Why do I want to write? Is it to make sense of the inspirations, insights, and demons that tumble through my mind each day? Is it a childish attempt to mimic the beauty that I’ve enjoyed as a reader of true writers? I’m not sure, but it’s an urge that has preoccupied me for months, and it has only grown with time.
So today I will start. Even the prospect of taking the first step thrills me. And frightens me. What can I possibly have to say that’s worth reading? And if and when I share my writing, will I have the skin to tolerate criticisms of it? For writing is not an objective thing. Writing fiction most certainly is not, and nonfiction may not be too different. The kind of writing I want to start with is a door into my mind: my memories, my relationships, my perceptions, my beliefs. It exposes my inner life to the outer world. And even when it does not, some will believe that it does, and will misconstrue what I have written. But the fear of this is only the first such window into my thoughts. Revelation #1: Mariam does not like misunderstandings of any sort. On the other hand, Mariam loves clear communication, understanding, and world peace.
Misconstructions are unfortunate; disagreements with, or criticisms of, what I have actually said are altogether different. They challenge me to own who I am. The best piece of advice I ever received was in the third grade. My teacher’s wife, who used to invite us to lunch once a week, gave us this gem one day: just be yourself. Simple. Cliché even. But this advice has remained with me. As I see it, being myself—becoming myself—is growing up. At some point in youth, each of us becomes painfully aware of our weaknesses where others are strong, our inabilities where others are talented. And we spend a good part of our latter childhood (those regrettable years sterilely referred to as adolescence) disguising the ways in which we fall short. We spend no comparable amount of time or effort strengthening our gifts. And we all have them. I firmly believe that. We just forget about them sometimes, that’s all. So what are you? Perceptive? Funny? Analytical? Kind at any cost? Able to talk to anyone? Athletic? Patient? Smart? Own it!
As I have grown older, life has taught me, repeatedly, but often gently, that it brings us contentment when we become more ourselves; when we embrace our gifts and let drift the hopes of becoming someone we are not. We mature also when we face our weaknesses and our shortcomings. Perhaps a temper, or extreme shyness, or an old shame might come to mind. When we begin to work on these things rather than trying to hide them or defend them, it is one way in which we grow. It is one way in which I can grow.
So perhaps this is why I write. Perhaps words are my chosen vehicle for becoming who I was made to be. Or perhaps, after all, being a writer is someone else’s gift, one I need to let pass.