Wordy Wednesday: Falling Back in Love with Writing

I spent this past weekend home with family and some fun things happened during that:

  • Friday night, my cousin was an extra on Hawaii 5-0! Super proud to be able to say I knew him when. (He played a SWAT officer. Check it out.)
  • Saturday I went to afternoon tea with my mom and aunt and grandmom at this place that was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland-themed. It was super fun and if you’re ever in Michigan and looking to have a tea party, I highly recommend it: www.madhatterbistro.com
  • Aaand finally, Sunday, we did our annual family 5k! (Well, my mom, aunt, and I did. My dad did an entire half-marathon because, unlike the rest of us, he’s actually athletic.) Then that night we sat out on our back patio and watched the eclipse while eating caramel apples and listening to the crickets, which was a perfect last dose of summer before the weather turned cold this week.

  
All in all, a very good weekend (even though I spent the entire thing not being able to breathe out of my nose).

Now, it’s Wednesday—which means, you guessed it: Wordy Wednesday time.

This week we’ve got a writing process post.

I haven’t talked about it much on here yet, because it’s still so small and who knows if it’s actually going to go anywhere, but for the past couple months I’ve been working on a new WiP.

This has been really hard for me, because writing has turned into such a strange thing over the course of college: I haven’t finished a novel since freshman year and almost all the writing I’ve done since then has been for something (school or NaNoWriMo, mostly) rather than for myself. (Like, I’ve been writing because I’m required to turn in x-amount per week or whatever, rather than because there are actually certain ideas and characters I’m dying to work on.)

It’s weird starting something just because I feel like it. No deadlines. No word or page count requirements. Just a Word document and me and what little time I can carve out of my week.

It feels good, in a weird kind of way. Like when you’re working out and your muscles start to burn and you know you could stop if you chose to, because no one is requiring you to do this, but you keep going out of sheer force of will. If you’re running a marathon or something, you know you have to keep going because you’re required to. But no one’s requiring anything of this, or me.

I’m finding that it’s important to have projects like this. I get so burned out writing things out of obligation rather than want. After a while, the words simply stop working.

Writing just-for-fun, on the other hand, is reminding me what it’s like to WANT to write. What it’s like to really like it, again. It’s been so long since I wrote for myself that I’d honestly forgotten, and remembering that sort of thing—actively feeling that sort of thing—is so, so important in creative industries like this.
Doing something creative for school, or a job, or even an activity as simple as NaNoWriMo is dangerous. It’s easy to run yourself dry. To lose that spark that made you want to take up writing (or whatever it is you do) in the first place.

I’d gotten to the point this summer where, if people asked me if I was a writer, I just kind of shrugged and said something along the lines of, “Technically? But I haven’t written anything in a long time.” Which isn’t true—in the year leading up to this summer I’d written 50k of a novel, about half a play, at least a dozen short stories, the first act of a screenplay, and over a hundred blog posts. But I’d written all of those out of feeling like I needed to, rather than wanted to, and that made all the difference. “Writer” had become a job description—a surface description—rather than something I was at my core.

Of course, it’s also important to have the projects that do have strings attached. Because they pull different things out of you, they stretch different muscles. It’s good to work under pressure—it teaches you to really create something out of nothing, to work through blocks and climb over walls. But not everything can be that way. It’s just not sustainable.

So, I’m learning to write for fun again. I’m re-teaching myself what it is to enjoy things like blogging and NaNoWriMo, which used to be projects I did for fun but that had started to feel like chores.

I don’t want to lose writing. It’s too important to me. I’ve put too much into it and care too much for it. With this WiP, I’m doing my best to take writing back. I’m going to make it my own again.

If you’re going through a similar process right now—if writing has started feeling like a chore rather than something you do for fun—hang in there. Take some space, take a breath, and remind yourself what you loved about writing when you began. Try to get back to that. You can. You will.

We’ll make it through together.

Thanks for reading!

~Julia

Aún

I am currently writing my last Spanish paper ever. Spanish classes have been the bane of my existence on and off for so long now that I feel like it’s impossible that I’m only two and a half pages of a term paper away from never having to take a Spanish class again.

I started Spanish lessons in elementary school. It was just a club that met after school one day a week, in which we learned colors and numbers and the names for la familia, but it was my introduction to the idea that English isn’t the only way to communicate; that something more than us existed. I avoided foreign language classes in middle school, and only took the requisite two years of Spanish in high school.

I then had two years off–two years during which, much like now, I thought I was done. Even when I spent two weeks in Costa Rica for a mission trip the summer between my junior and senior years of high school, I let other people do the Spanish speaking for me. Not because Spanish isn’t a wonderful language, but because speaking it to someone who was fluent, when I barely knew my way through present tense verb conjugations, was terrifying. So I avoided it, because I am the type of person who easily falls into the trap of avoiding things that scare me.

Then I had to look into colleges, and discovered that the only way for me to get a creative writing major was by becoming nearly fluent in a foreign language (because yeah, that makes sense). So fall semester of freshman year, Spanish classes began again.

I’ve been griping about vocab lists and reading assignments and ensayos and tests for a year and a half now. That’s almost as long as I’ve had this blog. Once I turn in this final Spanish essay (and mi profesora decides I didn’t fail, of course), I’ll have completed twenty credit hours of Spanish over the course of three semesters.

I’m so close to being done.

In two and a half pages (and one, hour and a half-long class during which I will probably have to speak only once) I will be done. And if everything else goes as planned, I’ll also finish the entirety of my distribution requirements by the end of next summer, at which point my classes will turn into things I actually want to take: literature and creative writing and film.

And that is terrifying.

I hadn’t realized it would scare me, until now, finally getting to do what I want to do. But it does bring with it a certain amount of “growing up”; I have to leave my dreams of these things behind for their probably much-less-magical reality.

It’s one thing to take the classes everyone needs to in college. It’s another to walk into a classroom knowing that it is your choice to be there and that you had better enjoy it and do well in it, because it’s for your major and future. Right now, I love writing and reading and analyzing things. But what happens when I have to start doing it for a grade? What happens when it stops being the hobby I like to do after class, and becomes what I’m doing in class?

I don’t know. I don’t know, and I’ve already run into the problem of my stress reliever becoming what’s stressing me this semester, due to my creative writing class. Because by going into creative writing–by making this my career, and by making a career something that I need in order to survive rather than something I’m striving for simply because I want to–to an extent, I am taking it away from myself. Something that I have always done because I want to do it is becoming something that I’m doing because I have to, no choice in the matter.

But that’s okay, because that’s also a lie. I do have a choice. And I am choosing this.

I am scared, but I am doing it anyway.

Everyone should be lucky enough to do what they love for a living. And maybe right now I’m scared, and I am naturally the sort of person who’s more likely to flee than fight. But if something really matters, if something is irrevocably and irreplaceably important to you, you owe it to yourself to face it head on, rather than running away.

Others forced me to face Spanish; to learn it. I got angry and moody and resisted it. But if I returned to Costa Rica today, I would no longer feel the need to hide behind other, better speakers to order my food for me or talk to the kids at the Vacation Bible School we worked at. Others made me face my fears, and because of it I finally learned Spanish (not well, albeit–but well enough).

Now, because I really care about writing, it’s time that I faced my fears myself.

I am scared of spending all day, every day (for longer than a couple months over the summer) in my chosen field for the first time in my life because it is uncharted territory. But I’m also excited beyond belief to finally leave Spanish behind (along with the rest of my nasty, unasked-for distribution requirements), and I am excited to put myself in those terrifying situations to see whether I sink or float. I’m excited to take literature and writing classes, and finally learn something in school that I actually care about and would like to learn.

I don’t want to do anything else. I love the publishing industry and the people within it. Sure, taking that next step–moving from full-time student who loves to write to full-time creative writing student–is hard. But it’s also the only thing that makes sense. And I want to do it.

I am a writer. I love to write. School might make it harder to appreciate next year, when I have two hundred pages of reading, a ten page analytical essay, and a short story due all on the same day, when all I want to do is work on a novel. But it’s either that or take more Spanish and genetics classes, right? And I am almost as excited to be done with those as I am to take lit courses next fall.

While drafting this final Spanish term paper this weekend, I stumbled across the word aún in my dictionary. It’s common, so of course I’ve used it before, but I never realized it means both “yet” and “still.” Which is interesting, because while those words have similar uses in the English language, they have entirely different meanings.

Yet, as in it hasn’t happened yet. And still, as in I am still waiting.

Yet: It still will happen. Still: It isn’t over yet.

One word is of what is to come; the other is what has not ended, but will. And it is a beautiful realization, the fact that those who speak Spanish view these as being entirely interchangeable, because it makes aún a word not only about the bad things you’d like to leave behind, but the good things you hope will come in the future. It gives you maybe a little bit of despair, but then it smashes that to pieces with hope. 

Still: I am not done with the stressors of college still. Yet: At least I am yet to get to the really fun parts.

Yet: I have so much further to go. Still: I am happy with where I’m at right now.

Two and a half pages to go.

 

~Julia

NaNo Day 4: The Art of Not Being Homeless (or Failing Classes)

I ended up not getting much time to write on NaNo yesterday because, get this, outside of my Spanish essay (which, by the way, I only got like a page and a half done on–I suck), I also had to extend a short story for my creative writing class, and what started out as about three pages is now up to almost fifteen. And probably will be there by the time I finish, which I’m about to go do once I’m done with this post.

The unfortunate part about being a creative writing major in college is that, although I do get to write more than I would if I weren’t a creative writing major, in general the things I write aren’t the things I want to. I could probably work it out with my professor to make NaNoWriMo a project for class, but then I’d also have to turn in pages every week for critique, and the problem with doing that is that I treat NaNo very much as an ongoing experiment in quantity over quality. And having someone critique my novel every step of the month sounds like a surefire way of making me burst into tears and set everything I’ve ever written on fire and decide to become an accountant.

Sooo yeah. Not doing that.

If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to finish my Spanish essay today, go to the school-related things I need to (office hours for genetics, since science and I have been such frenemies lately, and a learn-more-about-study-abroad thing in the evening), and still have enough time to get caught up on NaNo. And, you know, watch HIMYM at 8:00. And shower. But we’ll see about that.

Upside: This morning I signed the lease for my apartment next year! So I’m not going to be homeless! (Yet.)

day 4

~Julia

PS. Crap. I forgot I have to study for a social science exam too.

College Writer Tag

Hey look–it’s the College Writer Tag!

College Writer Tag

Rules:

1. Before anything else, thank the totally cool person who nominated you for this tag, because they obviously think you’re awesome.

2. Answer the five questions.

3. Nominate four other college writers. (You know. If you want to. Completely not actually a requirement.)

*****

Questions:

1. What year are you? Currently a sophomore.

2. What’s your major(s)/minor(s)? Creative writing major. Considering double majoring in English.

3. What type(s) of writing do you do? I’ll write pretty much anything, but my favorite’s YA novels. I do a lot of action-y stuff.

4. What are your plans for after college, both career-wise and writing-wise? Not sure yet, but I’m looking to either get my MFA or try to head straight into a job in publishing while continuing to run the Chapter One Young Writers Conference. And, you know, actually WRITING as much as possible.

5. What is one thing you’ve learned about writing while in college? You can’t always just wait for the inspiration to strike; when you’re working to a deadline, it doesn’t matter if your muse has decided to take a day off–you’ve just gotta write.

*****

I nominate:

Kira Budge

Mel of The Ultimately Useless Stories of an Average Teenager

Rebecca Cao

Patrice of Whimsically Yours

 

Hope you’re having an actually-semi-decent Monday! I’ve kind of just been sitting in my room spazzing all day over Allegiant coming out tonight. (Upside: spazzing has led to an increase in productivity. I’ve gotten more homework done this afternoon than I’ve finished in the past two weeks combined. Plus actually bothered to take out my trash. And just wrote this blog post.) (Basically, waiting for Allegiant has turned me into Superman.)

Also: even if I didn’t nominate you but you’re in college and you like to write, feel free to participate in this tag as well!

Have a great evening! 🙂

 

~Julia