My reading and writing fast is finally over. I did a some light reading that wasn’t really necessary and probably did more writing than I should have, but relatively speaking both activities were severely restricted for the past six weeks.
I didn’t miss reading all that much, surprisingly enough. The time that I would have spent reading, I chose to knit or listen to music or watch TV or play a computer game, and found that these activities all seemed to substitute fairly well for the way I usually use reading. I learned that, while I learn a lot from books, my primary engagement with them is as a way of relaxing and unwinding. Other methods achieved pretty much the same goal. There are a few topics I’ve been wanting to research, but since I haven’t been able to do so, I’ve been left on my own to figure them out. I’ve been figuring them out just fine.
I like reading. It’s useful and pleasant. If I get into something that involves heavy research, there’s nothing that beats looking stuff up in books. I wasn’t involved in anything like that for the past few weeks, so no books was no big deal.
But I don’t think that was the important bit. Learning more about my relationship with books was all good, but not particularly significant. The important bit was the thing I really missed the most: writing.
I didn’t know that I liked to write so much. I think of myself as a competent writer. In school, I was always glad for written assignments or essay tests because I could always count an A for those. I’d get a big fat A at the top of the page and no other comments, which always annoyed me (thanks for the A and all, but would it kill you, teachers, to give a little feedback? Please?) I assumed, and still assume, that this means that my writing is good enough to do whatever job it needs to do but not so good as to attract any attention to itself. I played around with writing poetry when I was a teenager, got roundly mocked for my efforts, and gave it up without too much regret. I have always enjoyed writing stories – I remember sitting in seventh grade English class and writing Sherlock Holmes fanfic (this was before the Internet, so I didn’t know there was any such thing as fanfic and thought I was just the Oddest Thing Ever to have the impulse to write my own Sherlock stories – my life would have been very different if I could have gotten online in middle school.) I finished two novels before I turned twenty, though no human being ever read them and I think they’ve probably been burned or something by now. I never thought of any of this as anything other than recreational and think it was all pretty horrible stuff.
The thing is, though, I sadly believed in the “genius myth” and figured that since I wasn’t automatically writing deathless prose at the age of fourteen, it meant that I should probably just chuck the whole affair. I’m really sorry now that there was no one to tell me that it was OK that my stuff wasn’t great, and that the practice of being creative was itself worthwhile. You know, that thing that Lugh and Druidry taught me. The first items that I knitted were pretty sad-looking, too, and I still knit “wrong” by some measures of knitting but I’m getting to know my own style and my own way of doing things. The more I practice, the better I get, and I’ve made some really nice things. One of the reasons I never learned to knit before is that I would try my hand at it, end up with a tangle or something that looked like it was made by a five-year-old, and decide I was no good at it. As soon as Lugh told me that all he wanted from me was the best I could do, and that striving to do my best craft was a prayer to him even if the result wasn’t necessarily beautiful, I was able to push through the clumsy stage and get to a point of competence.
I think of my writing a tool that I use to work out my thoughts or to amuse myself. I don’t think of it as a craft. I blog because I like to get feedback on things I’m thinking about, as a way of recording my path, and because I like the company. I look around at the bloggers I think of as “real writers” and know that I’m not one of them. So I don’t think about writing as something to practice, to work on or perfect. It’s a tool that I’m just good enough with to be able to use – like someone who can use a big roller to paint a room but wouldn’t think of picking up a little paintbrush to paint a picture.
But I think it’s time to pick up that little paintbrush. I think I could be OK with writing horrible poetry in the service of learning how to do it well. I think I need to learn how to write. I need to get over thinking of all those other people who write better than I do, because what they do isn’t really the point – I need to develop what I can do.
Heck, maybe I’ll even start editing my blog posts before hitting “publish.”