Why I Don’t Write*

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[Image description: Allison’s notes from a religion class. Their handwriting is black against white paper. There is a pen laying over their notebook]

Now that I’ve put into the ether why I started a blog, I feel like I should explain to that same cosmos why it is that I don’t write much. For most of my life, I wanted to be a writer in some capacity, whether that was as a blogger, a journalist, a professor, children’s book author, you name it. Professionally, I always and still want to write. A lot. As Jacqueline Woodson (the subject of my senior project in college, something I struggled to write because the class didn’t feel conducive to my writing style) said in “Every Wish, One Dream,” “[Every] daydream and night dream…even when people say it’s a pipe dream…I want to be a writer.” I actually say those lines to myself often now when we do vision mapping at work. Some way, some how, I want to be a writer. I want to make six-year old Allison proud.

But for someone that says words are important at every opportunity, and has this refrain of “I want to be a writer” in their mind, I don’t actually write much. I write in my journal every few days. I physically write every single day or make a point to. But I don’t sit down like I’m doing right now and write my thoughts or stories as they come to me. There are a few reasons for this.

First is that I’m a perfectionist. I don’t write things I don’t think are good (this is why my capstone was a mess – I don’t do drafts, so I didn’t. I would just build on the same document with little revision, and then I got a B+ on my yearlong project and wanted to flip a table. Also I hate B+s). That’s the trouble with telling a six-year old they’re good at something and continuously telling them they’re good at something and then they become an English major and somehow that gets turned into “Yeah, you should really teach” and not “Remember when you were a brilliant writer your whole life?”. Clearly, I have some digging to do. What I mean to say is, I think writing is actually the one place my perfectionism in all areas comes from. Writing was my thing as a kid. My sister had dinosaurs and video games, changing along the way. My brother had basketball and wrestling and other cool older brother stuff, changing along the way. I always wrote. I was sensitive. I wore black (just kidding but my mom did encourage turtlenecks). I was and still am a Pisces. Writing just seemed woven into my DNA. And as a kid, I wrote stories, I journaled, I recorded snippets of stories whenever I could, I did an independent study on poetry, complete with interviews in fourth grade (yeah). I guess I must’ve shared my stories with my family but I have a fucked up feeling they just found them and read them and I was young so my stories about chocolate factories were public domain. And as they found those stories, they praised the hell out of them. My family is very loving and pretty affirming. We’re all also perfectionists and overachievers… So writing was my thing to be good at and praised at and to fall back on when people asked me why I quit ballet or wasn’t doing a sport.

In time, I came to expect and was expected that what I wrote was good. Profoundly good. Succinctly and purposefully good. At like, ten. Once writing was less of a motor skill and more of a life skill or even talent in school, I wanted to fly past everyone else. I was one of two writers of the year in my elementary school. And it wasn’t an accomplishment. I expected and demanded it. That attitude kind of continued, like, forever, eventually bleeding into all other aspects of my life (with the exception of drawing, which I allow myself to not excel in).

Another reason I don’t write often is trauma. There was this guy. And like most guys who aren’t actively challenged to be better at treating people well, he was trash. And he kept being trash, MY trash, for four years. I feel like I reached my writerly peak around the beginning of high school. I was learning how to construct narratives and use imagery to convey, “this is my idea, and this is a compelling way of explaining it.” I was finally comfortable writing, claiming the label of creative, and finding a style. And then, we started dating. We dated at the time when children, literally children, are asked what they could envision doing with their lives. And it kind of feels like there’s weight to that question, as they apply to school and are told how much weight where they go to college has. And I think the fact I had this thing, this thing I was committed to and loved that wasn’t him, was terrifying. And I was really damn good at this thing. And I couldn’t be better than him at anything. So the fact I had this ability wasn’t gonna work. And in time, I wrote less and less. Eventually, my only writing was journaling about him and how I needed to stay with him even when it hurt to. And then I went to college, realized I had some room to grow, and decided to get back into writing. Really immerse myself in it. So I made some things that resembled a portfolio and he told me, “You think you’re better than everyone else because you can write. You’re not.” So I dumped him. For lots of reasons, but because that attitude wasn’t gonna work with my new goal of writing. Writing has been a constant in my life in the way I expected him to be, and he wasn’t.

And lastly, I don’t write because I don’t make time to. I’d gotten to a point where my priority had been school and I imagined that once I finished school, my priority would be work. Somewhere along the line in college, I learned that it was better to study books than to write them. So I became damn good at studying them. But I want to change that. In the last year there have been instances where I had free time, and didn’t know what to do with myself. I forgot I had hobbies. But during my last year of college, when the reality of finding a job became more pressing, I realized that there’s this thing I always wanted to do and really had been practicing for the last twenty years, however indirectly. I started writing a novel for a class, and started writing short stories when I had an idea. Unfortunately, I try to do things in as few sittings as possible, which doesn’t lend itself to novels, so for now I’ve settled on short stories. Now that I’ve chipped away at my idea of needing to have a story fully fleshed out to write it, I feel more comfortable with sitting down to write. This blog also serves as a test ground for me to just write my thoughts as they come and put that shit up on the Internet.

I do want to be a writer. My goal in life is to work from home (preferably a home office in a bungalow, with white walls, an iMac, lots of bookcases, and plants) and do author talks often. How I’m gonna get there, what I’m gonna write, and all of that – I haven’t worked out yet. But over the next few months, I want to get more accustomed to writing regularly. And purposefully. But not perfectly.

 

 

*This title is based on George Orwell’s essay, “Why I Write,” which I had to read for AP English Language & Composition. I can’t find it at the moment but I was very keenly aware at 16 how important writing was to me. I said something along the lines of “I’m always writing, just in my head,” and that hasn’t changed much. But now my question is, am I really writing if I don’t put it down somewhere?

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