My first year of graduate school is coming to a close. In several classes, I was asked a seemly innocent and easy question — why do you write?
When I first saw the journal prompt, I thought, “I know why I write.” Then I opened up a word document to begin the journal for the class only to realize I had several ideas as to why I wrote, but nothing definitive. This was shocking considering I love fiction writing, was a print journalist and a social media manager for over a decade, and decided to get my master’s degree in creative writing.
Going through the various classes helped me better understand myself. They helped better define my passion and narrow my focus so I could tell the world why I write with confidence. This is what I arrived at:
I learned a long time ago as a young journalist persistence was the key to most everything. If I wasn’t willing to actively pursue connections and then utilize them, I wasn’t going to get very far. Working for a small, hyper-local newspaper also exposed me to public opinion. When the public loved what I wrote, I heard about it occasionally, but when they hated something, my inbox and my voicemail were full.
It was during this time I learned to have a thick skin. Not everyone would love everything I wrote, and some people made it their mission to find fault in everything. It taught me to write the very best version of a piece and then move on.
Fiction writing is something I have always loved. I loved telling stories, and I loved writing. In college, I wrote screenplays when I was getting my BA. I always had a million story ideas. Then I connected with a movie producer as a young journalist. He wanted to add me to his writing team in his small film company. He told me I didn’t really need to write; I just needed to be the idea person, outline these stories, and work through the plot holes because that was my strength. He explained I wasn’t a big detail person and it reflected in my screenplays, but it was ok because my ideas were fantastic.
That comment stuck with me for almost a decade. And in ways, I let it define me and used it as a reason to hold myself back. I’m an idea person, but not a detail person. As I moved from screenplays to novels, I wrote book after book. To date, I have finished writing four novels and some fifteen screenplays all while working full-time and raising my autistic son. But I never shared any of my work outside of contests because I never thought it was good enough. I wasn’t a detail person. It wasn’t until my work at a TV station as the digital media manager in charge of all online stories and content that I began to realize that maybe I was a detail person.
Everyone said they wished they could be as strong a writer as I am or told me I needed to teach the young reporters how to write as strong as I did. Most importantly, how to capture the details the way I did. That job was the worst job of my entire life, and to this day I still regret taking it, but I did confront the notion I wasn’t a detail person head-on. And I won. So for that, I’m grateful.
I realized that comment hadn’t kept me from writing, rather it had kept me from sharing my creative work with the world. I started going over my stories and realized grammar isn’t my strong suit, and truthfully, it never was. That doesn’t mean I can’t improve, and there are people out there who do know grammar better than I do and I can hire them. When I was accepted into Lindenwood, I realized if I had been completely unfortunate in writing, I probably wouldn’t have been accepted into such a prestigious writing program. There has to be some spark of talent for writing somewhere, otherwise, I’d be a waste of everyone’s time.
So, you’re saying to yourself, all this is wonderful, but why do you write?
I write because I love it. I write because I couldn’t imagine my life without it. I write because even when I was in jobs I disliked, working with people I loathed, I wrote hoping one day I would decide to take the plunge and share my work with the world. I write because of the example I wish to set for my son — you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Well, for us writers, you miss 100% of the readers you may have had if you never set aside the fear of judgment and the unknown, and jump off the cliff.
It’s scary when first jumping because the hours are long. There is a ton of effort for very little reward. Most people pull the ripcord on the parachute at this point. For those of us who stay, those of us who persevere, we earn the title of writer. We find our wings and soar as the fruits of our labor begin to pay dividends. It’s small at first, but over time those dividends will grow. All you have to do is keep moving forward.