Lay bare the writing soul

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My writing journey began at the age of five when nuns in my school tried to force me to stop writing with my left hand. I used to do battle with them over it, and to this day, I still write with a fist and can write upside down — because no matter how hard they would try to grab my pencil and slide away my paper, I was not going to stop writing.

Although photography is my current creative focus, writing will always remain my true love. At the age of eleven, I penned a very long story called The Miami Millionaire. It was a fast-moving murder mystery, a reflection of my love for all things Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes and a charming show on air at the time called Murder She Wrote.

I don’t currently have a way to read The Miami Millionaire (I have the original floppy disk but not the equipment and software to recall it, if the data is even still readable). But three years ago, my uncle found a copy of another “early story”, called Up at the Lighthouse, which I penned when I was twelve years old. He found it in my grandfather’s portable writing desk, amidst treasures such as WWII correspondence with his army friends and important family correspondence. I felt honored.

Up at the Lighthouse was my twelve year old self’s commentary on discrimination against interracial relationships (the term was used so frequently in society at that time because it was still so culturally taboo in the South), packaged as a sweet, innocent love story. As to be expected, my writing skills were unrefined and my opinions slightly controversial for the prevailing cultural mindset. But when I wrote it, I didn’t care about that at all. I just wanted to take the story in my head and put it down on a piece of paper for someone else to read. I can’t remember exactly when I stopped writing stories but it was not long after that, as I entered the years of “constructive critiques” and exhausting censure of both my writing and of me.

I often joke that I peaked in the 7th grade, but upon reflection I really do think many of us peak then. Because somewhere afterwards, I lost both that unrestrained storyteller as well as that unrestrained inner child, and returning to that storyteller and to that child has been a slow evolution not unlike the path taken by humankind. Full of punctuated equilibrium! I see the same paths among my friends.

It can take a lot to write copy or take mainstream real estate, event and corporate stock photos. These things require a certain intellectual and craft skill set not to be dismissed for the hard work, artistry and discipline that go into them. But to tell the stories buried deeply inside of you, to expose your deepest vulnerabilities, takes something else. It takes a confidence and courage many of us lose along the way.

In my current writing and photography and even in my relationships in life, I tend to share clips from the soul but never the whole soul. But that whole soul is out there, and to do my life and its works justice, my whole soul needs to start sharing its whole truth again.

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