There was never a time I wasn’t writing. My earliest and proudest memories include my journals, poems and short stories.
But I never saw writing as a pursuit, something I could chase, study, practice. I just did it. For me.
I didn’t have writing role models, either. Books, which were always with me, existed in the world like apples on trees, something that grew up from the ground ready for me to devour.
Writers were ghosts or faeries magically making books appear in my library. Not little girls, not me. I “knew” this despite the hours I could spend writing books that I gifted to family, that won me awards in school, that brought me pure pleasure, sitting in my room outlining my very own Choose Your Own Adventure books.
The quest for adulthood, real life, meant making choices about careers when I didn’t really understand what a life-long career really meant. I started in music school, then majored in biology for reasons that require its own blog post.
Facing down my senior year and the knowledge that I was miserable (and unsuccessful) in my chosen field, I panicked.
Then I got busy. (<– Deadline pressure can work miracles!)
I asked myself (actually, wrote in my journal): What am I good at? What work do I enjoy? What makes me happy? That Aha! moment was so, so sweet when I finally admitted that the answer was writing. (Some tips for digging deep to discover what you’re good at)
I marched into my advisor’s office, told him my revelation and made some off-the-wall proposition he quickly shot down. He spared me the word ridiculous (trust me, it was) and then suggested something else–a column in my school newspaper.
The writing path isn’t always clear
It was the most fulfilling experience of my college career, being exactly where I should be. But things didn’t just unfold from there. I faced brutal rejections out of college and gave up on writing–all but my journal–for so many wrong reasons.
I think that’s the way for a lot of people. Surely there are those who always knew they were writers, they studied literature and began workshops in their teens or twenties. But for a lot of us it’s a battle of life circumstances, money, time, a swirling sea of everything convincing us that, who are we kidding, no one can make it as a writer.
I worked in jobs that paid enough for me to live, to be the independent person I wanted to be, to go out on weekends, to focus on my disastrous relationship. You can guess where that lead.
There’s something to be said for spiraling down. When you hit the lowest level, there’s at least someplace for you to sit. And when you sit, you can learn to be still. And in that painful stillness, you can start to uncover, from beneath all that other stuff of life, what makes you who you are.
Writing. It keeps coming back
It took me years to finally pursue a journalism career. When I left it to raise my kids, I spent several more years saying I was going to get back to it and only now have become serious about my freelance career.
With my fiction writing, same story. Desperate to put words on a page, a story I’d mulled for a good ten years or more, I participated in NaNoWriMo and proceeded to shove my 50,000 words in a drawer. (If you don’t know NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, check it out!)
Sometimes we finally see that writing is what we truly want because it keeps coming back, even if we don’t recognize it in ourselves. We keep starting and stopping, and restarting and forgetting, and starting again and remembering. (This is a good post about why we do this.)
What keeps coming back to you, even when you least expect it? A story idea? The itch to launch a blog? Launching a freelance writing career?