(this is a continuation of yesterday’s post, What I Thought Adulthood Would Be Like as a Child)
The first sentence is always the hardest to write.
The first sentence of any sort of writing project has kept me from writing more stories or posts or papers than I can remember, and has delayed the start of so many more. This has often meant rushing to finish a paper, and when these were turned in, they typically didn’t receive grades I was accustomed to getting in other classes.
While I was in high school, we would occasionally have English papers that needed to be turned in early so the teacher could edit the paper with us. I already have an aversion to reading my own writing, which makes editing an interesting task, but having to go over my mistakes with my teacher was never something I looked forward to. As I was reaching the height of my mindset of only liking things that came easily to me, editing, rushing to finish, and lower grades led me to believe I didn’t like writing.
In college, I actively chose classes that required less writing than others. One major example was with one of the general credit class choices. There were two different tracts for this specific credit; a student could either take Humanities 1 and 2, or they could take Christianity and Western Culture (CWC) and Intro to Creative Arts (ICA). The primary descriptor that fueled my choice was that Humanities was more paper-based and CWC/ICA was more test based. Preferring tests to papers, I chose the second option.
In my first semester, I also took the required College Writing class, a class I was glad to get out of the way. My College Writing class required three papers throughout the semester, all of which required meeting with the professor for editing, and two of which required a presentation. The first paper (which I believe was a book report-style paper) did not go well for me. I don’t remember all of the circumstances, but I believe I did a major re-write after meeting with the professor. She told me that I should go back over the paper with her when I finished it, a piece of advice I chose not to heed. The result was a C on my paper. The other two papers went much better (with no need for major re-writes), and I recovered the overall grade in the class. Still, the class and the entire writing and editing process felt terribly monotonous, and I continued not to enjoy writing.
Throughout the rest of my college career, I had a number of papers I was quite proud of, a number I most certainly wasn’t proud of (including my 8 page Senior Seminar paper, the topic of which I chose two weeks before the end of the semester), and many more somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. Through the entirety of college, I found paper writing to be a necessary evil to finishing school. That necessary evil would continue as I decided to go to graduate school.
Graduate school was where I found my love for writing. After having hated writing for years, I finished the first year of graduate school with a similar feeling. However, during my internship that summer, I found a different way of approaching writing. The internship was a political advocacy internship, where I was writing letters to the editor and editorials, press releases and advisories, blog posts; essentially, I was writing a large amount of persuasive pieces that had a word count maximum. Suddenly, the game was trying to think of new things to write; it was trying to write the best 150 word piece possible. The one thing that teachers and professors had always had positive remarks about was the structure and logical progression of my papers, a skill which had a tremendous benefit in these shorter pieces. Writing didn’t seem like a daunting task anymore; it felt like a challenge I was able to take on and overcome with great success. While many of the pieces didn’t end up being published (for a number of reasons), I did ghostwrite a few first drafts of published editorials, as well as the first draft of a white paper for the organization.
Returning to school the next fall, writing slowly began to fall back into the category of being a nuisance. As time went on, I began to suspect that I still didn’t enjoy writing papers or writing about topics someone else chose. Writing as a job was more interesting and more motivating than writing for school – or so I thought. Writing one of my final papers for school, I had a realization as I was sitting in the library – I actually enjoyed writing this paper. In the midst of turning in 5 papers in 5 weeks and having to work school around my job, I found joy in writing. I ended up turning the paper in a day late because I hadn’t given myself as much time as I needed, and I found what I think was the predominating factor in my dislike for writing; when I had the time, I enjoyed the process of writing. Writing is like a puzzle in so many ways, a puzzle whose pieces you have to make in order to describe the memory of a picture. Finding the best way to put to put that puzzle together is a process I enjoy, at the moment, to no end.
Looking back over my academic career, I realize that procrastination was a major reason I didn’t like writing, and procrastination often started because I didn’t want to do something hard or because I couldn’t think of how to start. Math always seemed easier in that there was a right answer, and you knew for sure when you were right or wrong. After expecting to go into a math or engineering related field, my high school self would be shocked at my current interest in writing. Finding joy in writing is something I wish I’d found sooner, but am incredibly happy to have found.