by Shannon Crose
I recently read a book on Hinduism, and decided I should consider converting. This should not be too hard, because about a year ago I thought I should be a Buddhist, and the two philosophies (though Hinduism is more of a religion and philosophy mix) have influenced each other throughout the years. Of course, before this, I thought Wicca sounded appealing, but quickly changed my mind when I started meeting the people active in the Wiccan community around me. Before this, I considered being agnostic, and shortly before that I was a doubting atheist. Starting to notice a pattern?
It seems every time I pick up a book, or see a documentary, or just talk to someone with a slightly different view of the world, I get swept up in their visions, and consider trying on their view of the world for a while. I am, if nothing else, a searcher. A searcher of wisdom, of facts, of yet more questions to ask. And why do I search? Because I am a writer.
The two may not seem connected, at least at first, but they truly are. What else is writing but a search? A search not only of ones self, but of the world we live in, the circumstances, the nuance of life. Even if you are not writing something that relates to the "real world" like fantasy or sci-fi, that doesn't change the fact that the fantastic story is filtered through our culture, viewed through the eyes of our people. As such, it becomes a story of us, not just the amazing what if's of speculative fiction, but a mirror to the world we live in, and the way we see it.
Of course, this is something I realize now. When I was younger, I had no idea this was a normal thing to feel, this anchorless searching, and I fought against it. Parts of me still fight against it.
When I became old enough to assert my own tastes, I decided I would go goth. Keep in mind, goth in my day was a bit different than it is now, and I lived in a small town where all you needed to be gothic was to wear black all the time and invest in a good pair of combat boots. Besides, my mother would have strung me up by my newly acquired piercings had I chosen to get them.
So I wore more black in my high school career then could be found on the set of the Matrix--all three movies. I practiced my disaffected scowl, and that fake superiority that all really good followers of the "fringe" have. But underneath my tough girl exterior, I was still searching. I secretly read inspiring books that spoke of humanity's ability to grow, I cried in secret at sappy movies, even while faking indifference. Apathy was my tool, boredom my crutch, and dissatisfaction my mantra. And I was darn good at it. Would it surprise anyone to know that I never wrote anything at this stage in my life? Well, I did write, but only really, really bad poetry. The kind of stuff that would have made Sylvia Plath look optimistic (this joke is much funnier if you know who Sylvia Plath is, look her up. A bit of dark humor to brighten your day).
I did this for several reasons; one, I thought being a disaffected youth was cool, and two, I thought that's what I needed to do to be a writer. I was wrong on both counts. To be a writer, all I had to do was give in to my urge to find the truth, the ultimate cosmic truth, and show it in my writing, share it with others.
Eventually I gave up the act, and started being my own person. Hanging out with people who thought it was not only okay to be happy, but much more acceptable than brooding about the injustices of the world while doing nothing to stop them. I found I liked being able to be happy without feeling uncool, while still being allowed to wallow in a little bit of self-pity. Self-pity can be a good thing sometimes, as long as you come out the other end knowing your life is pretty good.
Now, I know you're asking; "What's the point of all this?" All right, all right, partially I'm just egocentric and like to talking about...well, me, of course. But I truly do have a point.
All people search for who they truly are, and none more so than writers.
Once I accepted this about myself, and stopped forcing myself to conform (even if that conforming was being a nonconformist, sounds weird but look around you. Even the nonconformist is conforming to something), I could whole-heartedly embrace the search. And finally, I was on my path to acceptance.
You may think of this as a cautionary tale. Me trying to tell you not to force yourself into anything, to search with an open heart and turn nothing aside. In a way, that's exactly what I'm saying, but I'm also contradicting myself. Don't listen to others (not even someone as wise as me). If you feel like you want to try on a personality, try it on. If you want to go preppy, or punk, or goofy, or any other adjective you can think of, then by all means do it. You're being true to yourself at the moment, and that's all anyone can hope for. Besides, how can a writer really know what it is to be a knight, a surgeon, a librarian, or a bad guy, if they aren't well-versed in how to slip on someone else's shoes, and look through someone else's eyes?
When on the hunt for who you are, remember that everything you learn, everything you try, will enrich your writing, and your life. Embrace that, and remember everyone is a work in progress, and documenting that work is the job of the writer. Now, get out there and search, and bring your notebook with you.
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