It Took Me Ten Years to Understand What My Writing Was
I began writing in 2009 during my senior year of high school. I didn’t think of myself as a serious writer. I was just a teenager with too many romantic thoughts that came out as bad poetry. But before graduating, I began to take the craft more seriously and chose to take writing up as a career.
That said, my first years were incredibly difficult. I started my first novel after high school and have been working on it since. I struggled with it for so long during my undergraduate years. Even though I majored in English and read constantly, I only managed to reach the second chapter of my book. And it stayed that way for a very long time.
But even more so, I was filled with self-doubt. To make matters worse, I learned more and more about the writing industry and how my chances of making an actual living off my work were nearly nonexistent. Knowing all that, I was close to giving up more times than I care to remember and had forgotten why it was that I took up writing in the first place, why I chose to write down those badly written romantic thoughts in my notebook.
And now, ten years after I first started, things are much different. I have graduated with an MFA in writing. I have written several essays, poems, and short stories, some published, some not. But more importantly, I have been writing nonstop.
With the end of 2019 comes the end of my first decade as a serious writer. I have learned so much about my writing process that I can’t help but feel more confident about my abilities.
But even more than that, I have come to understand what writing is for me: the need for expression.
Pursuing a writing career has been a difficult journey. I have struggled with finances, job hunting, and the writing itself. Despite having a graduate degree in it and the publications under my belt, I continue to think of myself not good enough. I continue to have difficulty getting started with the blank page.
I was warned at my writing program that life post-MFA was going to be difficult, and while I didn’t dismiss them outright, I didn’t consider the severity of it either. It’s been hard, to say the least.
That said, I truly cannot imagine myself doing anything else. I relish coming home after a long day to open my computer and put words on a blank page. I write the stories that I want to tell and the poetry that forms in my head. I write about the experiences I wish to share and the questions I want to propose.
I cannot, for the life of me, imagine doing anything else. Despite everything we are told about how difficult it is to be an artist, I find it more difficult not being an artist. I find it more difficult not being able to express myself after a long day at work.
I cannot imagine what non-artists do to express their anger, their sadness, their worries, their suffering, their happiness. What do they do after a hard day at work? How on earth do they handle their stress if not with art?
I understand that the answer differs for many. Some take up yoga. Others binge-watch. And some go clubbing.
But I do none of those. I stay at home and feel more comfortable when I am writing on the page. Sometimes I take my work out to the nearest café, but it’s the same feeling every time I sit down with my computer and notebook. I feel safe and comfortable. I feel better than I did before.
It took me a long time to see my writing as a form of expression. I used to think that I needed to produce to have enough material for a good career. And there is some truth to that; after all, you can’t be a writer if you don’t write. But I have also come to realize that it’s unhealthy to think of yourself as a production machine alone.
Writing is already difficult enough as it is. Why make it more difficult by seeing it as only a job? Make it something you love by writing what you love. Make it something that will do you some good.
2009 was the year I chose to become a writer. And now, at the beginning of 2020, I have finally remembered why.