I just finished Stephen King's On Writing. While reading this book, I often found myself thinking about my own writing background. This book, part memoir and part advisor, brought back memories I had completely forgotten and re-inspired my love and respect for both writing and myself.
When I was in elementary school, I loved writing. I wrote stories all the time. Aside from Christmas and Easter, the most exciting yearly event of my childhood was the first day of summer when my mom would let my brother, sister, and me pick out any notebook we wanted from the stand at Wal-Mart.
"By the end of the summer, I don't want to see a single blank page in that notebook." My mom would say after we made our purchases.
I was sure there wouldn't be. My mind was already be brimming with ideas for my next "novel."
Somewhere along the line in my education, that creative exuberance gave way to perfection-driven banality.
As school got more difficult and grading became more competitive, I started to doubt my mom's assurances that I was a "good writer." If Laura earned a higher grade on our English assignment, then she was a better writer. Sensitive child that I was, I quickly realized that the grades I earned were correlated to how others treated me. Teachers liked me when I earned good grades and my mom was so proud when I brought home a 100% on a paper. High grades meant that I was both a "good" and loved writer. My writing had gone from, as Stephen King put it, "closed door," writing done to please yourself, to "open door," writing done to please others. While both have a place in the literary world, the figurative door needs to be closed before it can be opened. In looking back, I realize that my education experience, in a sense, flat out took the hinges off my "door" and made it a walkway. Everything I wrote, I wrote for the grade, for approval from others; not because I wanted to.
The "closed door/open door" concept can be applied to other aspects of my life, not just my writing. I'm pursuing a minor in economics simply because employers want to see something "quantitative" on my resume. I despise economics; it is boring, math-driven, and difficult. Nevertheless, I have pushed through many tear-filled nights and failed exams, just so that a company will hire me one day.
I order salads at restaurants, even when I am in the mood for pasta, so that I can keep a trim figure and look someone's definition of pretty. And I only say the things that are formally accepted, even when the perfect opportunity arises to crack a profane joke.
I look at all that I am doing in my life, from my writing to my conversations, and I have basically constructed a house of walkways. Without even a front door, I wonder why I even have a house at all.
Filled with sincerity and tips of the trade, On Writing inspired me not just to go out a buy a new blank notebook, but to start finding ways to "close doors" and do the things that make me happy. I recommend that everyone read On Writing; that is, only if you want to.