Bare with me, this is going to be a somewhat long post. I have a confession to make: I stopped writing (journaling, creative writing, writing about whatever piques my interest) after I graduated in May 2015—with a degree in English/creative writing, no less.
At first I gave myself the excuse that I was burnt out from school, that I just needed a break and I’d get back into it soon enough. But then I started an internship in August (30 hours a week) that quickly turned into a full time position in October. I write proposals and marketing materials for a software company. It was a huge adjustment for me to spend every day in an office, learning to fit into the company culture (especially for someone as painfully introverted as I am). That was another excuse I gave myself—the change was so draining that I was too exhausted to write in my spare time. I just needed to adjust to this lifestyle change first and I’d be writing again in no time…
I’ve been with the company for over a year now and have yet to get back into writing. To be honest, I kind of gave up on my writing aspirations. I told myself that striving to be a successful or recognized writer was an impractical dream to chase and that working for a company is simply logical (am I the only one that reads the word “logical” in Spock’s tone? Anyway…). So instead I spent the past year pouring myself into this job and neglecting my own passions and interests (and well being). I figured that this job is my life now; I’m no longer an idealist university student but a realistic career woman (I have to admit, writing that made me cringe).
I worked extra hours to be extra impressive. Even when I was off the clock, I’d constantly be checking my work mail and working from home when I wasn’t supposed to be. I now realize that this isn’t impressive at all, it’s foolish. It took a denial of my request for a raise, a complete breakdown after months of depression, and a conversation with a writer for me to realize how unwisely I’ve spent my time since graduating.
How did I get this opportunity to converse with a writer? Well, my dad called me last weekend and told me he spoke with a man—my dad meets all sorts of fascinating people in his career as an independent welding inspector for various projects in Los Angeles—who has published a great deal of works and often writes/edits from his home. Writing/editing from home for a living? Sounds ideal to me. My dad told him about me so he gave my dad his LinkedIn information so I could contact him for tips and professional advice. We spoke on Tuesday for around forty minutes and our conversation was eye-opening, to say the least.
I repeatedly referred to myself as a writer throughout our conversation, ultimately aligning my life ambitions with writing. I told him about my academic success, both at my home university and abroad. I told him what writing topics interested me the most—writing about travel, cultural observations, and literary analyses (I forgot to mention history, but I suppose that can fall under cultural observations). I told him why I want to be a writer, which I could’ve expanded on but essentially just said that I’d loved books and writing for as long as I could remember.
Then he went over my LinkedIn page with me. He noted that he sees a lot of sales experience, graphic design experience, but not a lot of writing experience. He asked where my publications were (i.e., why they weren’t listed on my LinkedIn profile). The truth is, I don’t have any. I’d never submitted my creative works to any literary magazines/journals/contests. The work I do for my company doesn’t have my name on it (I’m either ghost writing for someone else or my work is anonymous). My blog (this one) was primarily active back in 2013-14. I had virtually no evidence that I was a writer or passionate about writing. I was embarrassed.
He gave me some advice. He told me to stop focusing so much on writing for the company I work for—it’s not going to help me get my name out there as a writer. He told me start researching and writing about what truly interests me again, and to work on building a portfolio (and that a blog is a good start). Then he told me to follow up with him in six months to see how I’ve progressed, and not worry if I hadn’t.
By being given a goal (six months to show some progress), I was reinvigorated—I finally had a concrete reason to get back into writing. But our conversation also prompted me to reflect on why I’d been avoiding writing for this long. Why do I consider myself a writer when I don’t have anything published, nor have done any writing (again, aside from content for the company I work for) in over a year? What was this rooted in?
I realized I’d been crippled by fear—fear of imperfection, vulnerability, failure. I thought about how absurd the excuses I gave myself were. Aside from being too “burnt out,” I’d also convinced myself of things like, that it’s reasonable to not want to publish something in my name because I then risk the possibility of changing my opinion on the matter later and regretting said hypothetical publication. Of course, that’s an insane notion—we are always growing and allowed to change our opinions with new knowledge/evidence. It’s important to nonetheless document my sentiments about a given subject at a given point in my life—not to be “right” all the time. In essence, I’d been letting my fears/anxieties/insecurities take over and, consequently, become completely stagnant in my craft.
All that said, I’m starting this blog up again. I hope to write posts that at least one person finds useful or insightful or enjoyable to read—namely on traveling, studying abroad, cultural observations, and anything else I feel convicted to write about, really. I’m considering starting another blog for creative posts (fiction and poetry) as well, but that will likely be kept a private blog for a while. I’ve always told people—when asked why I chose to major in English—that I hope to one day be an accomplished novelist. If you couldn’t tell from this blog post, I haven’t done much to actually pursue that yet. I aim to do creative writing exercises again a few days a week (ideally daily, but I’ll work up to that) and maybe a novel will sprout from that. For now, I am happy to be active on this blog again and look forward to writing for myself again.