I had a conversation the other day that made me realize why I will always write.
It was in a meeting with my boss, just a little one-on-one sit down, to check in and see how things are going. We do them once a month, so it's no big deal. This time was different, though, because I had downed a ton of coffee right before this little meeting and some of my filters had been short-circuited.
I usually have a lot of filters running that audit the words I am going to speak before they can come out of my mouth. So many filters, in fact, that I think I'm usually a pretty quiet guy. If you ever meet me, don't be surprised if you end up doing all of the talking - I love to listen to people talk, as long as they don't expect a whole lot of input. I'm a listener. Not the best, I'm sure (my mind is a restless wanderer) but it's usually the role I take up in conversation.
This time, I had been using a new espresso machine and made a very strong latte (hazelnut, with whole milk; it was sublime) so my mind was running at too insane a speed to give all my normal filters a chance to operate. Somehow this meeting, where we would normally talk about work stuff, which is always the same, or music or movies or some other inane thing just because my day job falls well within the bounds of a monotonous grind and there's rarely much that's new to talk about, turned into a real share-fest.
We talked about my childhood, my personality, the issues I have with authority and figures of it, the fact that I staunchly refuse to have conversations over great distances that require a lot of yelling... I was all over the place. She asked some question about how the team felt about some new thing she was trying, some leadership tactic, and I took that ball and ran all the way home with it.
It was embarrassing. I don't like to share about myself, and I know I way over-shared. Even if I was a sharer, this was too much. The thing that I realized after we wrapped up and I walked back to my desk was that the shit that I talked about is going through my head all the time. Even when I'm just sitting and staring at nothing, looking like the lights are on but nobody's home to everyone around I am sure, I'm mulling over something, some idea, a memory, and idea, omething. It can be exhausting, but it's one of the reasons I love writing - it forces me to slow down and work through those thoughts one by one.
This time, though, I realized another reason I need to write. It lets me use all my filters, and gives me a way to speak without feeling so insanely self-conscious when I open up my head and let the thoughts drip out. It lets me say all the things that might never make it out of my mouth because I have a clumsy tongue and a tendency to slip, in a Freudian sense, or because I hate to be the center of attention, even when in a conversation with just one other person.
When I write, I can get my ideas out there in a way that they can pass through all of the filters. They come out as dialogue, or as a theme for a new story, or are buried in the traits of a character in one of those stories. I can speak my mind, and I can bypass my mouth to do it. I don't second guess every word I write the same way I do when I speak. I don't feel guilty, or shameful, for having written something, which I often do when I try to bleat half-formed thoughts from my gob.
I know everyone always says they need some way to express themselves, and I'm sure every writer has said it. But its such a cliché that it's hard to feel any meaning behind those words.
Well, until now. Ultimately, I just wrote this whole post to say that I need to write in order to express myself. Deep, right? If I said that out loud I would spend the rest of the day feeling like a jackass. Here, not so much.
I love this medium.