The act of writing inhabits some of my oldest memories. At four or five years old, I would haul an old manual typewriter out of the back of the closet in the spare bedroom. It was heavy in its battered grey case, and I held the handle with both hands and walked backwards, using my weight to drag it across the floor. I’d plant the case in the middle of the living room rug, open the lid and sit cross-legged in front of it. I would insert a mostly-unrumpled piece of paper, lining it up so that “George R. Morrow, Jr.” was settled a finger’s width above the type guide. “Once upon a time…” my little fingers pecked out the letters one by one “…there was a little girl…” And that’s where you could find me on most Saturday mornings: writing about the things that populate a preschooler’s dreams – princesses and dragons and dogs that could talk. Escaping into stories and worlds that were only as limited as my imagination.
As I grew up, writing lost its freedom. It became something that was judged and measured. It became something that could fall short. Writing had to have a purpose, a higher ambition. It lost its joy, it felt dangerous. Over the last decade I’ve flirted with writing. I wrote when something was so pressing on me that I had no recourse but to express it creatively. I only wrote when I couldn’t not write. I only told the stories that walked up to me, introduced themselves, and refused to leave until I told them. I didn’t share anything I’d produced until I pas pretty sure it was as perfect as I could make it. It’s been a very safe way to write.
But over the course of the last month, as I’ve explored Chicago, I’ve realized that maybe I’ve been missing out. Maybe the best writing is borne of the exhilaration that comes from chasing a story down and wrestling it to the ground. Maybe the most exciting thing about writing is uncovering a story, layer by layer, until it surprises you with what it is. Maybe creativity is wild and free and a little bit dangerous. So, this year I’m seeking out stories instead of waiting for them to come to me. This year I’m keeping my headphones off and my eyes open. This year I’m writing longer pieces than poems and blog posts. This year I’m throwing off perfection and sharing things before I’m convinced they’re ready. This year I’m embracing my identity as a writer. And that is terrifying.