The Joy of Creating Things
When I was 9 years old, I wanted to give my family a present. Some kids buy gifts from the stores. But I thought anything not made with my own hands fell short of meaning, like a half-hearted thank you.
I set out to make a music cassette. I was learning the keyboard at the time so I decided to play a few songs. I set up an old tape recorder and held down the button with the red circle. As the tape started rolling, I talked into the recorder. “The first song I play is Swan Lake because grandma likes slow and soothing tunes.” I played the piece on my keyboard, pressed the squared stop button when finished. After a little break, I pressed on the red circle again, “The next song is The Cuckoo Waltz. Dad’s favorite.” Then I played the piece.
I enjoyed this process immensely.
I recorded six songs and recounted why my family would like each of them. This small cassette tape became a family treasure. My dad took the trouble to convert it into a CD. Now, it sits next to the “World Classic Music” album in my childhood home.
Creating things feels natural to me. Your work of art is the best gift you give to others because it has a piece of you in it. This is especially true for words.
I wrote for years without publishing anything. The muse visits often. I jot down ideas here and there. But I never thought I was a writer.
In the past year, I've had a burning urge to write. My ideas and stories wait to be shared like impatient firemen en route to a rescue.
I fell in love with the craft of writing. I read books on how to write, not only for its content but its form. When I read powerful writers, I think to myself, damn, I want to write to move people like that. For me, being inspiring is a meaningful thing to do.
Before, I wrote research papers and memos while I obsessed over who the audience is. When you write for someone else, it feels like work. That shows in your writing.
I used to research a topic in-depth then took a couple of hours to write. As I was drafting, the words I typed are different from the ones I planned to write. I struggled to correct course, like forcing cattle into a cage. I can’t recognize the piece of writing. It wasn’t me.
Now, I write what I want to read and I discover the joy of writing.
I write to explore ideas like a painter pulling out her notebook for a quick sketch. My thoughts take shape on paper. When I’m in luck, an idea even takes a life of its own, growing wings and feathers. I type as fast as I can to catch it before it flies away.
When I write a good piece, my heart sings, as Jerry Seinfield says about his writing process,
“Refining and perfecting every single word of it until it has this pleasing flow to my ear. Then it becomes something that I can’t wait to say.”
One of the best ways to write is to practice being vulnerable in public. The words become useful to others when you write to show who you are instead of who you are supposed to be. I write to break the shells I built around myself, both in my language and in my thoughts.
I keep thinking of the little girl who recorded the music tape for her family. Her craft wasn't perfect but she was precious. She was real.
The Weekly Bits and Pieces
Read. Some writings use the simplest word but move you in a profound way. Here are two of my favorites.
I Don’t Love My Second Child the Way I Love My First by Francesca Grossman
Why Do We Teach Girls That It’s Cute to Be Scared? by Caroline Paul
Listen. I discovered the book “When You Finish Saving The World” by Jesse Eisenberg. The story is about three family members trying to understand each other and themselves. It’s an avant-garde audio-first drama that takes the stream of consciousness from paper to audio. Eisenberg’s style of writing in one sentence? Be vulnerable in public.