APUs Kristin Vantrease: Escaping Paralysis

Thanks to Kristin for this post in a continuing two-month series from APU creative writing students.

Sometimes life seems frozen. 
This happens as you step onto the metal swinging bridge 400 meters above
a river in Nepal with your ankles shackled together by the bungee cord.  Standing on the platform, the river rages
below you, and you know that all you have to do is step over the edge and it
will be over.  Just one step.

And then life moves faster, much faster, and it only
increases in pace as you plummet to the valley floor, the river rising up to
meet you.  Your arms outstretched, face
to the ground, the world is a kaleidoscope of color around you.  The world is shaken and stirred, and you move
silently through the chaos, suspended by your feet.  You want to shout out, to slow this moment
down, but you can’t even breathe. 
Gravity is breathing for you, forcing the air into your lungs as you
plummet down.

As soon as you’ve adjusted to the free-fall, it’s over.  You are yanked by your feet backwards.  Regression is disorienting and the river
steps back.  Then the bungee cord
stretches taut and you fall again.  You
are getting used to being a human yo-yo. 
Falling is just a part of life.


I have found that writing seems to work in a similar manner.  Sometimes I am frozen before my writing; the
words pile in a heap before my eyes, unintelligible and clumsy.  And sometimes, on even worse days, there are
no words that come at all.  I think: I
have nothing to say.  Nothing at
all.  Of course, as soon as those
thoughts enter my mind, they confront the memory of my advanced writing
professor in Portland, the slightest Indian woman with an enormous pile of
black hair directly on top of her head, and the most powerful convictions
surrounding life and writing I had ever heard. 
The words that came out of her mouth were living and beautiful, and I
wanted to capture them, like moths taking flight, and gently store them away
forever.  Instead, I furiously scrawled
notes.  On one notebook page I remember
writing very boldly: I have a voice.  She
made that very clear to the class.  You
have a voice, she would emphasize, now use it.

Sometimes I feel like I am shackled to my writing, that it
yanks me around by my feet, and I have little control over the words that issue
from my fingertips to the computer screen. 
I feel like I am free-falling with my writing, and watching it all
happen, but not knowing where the words are coming from.

The most important part, though, in writing, and life, is to
take the first step.  The blank page will
never fill with words unless you begin to type. 
You never know if the words will come to fruition if you don’t allow
them to speak.  So, though your feet may
be shackled, and fear grips your throat, step over the edge and begin.

Kristin Vantrease writes: “After wandering around various schools all over America, I
have finally come back to graduate this December from Alaska Pacific
University.  In the summers you can find
me covered in fish scales on the fishing boat I work on in Bristol Bay.  Much of my writing is influenced by my time
spent in Alaska and fishing.  I am always
happiest outside. “


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