During my freshman year of college, I had one teacher say something to me that, for better or for worse, determined my college career. “This is a well-written piece, and I know of a small, on-campus publication that would love to print it. Have you ever thought about studying English?” The following semester, I disregarded my parents pleas to study business, and I declared a major in English. But with an Emphasis on Practical Writing. It was a compromise, you see; in case creative writing never worked out, at least I could write interoffice memos really well. And I never did submit my essay to the small, on-campus publication. This isn’t about regret though. Not really.
Shortly after college, I stopped writing, and after I stopped writing, I stopped dreaming. I could fill up a notebook with all of my excuses, but it all boiled down to the value I placed on myself as an individual and myself as a writer, which was zilch. Aside from these sporadic blog posts, I haven’t written anything in about 4 years.
Last month, I got a new supervisor at work, and after work I stopped by her office to chit-chat. Honestly, this lady terrified me, and this was my way of testing the waters. For some reason, I mentioned that I used to love to write, but lately it’s caused me a lot of anxiety. I mentioned that fear of failure kept me from telling stories, even though I recognized this was a self-fulfilling prophecy. The next morning, she approached me and told me she ruminated over our conversation from the previous day, and it upset her that I wasn’t writing anymore. She printed out a quote and stuck it to the whiteboard in my office:
There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure. –Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
Then she told me that I need to start writing again because I’d never be satisfied otherwise. This caught me by surprise because for once, someone seemed to give a damn– someone other than my mom and dad, who have to encourage me to keep writing because they are my parents***. But, the encouragement didn’t stop there. Once a week, she asks me if I went home and wrote. She sends me encouraging words and pictures in e-mails, like the Rumi quote above. She turns accounting lessons into life lessons into reasons why I need to write.
Sometimes I forget why I write because I read articles about writing for an audience and writing for publishers and writing for money and writing for fame and writing for change. Sometimes that burden is too much because at the end of the day, most of us started writing for ourselves. Because art nourishes in a way that accounting never could. So, last weekend I wrote. On the back side of neon orange-colored printer paper. With an equally orange pen that had the perfect amount of inkiness to slide across the page with ease but without coating the side of my hand with black smudges. My hand started to cramp after just a few minutes because I haven’t written with such vigor in a long time.
*** It’s like when I was really young, I used to say I was going to be a tiger when I grew up. Or a cowboy-girl. I’m certain it was met with, “Honey, you can be anything you put your mind to”. I obviously could never become a tiger, but good parents don’t discourage big dreams. (Cowboy-girl, on the other hand, is still a potential job title that I may or may not strive for once I gain a little more work experience.)
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