When I was in college, I had a habit of taking myself to Starbucks and free-writing – I participated in countless creative writing workshops during my years at Gannon. I anticipated writing fiction when I signed up for my first class, but found myself cranking out poems all semester. It surprised me, even as I was writing them. I actually never wrote a single piece of fiction, come to think of it.
I haven’t found much of that motivation since I graduated – I think I’ve written three or four not-great poems since 2010, and my efforts to post on this blog weekly have been laughable at best – but I’ve found myself itching to get something out, so this morning, I put on a Gannon Alum shirt, and took myself to the exact Starbucks location that saw me through some of the pieces that won awards back in the day.
So. Here I sit.
It’s wild how, in some ways, I haven’t changed at all. 20-year-old me would post up for hours at Starbucks (or Tim Horton’s – there was one walking-distance from my house), plug in earbuds, and feel more than hear the gentle clack of my laptop keys. I’m still using the same exact earbuds, miraculously (PSA: pay more for your earbuds and they will literally last a DECADE. Thanks, Bose! #notspon), but my laptop has changed to a tiny sticker-plastered neon pink machine that I adore. I’m still playing my music entirely too loudly, and I still couldn’t care less about my eardrums.
I wasn’t sure when I started this post where it was going to go… but I think this is going to momentarily turn into a not-paid advertisement for Bose earbuds. As I’m writing this, it sounds like Dave Grohl is whispering directly into my BRAIN; I can damn near feel his voice in my bones. Nate’s bass is pulsing through me… and not even a foot away, a completely unsuspecting guy is reading on his Kindle. He has no idea what’s going on right next to him (unless he’s actually reading over my shoulder); I’m having a downright religious experience over here!
I was recently ranting (having a breakdown) to my husband about the creative process, and how frustrating it can be. I’ve written before here about how much of my childhood was spent in my own head – while my other friends could play outside for days, weeks on end, I sincerely had to stop and sit quietly inside frequently – and that’s a need that’s only increased into adulthood. My best friend is someone who understands that need, and when we’re together now, we always make sure to take some quiet time to ourselves.
That quiet time isn’t always silent – like I said, I’m currently blasting my eardrums out – but my only focus right now is that music, and my laptop. I find myself glancing, sometimes staring, out the window, but I’m not really looking at anything. You could put an otherwise instantly familiar face right in front of me right now, and I would never recognize them. I guess you could consider my writing process meditation in a sense – I feel at once, connected to the world (or at least to the Foo Fighters) created by music, but also entirely isolated in a world where my whirling thoughts are the only thing that Exist. And when they Exist here, they deserve that capital ‘E’. They’re a force of their own and as I figure out the way to construct the otherwise chaotic scenes in my head into this very sentence you’re reading… that’s magic.
(Full disclosure: I wrote that last paragraph in a wicked stream of consciousness that I hope read well and not serial-killer-esque).
Writing is just… it’s often frustrating as hell, but when I write, it’s what I want to be doing for the rest of my life. I imagine it’s akin to the feeling addicts chase. …okay, I guess I’m taking myself there. My dad is an addict, that’s no secret – I won’t get into the specifics, but there you go. There are a lot of factors that determine if someone is an addict… genetics is one of them. I know I have that coursing through my body, and I’m thankful I haven’t been turned onto any harmful substances… but chasing that feeling I word vomited in the last paragraph? It hasn’t been ten minutes since I typed it, and I’m already craving that release again.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, I love the Process. I crave it.
Spending my childhood and teenage years doing musical theater meant that my entire life was the process. The rush of performing is something I miss every day… but what I miss the most is rehearsal. Just like writing, it was often frustrating (as hell) (some memories: sobbing while trying to learn to tap dance, screaming at directors, staging a walk-out), but I think it needed to be frustrating. Instead of me, sitting here alone, putting my brain on “paper,” you had dozens of people, each with their own brains, each trying to put those brains on a stage. Together. At once. In a way that makes sense to an audience of brains, while also telling a story that is the direct work of someone ELSE’S brain.
My favorite memories of doing theater are from rehearsals, not performances. In fact, when I try to think about being onstage, in front of an audience, those memories are fuzzy – I can get there, if I really concentrate, but when I look back, it’s all about the process.
I think that’s why I love the act of writing, sitting here at Starbucks, blowing out my eardrums, watching people go about their days. My theater days are behind me now (I think… I’ll never completely rule out a return), but that rush of creating something, in private, then presenting it to the world – or whoever is actually reading this – is something I’ll never stop chasing. I’m always grateful that I have a job and life that allows me to chase that word-soaked high.
…we’ll call that my American dream so this post has a bit of an Independence Day flavor. Sounds good? Alright.
PS. I suppose it’s worth mentioning here that I have finally started writing for a publication. The Erie Reader reached out to me to begin contributing pieces for their bi-weekly paper. My first piece will appear soon, and I’ll share that here when it’s online!