I'm not usually a particularly creative person. It comes in fits and spurts; random bits of music, lyrics on a rare occasion, and prose, even rarer. I've written about my struggles with depression before, but I will say this...some of my most creative moments came during some of those dark days.
Mind you, I'll take being happy and not kicking my own ass for every single failing I have every single minute of the day over having moments of creative inspiration like that, but it can be frustrating on lazy Friday nights during the twilight of Spring like tonight where I'd like to sit down and write...and instead, I end up with a stream-of-conciousness trying to overcome contentedness-induced writer's block.
It's odd that it takes sadness or struggle to generate a creative fire in the souls of many. History is littered with the tragic artists, the rock stars that die at 27, either by strokes of fate or their own self-destructive ways finally catching up with them. There's something about sadness and despair that cries out for release, feelings so strong that they seem to burn within your brain, in down every nerve, directly into one's core or soul.
And from there, they have to be released.
For me, those feelings usually manifest in music. This is probably because I have trouble drawing stick figures, and because I've never been a confident writer. I failed English class in high school. Multiple times. Never could hit the word limit on an essay. I had gotten across the points I wanted to make in a concise fashion. Why bother expounding? There's a reason why I'm an engineer, after all.
But one day, it clicked.
It was in junior college. I had graduated high school with a 2.27 GPA, and only because a history teacher at the high school who I had made friends with, along with my independent study teacher, convinced the superintendent to give me the credits I needed to graduate if I built the teacher a website for his class so that students could view the lecture slides and notes if they were absent, and get the homework assignments. This was 1999 -- getting web pages made wasn't all that cheap then. Deal for them, deal for me.
But I digress.
I was taking English 101 at junior college. I had just gotten back a first draft of an essay I had turned in for review, and I frowned. Not because the essay was crap -- it was, being far shorter than the requirements and lacking any sort of creativity or depth...but that's another matter -- it was that the only markings on the sheet of paper were my professor's neat handwriting, and only once sentence of it at that.
Come see me during office hours.
I figured at this point that she would be recommending to me to go back and take a remedial English course. Such a bastion of positivity, was I.
Turned out not to be the case.
That afternoon, I went into her office, holding the sheet of paper that contained three crappy paragraphs. I sat down, and my professor looked up from her laptop and greeted me. She asked me how I was doing. I gave her a polite answer.
That wasn't what she wanted to hear.
She wanted to know why I didn't write like I spoke in her class. I was always active in the debates in class, being a very strongly opinionated liberal awash in the sea of conservatism that Kern and Northern Los Angeles counties represented.
And I shrugged. I didn't like facing my feelings, my anxieties, what felt like the lack of an ability to connect with people, to know why they did what they did. I found out later in life that much of that was due to having an undiagnosed, high-functioning autism spectrum disorder. But then, I just felt like an alien in world of people I didn't understand.
I finally told her all of this. How my bravado in class was there because I didn't know how else to act. How I couldn't connect with people. How I had trouble communicating to audiences that weren't like me. I didn't want to to read anything but the needed information. Why pretty it up with bullshit?
I was nearly in tears when I finished. My professor sat there for a moment, then spoke, very softly. So softly, that I didn't hear her at first over the hum of the air conditioner and that of the computer fans. I told her this, and she started from the beginning...giving me one of the best pieces of advice I've received in my lifetime.
"People don't just want the facts. They're surrounded by them. Someone is always trying to tell them something, rather than engage them. Your essay is shoving information down my throat, with nothing to wash it down with or ease the passage."
She paused for a moment, wetting her lips, then gave one final bit of advice.
"Tell them a story, young man, and they'll listen."
I don't know why that clicked in my head that day. But I thought about that sentence the entire drive home from school. It was an hour's drive back home, so it gave me plenty of time to think. I sat down at my computer when I got home. And I started writing.
For the first time in my life, I didn't just blow past 3 or 4 paragraphs, I wrote 10 pages.
For the first time since 3rd grade, I got an A on a language arts or English writing assignment.
And it looks like she's helped me once again, because I do believe this case of writer's block just got powered through.
Enjoy the twilight of the Spring, fellow Kossacks. There's a long summer ahead.