I’ll talk about writing.

Since I was a little girl I’ve enjoyed writing.  I don’t mean writing in the sense that I liked to entertain people. Rather, I’ve always felt at ease putting my thoughts to paper. Over the years I’ve often pondered over my childhood writing books and laughed at how intense my stories started…. but they often trailed off, never to be finished. Many were fictional but there were also loads of stories about my life, what I got up to on the weekends and school holidays, my friends, my family and events that I went to.  I love reading those stories about my childhood.  How candid I was and how interesting even the most mundane things seemed to me.  From the age of thirteen to fifteen my best friend and I would type letters to eachother as a way to share gossip and keep up to date on the goings on of our busy teenage lives. It started in our typing class where we both excelled and had time to spare after finishing tasks way ahead of everyone else. Its hilarious reading the stuff we shared amongst ourselves. Trivial though they may seem now, they were big problems back then! I also love reading over my diaries. How melodramatic I was. Of course at the time of writing each of those entries the emotions were true and sincere. I’m not sure why I started writing in my diary, but my earliest entry was in the year 1995. I think it might’ve been the year that my Koko’s brother died (Koko is the Maori word for Grandfather). I remember this being the topic of one of my first diary entries, that and a lesson about puberty. I guess intermediate was an age that I was able to critically reflect on my experiences and to articulate my thoughts and feelings, death and puberty clearly making an impression on me.

I don’t know how I haven’t realised until now that its one of the things I love to do the most.

Perhaps its because I grew a complex after failing Bursary English (that was New Zealand’s University Entrance back in my day).  Perhaps its also because I never wanted to be a writer, whereas I know plenty of people who are writers, journalists or broadcasters, who have an excellent command of the English language/grammar and who all grew up preparing for their chosen domains within the communications industry. They were well schooled with the great classics of our time and are able to quote the likes of Oscar Wilde, Jane Austen and other such awesome people. I can’t tell you much about these authors coz I haven’t read them myself.  And to be honest, when I have picked up those books (at least Jane Austen), the stories look bloody boring.  So perhaps because of these things I dont consider myself a writer. Never have. Still don’t. Never will.

But when I write, I lose myself.  I’m often not conscious of what’s going on around me. Time quite literally stands still.  There’s no judgement, well none except for my own (and believe me, I am my own worst critic). I am simply free to make sense of my thoughts. And I have a very noisy, inquisitive mind, so there are a lot of things to make sense of, which makes the idea of writing both exciting and liberating.  A pen and blank piece of paper – or these days, a keyboard and a blank word document – have the power to conjure up a world of stories, emotions and images. But I won’t pretend this is a great talent that I was blessed with, coz I don’t at all believe that I’m a particularly gifted writer.  Its just that I’ve finally figured out that its a form of escapism for me.

I credit this as being one of the reasons for my success at university. I am yet to meet another person who actually enjoyed essay writing as much as I did.  After doing the groundwork (which I also loved), it was like putting a puzzle together.  It was fun to play with words, to re-phrase, to re-work over and over again, until I got it as perfect as time would allow. But it was also nervewracking putting it into the assignment box.  I hated that feeling….. Letting it go, having it read and receiving feedback. When you’ve put so much of your heart, time and energy into something, its one of the yuckiest feelings in the world.

I also have a love hate relationship with writing blogposts.

Publishing my thoughts for no apparent reason feels so self-indulgent.  I enjoy writing. I enjoy connecting with people. But lets be honest, it’s all about me, my thoughts and my feelings. To make it worse, we are a generation of egotistical bloggers.  So I’m just another self-indulgent, egotistical ‘its all about me’ generation Yer, who jumped on the bandwagon. So bloody original!

When you’re writing for yourself, you also don’t have to worry about how things are perceived by others.  But when you have an audience, specifically when you publish your thoughts in a public forum, you have to be a lot more careful about how you communicate. I have always been scared of upsetting people but by publishing my thoughts, I do run the risk of inadvertedly offending people. I’m always fearful of that, or of succumbing to my other insecurity of being misunderstood. I am a lateral thinker. This means that I don’t always come out with the most straight forward or easily digestible ideas. Most of the time I have the best of intentions, but the world is full of so much diversity and I like to consider things out of the ordinary, things that may be politically incorrect or ideas that are not always popular.  It’s not that I purposefully set out to challenge people, its more that I like to make sense out of things which aren’t always so black and white. But trying to explain that train of thought can sometimes be like going through a labyrinth. So writing helps me to make sense of my experiences, thoughts or feelings.  In that respect, I find it very therapeutic. But I often feel like I’m putting myself on a limb when I publish my blogposts. So believe it or not, it takes a lot of courage for me to publish each post.  Along with a sense of relief and elation for having made sense of things, there are also feelings of anxiety as to how my work will be received by others.

But more often than not, there’s a thing that happens when I am honest, vulnerable or passionate. I receive the most meaningful and supportive comments.  Somewhere amongst the babbling, I manage to connect with people.  And this is an amazingly gratifying feeling, to be able to connect with people through writing (or ranting, as is often the case).  So I figure that I may as well tap into this writing buzz that I get, and allow it to give me a sense of purpose, if not solely for the self-gratifcation that I get out of the process.

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