Let Writing Be Your Suit of Armor
Don’t let the world steal your creativity.
Heather Lee Dyer
There have been times when I’ve lost my creative passion. We all do.
We all experience times of creative drought, loss of creativity, and passion. That childlike curiosity and openness has been hurt and crushed or just plain stomped on.
I didn’t realize how much I needed creativity back into my life until I was looking up from the bottom of a hole I’d found myself in. Why does it take a traumatic, depressing, dangerous, near death, or horrible experience to make us realize that we still need that passionate, creative human side of us in order to survive? That we should’ve protected it, nurtured it, and kept our creative tank full.
There will be many events in your life that will try to steal this creative energy flow from you and try to instill insecurity into your child’s mind.
Bullies — The first trolls
One of the first and hardest hits to my creativity was when I was in third grade. We lived in a little earwig-infested house on a large farm. We had just moved there that summer from the mountain commune and I was a happy, carefree nine-year-old hippie child who loved to write stories, draw pictures, and go on pretend rocket ship adventures in the fields and barn. Fresh from the mountains, I loved everything around me.
The mountains that I could see from the farm were distant, small, and almost treeless. We were in flat farming land. But on the farm, I discovered wheat fields, the hay barn, and all the animals that lived there. I enjoyed it all — except the earwigs — and of course what would later happen to me at school.
In the fall, everything changed when I went from lazy days hanging around the farm to getting up early for school. Right across from our fields sat the little country school that I attended.
The valley around the farm sprawled in all directions and was bisected by a highway that I had to cross to get to the school. We were the only people around for miles. Everyone else got bussed there; I just had to walk through the cow pasture, duck under the barbed wire fence, and cross the highway.
I was excited at first to attend a new school, make some friends, and learn new things. I loved the mountains, and I had animals on the farm that I instantly took a liking to. I would follow the farmer or his kids around to learn how to feed and water the cows, horses, goats, chickens, and sheep. I loved climbing in the hay barns and the grain silos with the other kids who lived on the farm.
I’m not sure how we moved them, but we would make houses out of the hay bales. I would bring my cat Tigger and a book and lie in the cool hay and read for hours during the heat of the summer.
It turned out to be a terrible school year for me. I didn’t like the teacher or the mean kids, and I didn’t like being told what to do every minute of the day. I was bored with the schoolwork they gave me since I had already done the same classes the previous year. I finally decided it was best to be late for class every morning. I got in trouble no matter what I did, so I figured the less time I was in school, the better.
I took my time crossing the field, not only to avoid smelly cow patties but also to check out every detail around me. I would run my hands through the wheat stalks and flowers, and talk to and pet the cows with their rough hair as they followed me. They were the only friends I had that year, other than the farm kids.
Every morning I looked both ways at the edge of the highway as I could hear the cows behind me calling me back. With a large grin on my face, I streaked across the highway to the safety of the other side. I would then look back and wave at the herd of cows, now all lined up along the fence, their large heads leaning over the sharp barbed wire, staring at me with huge brown eyes.
I sat on the playground swings until after the last bus left and then would slowly walk to my class and plop down in a seat at the back of the classroom by the windows. By that time, I was no longer smiling. I would get out a notebook and doodle or stare outside and watch the cows meander back to the barn to be fed.
The school was so rural and had so few kids that there were several grades in each classroom. As a tiny third grader, I found myself sitting next to several tall and beefy sixth-grade farm boys, who by the size and smell of them had probably bucked hay bales before school that morning.
The teacher hated me. I got in trouble all the time for doodling and daydreaming. She would smack a book or ruler on her desk or on my desk to get my attention. The teacher requested that I be remanded to a lower grade and thus out of her classroom. This meant I would’ve been in with the kindergarteners and the first and second graders.
What this teacher and the school board didn’t realize was that although my mother had just moved us from a hippie commune, and I looked like a dirt-encrusted farm girl, before all this, my mother had worked for the Apollo Program and several universities. She fought back.
She forced the school board to hire a city psychologist to administer an IQ test. Both of my parents had IQs of over 160, and in third grade, I scored a 145. The school was forced to retract the teacher’s accusations that I was unable to learn. The psychologist concluded that I just had a very active imagination and was bored in my current learning environment.
I could’ve told her that.
My teacher didn’t take this news well. She was even colder and meaner toward me that next week. And since it was a combined classroom schoolhouse, there were no other classrooms for me to move to. Life at school got even worse for me. She yelled more often, my grades went down, and still, nothing I did was ever right.
I retreated inside myself.
What made that year worse was that her son was also in my class. He was one of those beefy sixth graders. He was very angry that his mother was in trouble with the school board because of me. I imagine, now that I’m older and a mother myself, if she was this nasty at school she was probably not very nice at home to her son. Not that I cared about that at the time.
After a few days of catching death stares from him all week, he caught me after school one day before I had a chance to make a run for the highway. He dragged me into one of those outdoor alcoves that led from the classroom, so no one heard my cries for help. There, he beat the crap out of me.
Once I finally got away from him and was back on the safe side of the barbed wire fence, I limped home. The cows surrounded me like a living shield, and we walked like that until I reached my little house at the far end of their pasture. I could tell my friends sensed I was hurting.
I emerged from the herd dusty, bleeding, bruised, and forever changed.
Mom moved us to the big city of Missoula the next week.
Although I still felt loved by my mom, that experience did damage my younger self. It taught me to hide my daydreaming and creativity. I reasoned I would be safer if I just appeased the teachers and other kids and kept my ideas, my creativity, my drawings, my writings, and my daydreams to myself.
Although I didn’t at first trust my new teachers that next year, I did my best to get good grades and do everything they told me to do.
I tried to be perfect. I stayed withdrawn and quiet, and I made no friends. I was a loner. Although my mom was able to get me out of the bad situation at the farm school, she was too busy trying to keep us fed, get a new job, and enroll in the University of Montana to notice my social invisibility.
Consequences for our creativity
We tend to give up or withdraw inside ourselves in situations where we have been physically or mentally hurt, frustrated, lost someone or something important to us, been humiliated, or heartbroken. Sometimes this natural instinct is necessary for protecting ourselves and allowing us time for healing.
But we can’t stay in that place, away from everyone, from ourselves, from our creativity and from our writing for long.
You will go through experiences that will challenge you to the very core of your being. At times you will feel like you won’t want to go on.
We need to get back to what we were born for: creating. That’s how we survive this world. We bring our humanity, our creativity, our thoughts, and ideas into our writing.
That now-fourth grade version of me took a good long year to heal and learn to trust others. Thankfully, I ended up with an amazing teacher who encouraged me to start writing again.
My mom also ended up getting a job working for the university newspaper, which I found fascinating. I would go with her and watch the printing presses and fall asleep under the wooden editing tables, inhaling the warm fresh-inked smell. These small things helped with my healing and filled my creative tank back up.
Slowly, the new environment of learning and creativity and positive sights and smells filled my little tank. I began journaling and writing poetry again. My teachers and my mom encouraged me to enter poetry contests, and I finally made friends.
This, of course, would not be the last time that life would try to steal my creativity and life and health from me. But it was the first and most memorable because I was so young and it had been such a violent punch to my soul to go from the amazingness of living and loving in the mountains to such a cruel and painful experience.
But my creative writing brought me back, made me whole again — maybe with a few scratches and chinks out of my armor, but happy and grateful and alive. Writing helped soften my heart when it could very well have hardened permanently to protect itself.
Writing becomes its own kind of armor, not a wall that won’t allow others in, but a soft covering that allows love to go both ways. Daily journaling is especially strengthening for this soft covering. Keep writing, no matter what.
Heather Lee Dyer
HEATHER LEE DYER was raised in the mountains of Montana on a hippie commune by a single mother who had top-secret clearance on the Apollo 1 program. Addicted to travel, visiting space museums, and all things space. Fangirl of anything YA, Sci-fi/fantasy, romance, and paranormal. Geek girl.