From a very young age, writing has touched my life in a deeply meaningful way. I was one of the first people in my class to learn to read and I did it obsessively. When the movie version of “Harriet The Spy” came out, I knew I wanted to be a writer just like her. Well, OK, at the time I wanted to be a spy, but it wasn’t that I wanted to creep on people in my neighborhood. I wanted to do what Michelle Trachtenberg’s character did in the movie — I wanted to write.
I begged my grandma for a composition book just like the one Harriet carried around in the movie. I followed the film’s example and started writing about the things going on around me. I’ve been writing non-stop ever since, and my skill and passion for the craft has only grown from then.
OK — not exactly.
My grandma was super-strict and wouldn’t let me roam my neighborhood — not even in the name of journalism!! — and my home life didn’t seem that exciting to me at the time. I ended up giving up on my writing a-spy-rations for awhile and used the notebook just to draw or whatever.
But even though I gave up on being an investigative journalist, my love of writing would work its way back into my life. From childhood diaries, where I’d try to make sense of my feelings and experiences, to the overdramatic poetry we all write during our angsty teenage years, writing has always been something that I enjoy.
Unfortunately, like many writers, I’ve struggled to gain confidence, find my voice and stay inspired.
In community college, I majored in Mass Communications, with an emphasis on Radio, TV and Film. I told everyone I had dreams of being like Tina Fey, and writing and starring in my own sitcom someday. On some level, this was true — I like the idea of acting, I’m totally hilarious (check my Twitter feed if you don’t believe) and, I mean, who doesn’t dream of finding fame? But honestly, part of why that emphasis appealed to me was because it was more than writing — I could always, like, edit videos for a local news station or something, right? And though I loved writing, I didn’t have the confidence to believe I could ever be a writer, you know?
And yet, I excelled at my writing assignments, and would eventually become a reporter for the school paper and change my emphasis to something that was definitely more writing-oriented (public relations). Despite all this, I still lacked confidence.
An old blog post, from one of my earliest ill-fated attempts at blogging, captured just how much confidence I lacked. In her continued efforts to get me to join the school paper, my PR instructor included a nice note on a graded assignment, calling me a “natural writer.” I was deeply inspired by her kind words. As I so eloquently wrote in the original post:
I have always told everyone I secretly want to be a writer. I decided not to study it, though, because it seemed hard and I know there’s smarter people out there who write a lot better than I do so I didn’t see the point. But this is like, a sign from God. I AM A NATURAL WRITER. OBVIOUSLY WRITING IS WHAT I WAS BORN TO DO.
Looking back on this now — knowing that I would go on to study journalism in university; that I would score a freelance writing gig straight out of college and have my work published in national outlets; that I would start up a blog that would get tens of thousands of views (for about a week, but still!) — I’m kind of sad that I didn’t believe in myself.
I think my problem back then was I didn’t really know why I was writing. Sure, I enjoyed it, but I didn’t completely understand my motivations. But towards the end of my time in university, I’d started figure it out. I was working in my school’s PR office and part of my job was to write feature stories for the school website. In interviewing students and faculty, I learned a lot about those people, but also about the world — and about myself.
One student’s story — about finding success in radio after surviving a surgery that damaged his vocal chords — touched me so deeply, that when we finished up the interview, I immediately hid in the nearest bathroom and cried. That was the first moment that I really began to understand, on a deep level, how otherwise average people — after all, many of my interview subjects were students, just like me — can have important experiences to share.
Because, really, most stories — even the classic literature they make you read in school, even epic adventure/fantasy novels — are so great because they revolve around basic human emotions that we can all connect with. Realizing that was a big part of what reignited my passion for writing — and, not to be super-meta, but part of what inspired me to start this blog.
Growing up, I was convinced that you had to be super-smart or well-read or have certain lived experiences in order to have a story worth sharing — I mean, Harriet the Spy had tons of exciting experiences to write about. And though I kept a diary, I never shared those stories with anyone. I thought that you had to have everything “figured out” and, if you wanted to share your writing in a serious way, it should provide answers to questions readers might have.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned about writing, and art in general, is that sometimes they’re meant to raise questions, rather than answer them. Especially when, like I’ve started doing on this blog, you’re writing about being aimless and confused and scared for the future. I clearly don’t have all the answers — and I don’t claim to. But now I believe that that can be an important and interesting story to share, especially if people connect with it in some way. And maybe, just like writing in diaries helped me understand my emotions as a kid, writing about it all will help me figure it out?