Mind your Stride
“Many writers are paralyzed by the thought that they are competing with everybody else who is trying to write and presumably doing it better ... Forget the competition and go at your own pace. Your only contest is with yourself.” - William Zinsser, American Author
This post might be my most vulnerable one to date. To my family & close friends, it is of no news that I want to be a published author someday. I started this blog for a couple of reasons: I believe I’m in some of my more transformative years & want to document my experiences; I want to relate with others & share the twists & turns of life that all of us deal with; but keeping one of my childhood dreams in mind, I want to work on my writing! I’ve loved writing since I was a kid, but to be perfectly candid, it’s been a struggle for me to write this past year. But before I dive into that, let’s start at the beginning…
It all started with a book…
Ever since I was little, I loved poetry & fantasy. In grade school, I wasn’t the best at reading comprehension, it took me a bit to process stories/articles/etc., so timed reading alongside their follow-up quizzes was the bane of my 3rd-4th grade existence. To remedy my struggles, my dad had me do book reports over the summer (I promise it was better than how it sounds). We did a DEEP dive into the world of Carolyn Keene’s Nancy Drew series, and soon after, I became increasingly enthralled with reading and how it allowed me to dream / imagine in massive ways. After the mystery genre kick, I jumped straight into fantasy. I went to a private, Christian school from Pre-K through 6th grade, and let’s just say the fantasy genre was a sensitive topic (which I can understand to some degree). I had a book or two taken away from time to time (rip to me finishing the Harry Potter series), but my parents always encouraged me to pick up whatever interested me!
When I switched to the public school system in 7th grade, I felt like my scope of the world grew much larger (kind of dramatic for a 13-year-old, but it’s truly how I felt!!). Our library was huge and the shelves of fantasy & fiction made my eyes well up. I’d spend lunch or free period in the library. Sometimes I’d go to just skim and touch every bookbinding. I felt like I was under some sort of “book spell” if you will. I was still reading here and there but it didn’t become consistent or deemed an official hobby until I was in 8th grade. I was a library aide alongside 2 of the coolest people I met in middle school and 1 of the fieriest, kick-butt, sweet-spirited librarians I’ve ever met! Not only did I learn the ins and outs of that hobbit-hole in our middle school, but being around those 3 lovely humans, made me fall in love with reading.
One afternoon, we had a rush of students come in and check out books. We were all scrambling to get the returns back on the shelves, organize our “secret” book stash in the back, and replace some of our date cards. After the rush, we all took our usual spots behind the counter and started reading. That day I was working on some math homework to get ahead for the week, but my eyes continuously wandered over to my friend, Melissa’s book. She was reading a book from Cassandra Clare’s, The Mortal Instruments series. The cover was the first thing to catch my eye, so I asked her about the overall premise of the book. She sold the storyline, and soon after, I started reading it myself. Looking back, that period of my life appears to be a blur but that series was a light post in the mix of middle school days. I started reading like it was my part-time job apart from school. I’d read in the car on the way to tennis, in the library before 2nd period, in between passing periods, etc. I loved it! I remember I was about ¾ into the fourth book and Melissa walked in and said, “Whoa girl! Didn’t you just start that last night?!” It finally hit me at that moment that I truly enjoyed reading. After finishing the series, I went on to explore all the other middle-grade / YA fiction / fantasy series - The Selection, The Hunger Games, Divergent, etc. Since it’s been ~9 years (wow I feel old saying that) since I’ve cracked open a book around Melissa, I reached out to her this past week & we reminisced & laughed at some dorky pics of our middle school selves. Thank you for all the memories, laughs, & introduction to a genre that’s become a part of who I am, sweet friend! Much love, always <3 please enjoy these pics from our goofy days wandering our middle school halls when we weren't supposed to, waiting to perform for ensemble orchestra, and killing time before going to the Dallas Meyerson((:
When the pen fell into hand…
My mom and I recently went through boxes of my brothers’ & I’s childhood memorabilia, and we had the biggest smiles on our faces as we unveiled all of the poems & “books” I wrote when I was in elementary school. I’d staple hand-cut papers together as a binding for my short stories about a cat I named Tom. I wrote a poem titled, “The Room” that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but I think it’s cute looking back on it now c:
I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed writing until I was in middle school. Every year for the TAKS test, formerly known as the STAAR test, we were required to write a creative writing essay for the English portion of the exam. These essays were graded on a 1-4(+/-) system. I received a 4+ on almost every essay I submitted for both practice & exam essays. Although a score doesn’t define your skill level, talent, ability, or desire to write, it can be encouraging. I started writing fictional short stories again, and it rekindled my love for writing once more.
When I got to high school, my writing changed drastically. I started getting into journaling more. Everything I put down on paper was purely cathartic. Journaling helped me manage my emotions and the numerous changes in my life at the time. Through the good & bad, light & dark times, I documented everything. I began writing poetry about each episode of heartbreak, frustration, anger, etc. I want to be clear in this one thing though - it wasn’t writing that brought me out of these times, nor was it just letting myself feel. Writing helped me figure out my thoughts and pinpoint my emotions, but ultimately, calling out to God and clinging to Him helped me out of my slumps. I’m so grateful He gave me the tools and ability to be vulnerable on paper, part of me believes He knew I needed an outlet like writing throughout high school to keep me going.
In university, my writing journey was without a doubt, chaotic. I literally FILLED my journal during my first year of college. I learned so many life lessons and experienced hustle culture to its core, which gave me much to write about. I also went through this revolving door experience of relationships in my life, which I wrote so many poems about. But when my last year of college rolled around, I barely picked up the pen or opened up a new Word doc. Looking back, my last year of college felt like an elongated season of rising action leading to the climax of my newfound experiences in adulthood post graduation. Life felt so hectic with classes, relationships, work, student organizations, and most predominately, the realization that this would be my last year experiencing the predetermined environment of schooling. I scarcely wrote because I could barely keep up with the life I was living. It broke my heart. Without the documented check-ins, it left me confused about who I was, what my thoughts were, and how I was feeling. The only things that were helping me stay in tune with writing were the dimmed voice of my passion for it and a friend of mine at the time. He kept me in check, keeping me accountable with the writing goals I had in place. Now, I can sit here and say that my goals were too ambitious or that it just wasn’t the “right time” to pursue them, but then I’d be lying to you. The truth is, that I didn’t like writing anymore. I didn’t want to stare at an empty page anymore and that reality shattered me internally. I felt like I lost a part of myself to the chaos of life & stress during that transitory period I was living, and I didn’t share that with anyone. I didn’t have the normal “writing bug” that I’d always had. My imagination was basically nonexistent. My writing, especially the cathartic kind, was purely siphoned by emotion, and when things had finally “leveled out” in my life, I realized that I didn’t know how to write just for the sake of enjoyment. I’d always seen it as an escape rather than an addition to my reality. But that’s when a new ember began picking up flame…
The Writing Challenge
A few months ago, I entered a writing competition that would result in ~40 selected writers being published with a global agency. I was extremely on the fence about joining because I haven’t submitted any type of creative / vulnerable work to anyone since I was in high school. After talking to my older brother, I decided to join. Instead of just saying that I aspired to be a published writer, I was going to take my first step towards it. I officially committed. For a month, I submitted a poem every day to be reviewed and ranked amongst other writers. I don’t know what other writers’ experiences were like, but it was emotionally challenging for me. My poetry is the most vulnerable and real thing I produce, and I was debating SO MUCH if I wanted to finish out the competition. My resilient nature kicked in though, and I submitted everything by the deadline.
After what felt like light-years, I found out that I wasn’t selected in the top 40. I’d be lying if I said it broke me that I didn’t make it because it didn’t. Going into the competition, all I wanted was to gain experience - the experience to be so incredibly uncomfortable with my writing being out there and being rejected by many and not hiding behind a pen name. But despite the lack of heartbreak, I felt disappointed in myself. Some part of me wanted a fairy tale moment, a moment where I saw my name on that email of “winning” contestants. I wanted to be one of those people where it just “worked” out the first time, but reality is far from that, and I’m genuinely happy that it is. This was my very first time putting out my work with my real name attached to it and that was already a personal decision that was difficult to make. Undergoing this experience made me realize how FRESH I am to the world of writing despite having a passion for it since I was a child. I have NO idea how to present my poetry / writing cohesively, how to be concise in word count (I mean just look at this one post alone lol), how to write my bio for the inside cover of a book jacket, or even how to speak on what I’ve put together. I learned that I have SO much to work on and that the journey towards being a published writer will be a long one, but I’ve also felt so encouraged to keep going because of these realizations. I love writing, and I whole-heartedly believe that God instilled this passion in me for a reason…how could I not chase after something that makes me feel so fulfilled?
There’s no shame in taking a break, resetting, starting over, in questioning if something is for you time & time again. I share all of this with all of you from a very genuine part of my heart. It’s okay to not be everything you envision yourself being right now. Your greatest critic & toughest competition is yourself, your mindset. Go at the pace that is meant for you. In doing so, don’t be afraid to take that risk and jump into the unknown. It’s truly how we grow.
Thank you so much for reading to the end, if you did. I hope you’ll stick around for my writing journey. I’m happy to be here for whatever your calling is as well. Feel free to shoot me a message if you want to share((: Stay passionate, stay curious!!