To Be A Writer

A brief reflection on my history with writing.

Photo by Jan Kahánek on Unsplash

Pain moved my hand across the pages penning tales of love and happiness. First, they were poems of unfiltered thoughts that gave way to song as I crafted lyrics to sing my sorrows and my woes. Those songs became longer losing their rhymes and tenor forming narrative essays where I attempted to make sense of the world around me. The words scrawled about fragile papers were digitized into short stories giving way to my passions, wants, and needs. My writing gave birth to my thoughts, added rhythm to my words, and painted pictures of my world. Yet, I did not call myself a writer.

To be a writer I thought that I needed to have an insurmountable level of success while ignoring how success was achieved. And of all things, I thought that I needed to be published; ignorant to the world of publishing. I would not dare call myself a songwriter if no one sang my songs. Or proclaim that I was a poet as I held tightly a notebook of poems. To make such a decree would rattle the alarms as I attempted to sneak my way into this elusive club. The spotlight would burn brightly exposing me for the fraud that I am. And so, I remained in my station, looking from afar as writers wrote their little words and I desperately did the same.

Confidence was never something I enjoyed and self-esteem was something I fiercely clung to. Or was it that my confidence was constantly under attack and my self-esteem barely registered? When your very being is clawed at by those who dwell in the darkness, it gets hard to track what pieces of your psyche you were able to protect. In short, when your life, your community, and your peers, are economically deprived and when the very existence of you is reduced to be absent of existence — it is easy to slip into the shadows and believe that you are nothing. And if you believe that you are nothing, then you will never stake your claim and you will never want to be.

My first spark of confidence began when I was in high school. At a time when the slightest critique could send me spiraling back to the dark corners of the library where I reveled in not being known. As part of a class assignment, I decided to share my work. To make matters worse, I had to then read it aloud. After a night of writing, and a shaky hand reciting those words to the class, the worst was over. Or so I thought. The class bell rang and everyone shuffled gathering their things to move on to the next social hour. As I headed for the exit I felt a hand grasp onto my forearm and squeeze. “That was beautiful. Thank you for sharing.” No words needed to be spoken. No praises needed to be had. And yet my teacher felt compelled to share her thoughts. Unfortunately, she never knew how beautiful her words were to me.

With the melody in place, I vocalized the harmonies and the lyrics that I crafted sprung forth from their sheet into a melodic rhythm. Though I was not the one to give them justice. The songs would be performed by others — the boy group that harmonized throughout the school hallways, the younger sister who was showcasing her growing vocal talents, and for others that sought new music to perform at their church in hopes of enticing a younger crowd. Simple praise made me wonder if others would like some of the things I wrote. Thus far, they did. And so, I called myself a songwriter.

Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash

I don’t know what it was that sparked a revolution within. Was it the sharing of my short stories for others to critique? Was it the writing of Toastmaster speeches that prompted me to dispense with the foolishness? Perhaps the years of blogging about gaming, tech, or finance in the anonymity? Or the tomes of documentation I wrote and edited before ever knowing that technical writing was a thing. Could it have been my first audio produced essays to share a story and or an argument?

Whatever the spark may have been, it was most welcomed. I had never realized how much I was holding myself back by denying a part of my very being. How sad and how beautiful that after thirty years one can finally claim a title that has only sat outside of their purview and simultaneously open a new path to grow into and explore.

And so I say again — Pain has moved my hand across the pages penning tales of love and happiness. First as unfiltered thoughts disguised as poems, then as songs crafted from lyrics to sing my sorrows and my woes. Losing their rhymes and tenor they formed narrative essays where I deconstructed the world around me. Fragile papers held the words I scrawled by hand only to be digitized into short stories giving way to my passions, wants, and needs.

My writing gave birth to my thoughts, added rhythm to my words, and painted pictures of my world.

And when you ask who I am, I will proudly profess that I, Mark, am a writer and so much more.

Thank you for indulging this short piece that I just needed to get out of my system. I hope that you enjoyed it. As Mr. James Baldwin said, “I want to be an honest man and a good writer.”