I Write So I Don’t Go Crazy

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Sometimes this blog feels like a giant burden. I’m used to writing fiction. I never know what to write about on here. The obvious choice would be to write about writing. But honestly, I don’t really know how to do that.

I don’t know a lot about English grammar. I think I know how to use it well enough, but I couldn’t describe it to you. I know what a gerund is. I know what an adverb is. But I don’t know what anything modifying anything means. I don’t know how to describe the parts of a sentence. I couldn’t tell you how to properly construct a sentence.

I went to school until 6th grade. Then I was homeschooled. Most of my homeschooling involved reading. I read great books. I remember reading Albert Camus, C. S. Lewis, and Edgar Allan Poe when I was thirteen. I didn’t understand all of it, but I understood enough.

My mom tried to teach me proper grammar. It didn’t make much sense to me, so I resisted learning. I focused on reading and writing. Sometimes I think I need to make the effort to study grammar so I understand it better, but I haven’t done it yet. If I run across something I don’t know how to use properly, I look it up. It seems to work well enough, but I’m not the best judge of my own writing. Maybe it’s all nonsense and only makes sense to me.

Sometimes I’m overtaken by this sense of gloom, this powerful feeling that everything I write sucks. That I’m a bad writer, I have nothing interesting to say, I can’t express my thoughts properly, and my style is far too simple to be effective. I try to do something different. Be more flowery, come up with something more original, be more honest when I write. It works for a while, but it isn’t natural, so it doesn’t last long. I eventually go back to what I’m used to.

I don’t know if that’s a bad thing. If I’ve learned anything as a violinist, it’s that every person has to find his strengths and work to bring them out. Don’t hide them, but try to make them shine. I know my strengths as a violinist. I’ve had eighteen years of violin teachers and listeners to help me figure that out. But even though I’ve been writing for a long time, I’ve only let people read my writing in the last year or so. All of this is new. I don’t know my strengths as a writer at all. I think I know some of my weaknesses, but I certainly haven’t found all of them yet.

I need more time, more input, and more experience before I can figure all of that out. I need to let more people read, but it’s scary. I don’t know who to ask. I emailed my mom the first chapter of my story a few days ago. Making myself push the send button was hard. Even though I know she’ll be a good critic, it feels horrible every time I throw the story out to a new person. A story feels like such a personal thing. Not something I want to share with just anyone.

Whether it turns out well or not, writing makes me feel better whenever I’m having problems with work. I know that, even though I have to just keeping plugging away with the same damn job every day, whether I want to or not, for the rest of my life…. writing helps. I can write all morning, go to work for a few hours, then write more to forget about it. I can think about writing while I’m at work, and it makes the time there better. Too bad I will probably never make money from writing.

It’s not like I hate my job. I like it normally. I love playing violin in orchestras. I rarely get tired of that. It’s teaching that bothers me. Again, I like it. But sometimes it’s too much. I have 17 students, so I have to keep track of 17 schedules other than my own, work one-on-one with 17 different people each week, keep track of 17 payments every month, take 17 different checks to the bank, reschedule people every time I have an orchestra rehearsal, call every single person every time they don’t show up for a lesson… sometimes it’s just tiring. I get sick of it. It may not sound like a lot, but it’s stressful to keep track of that much stuff for that many people. Sometimes I just want a job where I show up, work, and get paid. Done. Nothing else.

People often say that those who can’t do, teach. They’re full of crap, and have never taught a day in their lives. It’s harder than you might think. If you don’t do a good job, kids lose interest. If you do a good job, some kids don’t like it because it’s too hard. You have to find a way to do a good job while keeping a kid’s interest, without overwhelming him. It’s hard. People who think teaching is a joke would probably make horrible teachers.

Now I’m ranting. I don’t like not liking my job. I know it’s a good job, and that it’s good for kids to take lessons. But sometimes I just can’t do it. The screeching sounds of the student violins make me want to cover my ears. Can’t really do that during a lesson. I comfort myself by taking a really long time going into the main building to make photocopies. Or by locking myself in the bathroom to blow my nose for five minutes. I know it sounds bad. But if I don’t get away for a few minutes, I shut down in the lessons, which is worse. The kids would rather practice on their own for a few minutes than have to deal with a grumpy teacher for an hour. As a former student, I know that for a fact.

Playing in orchestras doesn’t pay enough to make a living. Teaching is a necessity for a lot of musicians. Since my only skill is playing violin, I have to teach. I am considering getting another job, like at a bookstore or shop, to make more money so I don’t have to take more students. Teaching violin is far from braindead work, and I feel like if I have to work more, I’d prefer something braindead. Shelve books, fold clothes, something that doesn’t require me to be alert and paying attention all the time like teaching does.

But whether I do that or not, I always have writing as a refuge. Something to do to make me less crazy, because I have a very strong tendency to go crazy.

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