I’ve never liked writing

A list of things I wanted to be when I grew up:

  • Chef;
  • Wildlife photographer;
  • Surgeon–briefly;
  • Mortician–less briefly than one might suppose;
  • Artist–painting and sculpture;
  • Inventor;
  • Academic–variously a geologist, biologist, horticulturist, historian, art historian, etc.;
  • Travel agent.

Note that absent from this list are:

  • Mother–a story for another time;
  • Anything relating to my current occupation–ditto;
  • Writer.

The thing is, I’ve never liked writing. The act itself, that is. I believe that any skill I possess in this area stems from an escapism-motivated excess of reading, as well as my ninth-grade English teacher’s tedious assignments from The Art of Styling Sentences: 20 Patterns for Success, by Waddell, Esch, and Walker.

It’s presumptuous to imply that I have any skill at all, but that’s what happens when you spend your formative years being praised for something you’ve never yourself considered. The empty space of “my thoughts on writing” is full of the pronouncements of others, rattling around like a few coins in a forgotten piggy bank. In sixth-grade I won a writing competition at my school, much to the consternation of my best friend at the time, who did want to be A Writer when she grew up. It was a story about aliens.

What I have always liked are the things that writing allows. Writing is not subject to feeling like I’m being slowly suffocated when I attempt to explain myself verbally. It allows for distractions but hides them in the final product. Foolish thoughts stare me in the face if I write them down. Useful thoughts become plain amid the evaporating foolery. Emotions, conquered. Indecision, dashed. It’s daydreaming made concrete.

This makes it sound like I’ve written for myself, for fun, a lot. I have not. I burned my teenage journals in my parents’ fireplace. (It’s been about fifteen years, and I don’t regret it.) My later attempts at journaling 5 minutes a day, 3 gratitudes, 1 gratitude, shitty-first-drafts, open letters, letters to the self, insightful social media posts, incisive satires, travel blogs, cooking blogs, self-help workbook exercises, bullet journals, poems, songs, and jotting down scraps of thought have all sputtered nearly as soon as they began.

So, why another? Frankly, I need an intellectual and creative outlet and future me would do well to remember that when re-reading this.

Elizabeth Murray, Young Woman at Writing Desk, n.d., watercolor over graphite, 25.1 × 16.7 cm, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, https://api.artic.edu/api/v1/artworks/115189/manifest.json.

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