I have not always enjoyed writing. There was a time when I would only write if I absolutely had to, I disliked every moment of the process, and could find nothing of value in my work. This was a time of forced formulaic writing, the days of 5×5 essays, and the oppression of creative grammar. My only outlet was a varied vocabulary which led to criticism for an overly verbose writing style. Writing did not allow me to express myself. Words and topics were fed to me and I could appease the authority only if I hog-tied my creativity and my voice to keep it from interfering with the precious rules.
So, writing was not my thing. I was okay with that. I had other hobbies that I enjoyed and which allowed me to express myself. I didn’t need to write. Or so I thought.
I would occasionally get this itch to write but I would try to talk myself out of it. I wasn’t a writer. I knew that I wouldn’t produce anything worthwhile and it would just be a waste of time. But the drive was there, so I started writing free verse poetry just to stop the words bouncing around in my brain. My approach to poetry was to play with words and sounds and rhythm, and it was a good outlet, mostly because I refused to adhere to any sort of rules. I used punctuation to give cues for reading aloud, like musical notation, and collected words for their sounds, focusing on alliteration and balancing soft and percussive sounds to evoke whatever it was I wanted to capture. I started using my poetry notebooks as photo albums with the collections of words acting as snapshots. I captured trees, rain, the way the air feels right before a storm, anything that spoke to me. I enjoyed the experience of writing poetry and I was happy with many of the pieces I created, but I still couldn’t think of myself as a person who could write well.
Then I had to write a college application essay.
I dreaded it. I fretted about it in the same way I fret about auditions. I looked at the prompts I had to choose from and couldn’t begin to think of how to approach them. I could crank out a rote piece of junk for class no problem, but this mattered. Someone was going to read this and care whether or not it had quality, not just that I followed some guidelines.
One prompt was formed around an Amelia Earhart quote, “Adventure is worthwhile in itself.” It was an open prompt, just the quote and the request to explain in a page what she meant by it or what it meant to me. Even in my anxiety, I was intrigued by this quote because, though I hadn’t heard it before, I had always believed that the sentiment was true. And eventually something came to me. Reflecting on the quote made me remember moments when I had felt this way and I recalled my most recent vacation: a road trip to the North Carolina mountains.
If you have ever driven through the mountains you know that it can be a wonderful way to spend a few hours, as far as car trips go. If I must spend an extended period of time in a car, I had better have something lovely to look at, and the Blue Ridge mountains and surrounding rural countryside never fail to deliver.
I remembered and I was on fire. The words poured out of me as I recalled the journey, the “adventure”, that for me embodied what Amelia was trying to say. As I wrote I was able to express a point that had been clear to me for a long time and that I was, in my burgeoning adulthood, trying to make a guiding principle in my life: that a goal in itself is important, but just as important is how you get there. The goal is an achievement, but what have you done, gained, experienced along the way? If I spend a huge amount of effort to achieve a goal or reach a destination, shouldn’t the experience of getting there be something that I can treasure as well?
I wrote until I had said everything. I edited. I crafted. I didn’t even know what it meant to craft a piece of writing at that point, but, looking back, that is the only way to describe what I did. This mattered to me. This quote, this sentiment, this belief mattered to me. What I had on the page was me. I have never been prouder of anything I have ever written.
This was the first step. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this opened the door for me. I wrote a huge amount of poetry during the following year and a half, and I was able for the first time to allow someone else to read some of it (a big thing for the girl with zero confidence in her writing). I still didn’t think of myself as a “writer” exactly, but somewhere inside a switch had been flipped and I knew I could do it and that it could become something that I loved to do. Now I am experimenting with the idea of being “Danielle the writer”. That’s what this blog is all about. I am writing about things that I care about and at the same time allowing it to be an experiment to discover whether or not the outside world thinks it’s any good.
I am loving every minute of this journey. I would love to have the opportunity for this to be a part of my professional life, but even if I don’t reach that goal, this adventure in self expression and sharing what I love with the world is more than worth the time I invest.
And that brings me to you, Reader-Friend. This was a long post, I know — one I’ve been working on for a couple of weeks, and actually not what I originally set out to write — but I discovered as I was writing what I needed to say. I’d love to hear what readers and my fellow bloggers have to say on this topic. I always wonder if others have struggled with writing in the same way I did (do).
As always, thank you for reading, and I sincerely hope that you will continue to visit and enjoy this journey with me.