Honesty: Struggles of Being a Writer

I am a writer. Not, I want to be or I hope to be a writer. I am. It took me awhile to grasp the idea.  Eventually you have to stop avoiding reality.  Eventually you have to take your doubts shove them away in an empty drawer and decide that you are what you hope to be.

I didn't always know I was a writer.  Reading has always been my safety blanket.  From when I was a little girl, my nose was always stuck inside a book; even during class, teachers had to encourage me to put the book away and do my schoolwork.  I’d always done well in my English classes.  Although I didn’t particularly enjoy grammar and vocabulary, English class was always my favorite part of the day. Throughout high school I always said I wanted to write, but I don’t necessarily think I believed I could actually do it. Teachers told me my writing was good, that I had potential, but in my mind they were just saying that because they had to.  After all, I was a good student, I did my work, I never missed class and, humbly so, I was always a “pleasure to have in class.” Teachers enjoyed me because I did my part and I did it well. So, when they complimented me, it seemed obligatory.  It wasn’t a truth I had an easy time accepting. I took a creative writing class my senior year. It was challenging but at one point during the semester we wrote a short story.  We had the opportunity to share our story with the class and receive feedback.  I didn't even hesitate. I was shocked to find the majority of criticism was positive and even praiseworthy.  There was one particular student whose story, for me, was one of the most beautiful I had read, and he said mine was the best one out of everyone’s.  That comment, and that moment where I felt proud of what I had written, has stuck with me to this day.

When it came time to graduate high school and move on to college I wasn’t as overwhelmed by the idea of it as everyone else was.  I remember when my oldest cousin went away to school, she majored in English. I knew from that point on English was it for me.  I was going to study English in college.  I didn’t know what I would do with it, but it was the only thing that made sense.

My junior year of college I discovered DOY and it was then that I toyed with the idea of writing. Cydney challenged me to truly think about what I want and I couldn’t get the gnawing feeling of spilling myself out through the written word out of my head. I struggled with the belief that I was a writer for the last two years of school. I’ve gone back and forth between proclaiming “I want to write” and “I have no idea what I want to do” so many times I’ve lost count. Once again, my senior year I took a creative writing class. When it finally came time to write and share and peer analyze, I found myself back where I was my senior year of high school.  I was overwhelmed by the amount of genuine positive feedback. That reinforced confidence instilled inside me proved something to me: I can do this.

Now, as a college graduate, I’ve found life as a self-proclaimed writer is not the easiest thing in the world. Not only am I continually trying to encourage myself to keep going, but I’m also fighting against the world that strongly believes I won’t get there. Without fail, every time I mention my writing career, I get looks of concern.  People ask, “What are you going to do?” I get told, “Go back to school.” It seems the world thinks they know what’s best for me. Constantly being surrounded by negativity and unwarranted advice is emotionally and spiritually draining.

Some days I find myself completely inspired by everything and anything that I come into contact with.  I’ve become more of an active blogger and I’ve opened myself up to community Twitter chats where people understand the struggles and the joys of following your passion. I tell myself things are falling into place and no matter how slow the process seems, I will come out on top with an inspirational story to encourage the masses to follow their heart and go after the things they’ve always wanted. Some days I publish posts on my blog that I’m hesitant about and then am pleasantly surprised by the incredible number of responses to what I’ve written.

And then there’s days where I think about how I want to be an author and yet I’ve done absolutely nothing in the form of fiction writing. People tell me you can write about anything, just make it up. Just start writing! But that’s not me. I need to be inspired. I need just a flicker of an idea to go running through the wilderness with.  I need an idea that will last more than a few pages and won’t leave me staring at a blank document in Microsoft Word.

Writing is messy.  Writing is draining.  Writing is frustrating and overwhelming and sometimes I ask myself if I even like it. Sometimes I go weeks without transferring thoughts to words through a keyboard. Sometimes I think about giving in and applying to a job that I won’t like but will give me stability financially. I think about escaping where I am but then this fear comes creeping in.  You know, the one where as a young 22 year old you have all these dreams for yourself but it got hard and you got worried so you settled.  You settled for a job that pays well and you gave up on that dream. You gave up on yourself.  You threw in the towel because you stopped having faith that it was all worth it.

It’s okay to be a writer and not always like it.  It’s okay to go through rough patches where the words just don’t come to you. Being uninspired doesn’t mean you’re a failure, it means you’re a fighter.  It means you’re willing to wait for just that little spark to find its way into your soul.  It means you understand the agony and the pain of expressing yourself through those measly 26 letters. It means you see the world in a way no one else can and your story, once it comes to you, is going to be absolutely incredible.

Maire Hannigan