This is a response to a writers prompt that I found particularly apropos at this moment in time, when I feel I have been suffering from not writing. The prompt is from How to Tame a Wild Tongue by Gloria Anzaldua, who asks you to define your “native tongue,” the voice by which you speak–or, in my case, write.
There are other tongues we use in other situations. Sometimes they don’t get along with each other. This is their story . . .
I find my native tongue when I’m writing most freely. When I feel I have nothing to say, consciously, but the words flow from my fingers faster than I can barely keep up with. This is when I feel like I am but a channel for my writing, as if I am a secretary for a Universe of Creativity that I have the privilege of serving, when I can.
This is also the part of me I miss the most when I have to switch “tongues,” forced by my classes to write essay, or delve into that very PhD-ness of regurgitated research writing that I so despise, where the beautiful pictures in my head dim and go out in a fizzle of inauthenticity. I feel as if creativity is at an all time low at these times, but since I’m forced to do it by instructor decree, I put myself to it—after a spate of severe procrastination, during which I can do no writing at all.
At these times, I feel as if my mind is forcing itself into a place, changing its complete paradigm, to become something else, something foreign. If I try to write in my “native tongue” during this time, I’m conflicted by the stress of the deadline to write in that strange unwanted place instead. Words of my own choosing will not come, my mind is still reeling attempting to spin up enthusiasm to do this horrible bidding. Instead of simply getting it over with, the horror of writing from this unknown place makes me find ways to hide from it, to do anything but that. Only sheer panic and a deadline less than a day hence will force me to get through that gauntlet and get the work done, only to spend days recovering my voice, my tongue again, though it feels diminished from the stress of it.
My native tongue is light, silly, hopefully funny to others—if I can manage it. Often I need to find others’ voices, funny light voices to read in print to remind me of my own, to give me permission to write in my own voice again, a voice I’ve hidden away safely in a dungeon until the natural cataclysm of the essay or research paper has passed.
Seeing it this way I think it must be a sensitive thing, something I must protect at all cost. I would have thought this would bring on castle-thick stone walls of writers block that I would have to scale to … but I’ve never allowed myself to believe in writers’ block. It’s more a writers’ avoidance, avoidance of the chair in which I sit to write. I know once I sit there my fingers will find something to do. But will it be worthy?
That worthiness to write, to channel the creativity I most yearn for … THAT is the thing that will keep me from sitting down. From starting.
I am in that place now. I will make a pilgrimage to the library, I will find a book by Jenny Lawson or David Sedaris and let them lead me back to my native tongue, that silly place where my creativity resides. I will lock my essayists brain in the dungeon instead, where it belongs.
The creative universe calls to me.