A Gripping Fear of Pencils

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It was never a delicate matter.

I’ve always known who I was supposed to be.

I knew far before anyone else knew. All the other kids wanted to be ballerinas or firefighters or Spiderman and I wanted to be a writer.

I was already who I wanted to be.

I was, at six, poring over historical fiction novels like an artist starved for paint, my eyes never moving quite fast enough to satisfy the desire to leave this world entirely and fall into a world where nothing was illustrated and everything, nonetheless, was flawlessly designated.

I was, at six, forming my own worlds from words I could never remember learning, words that were simply there. Words, keeping me awake at night with a flashlight and a flame. Words, keeping my foot tapping beneath the desk to the meter in my head. Words, stuck closeted in my cerebrum, cemented to my gravity, forming me into a hopeless introvert with the desire to share everything tangibly that she could never share verbally. Words, eating me back to life.

I ached to hold a pencil in my hand, an absolute masochist for writer’s cramp, every tedious writing assignment an opportunity for me to slip between paper sheets and fall comatose. I loved to write like I loved to live. I lacked life when I wasn’t writing; I lavished in it when I was.  

It was my differentiation.

My “thing”.

My societal stamp.

My home.


Middle school came around and the words in my head weren’t always fantastical. I had my own stories to tell, now, and they were rarely music to the ears. I found that frightening. So I developed a gripping fear of pencils and learned to pave the road ahead of me without words. I fell headfirst into science, but my heart stayed in the clouds, with language. I was confused and I convinced myself that I was assured. I decided to be a doctor as a way to pay a sort of obligatory societal debt that I was certain I owed. I had the drive for it, the interest, the smarts. But as I sat up late at night taking biology notes, sometimes, I found my eyes wandering to the bottom drawer of my nightstand, where my journals slept soundly without me.

I’ll never forget the assignment that changed everything. Junior year of high school, AP Language and Composition. We were to write about a personal epiphany, a moment that had shaken us to the core and completely reversed our way of thinking.

There were two ways I could take the paper. I could continue in the ways of a black and white brain, as I had been for years. It would be simple. Easy. I could write about my first cross country race. My last soccer game. Entering high school. The day my sister was born.

The second option (the one I did all I could to bury beneath efficiency and chilled emotion) would be to write about me. Not the things that I did. Just me.

I wrote six papers on cross country.

And the night before our first draft was due, I deleted them all.

I stopped thinking.

I started typing.

The first sentence was the hardest. I found myself over-analyzing every word of my extended metaphor opener, weaving things in and snatching things out, rearranging the syntax until my fingers refused to hover above backspace for another moment. But after I got it right, after I got it perfect, I remembered. I flew, words flooding out of me like water from a demolished dam, coursing through my veins, begging me to let them slip out. I could hardly keep up with the thoughts in my head. My own story began to take shape on the page, yet I had no part in it. I was merely a passenger, brain completely elsewhere, lost to the therapeutic tapping of the keys. I was home.

With every essay assigned in that class, I grew more and more comfortable with my voice. Slowly, the shell began to break, and I once again became the storyteller I was born to be. Even writing academic papers was liberating; the more I learned about technique and stylistic decision, the better I was able to articulate exactly what was in my head.

That summer, I started to dabble in poetry. I began a blog.

And all at once the ears came flocking, peering over my shoulder as my hand quivered around my quill. I ached to explain to them all that I had for so long felt so insane, as if I was the only one with these feelings, as if my words only resonated with me. But the more I threw them out, the more they returned home with, my precious dogs proudly sauntering up the back stoop with dead birds and “I heard you”s clutched in their mouths.

My writing proved to me not that I am not insane, but that, perhaps, I am. And perhaps I am not the only one.

Yet there are the days where I feel as if my thoughts are not even rational enough to share with myself. These days, like today, writing still scares me senseless. I put out ideas like cigarettes down the equator of my forearm: too much to say, too little, burn, burn, burn. I am both the rainwater and the ocean which it feeds and some days I am too tired to swim.

These are the days when I ache for the clank of the keys, the familiar feeling of pencil on paper, the knighting of tangibility upon kneeled ponderings. These are the days where I need to feel them so much that they spill out of me in the same space as blood and carbon dioxide. These are the days when that gripping fear of pencils grips me once again and screams, “Stop! Forget!”

These are the days where I write anyways because when I can’t tie me down, I write me down, and somehow, that makes sense.

Because this is just in me. Sometimes, this is more myself than I am. Sometimes, the pen in my hand says things that I didn’t even know I was thinking until I read it over. This is what I was born to do.

Some days, like today, I do not want to write, nor is my end product entirely sensible. It is in these rare and glorious excerpts that I can see every cell in my lungs, I can feel them, I am entirely theirs.  

And my heart lies forever in the pages that scream my story, soundlessly.

Author lifebylexi

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