Ink Stains and Paper Cuts

 

Writing is an extremely personal experience. It can be raw and naked and embellished with scars of history and lives’ past that bleed and crack against the bars of lined paper. When I began my experimentation into this practice it was in the pages of forgotten notebooks; pages strewn with formulas and highlighted notes torn free to leave 20 of the 200 paged leaflet to home my hesitant scrawl. There were letters penned to friends and family that would never be read, sentences of words laced together that sounded delicious on my tongue and stories. Many stories. Stories that jumped and back-peddled in formats more closely akin to poorly edited essays with jumbled descriptions and themes than anything remotely passable as a tale. I’d shock myself with a paragraph constructed with what I thought was beauty and depth and not have the confidence to continue, so there were constant beginnings but never ends. Words I liked to write and loved to say blotting page after page in a loop I couldn’t divert from. A circle I wasn’t planning to end or escape because this was all so new and freeing and so, so mine.

I’d been untrusting of words for so long up until that day I flipped one of these old notebooks to a blank page and set my pen against the paper. I remember wanting to write something… wanting to write anything. For no reason other than to spill a bit of myself out onto the page.

All through grade school I’d struggled with words that wouldn’t stay still. I’d open a book and furrow my brow at the sentences that wouldn’t make sense and press the tips of my fingers to the pages of my book to try to pin the words down so I could follow along while the teacher and my classmates read aloud. It was a quiet discomfort and a relentless confusion for my teachers and parents to know I was bright but wasn’t learning the way my friends were. I struggled but thought what I saw, these dancing sentences, were how everyone else perceived the stories hidden bound in books, so I quietly snuck my fingers onto the pages while teachers weren’t looking, underlining sentences and words, rebelling to catch up to those around me. When I had to read out loud, I’d stumble over the words that I wasn’t allowed to pin down with my fingers and feel tears prick the back of my eyes in frustration and embarrassment. I hated books. I hated reading and writing. I hated spelling and numbers and math. Nothing would stay still and what I saw before me wouldn’t be what would come out of my mouth. I regurgitated the wrong answers despite what I’d written down correctly and I figured out that my only way around it was to memorize and repeat the sequence of words and letters and numbers in my head over and over again.

Repetition was a word I didn’t have in my vocabulary at the time, but it’s an act I partook in daily – *hourly. No one told me I was dyslexic. No one knew. I was labeled with a ‘learning disability’ but the severity wasn’t great enough to offer me special attention, and I’m secretly relieved that that had been the case. It gave me no choice but to adapt. My disability was never a disability to me, it was just what I knew and what I assumed was the norm. I’m lucky it was a mild case, one that I could still maneuver through with the offered patience of a good teacher and a determination no less persistent in its nature than it was secretive.

I wouldn’t learn the name for my mind’s tendency to re-organize sentences and words and numbers until late in high school when a friend confided to me about his own, diagnosed struggle. I went home that day and researched. I looked up the word dyslexia, pouring over the accounts from people like me, made an appointment to speak to my doctor, and a week later finally felt this thing happen. Almost a shift but mostly an exhale that resonated through my entire body. It just made sense all of a sudden. By then though, it didn’t really matter…

I’d adapted – I’d taken a course in creative writing, read Shakespeare and hundreds of volumes in my own time. Discovered that I couldn’t only read but do so quickly because I’d adapted to reading the words that danced by understanding content and structure. I’d started writing on loose pages of lined paper and keeping a journal. I’d leave high-school on the honors role and be accepted to every university I applied to. I’d faced paper cuts and ink stains and made a nest for myself in something I had once loathed. 

And then I’d be here. Writing from personal experience and stripping beneath a slew or words. Carving out, pressing forward and peeling back to all the rawness that is this practice – that is my practice.

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