Monday, May 31, 2010

Speculative Free Form

I know I haven’t posted much on this blog, and I’d like to tell you that it’s because I’ve been out running with the bulls or sailing across the world as a sixteen year old (maybe the sixteen year old part is true, give or take a decade), but really it’s more of a general laziness on my part.

Actually, that’s not really true, either. I write quite often. I’ve got the most random rough drafts, saved to my hard drive, sent to my email, notebooks half-full on my kitchen table and inside my nightstand with the door that doesn’t close properly because I was too impatient to read the instruction manual when I assembled it. Napkins and sticky notes with my scrawl all over them, stuffed in my purse. My fifth grade teacher will be annoyed to learn that despite her best efforts, I still don’t write like a girl but rather a hurried pre-adolescent boy with ADHD and an inability for his hands to keep up with the thoughts spilling out of his head.

I do remember that year quite well, actually. My dad had to be to work early so we’d sit in the parking lot of the school in the dark, our breath visible like empty comic conversation clouds as we waited for the heat in the car to kick in. Dad would tap his fingers nervously on the steering wheel, worried about being late, while we all stared intently at the door. Finally a light would come on in the hallway, flickering into life, and then the principal would unlock the heavy black door, and my brother and I would both give an equally heavy sigh as we picked up our backpacks and dragged ourselves into the building.

I’d walk up the seemingly endless staircase to the top floor, my footsteps echoing in the nearly empty building. The hallways were soaked with shadows, and silent save for the sounds of teachers arriving and unlocking the doors to their classrooms.

My teacher was always there early, sitting at her desk, preparing her lessons for the day. She’d barely look up when I entered the room, and I’d take my time unraveling the scarf around my neck and hanging up my coat, with my mittens sticking out of the pockets.

I’d settle into my chair, reaching inside my desk for a pencil and opening my notebook to a fresh sheet of paper. “As long as you’re here,” my teacher would say, always a hint of disapproval in her voice, “you might as well practice your handwriting. It’s terrible, Jennifer.”

“You write like a boy.”

Every morning I would slowly copy sentences out of my science textbook. I’d stick my tongue out in concentration, trying to make “photosynthesis” prettier and bubbly against the blue lines of the notebook paper. Once the clock ticked closer to start time, and the hallway started warming up with voices, and my classmates stomped into the room in their snow boots and jackets, I’d hand in my finished product, and my teacher would glance down at it with a sigh and shake of her head.

“You need to make your letters rounder and more feminine. This is messy and masculine. Don’t you want to be feminine, Jennifer?”

That question has stayed in my head for years, as I turned in papers in high school, took notes in college, and wrote up reviews for work. Every time I hand in something to a professor or a supervisor I cringe, wondering if my writing suggests something about me, if somehow the fact that my letters are sharp and angled rather than looped and curved reflects poorly on me as a woman, as a human being. That maybe I didn’t get a promotion or a higher grade because my i’s weren’t dotted with a round circle or my j’s lacked a feminine flourish.

But mostly now I type, so this is neither here nor there. The real reason I’ve been lacking in posts lately is my indecision.

I started my blog as a form of therapy, a way to get out all the toxins that built up from years of insecurity and a bad relationship. Nobody read what I wrote anyway, so I just wrote honestly about my life, letting people into rooms I’d kept shut and locked for a very long time and needed airing out.

The thing about writing openly is that most people don’t do it very often. Most people are guarded and keep their secrets to themselves. Which is not a criticism, by any means. There are a million reasons why you would want to keep your private life as just that—private. But I went another route, and to my great surprise people started reading what I had to say.

I love writing for an audience, and I appreciate anyone who takes the time to read my writing. On the flip side, as I find out more and more people are reading my blog, I find myself feeling more and more restricted in what I can say. I don’t want to offend people. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I find myself writing something up and thinking “well what if so-and-so reads this? Will they be upset that I’m sharing this story?”

And suddenly, I can’t write anymore. I put the story or essay away, and it ends up collecting dust or bytes or whatever it is that a Word document might collect saved to a hard drive, and it never gets finished.

My hands feel a bit tied at the moment.

But I remember someone asking me once, “how do you write?” and I said simply, “you just have to be brave. You just have to write what you need to say and not worry what other people will think about it.”

I need to take my own advice.

Hopefully, there will be more to come in the next few weeks.


Girl Clumsy said...

So true!

I suffer from much the same thing. "Oh, I'll upset people with this."

I'm also guarded because my parents read my blog too, and they worry. :)

Having said that, it is sometimes good to have that censor button in your head - censor is probably too strong a word, but a check or balance perhaps.

We still have to live in the real world, and there really isn't a "real" versus an "online" world anymore, so it pays to use the same thoughts about "Will I be rude?", "Will I hurt someone if I say this?" on blogs, just as you would if you were talking to a person in real life.

But I don't mean that to be an approval of censoring yourself. There are other outlets, and I think sometimes at the very least it forces you to rethink your writing and look for other ways of discussing a topic that might in fact end up being better.

Dr Yobbo said...

There's no surer way to not be taken seriously than to 'write like a girl'. Be thankful you don't still put love-hearts in place of the dots on lower case 'i's at age, erm, 29.

I tend to write first, realise how offensive it was afterwards - eg the column about research conferences that basically cost me my research career... though the recent 'Mia Freedman' column at World of Bollocks tends to indicate I've learned absolutely farquing nothing about keeping it clean and above board.

Enjoy Medway said...

Baby, I'm not sure how you'll take it, but the curvature of my handwriting is a lot more... Effeminate.

Anonymous said...

A great read, Jen.

I love how you write, for what it's worth.


Dropbear said...

Havn't got much to say on your blog post, other than to comment on the title of your Blog..

Some boys do in fact like, funny girls ;)

Barnesm said...

I so hope you keep writing so I can read your stories Jen, they are one of the reasons the internet rocks.

well your stories and porn.

jennicki said...

GC: I know, it's so hard to tread that line and not fall off!

Doc: If only I knew how to put love-hearts on my 'i's via the keyboard, if only...

Medway: Well one of us has to have girlish handwriting. Guess who gets to write the thank you cards in our relationship.

Abe: Thank you. :D

Dropbear: Thank you, and welcome!

Barnesm: I'll keep writing. I wouldn't know how to stop if I wanted to do it. And thank you. :D

Virginia Little said...

As one of your first writing teachers, I can say I've always liked the raw feeling of your writing, Jenny, the core of it, the realness, and your way of crafting words.

I am so glad you keep writing and that your audience is growing. That should tell you that you write well...

I haven't been bloggin as some Chinese person has hacked in to mine and created a bit of havoc on my computer...

Now if I can just convince you to move to Australia...


Mayhem said...

"I love writing for an audience, and I appreciate anyone who takes the time to read my writing. On the flip side, as I find out more and more people are reading my blog, I find myself feeling more and more restricted in what I can say. I don’t want to offend people. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I find myself writing something up and thinking “well what if so-and-so reads this? Will they be upset that I’m sharing this story?”

That's EXACTLY why I started my second site. I got nervous about people being bored or upset if I blogged about the cancer whe they really wanted to read all my drama queen stuff about the fanily and the man lol!

Flinthart said...

Your 'write more Feminine' teacher needed a personal introduction to a cranky wolverine. I hope to hell that teacher isn't still on the job, blighting the lives of other young writers!

Melissa said...

I think when your writing generates a storm of comments, both positive and negative, you have truly touched people with your writing. It is scary to open yourself up to the negative, but all good writers have critics.

the bantam menace said...

too many people are not brutally honest in their writing or even in their recounting of their experiences. I think we neuter our humanity when we ignore or smooth over those things that have shaped (or scarred) us. the act of writing is powerful, not only for you to release the words and stories in you, but for those of us who read them.

The Wife said...

I too love the openness of your writing. Facades are dull and unconvincing. But there is definitely an art to putting yourself in someone else shoes when trying not to hurt others.

Paul Nicholas Boylan said...

Running with the bulls is overrated. Believe me, I know what I'm talking about.

Barnesm said...

i like the new layout

Anonymous said...

So much of my writing never sees the light of day.

When I write, it's either tongue-in-cheek satire, or from the heart. The stuff written from the heart invariably ends with the 'delete' button. Not out of consideration for others, but because the wounds from my younger years just will not heal. It hurts me to read it. If I can't read it, how can I share it?

You are so brave, Jen.