"A great artist is a great man in a great child" / by Kelli Reilly

I do not need to say it a million times to convince you: I am a writer. But lately I have been thinking and struggling with this thought: I am not a writer when I do not write every day. Is that true? Is there a right way to be a writer? Is there an answer?

From all the wonderful writers I have read, learned, and met, I can say with certainty that they all agree to write every damn day. Some say:

"Wake up at 5 am and write for at least 4 hours"

or

"Write a story every single day"

 

or in the famous words of Kurt Vonnegut, 

“Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.” 

 

Ok, so that particular quote does not necessarily fit with what I am saying, but I had to share it. I digress.

I was not born a writer, perhaps I was, but I was not birthed unto this world with a quill in hand and a manuscript unrolling beneath me. I do believe that I crafted this skill and passion out of the necessity to express myself, my emotions, my knowledge, my questions, everything. So, maybe I was born this way. 

In the 1st grade, I faced my first pressures as a writer. Although I had uncannily beautiful cursive (why were we doing cursive in 1st grade?), my teacher tried to hold me back because of the way I chose to hold my pencil- It was not standard and therefore inappropriate to her. My Father did not stand for that creative oppression and I saw the 2nd grade with the rest of my class. That was the first time I felt different and I ended up writing about it later in life because peers would call my pencil-holding: The Claw. 

That same year, I had seen a commercial for the awesomely 90's, girly password journals. I did not understand the concept of a diary or secrets quite yet but I thought it was totally rad to have something to write in. Turns out I did not need to wait for a password journal and I took to writing on anything that could be written on. I spent a lot of time writing "comedy" in elementary school. My first joke was published in an issue of Highlights magazine; Still might be my proudest accomplishment to date. In case you are curious, the joke was:

"Why was the pepper mad at the salt? Because he in-salted him."

 

Hilarious, when you are 7. Over the years, I accumulated dozens upon dozens of diaries and journals; Most of which are humiliating but endearing. No matter how cheesy, cringe-worthy, or dramatic, I let it all out on paper. 

Around 4th grade, my Aunt Lisa gave me her old Casio keyboard and one of its functions was various sound effects such as: animal noises, bells, and something that sounded like "breaking news." I was overwhelmed with joy by this keyboard. I hooked up my karaoke machine and microphone and would write and record faux-news reports using the sound effects. I would beg my mom to buy me cassette tapes so I could record daily. An episode of the news might of consisted of:  An interview with a local farmer (animal sound effects in full use), Product commercials that had little jingles, and stories I merely ripped off from the actual news like, the Heaven's Gate Cult- which ended up being a story I have been working on adapting for screen. I think I am getting a little off track. Can you gather that I like to tell stories? I do not need to convince you. 

I will not go into the full-psychosis and history of my life and writing, because I know I will have plenty of time to divulge and reminisce but, I will say that what I did as a child never changed. It is an incredible and meaningful thing to accept that who we were/are as children is largely of what will remain within us forever. Not trying to get off track, but I love children and working with children because I see full human beings before me that are insightful, thoughtful, and hilarious and are often looked upon as helpless, unintelligent, or silly. Most of my life so far has been me as a CHILD. How could I sit here and say it had no effect or purpose within me? Perhaps, I am ranting but I will not deny who I taught myself to be. 

Why am I saying all of this? Are you even still reading? 

The reason I want to forever cherish my child self is because when I wrote, I just wrote. I did not write to impress people, I did not write for money, I did not write for fame, I did not write because anybody asked me to, nor did I write because somebody I admired did.  I wrote because it made me happy, it made me laugh, it made me excited, it helped me share, it made me friends, writing gave me purpose, it gives me purpose. There were often times I thought I was talentless. I would think: 

"Why can't I do a backflip like her?"

 

"Why don't I understand long division?"

 

"Why do I have hand me down clothes?"

 

Every insecurity or lack of talent I thought I had translated straight to paper. Instead of belittling myself or sinking into the now almost imminent adolescent depression, I was able to write about it all. I crafted characters who were strong and funny and I discovered ways to solve life through them. To me, nothing is more powerful when I can formulate a thought I am struggling with into words and onto paper. Articulation is extremely effectual, especially in a story.

I must mention I could not tell a story if I did not have its greatest companion: Reading. By crooking my nose into every book I could find, I gathered stories that shaped my ideas about friendship, betrayal, sexuality, faith, strength, life. Even the books I thought were bad trained me on how I would like to write. Like I said, I do not believe I was born a writer, I had to learn and adapt to wield this tool. 

I can only be a writer if I am always willing to tell stories, if I am never afraid of the uncomfortable, the sad, the nasty, the silly things of this world- I musn't ever stop telling stories and I musn't ever be afraid of the controversy or ardor my stories cause. 

Today, it finally clicked. When I do not write, I am running away from something. I am reverting to fear, the fear of what I am saying is not enough or is not brilliant or is not interesting. Why does it always have to be earth-shattering? That is not what writing is about. It is about the mundane, the day to day, the milestones, the future, everything in between.  For awhile now I felt as if I had to top the last thing I wrote or I am simply a hack; That feeling is born out of the industry I am falling into: Your art is your paycheck. It is only you who decides why you are doing it. If I never got paid again, would I still write? Yes. That is all I need to remind myself to get up every day and write. 

But, any writer must never forget to strike a balance between the paper and the planet. For, one can never write if one does not live, one would run out of things to say.

Bring life to what you write and what you say. If you miss a day of writing, do not chastise yourself but rather reflect on what you did that day and where it brings you next and what it makes you write next.