Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Desire to Write: From Drawing to Writing

    My choice to be an English major, and with that, a writer, wasn't an obvious one. When I was growing up, I wasn't always caught with a book in my hand. I drew all the time. I loved buying packs of printer paper and going through the sheets as I came up with picture after picture. I remember loving those giant artists sets with all the different color pencils and water colors and markers. When I was older, I would buy a new sketchbook from Walmart and work through it and decorate the outside. Drawing was a true passion of mine. Up until about tenth grade, I took it pretty seriously. Slowly, though, it transitioned to where I could hardly come up with an original picture but I could copy an image very well, my best achievement being a drawing of Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow from the poster of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Impressed by my picture of Jack Sparrow, I drew a couple of pictures for friends from photographs in ninth grade. In fact, with a few exceptions, that's what I got the most praise for as I was going through school until I got older. People knew I could draw.

    But my passion, not for art, but for creating art of my own was gone by the time I was 17 years old. I specifically remember having an art class in 11th grade and how I had enough skill to impress others and feel pleased with myself, but my heart wasn't in it. I thought my lack of  interest was just a phase, and I had a lot of sentimental ties to the idea of myself as a person who liked to draw. I had this longing to create new pieces, but knew I didn't have the desire anymore, and likely not the talent, to make them possible. As this separation from the old self was happening, seeing others get attention for their art when I had let my talents go was uncomfortable, and even made me sad, but at the same time, part of me knew I didn't care anymore. Looking back, I can see where my interests were transitioning from the visuals arts to the written word, but at the time I really didn't see it. I didn't decide to major in English until I was about in my second year of junior college. I remember still thinking about being an animator or a graphic designer and looking at colleges with good programs in art. I see now it didn't make any sense.

    New passions were thankfully being created as the old ones were dying. Two essays I wrote for my A.P. English class in 12th grade stand out in my memory as some of the first pieces I wrote where I really enjoyed the process of writing. One was on 1984, and the other was on The Glass Menagerie (cheery material). I remember sitting at my desk reworking the essay on The Glass Menagerie and using my mom as a sounding board for my ideas and how I enjoyed the process of organizing and editing and rewriting that paper so that it came out really well. I remember feeling like I wanted to take little risks with my writing, maybe even before those essays, thinking, "hey, if the teacher doesn't like it, I do, and this doesn't fit the little academic mold, but I'm doing this anyway." I think with one or both these papers, my teacher banned us from opening the essay with the author's name and the title of the book. You know the drill: "In George Orwell's 1984, the author..." He made us write a hook instead. We had learned the rules so we could break the rules. Now I was thinking about moving the reader emotionally. I was forced to open differently, but I remember I felt like I took little risks with the endings of those papers as well. With 1984I ended it in a way that was emotional, writing about the glass paper weight breaking and it being a metaphor for Winston and Julia's world breaking apart. With those two essays I felt I had opened and closed them in a way that was coherent and meaningful. And I felt a sense of accomplishment with writing that I wasn't feeling when I drew. I think that's why those two essays stand out to me; that sense of accomplishment. I enjoyed having something to say and saying it well. Some people can get at something meaningful with their paintings and drawings. I got to a point where I couldn't anymore. I was beginning to realize that writing would offer the satisfaction of creating something meaningful.

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