I’m writing an article for Corset magazine, with a word limit of 800. This is very short for me. I like to write long things. And there is so much I want to say in this article that I don’t have room to say. I’m editing it down from 1,054 words right now, trying to fit all these ideas into the space allotted me.
I wonder why it is that I write at such length. In middle school, when the teacher would ask us to write short stories, I would turn in 40-page novellas. When I try to submit stories and essays to publications, I never fit their word limits. There’s something in me that practically vomits words onto a computer screen or page every time I sit down to write. What is that thing? How can I control it?
Actually, I think the article I’m trying to edit right now is telling me a lot about that. It’s complicated. I may not be able to express it here. But I’ll try. And I’ll try to do it briefly:
I repress myself in real life. I think it’s partly my personality and partly that I was raised by a family that believed in the culture that trained me, as a female, not to be too aggressive. Not to have too much to say. To keep my mouth shut unless someone had asked me to open it. Not to be too opinionated, too loud. This wasn’t specifically a female thing–the way I was raised, men and women alike were expected to hold their tongues, to be civilized, to keep their emotions to themselves. But surely, as a woman in our culture, the sentiment is doubly powerful, and I picked up on this through interaction, observation, and consumption of mass media: nobody wants to hear what you have to say if it’s not pleasing to hear. I learned that women stop talking when men start, or they were considered overly aggressive, bitchy, whiny, or self-involved. I learned that self-expression was to be reserved for when someone in a position of power over me asked me to express myself. I was shamed for my powerful expressions of my feelings. I was tongue-clicked for getting angry, shushed for crying, lectured for falling in love and showing it. I was forever causing “We’re not mad, we’re just disappointed” moments. I learned, through all this, to express myself quietly–on paper. I took my feelings out on the pages in front of me. I learned that the only safe place to express myself without reprisal was in my journal or a school notebook. And I went wild with it. I wrote angsty poetry and long, epic stories. I wept into my diary. I lived out my rich internal life mostly in silence. And I still do.
Yesterday was spent at friends’ barbeques and birthday parties, drinking beer and socializing. I’m not very comfortable with chit-chat. I’ve always been bad at small talk. But after a few hours of day drinking and too much grilled meat, I found myself in the strange circumstance of having no small talk to make, yet avoiding real conversations. I found myself back where I started, avoiding expressing my true feelings about any of the topics that came up for discussion. I caught myself internally eye-rolling at the men who pontificated openly to each other, feeling left out and unwanted. I found myself forcing my childhood and social conditioning onto myself instead of just joining in the conversation. I was repressing myself.
And today I find myself writing again.
Man. No wonder I went into writing about porn and sex and gender. If the only place I feel comfortable expressing myself is on a blank page and yet I have so much I want to express, what better way to fan the flames of my passions than in words about sex? I think I’m starting to make sense of myself!