I recently came across this post, Advice to College Graduates Contemplating the Writing Life by Sandra Miller that begins by describing situations for writers to thrive, but ultimately reveals that there are only two truths about writing: You write or you wait to write. There’s no in-between, no secret recipe to success. It’s simple, you do or you do not.
“Waiting. Writing. You decide, until it’s no longer a choice and you are reaching for your laptop, as essential as your inhaler.”
When I was younger I always had grand dreams of becoming writer, aspiring to create worlds and paint emotions with my words. There were characters who ran amidst the trees and over the hills in my backyard, heroes battling villains and shaping the foundation of worlds. But, the pen never went to paper and soon these characters faded from my mind to become another lost memory. As I grew older I settled into waiting and dreaming; a witness only to the life passing by me.
“You choose. But if it’s writing instead of waiting, listen for voices in your head until you hear them as clearly as your new beau…”
Then one day I was in college, hanging out in the Regina Dorm reading the school paper, the Saint, and, as someone who has always dreamed of doing feels entitled to critique the doers of the world, I was critiquing a reporter’s story. While I was openly doing so, an RA walked up and challenged me saying, “You should come try it. It’s harder than it sounds.” A week goes past and the same RA asks me if I was still attending the Saint‘s meeting that night. Whether it was pride or peer pressure, there was no escaping. I had to go.
That’s when I truly learned how difficult it was to write devoid of bias, lacking emotion, reciting facts without judgement as I beat my head against the wall to summon less than 500 words to recount how Texas schools had proposed to alter history by removing Thomas Jefferson from textbooks (2010). But then, somehow amidst the struggle I had filled a blank sheet of paper with the required 500 words by my editor’s deadline. That day, I stopped waiting and finally began writing.
The next three years at Aquinas would be filled with news stories covering athletics, interviewing people of interest, and formulated opinion pieces. My writing would continue to grow and diverge from this point on: Experimenting with short stories and poems, advancing my career with scientific publications, and eventually reaching a new platform by blogging.
Somehow, almost accidentally, I had become a writer.
“No one can tell you how to be a writer. You have to find your way there with a map that you sketch yourself, one as singularly unique as your own fingerprints”
By Sandra A. Miller
Make lattes at the bookstore café or bag groceries at the Stop ‘n’ Shop. Give the job some muscle and love, but not every moment of your writing time. Or find a position that taps your talent in exchange for a sizable salary. Eat well. Drink well. Don’t think of this as a right or wrong choice, but you’ll soon enough learn what you hunger for.
Or, like me, pack a bag and move to Japan where you can write through the night in your lonely apartment with Hemingway novels scattered across a blonde straw floor. An eager student will teach you the word for rising sun, Asahi, which, in turn, you will whisper to your lover at dawn, the one who fills, then breaks, your heart, leaving you alone again with nothing but your notebook. Write! Write! Blur the ink with tears as you journey…
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