I have been telling myself some delusional story that I am not a writer, that I could not possibly identify as one, forever. I tricked myself into believing it was true despite the fact that as early as elementary school, I experienced most moments of my life with a narrator in the background. I crafted whatever I was experiencing into sentences and into short, fragmented stories. I wrote a short story in elementary school that was bound in a hardback book, took creative writing in high school, excelled in grammar, became a phenomenal speller despite having failed most of every spelling test I ever took in elementary school. I even considered majoring or minoring in creative writing at my college, which was KNOWN for its creative writing program and which produced the author of that one book that they turned into a movie about escaping an island with Leonardo Dicaprio in it. But I didn’t think I was a writer. I thought somebody else was more qualified to claim that title. And my sacrificing of identity didn’t stop there: somebody else was more qualified to study costume design, somebody else was more qualified to step up and perform a dance in front of the Emmy-winning Mia Michaels, that somebody else, that somebody else, that somebody else.
I got so mad the other day thinking about how I have put myself in a box to prevent me from taking up space that I thought other people deserved more. I was cleaning at the time and this narrator sentence formed in my head, only it didn’t go away, it kept knocking, knocking, knocking, bumping into my skull, begging me to listen and give it space. The sentence morphed into the first few lines of a poem and I grabbed a pen just in time to catch it as it all came pouring out.
Writing this poem was a bizarre burst of creativity that came out of nowhere and ended as abruptly as it started. I feel like I vomited that poem out. Like one giant heave that cleared my head, splattered all over the page in front of me, and left me exhausted but feeling a little better.
The crazy thing about writing this poem is that I probably wouldn’t have realized what had happened had it not been for Big Magic. Big Magic is a book by Elizabeth Gilbert about living creatively and without fear. I finished it a couple weeks ago. In it, she describes a fellow writer’s experience with poetry:
“As [Ruth Stone] was growing up in rural Virginia, she would be out, working in the fields and she would feel and hear a poem coming at her from over the landscape. It was like a thunderous train of air and it would come barrelling down at her over the landscape. And when she felt it coming . . . 'cause it would shake the earth under her feet, she knew she had only one thing to do at that point. That was to, in her words, "run like hell" to the house as she would be chased by this poem.The whole deal was that she had to get to a piece of paper fast enough so that when it thundered through her, she could collect it and grab it on the page. Other times she wouldn't be fast enough, so she would be running and running, and she wouldn't get to the house, and the poem would barrel through her and she would miss it, and it would "continue on across the landscape looking for another poet."’
I felt that same experience for the first time in my life the day “I Am” hurled out of me. It was euphoric. My hand moved quicker and quicker to keep up with the thought and by the end of the poem, my words were big and lose and sprawled over twice as much space as they should have. By the end of it, I had taken up twice as much space as I should have. I realized that when I took up space with my creativity, I wasn’t taking space away from anybody else. The space for creativity is endless.
The experience was almost like an exorcism--only an exceptionally pleasant one where my inner voice made itself heard and acknowledged in concrete form. It said, “I am a writer because I write. I am a writer because I say I am. I am in charge of my identity.” To that voice, I say, “Rock on, you bad bitch.”