I ask myself that exact same question all the time. Why this form of self-expression? Why not a painter? A sculptor? A photographer? Why would I enjoy something that cost me so much trouble in the earliest years of my life? I think I know why. My family moved to Southern California from Veracruz, Mexico on December 1st, 1990. I was nine days from turning 3 years old. Up until I was 5 years old, all I was ever exposed to was Spanish. I spoke to my mom and dad in Spanish and rarely interacted with anyone who didn’t. So when I started school a couple years later, that was the first time in my life I was completely surrounded by English.
I remember other kids coming up to talk to me and not understanding a single word they were saying. Things usually had to be repeated a number of times before I could decipher what they meant. If that didn't work, they would repeat themselves about three or four times before the hand gestures came into the mix. I would look at them and try and figure out what they were saying by judging their face expressions. I got pretty good at guessing after a while. As time went on, I learned English thanks to my fellow classmates. For little kids, they surprisingly had a ton of patience with me. They really helped me. Watching the Power Rangers also helped a lot! I remember putting a ton of effort into memorizing and learning new words each and every day. I believe those early days as a student of the English language helped shape my love for it.
When I was 6, I wrote my first story. It was about a kid who drank magical Gatorade that made him fly. As soon as I finished my first story, I was hooked. I became obsessed with writing and reading other writers. While yard sale shopping with my mom one Saturday, I found an old blank journal with cats and flowers on the cover. It wasn't the coolest thing, but I asked my mom if I could get it and she was more than happy to buy it for me. I remember the lady who sold it to us charged us a quarter for it. She probably thought it was a little weird how a little Mexican boy could be so excited about a notebook with cats and flowers on the cover. When I bought it, I had no idea that I would still cherish it 20 years later. I carried that thing around EVERYWHERE. I loved creating characters, scenarios, and plots for fun! I wrote and wrote and wrote. Before I knew it, I had filled up my journal. Not too long after, my mom bought me a composition book and kept feeding my addiction for writing. I connected with writing like nothing before. The rest is history.
I love music, art, photography, and other forms of self-expression. But for some reason, I can best express my feelings and emotions through writing. Writing has, unfortunately, been associated negatively in most people’s minds because of past experiences. Growing up, writing was used as a form of punishment by teachers and educators. When you didn’t turn in your homework, you had to copy a sentence a given amount of times. Or if you did something wrong, you would be asked to write an essay or an apology letter of some sorts. Most people relate writing to something bad. Let me be the first to tell you, it is not. There is something about writing something down that liberates it from your mind and puts you at peace. It almost seems like your thoughts are carried through your arm down to your hand and onto the paper. The feelings and emotions stay on the page. Nobody has to read your writing, it is only for YOU. Try it out for yourself. Write something down on a paper that is making you unhappy. Describe everything about it that makes you unhappy. Write down everything that comes to mind when thinking about this specific thing or time. Once you finish, burn that piece of paper. You will feel a lot better, I promise. Writing has that kind of power.
“But I suck at writing,” you say? It is okay, we all do. Nobody is perfect. That is part of the fun! One of my favorite quotes about writing comes from the great Ernest Hemingway. He said,
“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
This is coming from one of the greatest to ever write! Just remember, writing is an art form just like music or painting. There is no “best” way to do it. Just do it! (Unintentional Nike plug). Whenever you get a chance, write something down. Whether it is a sentence or an entire page, it is YOUR writing. You do not have to show anybody. It is for you and just you. In a couple of years, it will be really fun to go back and read what you wrote. I still have my flowery cat journal and read it to this day. It is incredible to have a recorded history of myself written by myself.
So, I ask myself again, "why writing?"
Because it made me who I am.