Sometimes I assess the state of my life based on whether I have anything to write about. When I’m too stressed out, I have a hard time collecting my thoughts in a coherent way. When things are going swimmingly, I don’t want to spend an afternoon holed up on my couch, clacking away on my keyboard. It’s typically in between those two extremes where I feel most productive. I need just enough stress to make me use writing as an emotional outlet, but enough positive energy to be able to focus and use my time productively. But that happy medium has been too freakin impossible to attain lately.
I’ve been lacking in inspiration, motivation, and creativity. I’ve tried countless times over the past month or so to just sit, write, and accomplish something. On one particular warm spring day (which have unfortunately been few and far between in northern Michigan thus far), I made the 20ish minute drive from campus into town, my windows cracked and Josh Ritter’s new album playing sweetly through my car stereo. The sun was out and it seemed like the perfect day to spend a little time at my favorite downtown coffeeshop, sipping a cup of local organic tea, and unloading some of the things that had been burdening my mind. (I sound like a huge hippie freak, sorry.) But after I got there, ordered my tea, and made myself comfortable at a little table, I couldn’t write anything. I opened a new Word document. I thought of the infinite possibilities I would have relished within that blank document back when I was a teenage short story writer, but I stared at my computer and nothing came to mind. I drank my tea really quickly and then had to pee right away. I fidgeted constantly. I checked Facebook 847 times. I didn’t understand what had changed. A couple months ago, I could barely sift through all of the different topics I wanted to write about. Now I had none.
Perhaps I should explain that I’ve never considered myself “a writer.” That sounds stupid now that I’m actually declaring it, because…well, I have this blog, don’t I? And honestly, I’ve been writing for most of my adolescent and adult life. But I’ve gone through writing phases. As a preteen and teenager, I wrote short stories all the time. I was obsessed with young adult fiction and most of my stories followed the typical teenage-girl-facing-the-world-slash-in-love-with-her-best-guy-friend model that I devoured, one novel at a time. As a senior in high school, I got my first (and only, so far) freelance job as a teen opinion columnist for my local newspaper. (My old columns are all in their online archives, I recently discovered, so that was a fun blast from the past during one recent and extremely boring front desk shift.) In college, I understood the mechanics of writing for academics well enough to breeze through the writing requirements of all my courses (especially my music ones, because apparently nobody in that discipline expects you to be able to express yourself unless it’s through performing or writing notes on a staff — one time I was assigned an analytical paper on a specific lied for my theory class, and my professor was so impressed by my writing skills that he gave me an A+, which I didn’t even know you could get in college). I even tutored other students in writing and took one creative writing course during my senior year. But I never considered writing to be more than just a skill that I had, a useful tool that allowed me to easily communicate in various capacities and environments. I didn’t consider it as a career choice (though I guess I have made a little money doing it and teaching others how to do it). I let it be a part of me as it always had been, but it was never a defining characteristic.
I guess the point is, writing has always just been a normal part of my life; a convenient skill when I need to capitalize on it, or an outlet to express creativity or get caught up in telling a story that’s not my own. More recently, though, it’s been a way for me to process emotions that I can’t otherwise get out. For one thing, I don’t express myself eloquently when I try to speak about my feelings. I have to get them out in writing, to put them down in black and white, in order to feel like I’m adequately explaining myself. So I do that sometimes. But since I don’t see myself as a “real” writer, I don’t have ways of getting myself past that staring-at-a-blank-screen-with-no-inspiration point. I don’t have exercises that I use to get the words flowing. I always found those exhausting when I was forced to do them in school. But sitting at that table in the coffeeshop with nothing to do but browse my Spotify playlists, I realized that it’s also exhausting to want to write, to have this desire to let the words flow freely for awhile, and not be able to do it.
So now, as I’m trying to redefine myself and my career path heading forward into my adult life, I’m starting to wonder if I should take writing more seriously. It’s always been this constant in my life, but since I saw myself as a musician for so long, the writer side of me always fell by the wayside. I’m not sure why I felt like I needed to choose between the two, but now that music has become more of a hobby for me, I feel like it might be time to let my writer side grow more. I need to force myself to sit and write, even if it’s about nothing important, nothing worth reading a few hours later. I need to come up with ways to break through that blockage I face, but I also need to accept that sometimes, the block is an important part of the creative process. I need to want to do it, but I also need to do it even when I don’t necessarily want to. I need to start writing down my observations, taking in my surroundings and reacquainting myself with the way words can express literally anything around you or within you. I need to find a way to write when I’m so stressed I can’t handle it and when I’m over-the-moon happy, and all those other moods in between.
Mostly, I think I need to see myself as a writer. So here we go. I’m a writer.