My, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? Hello old friends, I hope you’re all doing marvelously. About three weeks ago I finished my freshman year of college (woo!) and, as I tend to do when anything major comes to an end, I’ve been feeling very introspective lately. Part of this has been related to my schoolwork, obviously, as in thinking about what I liked and what I didn’t, what I did well at and areas where I think I should improve. Another major part of this, however, has been thinking about the things I do for fun, particularly book blogging, because during the last couple of months I became completely consumed by school work, neglecting those activities like reading and writing that I love so dearly. And while school is important, the things we enjoy are also important, and finding a balance between work and play is something I need work on. Not just a little bit of work, a huge amount of work. Basically, I’m hopeless at it.
So, all of this introspection led me to thinking about why I’m so quick to drop all of the activities I enjoy when things in my life get stressful (I know lots of people are like this, and I am by no means the only person to have this problem, but I can only speak from my personal experiences so I apologize if at any point during this post I sound massively self-centered). I read very few books for fun during my freshman year of college, and those books I did try and read are still sitting on my nightstand, unfinished. As for writing, I find it incredibly difficult to write during the school year. The only blog posts I’ve really written since September were during Christmas break, when I was on holiday. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, why I find it so difficult to write when things in my life are stressful. When I actually sit down at my computer or my desk and put words on the page, I feel a million times better. The thought, however, of actually sitting down and writing seems impossible sometimes, and I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why exactly that is.
I love writing, I really, really do. I think it’s a wonderful thing. Give me the choice between expressing myself through speech and expressing myself on paper and I will choose the written word every single time. No question about it. As an introverted person, I find that my thoughts and ideas just make more sense when I put them on paper. When I’m talking to someone, my mind moves a thousand miles a minute and my mouth can’t keep up, causing my words to come across as rushed and confusing. On paper, however, I can take the time to figure out exactly how I want to say things. Unlike spoken conversation, I can stop whenever I want to make sure my intentions are clear and my phrasing is sufficiently eloquent (or at least as eloquent as I can possibly be). Yes, as a form of communication, I do believe I am far more suited to writing than speaking. In addition to preferring to express myself through writing, I take immense pleasure in reading good writing. As a bibliophile and book blogger this may seem rather obvious, but there is nothing I love more than good writing. When I find a beautiful passage I tend to mull over it for days, reading and rereading it until it becomes so ingrained in my memory that it’s almost a part of me. I’ve even started keeping a quote journal so that I can write down all the passages and quotes I love whilst I’m reading.
Yet, while there is little I love more than the written word, I find the thought of writing to be extremely intimidating. I find myself stuck in a perpetual cycle of having lots of ideas for things I would like to write, but never actually sitting down to write them out. Take this blog, for example. For the last several months I’ve been telling myself and anyone who asks that I haven’t been writing simply because I don’t have the time, what with school and life and extracurriculars getting in the way. Now, however, school has finished, I’m reading plenty, and I have tons of ideas for posts I would like to write, yet I’m still not writing. What’s the deal?
The part of me that is quick to think the worst wants to condemn this dread of writing (and it is a dread, let me tell you – sometimes the thought of sitting down and forming coherent thoughts seems like the hardest thing in the world) as complete and utter laziness. “You could write if you just tried more,” I’ve been telling myself for months, “if you cared a little bit more, if you just worked a little bit harder.” Yet another part of me, the part more inclined to see the good, doesn’t quite buy the laziness explanation. I know when I’m being lazy. Laziness is when I stay in bed reading all day instead of writing that essay I know is due tomorrow. Laziness is when I choose to stay home and watch Netflix instead of working out. Laziness, however, at least for me, is always followed by an overwhelming sense of guilt that will propel me into action – next time I have the choice, I’ll make sure I do my homework or tag along with my mom to the gym. If my lack of writing, therefore, was due to something as simple as laziness, then surely some feelings of guilt would’ve kicked in by now, and it hasn’t. Not even a little. My dread of writing, therefore, must be something more than laziness, some deeper problem I’m not even consciously aware of.
I didn’t really sit down and think about this in any great length a few nights ago, when I came across the following tweet from author Louise Miller (whose debut novel, The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living, is completely wonderful and you should all go check it out):
As I lay in bed reading that tweet, a couple of thoughts went through my mind in quick succession: 1) could my fear of writing be caused by my anxiety? 2) do published authors feel just as intimidated by writing as I do? and 3) you know what I should do? I should write about this!
And so that’s exactly what I did. I sat down with my notebook and I wrote, for the first time in weeks, and you know what? It felt good. It felt really, really good. And all of this rambling and writing about writing has shown me that, as Louise Miller wisely said on Twitter, the best way to get over your writing-related anxieties is just to sit down, look the beast in the eye, and write. Write until your hand hurts, write until you run out of pages, write until everyone around you has long gone to bed and closed their eyes. Write like you have to, like owe it to yourself, because you absolutely do. We all do.
I know firsthand how easy it is, particularly in the blogging community, to think that your own writing will never be good enough, that your words are far too small to convey all of the ideas swirling around in that vast and wonderful mind of yours. I get it. You read someone else’s writing and it’s witty and eloquent and has so much to say about life and literature that you think to yourself, “My God, why do I even bother?” and so you stop. You set down the pencil, close the computer screen, and eventually you’ve been gone for so long that you think you’ll never be able to start up again. But you can, and you should. The world is made up of a billion different voices and stories and experiences, and the moment you let your anxiety win, the moment you start believing that your voice isn’t good enough, the world loses out.
I know I’ve been rambling for a while, so I’m going to wrap this post up now, but I just want to end by saying that I know overcoming your anxieties is much easier said than done. I’m sure there will always be a little voice in the back of my head telling me that my thoughts and ideas aren’t good enough, that no one will read the things I write. But you know what? I’m going to keep writing anyways. I hope you do as well.