Well, readers, I’m back — at least for now. It’s been a bumpy couple of weeks, but I’m looking forward to getting back on track and focusing my efforts on various writing projects, including dear Frankasaurus, here. It follows, then, that in this post, writing is what I want to… write about.
You know how you hear parents say things like, “I always knew she would grow up to love singing because we couldn’t get her to stop doing it when she was little,” or “We knew he’d grow up to be an athlete because he excelled at so many sports before he even got to middle school” and such? It’s easy to look at little kids and see the things they’re doing and say that they’ll have successful futures doing X work. All because they demonstrate that one characteristic or hobby that tips people off early on.
What isn’t apparent to the naked eye is what’s going on in the mind. I suppose there’s significant evidence that suggests that those thoughts manifest themselves somehow, that there’s some kind of creative outlet. People couldn’t see into my brain, so even though I was always writing, no one could see where it all was coming from or how it got started.
I narrate everything in my head.
(Please tell me that I’m not the only person who does this.)
My last couple of posts have been all about pouring my heart out, and this time I’m giving you a secret. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been narrating my whole life in my head. This is probably a pretty significant contributing factor in why I would sometimes do anything to get my mind to shut up. I’m always thinking. I have no off-switch.
Now, when I say I narrate everything, I don’t mean in third person because, well… that would be weird. Interesting, but weird. Although when I was in early elementary school, I can recall doing that from time to time.
If I had to guess, I’d say that my love of books is what drove this internal characteristic into being. I read constantly, voraciously, as a child. The only thing I ever got in trouble for at school was rushing through my work so that I could take my book out of my desk and get lost in it. Except then I’d stop paying attention. When I got to Jr. High, it got really bad. I’d sit in the back of my Life Sciences class and read during lectures. Then my teacher started coming back and taking my books away from me.
What a jerk.
Do you ever find yourself so absorbed in a book that you start to think and act like the characters? If you read a lot of fiction, you probably know what I’m talking about, although I suppose the same could be said of certain nonfiction volumes. I feel as though what probably happened was that I didn’t just temporarily go into character. I became a walking book.
I’m a first person limited narrator, obviously. Wouldn’t it be sweet to be omniscient? Eh, actually, probably not. There are a lot of things that I’m glad I don’t know. I don’t want to know, either. I think and suspect enough without having things confirmed for me. When those things are confirmed, it just gets really bad.
And so it seems that after a few years of this constant narration and thinking of my whole entire life in terms of a story (which, by the way, would certainly speak to how I developed a flair for dramatic flare-ups), I decided I would start emulating the people who wrote the books that I loved.
I know I was writing well before this, but I can distinctly remember getting my first journal in the summer of 1991. I was 8 years old and my Gram used to come over and take my sister and me to do stuff sometimes. On one of our many trips to the Dollar Store (a place my Gram loved), I found a blank journal.
A blank notebook of any kind is one of the most exciting things I can think of. I’m serious. There are so many possibilities. You can fill it with just about anything — stories, notes, knowledge, pictures, for example — and then you have it to look back on and refer to whenever you need it.
I had to have that journal.
I took it home and sat it by my bed. The next morning I woke up really early, telling myself that I was going to start my journal that day. It was an exciting time. Everyone else in my house was still asleep and the sun was just beginning to show through the window of my bedroom. I slipped out of bed and crept over to my desk to retrieve a pencil, then returned to my bed to write.
Like so many writers big and small, I had some trouble getting started. This wasn’t just a scrap of paper. This was an actual book with a picture on the front of its hard cover. This was serious business. The pressure was immense. I put the pencil to the paper and…
Started writing in third person, explaining with too many adjectives the sunrise I was witnessing outside my window and how I’d just woken up to it. It was weird to keep referring to myself as “she,” though, so I stopped after about two or three sentences and put wavy lines through all of my words.
Right below it, I started again, but this time in first person. I found that the words flowed a lot easier that way. In fact, I still prefer writing in first person to third any day (I have two NaNo novels in progress — one first and one third. The first person one, in my mind, anyway, is the better of the two).
Journaling gave me a way to write about my life as though it were a story, which somehow made me feel like it was all more exciting than it actually was. Part way through that book, though, I stopped. Now that I think about it, that was probably my first case of “mid-story blues.” What made me stop most of all, though, was that there was no lock on that book. Anyone could read it — even my little sister who could absolutely NOT be trusted with any of my secrets, least of all any mention of any boy. If she read a boy’s name, she would automatically tell my parents. They would all think I had a crush on this boy, and they would all tease me until I wanted to bury my head in my green turtle sandbox.
I must have been a really weird and [slightly] depressing kid. Anxiety is a killer.
So I asked for a diary. One with a lock. On Christmas morning that year, I opened one up, so excited and eager to begin writing. There was only one problem: the key was missing. It was useless! In a temper tantrum characteristic of my dad’s side of the family, I got mad and tossed the diary aside, complaining about what a jerk Santa was for bringing me something worthless.
White kid problems, I know. I’m thankfully not that ungrateful anymore.
In any case, a couple days later, my mom took me to JCPenney’s, her place of employment at the time, with the receipt that Santa had just happened to leave her (I remember thinking that he left adults some really crappy presents). We exchanged it for a diary with a key.
And, oh the secrets that I wrote! I’ve re-read this diary so many times as I’ve grown up. I always find it funny because I was taking it so seriously.
“I’m not allowed to tell anyone, but my mom is going to have a baby! I told my best friend Michelle.” [Note: that former fetus known as my brother graduated from high school on Monday.]
“Jason P. is soooo cute!”
“When Stephanie and Kim and I are at recess we watch the boys playing sports. It’s like a shopping mall full of cute boys.”
“Today Drew and me talked about what is the best Nintendo game.”
“I heard a new song today. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana. I like it.”
That last one kills me. I was so onto the grunge scene when I was in 3rd grade. Hello, trend-spotter! Also, the further away that gets, the older I feel because I can remember when that was BRAND new. I remember it most because I wrote about it in my diary. Kurt Cobain has been dead for SEVENTEEN YEARS.
A few years later, I returned to the journal format. I didn’t like how I was limited in space per day in the diary, as it turns out (who, me? write a lot?). Last year I shared that journal (which I also took seriously) with a few friends and a very trusted former student. They all got quite the kick out of it. Especially when I got to 7th grade and signed my entry by saying, “Oh my Josh, I’m not Joshin’, I’m a total Joshaholic!”
7th grade was a weird time. I hadn’t yet fully realized that I wasn’t like everyone else, but I just kept trying to be. Everything was PROFOUNDLY dramatic. Such is the nature of teenage girls. And girls in general. If you know a female who isn’t really dramatic at least sometimes, you probably don’t really know her at all. Or she’s a robot. But I digress.
I kept journals throughout most of high school and college. Sometimes I think about setting fire to them because I don’t want to remember some of the stuff I wrote. Other times I know that it’s important because that’s who I was. Who I was became who I am. There’s always something to learn from history.
Going the digital route made it a lot easier, too, but it changed the content dramatically. I got a live journal right after I graduated from high school. I stopped updating shortly after arriving at college, and picked it up again in my sophomore year. For six or seven years, then, I wrote in that thing almost every day. Sometimes multiple times. I like that I can relive college memories, but the problem was that it made it way too easy to whine about everything (a problem I still have with social media, but I’m sure you’ve noticed that) and too difficult to write about the things that were really important to me because anyone could read them. My last update was on my 25th birthday. Then I took to blogging as I know it now, but even that is always changing and evolving.
Still, even though I blog regularly, these posts aren’t quite so much about what’s going on in my life as they are about parts of a whole. These are essays, analytical and introspective pronouncements, not journal entries. Part of me really misses that daily recap, and I’ve recently toyed with the idea of starting yet another blog or a Tumblr (because I’m so hipster), or something where I can just keep a brief account of interesting things that happen in my life, thoughts that I have, and other things. Things that I won’t necessarily share with everyone (thank goodness privacy settings have come a long way). I can control who has access to such things now, not that I have a lot of secrets to keep. I do have a lot of thoughts that shouldn’t escape my head, though. That’s been happening to me way too often lately, and it’s not good when it does. I need a safe place to vent those things that exists out in cyberspace, but locked up. Then again, is anything ever locked up? Do I really want to trust my story out there somewhere? (There goes that excessive chain-of-questioning that I mentioned in the last post.)
So I’m really interested to know if anyone else’s inner monologue is nothing but narration. If it is, first of all, thank you for making me feel less like a freak, and also, do you think that contributed at all to your feelings about writing? If not, what inspired you to write in whatever ways you do? Let’s get some conversation going in the comments section, shall we?