A Starting Point
33.7701° N, 118.1937° W
I read an essay by Chloe Caldwell that said the driving force behind a writer’s dedication to writing is a deep desire to be seen. We do not feel seen. We do not feel known. So we shout into the void of the blogosphere and opinion columns of our local newspaper and hope to whatever higher power we believe in that someone will resonate with at least 10 percent of what we are saying. Writers are desperate and hungry creatures.
Finding your voice—that mystical element of writing that separates the broke and unhappy from the rich who are able to afford antidepressants— begins with knowing yourself. You have to force yourself under the slightly delusional notion that you are the only one who could possibly write this way, and that your story, your prose or poetry or essay cannot possibly be told by someone else. We believe in this wholeheartedly and yet our insecurities are quick to betray us—we hope that we are not the sole character in our story.
Although I have been calling myself a writer since my sophomore year of high school, I rarely let people read what I write. I haven’t shared one article I’ve written for my university or current job. I haven’t had a job outside of the editorial or copywriting world and yet I’m still not convinced if I deserve the title.
I have always been the mousy girl who has a difficult time saying no to people and an even more difficult time saying yes to herself. Writing this already makes me feel like I am too much; like I am oversharing and need to give the audience an apologetic smile and a small shrug of the shoulders. I am so tired of being this girl. I hate feeling regret and shame from never sharing my work. I hate each time I hesitantly say I am a writer.
I’m scared of failure. I procrastinate by getting lost in fantasies of success. I dream about traveling the world to interview people, somehow mastering a DSLR and thereby becoming an irreplaceable multimedia journalist. I think about what it would be like to hold a copy of a book with my essays in it. I dream about a blog that has a clean and cohesive theme and looks professional and “on-brand.”
But I am so far from those glittering fantasies. I am just a 23-year-old girl (woman?) who is afraid of people reading her blog, seeing the spelling mistakes, the comma splices, and the “to-be” verbs.
What I’m most afraid of though is entering my 40’s wondering what would have happened if I started working now, in the extraordinary house-fire we call our early 20’s.
What would happen if I waited to write after the period of my life when I chose to go to a beer crawl with a boy I liked instead of fixing my shattered iPhone screen? What if I waited until I could call myself a woman without cringing or second-guessing myself? Could I remember how it felt to be both at the same time? If I waited too long, would writing cease to be something I believe I was meant to do and become just a way to earn money? If I’m not careful, could writing turn into 9 to 5?
In a last-ditch effort of self-preservation, I’ve tried distracting myself from the desire to write with work and the outdoors. But in both situations my mind is elsewhere, spinning words and sentences together, longing to put them to paper but instead letting them float away. No matter where I go or what side projects or talents I try to pick up, I always return back to writing.
Writing is my home country. Everything I do draws me back to writing and the feeling that it gives me. Maybe it is not the fear of over-sharing but the fear of sharing and finally being seen clearly that makes feel the need to back away from the starting line. I have hidden well. There are pieces of me scattered and tucked away in spaces that feel sacred. And maybe I have locked myself in place that is safe and forgotten what it is like to actually live, to go outside and feel the warm of the light—where the sacred places are really located.