I’ve been writing my whole life, but until recently I never really considered myself a writer. Not like that. Writing was just something that I did. Whether they were high school essays, papers for a college journalism class, or the plays and short films I wrote when I first started acting, writing was always just something that came naturally and was fun to do, but nothing I ever took too seriously.
That all started to shift about three years ago. I’d been writing Extra Dry Martini for just a couple of months – something I started doing for fun – when my entire life fell apart. I’ve written in great detail about loss on this blog and I don’t feel the need to rehash it, but suffice it to say that the spring of 2012 through the spring of 2013 was a very difficult year for me. A very difficult year, the ramifications of which are still reverberating throughout my now very different life. When I finally came up for air and felt brave enough to write about it, I published a piece on this blog about my experiences entitled The Lost Year. And from there on out, my writing was different.
So it was that writing became less of a hobby and more of a lifeline. In the last year and a half, writing has been not only my most reliable creative outlet, but it has been my therapy. I would no sooner give it up than I would give up breathing, and in fact, I’ve often wondered if I were to give it up, if I would still be able to go on breathing.
When I feel lost or adrift, getting all those thoughts and feelings down on the page is sometimes the only thing that brings any relief. And while I don’t really believe that you can “get it all out,” there is something liberating about being able to wrap my mind around a moment, around pain or sorrow, around joy, around love, and to articulate it in such a way that it’s no longer a swirl of chaos in my brain, but something more ordered and easier to understand. Once on the page, with the words and thoughts at a slightly safer distance, I can read them with a measure of objectivity and think, maybe this thing has a little less power to hurt me than it used to.
I write out of a burning desire to transform the sad, empty spaces within me into art and in doing so, transcend the parts of me that still feel broken. And while I cherish the time I’ve spent absorbed in thought putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, I sometimes wonder if all the hours I’ve invested in crafting pretty sentences have left me less able than before to say the things that need to be said when it comes to face to face interaction with real, live people.
At this moment, I find myself juggling two projects that will soon bridge that gap: a gap between the solitude I’ve been spending in my own little creative laboratory and the big, bad outside world. The first project is a play. In July, I’m going to stand on a stage and talk about some of the very personal, very vulnerable things I’ve been writing about on this blog as part of a solo performance workshop called (appropriately) Barenaked Angels. For the first time, I’m going to say some of the things I’ve been writing down out loud, in front of an audience. Yikes.
The second project is my screenplay, a project and process I’ve detailed in earlier posts like Putting off tomorrow and Little steps. Big steps. First steps. As I continue to work through the second draft and push toward a looming deadline to hand over scripts to actors for the first table read, I am discovering more and more that the parts of the story that aren’t yet working are the parts where I haven’t delved deeply enough into the main character’s hopes, dreams, and flaws. In other words, it’s an autobiographical story without quite enough autobiography in it.
Words are seductive. There is something exquisitely satisfying about capturing a moment on paper and thinking, yes, that’s exactly what happened, how I felt about it, and why it mattered. Words have an incredible capacity to illuminate a life. But in the end, words are not life, and one cannot live by words alone. I’m so grateful for what writing has given me – for the way it has sheltered me through pain and has allowed me to connect with the hearts and minds of other writers through this blog. I will always, always be writing. But the writer’s life is also about finding balance. A writer needs to experience the world in order to write about it, and I haven’t been doing nearly enough of that lately. So now it’s time for me to take the next step: to take the lessons I’ve learned and not just write better, but live better too.
Until next time, friends.