I have always called myself a “writer”, and I do mean the stereotypical sitting-in-a-café-trying-to-write-a-book “writer”. Admittedly, I have only done that a few times. Enough to be considered pretentious, but not enough to be considered a “writer”. And yet, something about that personification strikes at the core of my identity. Even through the parts of my life when I neglected writing that connection remained.
Certain things pull us. Their power over us is like that of the sun on earth. Try as we might, we cannot leave its orbit.
As a child I was drawn to books. My attachment was strong. Like, my-mom-would-have-to-take-books-away-rather-than-force-them-upon-me strong. Like, I-would-sleep-with-books-under-my-pillow strong.
Maybe it was the stories, or the illustrations, or the aesthetic of a full colorful bookshelf that grabbed my attention. Or maybe it was that my family did not have money to buy me toys so borrowed books were my main source of entertainment. I do not know what complex combination of variables led me to love books.
Yet there I was, during recess, sitting in the library buried in one.
And there I was again, in grade six, sitting in front of a desktop determined to write a chapter book myself. Starting projects with an unadulterated confidence, itching to tell stories like the ones that had inspired me.
And there I was, again and again, every school year: friends and teachers encouraging me to pursue writing because they thought I was “good at it”.
Until there I wasn’t.
Because somewhere along the way I learned to look at myself hypercritically. Nothing that I wrote felt good enough. I remembered with shame the times when I would jump into projects with excitement and confidence. Astounded that I had foolishly believed I could write.
Somedays I would pick up a pen to write and end up with a page full of crossed out sentence fragments. Not good enough! Somedays I would pick up a pen to write and end up with nothing at all. The worst part was that I felt something in me trembling, desperate get out. But my insecurity was blocking emotional release.
Eventually, I stopped picking up the pen.
Whenever I read something that I liked, I felt humiliated for having ever believed that I could create something as good.
And yet, despite my avoidance and insecurity, I still described myself as a “writer”. For some bizarre reason, I remained connected to that label. Writing seeped into my life, even through the times when I ran from it.
For instance, I chose to take creative writing electives my senior year of high-school when I had other options. For that brief period, my passion breathed again. So much so that my first year of college I joined the creative writing club, where I didn’t last long because I felt like an imposter in a room full of “real” writers.
And yet, there I was, writing a poem every couple of months. Not for a class or a club, but for myself. Because writing was my natural form of coping. It existed as a reflex.
And there I was, again, my sophomore year, choosing to take another creative writing elective when I had other options. It was almost subconscious, like blinking or breathing.
And there I was, again and again: friends and teachers encouraging me to pursue writing because they thought I was good at it.
However, it wasn’t long before my insecurity got in the way and I began to avoid writing again. Junior and senior year I threw myself into my major (math) and my minor (psychology), and I did not think much about writing because I “didn’t have time”.
And yet, there I was, writing down ideas for poems and stories on the notes app of my phone.
And there I was, again, during the long breaks from college. Going to open mic nights on my free time. Performing. Because I “was bored”, and that’s what people do when they’re bored, right?
And there I was, again and again, returning to writing.
Every time I ran from it, the cycle repeated itself.
And every time the pull was stronger.
I am here to end this cycle of push and pull. To finally embrace that I am indeed a “writer”. To never run away from this part of me again, and instead see where it takes me.