Falling Back in Love with Writing

I’ve loved to write since I was in elementary school. There was nothing better than arriving at school to find out that our morning assignment was to write a story. My friends and I begged my third grade teacher to let us take our notebooks out to recess so that we could work on our stories. I spent summers with a pile of paper and a box of crayons creating books that I bound with yarn. I filled several spiral notebooks a school year.

Then I grew up. Suddenly, writing became a little more intense. I started getting graded for what I wrote. I learned about deadlines. I was forced to share my work with other people. I found out that you almost never write the perfect story the first time around, and there is always something to revise. I started submitting my work to agents. My email inbox started overflowing with rejection letters. All of the sudden, I didn’t really love writing anymore. In fact, about six months ago, I sat down in front of my computer after working two jobs and typed three words: I hate writing.  Then I walked away from desk and didn’t return.

I didn’t write for three months. I helped the student athletes I tutored brainstorm ideas and edit their papers and essays without wondering about my own writing. I celebrated my writer friends’ accomplishments without worrying about whether I was doing enough to be successful. Best of all, I read. I read newspapers, blogs, and short stories. Some weeks I would read three or four books. I read so many YA novels that I wish I had been eligible for the monthly reading contest for teens at my local library. I would have dominated those kids.

It was in the midst of one of these YA novels that I suddenly remembered why I started writing all those years ago.

Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell is a YA book about two teenagers living in Omaha in 1986. These two misfits are forced to sit by each other on the school bus and eventually fall for each other.

This book made me remember the wonderful, terrifying emotions that come with being young and in love for the first time.  There were some tough issues these two lovebirds had to deal with that I never had to experience in my real life. But after I finished reading the book, I felt like I had.

I started writing because I wanted to experience things I could only dream about. I started writing because I loved creating characters and situations and figuring out what happened with them. I liked that often times the characters you created taught you something about yourself.  I enjoyed that I could rewrite the outcome of past experiences.

It turned out I didn’t actually hate writing. I did not enjoy the process of securing an agent. I hated deadlines and being told what I could and couldn’t do.  I hated that I had revised my novel for two years and it still wasn’t good enough.

I started writing for myself. I wrote without worrying what an agent would say or what people would think. Some days I wrote for two hours. Other days I wrote for ten minutes. Sometimes I wrote with pen and paper and drew scenes in the margins.

The reality is that my current writing habits are not going to advance my writing career.  Everything I wrote needs revision. I probably should be writing more often. I know that I will face the exhaustion and rejection again. Next time, I want to be ready.

So for now, I’m taking the time to remember all the reasons I love to write.

Kathleen Ingraham is a 2011 graduate of the Solstice MFA Program at Pine Manor College and currently works for a printing company in Lawrence, Kansas. Her work has appeared in Sucker Literary Volume 2 and Chicken Soup for the Soul. Follow her on twitter: @K_Leen

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