“I am a writer.” I say and the small, insecure part of me holds her breath, waiting for someone to refute such a bold statement, waiting for someone to demand hard evidence, fiscal proof that this is a valid claim. No one does, at least not today. “I am a writer.” I say and part of me scoffs at the blatant, intrinsic obviousness of the simple sentence. “Of course you are.” part of me answers back and adds “What other ‘revelations’ will there be today? Next you’ll be telling everyone that you’re a breather too. Ahhhh, der.”
Such a simple statement, how can I be so paradoxically filled with paralysing doubt and utter conviction over something I claim to be? Sometimes I sit in awe of people who can so resolutely, unwaveringly declare themselves as ‘creatives’ – musicians, painters, jewellery makers, fabric artists, story tellers. Sometimes I sit in awe of people who downplay their creativity to virtual insignificance when it seems so incredibly obvious to me that the whole world would support them if only they stepped up a little bit more…. if only they banished self-doubt a little more vehemently. I want to be in the former category, I want to weave my inherent creativity so passionately into my life that moments of doubt of who I so obviously am are completely laughable. I want my creativity to sustain me and nourish me, spiritually, emotionally and financially. I want my world to become deeper, wider and more connected because I dared to go beyond the superficial and I dared to mine the very depths of who I am and I had the courage to show it to myself and the world. I want to be dazzled by my own brilliance, my own truth and my own paradigm shifting discoveries and I want to be an example for others to do the same.
Writing- wizardry with words, linguistic artistry- is the medium that I want to be bold about today. ‘Writer’ is the title I most wish to be comfortable with right now. It may seem like I’m making a big deal out of nothing or I’m forgetting my New Age roots (I.e It’s not what you’re doing but who you’re being that matters.) but it feels important to me. We wouldn’t expect a doctor to relinquish his/her title, in fact we put a lot of emphasis on the titles we bestow upon ourselves and others… And just as so many before me have marched through their own personal corridors of self-doubt to finally declare themselves ‘a musician’ or ‘a painter’, here I am, deciding to claim one of my own – ‘Gabriella Salmon – Creative Writer and Orator’ (Oh yes my friends, Orator.)
They say that it takes 10,000 hours engaged in a skill to become a master at it.* Dismissing sleeping and eating as essential functions rather than ‘skills’ then I am closest to mastery in two areas – reading and writing. I read voraciously – I read faster, more regularly and more widely than at least 90% of people I have ever known. (True, I don’t mix in highly bookish circles but I don’t mix in illiterate, undereducated circles either.) When I am absorbed in a book I can read for hours and hours on end, forgoing ‘essentials’ such as food and sleep because I am so engrossed. I have musician friends who can do the same thing when it comes to music, who appear bewildered that anyone would want or need to stop after 6 hours straight. I can, with absolute confidence, declare that I have spent significantly more hours of my life reading than I have spent watching T.V. (This is a monumental fact given that I’m a Gen Y-er brought up in a 1st world country in a totally T.V saturated culture. Although, I better stay committed to my reading regime and cut back a little on my Facebook addiction, otherwise, in a few years I’ll be a Facebook expert and what use would that be exactly? Let me rephrase that, I’m sure there are dozens of ways to make being a Facebook expert useful, it’s just not something I’ve ever passionately aspired to! 😉 )
So I read a lot. Somewhere along the line I have, or will achieve ‘expert’ status in reading as measured by the ’10,000 hour’ rule. Woo hoo, yay for me! I’ll just whack ‘expert reader’ down on my resume and off we go! Ah but alas, not in and of itself a very marketable or even creative skill that one… luckily for me reading and writing are total bosom buddies and my reading habit supports my march towards ‘Expert Writer’ status in so many ways. New vocabulary, different styles and approaches and mind altering ideas are constantly being added to my head, being mixed up, pounded together and waiting to spill forth as something completely new and completely me. ( I am totally at a loss to understand people who make outlandish claims that they’re ‘going to write a book one day’ and yet never read anything more in-depth than their cereal box and writing eloquent Christmas cards tests their literary prowess. Fascinating. )
To keep up with all the new things I am constantly observing, absorbing and putting back together (not just from reading books but from a keen interest in people and life in general), I write a lot. My mother passed her journal writing legacy on to me and I’ve been keeping journals since I was 7. As a youngin, with an even younger sister at my mercy, I wrote play after play and convinced her to act them out with me. In Grade 6 I took myself out of standard Religious Education classes and sat on the verandah of our historic old school building writing poetry instead. When my mum died I wrote reams of poetry and also turned my hand to song-writing to try and sort through the deluge of muck swamping me. All through high-school I wrote and I wrote and I wrote, winning a few small poetry and writing competitions here and there (including one in Indonesian!) and producing a constant flow of ridiculously angsty love songs. I once handed in a drama assignment twice the required word limit and got it back with an A+ and an admission from my teacher that she liked it all and couldn’t make me shorten it. After school I wrote poetry, songs, random short stories and hit my journal writing with a vengeance. (Dumping yourself in the middle of places where you know no-one can have that effect!) I even managed to get myself published in a national publication. I never wrote because it seemed like a ‘good career path’. Most of the time I didn’t even write for an audience, I just wrote to get it out of me, turn it into something tangible and examinable… discovering what ‘it’ was exactly as I wrote.
Along the way, every now and then something would present itself and the belief that this skill of mine might actually be ‘worth’ something would be watered a little. The friend of a friend who let me stay at her place in exchange for my help rewriting her business brochures, an accomplished musician who said he liked my song and that I should record it, my friends laughing or crying over things that I’d written and asking to hear them or read them again, a colleague taking a passage I had written on a birthday card and framing it in her office, running a Creative Workshop last year and getting great feedback… Many stones form an arch…
A year ago I decided to start a blog, yes I felt slightly like an egomaniacal wanker but apart from that it actually felt important. After a few months a friend of mine asked me what my approach to blog writing was and I said ‘I don’t have a specific approach- I try not to censor or edit myself, I write what is important to me in that moment, I write to keep myself writing and I write to form myself into the writer I want to be.’ I think it’s working…
Today I put myself forward as a facilitator of ‘Creative Writing’ and I had a moment of gut-clenching doubt… who am I to put myself forward as a “Writer”?! Then I went for a walk and the words rolled around in my head and conviction thumped at my door and I came home and I wrote this… And I think I’ve damned near convinced myself. I can say with absolute certainty that I will be writing until I die so yes, I’ll claim it now. To me writing is so much more than just putting words to a page or a screen, it’s a way to express everything from the sacred to the profane, a way of presenting the internal to the world and internalising the world and a profound way of giving the intangible form. My dearest, darlingest words, how I treasure you.
And maybe, just maybe, this soliloquy of mine has inspired you in your own march towards claiming whichever part of your creative identity is begging to be truly acknowledged and valued today.
*One of my favourite authors, Malcolm Gladwell, writes about this in one of his books… ‘The Tipping Point’ maybe… They’re all good, read them all. 🙂