A brief look at my writing experience thus far

With writing on my mind I have been thinking about my relationship with the practice over the span of my short thirty-three years.

I have an odd memory (odd as in “why do I remember this so clearly?”) of the first letter I really enjoyed writing (H). I remember writing it on everything. Over and over again.

I am not very clear on writing during my elementary school years, but things become clearer when I reach middle school (7th grade in my case). It was during this time that I started keeping a journal. Just filled with the thoughts of a thirteen year-old kid.

Journaling is a practice that I have kept up with ever since. I journaled all through high school and thankfully continued afterwards, which is when I would need it most. Journaling became a very real form of meditation for me, and remains this way today. The time of journaling is when I am most “centered” and “at peace” with my thoughts and how I am spending my time. I never feel pulled away from journaling, but instead feel a constant pull towards it.

My journal has had many different forms, but are all filled with the same thing: words. From plain lined paper kept in a three-ring-binder, to the classic Composition notebook with their splotchy black and white design, up to a more sophisticated Moleskine, Rhodia, and even hand-made notebooks. I have even used my collection of Field Notes notebooks as journals, filling a notebook in a few days.

More recently, in the shadow of the iPhone and the applications that were born as a result, I have Day One journal entires dating back to 2010. And even more recently, in the shadow of my continual learning and understanding of how technologies/applications/formats will come and go, I have resorted to keeping journal entries in plain text files (this seems to be the closest thing to a piece of paper). Pencils, ball-point, gel, and fountain pens. All tools to record my thoughts. The journaling habit I started back in middle school has persisted through many seasons of life and remains a key part of my routine to this very day.

High school is when I started to dabble in writing stories. Again, a clear memory creates a mark on this particular page of my relationship with writing. I was asleep one night in my bedroom. Then, as if prompted by a spirit, I opened my eyes and realized I had to write the thoughts that had just run through my mind. I got out of bed, walked over to the desk I had against the wall, and turned on the desk lamp. I found a few scraps of loose paper and began to write. I even put headphones on and listened to a wonderful album that I still enjoy to this day: Freedom by Michael W. Smith. That album was the soundtrack to the story I wrote that night. I titled the story “Freedom Shot”.

It was a short story, turned out to be five or so typed pages (double spaced, etc etc, as per my English teacher’s requirements). So maybe 1,000 words. But I remember how much fun I had during that moment of inspiration. There are a few other instances during high school where I would bolt out of bed after sleeping for a few hours and furiously jot down the idea running through my mind. I wrote another short story, I forget the name, but it was based on a newspaper article I found one Sunday morning when I was looking for the comic section (a ritual I would like to get back to). It was about a conman doing his conman thing. Something about the article sparked an idea and I wrote about that idea. Another short story, and another moment of enjoying the creative writing process.

My confidence was building and I tried to write a story about Christmas. I forget the specifics, but my teacher simply wrote, in red ink, of course, “This is not a story. There is no plot.” I disagreed with her then, but understand now. What I wrote would have made a great scene in a larger body of work, but it could not stand on its own and be called a story. This was deflating for me at the time.

But I continued to write stories as they would come to me, and I continued to show them to my English teacher, and she continued to encourage me in my writing.

Then I graduated and floundered for a bit, or for a while depending on the day. A semester at a local Bible college was enough for me to realize that college was not for me (especially for what I was studying there…I know what I would like to study now, but now is not the time for that). In my brief time on campus I did have an Engligh class that I thoroughly enjoyed, and again, found encouragement and constructive criticism from my teacher. But, one class was not enough for me to stay, so I left and pursued another dream I have always had which was flying, becoming a pilot. That experience is another story for another time.

(One cool thing that did come out of college was blogging. The year was 2005 and I started my first blog. I’m sure it is gone by now, but it was on Xanga (which is running on WordPress now?)).

After leaving college I went back to the job I had in high school (selling baseball cards on eBay), started to learn how to fly airplanes, found a higher paying job (flying is expensive), got involved with the recording studio a friend of mine was starting, was introduced to WordPress, moved out of my parents house, got married, left the higher paying job, and kept writing.

This is now early 2008. I am publishing to my WordPress blog on a fairly regular basis. Publishing devotionals of sorts, or reflections that I had after reading a specific portion of scripture. I was enjoying it, I had a few readers who would comment regularly, and it was something I easily kept up with as a part of my day to day routine. But, I was unemployed and newly married. And I was looking for a job.

Someone close to me told me, “You need to stop writing to your blog. If someone finds that they may not hire you.”

And thus, fear of what I wrote creating negative consequences was introduced into my mind and has somehow persisted ever since. I heeded their advice. Stopped writing, stopped publishing, and made the site private.

I have never fully recovered from that experience, as minor as it may appear on the surface. The artist in me was stifled, over ruled by the part of me that needed to do certain things, look a certain way, and not rock the boat. He, the artist, has tried to come back up to the surface since then, but has never been successful in breaking through the decade of normal that has trapped him.

I digress :-)

How dramatic! But true.

And so, the writing I have done since 2008 has fallen into the categories of work emails, professional documentation, school assignments (I did go back to college, online courses, but again for the wrong thing and never graduated), and SEO writing (I dabbled in niche/authority websites for a time). I did complete NaNoWriMo in 2008 (after I got the job everyone was hoping I would get), but since then have not written anything for the simple sake of creativity. It has all been about money. Quite literally. Money.

I have written and published online at all of the places you would expect (WordPress, Medium, Ghost, SquareSpace, etc), but none of that has stuck around. Just the artist trying to break through but not really knowing how. Floundering.

That’s my story so far with writing.

Currently, 11 years after my last creative writing project, I am doing my best to get out of my own way and to not let the thoughts or opinions of others (especially those closest to me) keep me from writing what I want to write, even if I don’t know exactly what that is yet :-)

Aaron Aiken @aa