I’ve been telling myself to start writing for years now.
Start a blog. Do that independent research project you’ve been thinking of. Write some long note on Facebook. Write in a journal. And yet here I am. I never started a personal blog (a business blog, yes). I have a number of research projects in queue, yet very little writing to show for it.
I am, one might say, one of those writers who doesn’t write. I spend my days crafting different ideas, jotting down notes, and drafting articles, yet none of them seem to make it to the final stage.
It was easy to get to the final draft when I was in college and graduate school to get some writing done. I had no choice — it was that or take a failing or incomplete grade. I was kept on deadlines. Or if there’s a writing project that I’ve been asked to do, I have no problem with it. But it has been so difficult for me to write freely, for myself, and to publish my work.
I am a writer who doesn’t write, but I don’t want to be.
Writing has always been deeply personal for me. Even my academic writing was (is?) driven, to some extent, by something that moves me emotionally and affects me spiritually.
In 2013, I took a course on Christian monastic history and spirituality. I still consider that term paper’s title one of the best I’ve written: Augustine Weeping: Conversion and the Spirituality of Tears in the Confessions. I recall presenting my research to the class and nearly breaking down while doing so.
I experience radical shifts in thought and heart as I read and write about, for example, Catherine of Siena (1347–1380). She opened me up to a world I had only theoretically considered — the absolutely insane love that God has for each and every human person (I may write about this more at another time).
This is my problem. Not that I am deeply moved by what I study, but that I am keenly aware of the vulnerability that goes into writing my thoughts down on paper (or on screen, as the case may be). This makes me nervous and I shut down, walls up. My writing — my ability to write — suffers for it.
Just over a year ago, at age 26, I came out as gay to my family for the first time.
I had been wrestling with it for years. I didn’t know how to reconcile my sexual orientation with my Catholic upbringing. My family also doesn’t really talk about those things. I had no way of gauging their response, and I certainly didn’t know how to approach the idea within myself. I had been building my impenetrable walls for over two decades.
On a side note, a year has gone by. My family knows. They’re accepting and loving. They probably like my boyfriend more than they like me. I know that I’m fortunate. We can talk more about all of this at another time. Back to writing.
A year into my “new” life, and I’ve begun to realize that the walls need to come down completely. Those walls that took so long to build up do not come crashing down overnight and nor should they. As I remove the walls brick-by-brick, I get to see how I’ve been affected by them.
I never realized before a few months ago how these walls prevented me from finding and using my voice as a writer. I had imagined that I was just not a good writer (trust me, I know I’m not the best). I had imagined that no one wants to hear what I have to say (I mean, this is certainly still possible). Whatever the reason, each came back to my own insecurity and shame around who I am.
Today I work on myself. I don’t try to change myself, my perspective, or my writing so that others will be happy, all the while allowing space for change and growth. Today I work on my ability to present myself as I am.
I want to write scholarship, but it needs to be on (and in) my own terms, exploring the topics that I want to explore. I want to write about travel. About coffee. About spirituality. About my own life’s story. No longer ashamed.
I’m finally coming to the point where maybe one day, perhaps even now, I can consider myself a writer who does in fact write.