When I was a kid, I used to have sleepovers with my friend so we could stay up extra late writing stories.
We made up tales about a girl who found out she was adopted and had to go on a mighty quest to save herself and her family and the entire universe. We gave our characters weird names and created a bizzaro world for her to live in. We wrote everything down on scrap pieces of paper and kept them held together by a little clip.
When I was alone, I wrote about the crushes I had on many, many different boys and would dream up scenarios in which they discovered that they too adored me. I once wrote a detailed account of my friends who betrayed me and turned it into a story. And one of my very first pieces of writing was about a character called Grumpy Grape. It was a story about a life-sized bunch of grapes with a negative view of the world who goes to the jungle for a week. I should have turned it into a series. (Or maybe not.)
For the most part, I didn’t show my writing to anyone. I wasn’t in the habit of keeping a diary or a journal—so every tale I wove was all mine. I was honest and real and wrote the most embarrassing things and I didn’t care how awful it was. It was my own. Nobody would ever see it.
In high school, I took a ‘Writer’s Craft’ class taught by an eccentric bald man who would encourage us to write out the most bizarre things we held in our heads. I remember being very upset and angry about something one day and scribbling out my anger onto a lined piece of paper in a nonsensical pattern. My teacher told me it was my strongest work.
In university, I mostly wrote papers for my English Lit courses. I wrote about themes I thought my professors wanted us to write about and focused on getting a good grade above all. That may have been when I first started emphasizing writing for someone else over writing for myself. When I began to lose my voice.
After university, I took a post-graduate course at college on writing for advertising. When I had been there for about a month, I came home and told my parents I had made a huge mistake. There was barely any writing involved and everything seemed to be a competition among classmates to be as quirky and ‘creative’ as you could. We were 20-year-olds trying to sell moisturizer to our teachers using alligators as metaphors and as little copy as possible. It was awful. But I stuck with it.
My career in advertising was a lot of fun at the beginning. I met interesting people and went to cool parties—but in exchange, I spent my time writing about gas companies and telecom and cars, and why everyone needed this now.
I stopped writing for myself completely.
After a few years, I started a terrible blog. Back then, there were very few ‘influencers’, so I had no grand plans and had never even considered growing my blog or monetizing. It was just a place for me to spit out little bits of whatever was in my head that day. I wrote about Monday mornings and my love of lattes, the joy I found in Fridays, rants about the bastardization of the English language. Very gripping stuff.
That blog morphed into another blog, which was then abandoned for this site.
All along, for my entire life, I had never considered myself a writer. Not until the last decade or so, I suppose. I’ve been writing my entire life. And yet I hesitated to call myself a writer up until recently. Ah, imposter syndrome. You little bastard.
“But it’s not real writing.” I used to think to myself. I had created and written for three blogs… “But nobody really reads them except for friends and family” I would think. I was published on websites and had a post go semi-viral… “But it wasn’t really great writing.”
I’ve been stuck in a rut for a while now—not writing because I don’t know what I’m trying to say or what voice I should be using. I’ve been getting in my head and thinking about what others may think rather than just writing.
I've lost the ease of writing I had when I was a kid and I wrote for fun. Or when I thought nobody was reading my little blog.
I’ve been telling myself I will find pockets of time to write—and telling others how important it is—but I’ve lost my mojo. I’ve been reading and reading and working and doing life.
But I haven’t been writing.
I haven’t been remembering what it was like to stay up late, scribbling into little notebooks about silly and cool characters. Writing nonsense about a real-life grape going on adventures.
Grumpy Grape is my teacher. She is not really nice. But today I asked her if she wanted to go to the jungle with me. Grumpy Grape has a few warts but that doesn’t make her a horrible person. “Why, I would love to go to the jungle! Nobody ever asked me if I wanted to go anywhere.” Then she grumbled, “But I’ll probably shrivel up and turn into a raisin under the hot sun.” She can always find a problem in whatever she does.
Damn. Talk about foreshadowing.
I sure as hell have been focusing on the problem instead of the solution lately.
So today, I took a baby step.
Today I got up at 5:15 in the morning even though I’m sick with a cold and the kids’ lunches weren’t made. I made coffee and sat in front of my computer. I pretended you weren’t on the other side of your screen reading. Maybe nobody really is reading other than my Mom, anyway. (Hi, Mom!)
I sat at my kitchen table, and I just wrote.
I wrote because I’m a writer and I don’t want to struggle with it anymore.
I wrote because the 9-year old in me would be disappointed to discover I didn’t keep telling stories.
I wrote because I have to. And because I love it. And because if I try really hard, I’ll always find that there really is time to write. And I really do have stories worth telling.
And so do you. Whether anyone reads them or not, we need to write. The difference between being a writer and not being a writer is literally writing words.
Write on, friend. I believe in you.