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Circling Back to Me

Updated: Sep 25, 2022

Not everything I make needs to be super long or hit a certain word count to be valid or publishable. Not everything I write needs to be written for an audience and the more I distance myself from that thought the better I feel.

Visual Released by Studio Ghibi


2020


I’ve come a long way from my early days of writing. Not just in terms of quality or the depth of my ideas (which have certainly improved) but also my approach to writing. I no longer scribble poems in journals that I definitely needed and definitely used, or type away whatever my heart desired on my iPod. I don’t write just for the sake of writing anymore, or just because I wanted to or I felt like it. Before, if I had a story in my mind, I would start it, write it, and maybe publish it on Wattpad to abysmal reviews that were upsetting but never really bothered me. Now, I worry about word counts and how people would react to my story. These are all important things but they greatly impacted the fluidity of my writing. There’s always something to think about while writing now, something greater than the little girl who just wanted to write stories.

Before 2020, I hadn’t known many writers in real life, and I wasn’t in any online spaces where I could meet them. My social circle consisted primarily of the friends I met at school and my family members, not many of whom were writers. They don’t lie when they say ignorance is bliss because those days I felt mostly uninhibited. No word counts, no comparisons, no expectations; just an overactive imagination and a desire to create something. One striking difference between me then and me now is how often I would share my writing. Whenever I got the chance, I’d show whatever I was writing to whoever cared. I gave out my Wattpad and got my friends to read my stories and we’d all fuss about them. I wrote stories on a whim, never finished them and then moved onto something else. There was no heart break or drama, just a simple I’ll get back to that one eventually, before moving on. Starting a new project was always fun because I could feel it in my bones that this was the one I was going to finish - my magnum opus if you will. It never turned out that way but it was still exciting.

Maybe it was simply age that changed the way I began to view things. I always wanted to publish young and getting older and not making much progress surely would’ve affected me, but I largely accredit the change in my writing to meeting other writers. There were so many things about the writing community that I didn’t know. It turns out that you could write out of sequence (I didn’t have to feel bad for leaving out a scene every now and then) and you didn’t have to edit while writing. Discovering things like NaNoWriMo and Escapril, learning about the desired word counts for novels (far from what I had been achieving at the time), and even simple stuff like the concept of a first draft was really impactful for me. My book didn’t have to be perfect on the first try, I could keep working on it. Things like that were comforting.

But then there were the things that were distressing - for lack of a better word. 50,000 words on average for a novel. 80k or even 100k for certain genres. I started wondering if I was a slow writer. Why wasn’t I moving fast enough? Why couldn’t I finish a novel? This all came to a head after I gave up on the current novel I was writing, something that had happened plenty of times before, but felt different now. It was at about 56k when I put it down for the final time, the highest word count I’d ever achieved with - well anything. I assumed that I would be finished at 50k, but there was still so much left to do, and I had reached my limit. I felt disappointed that I couldn’t finish it, even after getting so far with it. I wanted to share my first draft with my new writing friends, but I began to doubt that I would ever get there.

2021


I started off the year promising myself to do Ray Bradbury’s Short Story Challenge. I lasted till about February before I forgot I was doing it all together, but I did get some decent short stories out of it. At this point, I was mostly writing via external means. Writing sprints, specific prompts (though I couldn’t do Escapril for the life of me that year) or challenges were the only way to get me to write. It was rare that I would just come up with an idea and start writing. I didn’t realize that this was becoming a pattern until it was too late.

After putting down my last novel at 16k, I decided I needed to take a break. I’d taken a long break once before, almost forgetting that writing novels was a thing I could do at any time entirely, but once again those were the earlier days. This time, there was guilt and disappointment. Writing wasn’t a thing I just put at the back of my mind and picked up again, it was something that was haunting me. I wrote a weird little short story that year (outside of the RB challenge). It was 7k and what I consider to be my best work. I didn’t write much otherwise, but I did have a few gems that year, yet I ignored them all and fell into a slump.

Writing had stopped coming to me naturally. I needed a schedule, and a specific time or reason to write, but I had none. I couldn’t write but the urge to write never left me. Whether it was just random venting, a snippet of poetry (usually just one lonely line) or just simply expressing my desire to write anything, I was always trying to write, but that didn’t count either, especially when I was always writing beginnings and never any endings. In my mind, I had lost my mojo and was now completely incapable of writing long form works.

It was around this time that I began distancing myself from the writing community I had found (for unrelated reasons), and tried to focus on other things. I was starting university and making a lot of mixed media. I wanted to learn how to draw or crochet or anything of significance, but I didn’t have the dexterity for it. My hope to find another creative outlet dried up and slowly but surely the idea that I wasn’t a very good creator began to cement itself within me. The best thing I could do was create words in my mind but I couldn’t even do anything with them.

I spent a lot of 2021 just writing down ideas. Things that I wanted to do one day, that I wouldn’t give up on. Hopefully.


2022


All of my feelings had amplified at this point, but I was also beginning to understand them. My high points of this year so far were much better than the last, but the low points were also so much worse. I managed to do Escapril this year, which really helped me realize the heights my poetry could reach. I genuinely thought that I just wasn’t good at poetry before. It’s not for everyone, and it has its intricacies and structures that really take a personal and intimate understanding of what makes a poem, a poem to truly excel at. It comes to some people naturally, but it wasn’t like that for me.


Even though I never liked my poetry, I kept at it. I kept doing (or trying to do) Escapril, and when I couldn’t write anything at all, writing a short little prose-y vent poem often helped to alleviate the stress in my mind. Escapril 2022 really gave me the help I needed to tighten up my poetry. I never really thought about poems seriously before 2020, but once I started and it became an outlet for me, I couldn’t stop.

I wrote some of my favourite poems this year, in a style that I could definitely claim to be my own, not something I wrote trying to emulate what poems were ‘supposed’ to be. I even shared some of them online and reclaimed some of the energy of my younger self, something I hadn’t done in a long time. I felt happy because not only was I making work that I could be proud of, but I had written consistently for 30 days for the first time in nearly a year. In May, I shared an old piece of writing I did with my class and although it was extremely embarrassing and anxiety-inducing, it did remind me that I was a capable writer, which put me on the track of getting out of my creative rut. But of course, there were the lows of this year.


Escapril was the first and only real bout of writing I completed, and outside of that and May, I didn’t know my place as a creator anymore. I couldn’t do anything that wasn’t an assignment. I couldn’t finish anything that I started. Poetry was beautiful and helpful, but I wasn’t a poet. I still wanted to write novels and short stories. I had (and still do have) four different google docs with the beginnings of a story in them, but nothing that was completed.

Although I had pulled back from the writing community, I was still seeing success stories of people online all the time. While others were getting their first publications, I was watching the deadlines for lit mags and contests I wanted to enter pass by. It was a weird time for me, because I was beginning to submit stuff again, and figuring out new places to submit to, but also feeling more dejected than ever. I eventually started thinking that ‘Maybe I’m just not as good a writer as I thought I was’.

I had doubts about everything, and with every rejection I received it further instilled in my mind that there was something bad everyone else saw in my writing except for me, and I couldn’t figure out what it was. I was beginning to feel like a fraud.

Then Summer rolled around. Technically, I had been on break since April, but once mid-June hit and we got deep into the summer, things got worse. A study abroad in May and early June kept me busy and gave me plenty of excuses as to why I wasn’t writing, but once I was home with nothing to do, the reality started to hit me. It wasn’t that I didn’t have time to do the things I wanted to do, it was just that I didn’t have the motivation to do them. I was the blockage. The only thing stopping me from writing was me and it sucked. This, along with the multitude of ideas I always had crashing down on me, led me to becoming completely overwhelmed. It wasn’t just that the novel I wanted to write remained unfinished, but it was the short stories I wanted to work on, the screenplay I wanted to start, the chapters I wanted to edit, the writing challenges and summer camps I wanted to sign up for, the graphic novel I wanted to write with my friend and more and more and more.

Standing before this neverending avalanche of ideas, I was helpless.


Now


I wish I could say there was this one specific moment where a friend sat me down and made me remember my worth as a writer, or I had this epic internal moment of realization or something that made me feel better, but the truth is none of that happened. Everything so far that has happened this year has been a culmination of things that I had outright ignored or just didn’t pay attention to in the past. Maybe getting a bunch of rejections had the opposite effect on me and instead fueled me to submit (and henceforth create) more. Maybe dedicating a Notion page to organizing my incredibly disjointed thoughts on writing helped me gain some clarity. Maybe seeing that somehow, at my lowest points, I still had people who reminded me that they were proud of me, gave me hope for the future. Overall, if I had to attribute everything to one idea, I’d say perseverance best describes it. It didn’t matter if I thought that I was a bad writer or if I never got any acceptances, I could never abandon writing. It’s a part of me, and quite frankly if I could never write again all these words would clog my mind and drive me insane.

It took a lot to work through my own disappointment at myself and rediscover my writing process. I don’t know if I’ll ever have a specific routine, or if I’ll get back to that spontaneous writing of my younger self, but I’m learning to let go of the past and do what works for me now.

Word counts made me anxious. They’ve always put unnecessary pressure on me and my writing process, and so now I’m choosing to ignore them. If the novel idea I had turns out to be 30k, that’ll be alright. Novellas exist. Chapbooks exist. Online magazines and websites that publish short stories exist. Not everything I make needs to be super long or hit a certain word count to be valid or publishable. Not everything I write needs to be written for an audience and the more I distance myself from that thought the better I feel. I don’t know when I’ll work on another novel again. I have a lot of ideas but as of now, I need to take a break from that kind of commitment. I want to build myself up with short form work before I return to my old books and finally (hopefully) finish them. I’ve given up on a lot of projects over the years, but I do want to go back to them eventually, like I always promised myself I would.


As of this moment, I still have a lot more ideas than active projects, and it’ll probably always be that way. I don’t know what my writing process will look like in a few more months or after my next rejection. If it evolves into something else down the line, that’ll be alright. If I don’t finish all the new projects I start, that’ll be okay too. It’d be cool to get published somewhere, but more than anything else I want to see my words again. I feel good about my writing and its future for the first time in a long time. I’m not worried about how long it will take for my next story to be written or if it’ll be publishable or marketable. I’m moving at my own pace and I won’t let myself feel bad for not matching up to an invisible standard. For now, my primary focus in writing will be on me, as it always should have been. I’m going to rediscover the overactive imagination I’ve always had, reclaim my desire to create and make my younger self proud.

1 comentario


Cian Joseph
Cian Joseph
29 ago 2022

This was soo good!

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