Walking Through The Light
He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying – Friedrich Nietzsche
Whenever I have the opportunity to talk about my writing journey, I like to always state that it didn’t just happen, I didn’t suddenly wake up a writer. Growing up, there were hints everywhere; from little things like my unmatched devotion to keeping and recording everything in a journal and being overly excited about writing an essay describing how I spend my day after school. And then there was the reading habit, carrying novels everywhere and reading in the bus, sometimes even late at night. I remember always rushing for the window seat, hoping for any light that will come through. I have always loved words- its neatness, its arrangement, its welcoming nature and the meaning it shares at every stage. Truth is, I didn’t grow up wanting to be a writer. I grew up appreciating written work, consuming it, becoming full of it; and then realizing I too, could be a part of the creating process.
Social media was my wake up call. I understand that people choose it more for harm than good but like anything else, it’s a tool and gives you back the reward of what you make of it. I remember joining Instagram in 2016 and being clueless about the writing world existing in virtual spaces. The first writers I was smitten by were Tyler Kent White, Amanda Torroni and Tiffany Trivett. I can still remember the awe in looking at their feed and being amazed at what they were doing with words and how they chose to share that gift with the world. That’s when the poems started brewing. I have no doubt they had been within me all those years, untouched. The birthing of this gift was triggered by two things: my recognition of what others were doing, the beauty of their craft and my firm resolve to do more, to be more.
One word after another, a page turn after another, poem after poem after poem, here we are- in the beautiful mess of creating & weaving words- simply because I chose to take this one step.
E.L. Doctorow once said that ‘Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’ Being a writer, having to place such a heavy tag around my neck, has felt pretty much this way. Everyday I am convinced every story is a risk and an opportunity, but I take it anyway. More than half the time, I don’t see where I’m going. But if we’re to wait to see our destination before we move, we’ll be stuck where are forever. Love how MLK says it “faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase”. Writing is heavy faith work. You pick a word, an idea, you sit at the table and make art. Sometimes the process is graceful, the words spill out of you like water, without effort. Other times we’re called to wrestle it out, write it down roughly, until it makes any sense. And then there are the days our spirit feel down from the weight of life and perhaps this gets in the way of what we love, perhaps this burns out the fuel of our passion, and so we take long breaks, move away from the table, we learn to breathe, we clear our minds, we come back healthier.
I’ve fallen in and out of love with other writers. I have discovered writing that has made me question my work, writing that has left me in awe. Ocean Vuong’s book of poem, Night Sky with Exit Wounds had me clutching my best.
I have experienced the honest shock in discovering beauty and have suddenly become intentional about making room for words that carry life and sometimes, death. At some points in my life, I’ve found myself going through these phases. I’ve looked at my work and my audience from the wrong lens and I’ve carved self-pity out of it. I’ve been hard on myself not being as good. I have rejection letters sitting in my mail that make me sick to my stomach. I have sought after perfection and have given up. I beat the writer in me out of shape I almost didn’t recognize who I was. Comparison has been a thief of my joy and my voice and I had to learn the hard way that writing is a journey first with my words and I, before anything else; that for me, my ultimate satisfaction lies in knowing that I sat before a blank page and birthed the fullness of something that matters to me. Everything else comes after. The audience, applause, the criticism, the preservation of my words, the misinterpretation and destruction of it. But what remains unscarred in all this, is the relationship between my words and I, the one thing that can’t be taken away. Because of everything else that this journey brings, while they fade away, I’ll be left with the core of what I started with- my words, my voice and my will. No one can take that away. And so I protect that, with all of my heart and everything I am.
As you move toward a dream, the dream moves toward you- Julia Cameron
I had my first poetry performance in December 2018. Prior to this, I had turned down numerous offers because I was scared. I’ve always been afraid of having to present myself to people who have grown with me on my writing journey, readers who were there for the first poem and are here for the rest of the journey. It terrifies me. I like that I get to hide behind an Instagram profile and share my words. But when I have to show myself, bring my face out of the dark, say hello and shake hands with people who have put a face to the words (which is always never close to what I look like), my palms start to sweat and I begin to fret over all their ideals that will certainly, most definitely clash with the reality of who I am, and I start to think it’s the end of the world. But you know the world never ends when we want it to. We open our eyes and it’s right there before us. Of course my performance was better than I had imagined in my mind. Of course people said hello. Of course I awkwardly embraced the new arms of people who have made a home of my words. Of course it was beautiful and scary and open at the same time. But isn’t all of this life? And isn’t all of this good?
This will not be complete without talking about hard work. I was only on that stage reading poems because someone discovered my work and suddenly my every effort of dedicating myself to writing became more than just being a girl with a dream and a voice. I didn’t just walk on the stage. I’d spent years reading and writing. Days before my big day, I spent time with friends, reading out the poems, taking deep breaths and trying again and again while Pentatonix played on repeat in the background. On the day of the show, I ate chips and rehearsed with the man I love in the corner of a restaurant. You work hard. You write in any season and every season. You revise, you submit and submit and you never quit. Perhaps our destination should only be becoming our most truest and authentic selves and one thing I know to be true is that this is a journey that goes on forever, becoming. That would be the brightest light of all, after the stage performances, after the thrill, after all the wars between who I truly am and what people make me to be through my poems, I become, I grow, I thrive. There were so many special moments that day but my favorite was eating Pringles at the backseat of an Uber, and thinking to myself “wow, I did it”. I hugged myself and the start of my wildest dreams hugged me back. Everyone else was on their way home, the stage was behind me, the applause had been swallowed by time, what remained, however, was the words and the steady beating of my heart.
This is what I know: Every stage of my writing life has been a beam of light. Having to walk into or towards it would have meant enduring a long season of darkness. But who said the learning had to be gloomy? Who said the shaping and coming to form had to be hidden in the shadows? The light starts now- while we try and fail, while we breathe, while we give our dreams the courage they deserve. And then, slowly, like a bird that takes flight, we soar.
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