I discovered the joy of writing in my third grade classroom. I was encouraged by my teacher, Mrs. Malkowski. She had us write a journal entry in our marbled composition notebooks each morning. She would turn to us with her wide smile, tight brown curls forming a halo around her face, and offer us a prompt.
“What do you and your family do on the holidays?”
“What is your favorite season and why?”
Her topics were simple but they opened up worlds for me. The questions anchored my mind to the page in front of me. They helped focus my scattered thoughts so that I could form them into written words. I marveled at the sentences shining in graphite before me.
The next year, in fourth grade, Mr. Lloyd helped bring my budding interest into a full bloom. His prompts pushed my imagination further, beyond the confines of describing my everyday life. For Halloween, he asked us to write him a scary story. He encouraged us to develop our characters, set the scene, create a plot. He taught us the meaning of these concepts and challenged us to apply them in our writing.
No longer was I working only with words. I had tools to construct a narrative, and this felt like magic to me. I could create a world out of thin air! I was a wizard, just like Hermione, but I wielded a No. 2 pencil instead of a wand.
And for a while, I wrote. I filled pages of spiral-bound notebooks with spin-offs of the Harry Potter series, with stories about the trials and tribulations of an outcast in the jungle of middle school, with any other bizarre plot that came to mind. I did this with the confidence of a little kid. My innocence allowed me to write without feeling like it was an audacious act. It was just something that I wanted to do, so I did it.
As I got older, and my mind opened wider, I began to realize how little I know of this world. I started feeling self-conscious about the words I committed to paper. Who was I to write about characters that experienced love when I never had myself? How could I craft a tale set in a locale that was foreign to me? I wrote less and less. I focused instead on school and developing my knowledge.
I told myself that I would come back to writing one day, when I was a whole person with real life experiences, someone who could say something true and novel.
And yet, the more I learned and experienced, the more afraid I became to create. The academic setting of university laid bare the unending gaps in my knowledge. I was constantly prompted to critique, read several books before I even attempted to write anything of value, and construct arguments with theoretically dense terminology. I learned to ask questions and sharpened the lens through which I saw the world. But I forgot how to imagine. I became afraid to write from the heart. I felt certain that whatever creative powers I once possessed had been beaten out of me.
I surrendered to this reality, replacing my wish to produce creative works with an insatiable appetite for consuming them. In between classes, I voraciously read novels and envied the authors that wrote them. How did they become so wise? Where did they learn to imagine? Who taught them the conventions of writing a full-length masterpiece?
One year and a half has passed since graduation. In that time, I have started this blog and put up 27 posts. It’s a humble number, but it’s more than I could have imagined ever sharing with the world just 18 months ago. With each word I share, I feel more myself, the person I have always wanted to become.
I am thankful for my education, in measures beyond which I can express. But I must admit that my mind feels liberated by being away from university. It has been a day-to-day kind of journey, but slowly I find myself regaining my voice. I am winning back the confidence to say something. I am gathering enough courage to take the dare of writing for an audience. Even if it’s just an audience of two, with my brother and sister reading from across the world, or if I manage to collect a few other readers along the way.
I am becoming comfortable with the idea that I will never be a “whole person” with something “true” to say about this world. But that does not mean I should refrain from writing.
The truth is, I’ll never develop enough worldly experience to ever feel certain about the value of what I am creating. I am leaning into the notion that writing is an act of faith, and by definition of faith, certainty will never be part of the equation. Writing is more about showing up everyday to put words on paper, with full awareness that what you say will never be perfect, but with consistent effort, it could perhaps be enough.
Through this blog, I finally feel strong enough to commit further to writing. I want to clear out the distractions that drain my focus. I want to fill the narrow slivers of time between the work day and other responsibilities with words. I declare these intentions here so that I can hold myself accountable to them, even when writer’s block hits, and even self-doubt creeps in.
To honor this resolution, I am producing one blog post a day through the month of January. Maybe some days I will return to the structure of elementary school, using prompts to guide me. Other days I will just let the inspiration come from within. But on everyday, I will take a leap of faith and promise to show up. I hope you’ll join me for the ride.