Falling in Love With Writing

I was going to start this off by saying something cliché like writing is my first love, but then I remembered that it wasn’t exactly true. I didn’t always want to be a writer. I can’t remember when I first started writing stories, and I can’t remember exactly when I started learning how to read. I do remember one morning, when I was very young, reading a book to my stuffed animals. Once I finished, it suddenly struck me that I had “read” the story differently each time. That was the first time I realized that it wasn’t right, and that the crazy characters on the page actually meant something that I wasn’t able to decipher yet. I remember how frustrated I felt sitting on the floor, staring at the symbols, willing them to make sense.

Since I couldn’t write or read, I would draw. I covered my entire room with pictures. Finally one day they were taken down, and I stared at the blank walls in confusion before frantically trying to fill them again. I told everyone that I was going to be an artist. I wanted to illustrate children’s books.

Then little by little I started to learn how to write. I vaguely remember that same frustration of not knowing how many horizontal lines go on a capital E, and not understanding when my parents signed their name in script, and constantly having to ask my mom how to spell word after word. Slowly, my “picture books” were filled with fewer pictures and more words, until I was filling wide-ruled pages with huge, unbroken blocks of text.

I brought a notebook with me almost everywhere. We used to go on a lot of long car trips, and I’d sit with a notebook in my lap the entire time. Writing in the car made me feel sick, but I had to have the notebook open to a clean page, just in case.

As I got older, I started getting too embarrassed to show people what I had written. I’d find places where I could write alone. I’d go on the roof at night with a flashlight and write until my hands went numb from the cold, or sit in that dingy basement closet with a notebook and all those spiders, or head down to the beach if the weather was nice enough.

I got even older, and the writing stopped coming as easily. I wasted so much paper. I’d rip out page after page or throwing out entire notebooks because I associated them with failure. When I could ignore the inner critic and get lost in a story, I’d write for hours, sometimes skipping lunch at school so I could add another 10 pages in the library. Then just as easily the next day, I’d hate it and throw out the entire thing. Sometimes to avoid the frustration, I just wouldn’t write at all. “You have to set aside time to write every day,” my mom said once. “Just like how athletes need to practice.” I’d fall asleep feeling guilty.

Writing still remains complicated. I definitely have an inner critic who’s hard to please, so it’s hard for me to sit down and continue a thought without wanting to start over or throw it out (hence why my blog for February is being published in March). But when I am able to let go, it’s that same kind of free fall that it always has been. This usually occurs at some really inconvenient time, like 3:00 in the morning or when I’m supposed to be studying or when I seriously should’ve left for work 10 minutes ago. In that moment though, writing becomes the top priority again, just like it had been when I was a kid. I may have gotten a bit distant with writing recently, but it’s still not so bad for a relationship of almost 20 years.

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