It’s been 15 years since I wrote.
When I was 12, I wrote fiction religiously each day. I would spend hours at my desk with a pencil and paper after school and fill up a 3 ring binder with pages of story. The next day I would bring my works to school for my (two) friends to read. When that wasn’t enough external validation, I wrote stories on fanfiction.net. I had over 10 stories and was really proud of the readership I received. Several of my works had over 25,000 words and hundreds of comments.
It made me happy to share my ideas with other people. Those hours I spent laboring over my computer and thesaurus (a physical one that I asked for on my 12th birthday) were some of the happiest in my life. Even though the end product for me was to have others read my work, the essence of my writing had always been to express myself – in a way that I otherwise couldn’t do.
As a teenager, a lot of my sense of identity and confidence came from my writing. Even as I disappointed everyone by not finishing a single story and fading away from the website, I still was proud of all the comments that praised my work. It made me feel important that my work had touched others. In my youth, I wasn’t a cool/popular/pretty girl, but I was a writer – and that was something special about me that no one else could imitate.
When high school started, I became caught up with the up and downs of being a real life teenager and writing became an afterthought. 6 months went by without an update, then a year, I told myself I’d get back to it eventually, and then I went away to college where I barely had time to read fiction, let alone write. My desire to keep writing burned in the back of my mind, “I am a good writer. One day when I have more time I will get back to it.” My essays in English class were always well-praised by teachers, and when I was 16 I won a writing award with the local newspaper. These external accolades allowed me to hang on to the belief that I was in essence still a good writer. Then just like that, university was over and my writers’ block had lasted 10 years.
When I became a full-fledged grown-up with a grown-up job, I told myself that for sure I would get back to writing – there was nothing stopping me now. Yet I always found something else to do. Whether to socialize, shop, obsess over handbags, agonize over petty drama, drink, or to binge-watch Netflix. The past half decade, while enjoyable, blurred together to the point where now I ask myself what I have to show for it at the end.
Now it has been over 5 years since I graduated university, and all of a sudden that 10 year writers’ block has turned into 15. The only kind of writing I do these days are legal documents at work, there aren’t even essays to write anymore. Aside from this little blog, I have no other agencies through which to write.
Even though in the back of my mind, I am still a writer. I am ashamed to call myself one. After all, I haven’t written anything for a very long time.
A part of me is terrified to start over – what if my work now is worse than that when I was 12? What if I have nothing to say? What if that was the ‘best’ I will ever become and I squandered away whatever hopes I had of becoming a real writer by not following through when I was still growing?
It’s been a very long time since I’ve read any of these comments. I feel deeply guilty for all the people who waited on me and I let down, but I feel worse for 12 year old me. If anything, I wish I could’ve finished a story for myself.
I really don’t dare to go back and read my old stories. Not because I’m worried they’ll be bad, but because I’m worried that they’ll seem good, and that I’ll always wonder what would have happened had I never stopped. Just an endless paralysis of ruminating regrets, oh god have I made a terrible mistake where would I be today if I just kept writing I wish I never stopped.
The other day, I was complaining about my life to a girlfriend who was trying her best to give appropriate advice. Even though I was mostly creating drama myself, I was dismayed that all of her advice involved a lot of time spent on self-improvement. How can I spare that time? I have to write! I thought. I already spend so much time on that! How can I give more? And I became absolutely terrified at just how easy it was to become consumed by other things, well, by almost anything else, that I will keep putting writing off. I imagined that I will be lying in my death bed one day thinking about all the times I could’ve picked up a (metaphorical) pen when I instead went to the bar or complained about some bitch – all the times I made up problems to insert into my life just to get in the way of doing what I truly want to do.
There is no more time for me to waste. I don’t want to post about a 20 year writers block in the future.
I know I will be shitty for a long time.
I know I will have trouble finding my voice again.
I know I’ll have days when I just want to give up because I will believe there’s nothing I have to say.
But I also know that it’s in me as long as I reach deep enough. That I can create something beautiful and full of feeling. That I will scrape out whatever sentiment and humanity I’ve accumulated over the past 15 years and pour it all into my characters. That one day, someone out there will burst into tears as they read my words because they will feel like someone truly understands them.
That is my ikigai – to make some teenage girls cry.