It’s the second week of Winter Term, and my second-to-last quarter at the University of Oregon. Soon I will have to really figure out what I’m going to do with my life. Will I be a writer? For a magazine? Newspaper? Technical writing? Will I edit? Write brochures? Freelance? Have to move back home because I can’t afford to live anywhere else? It’s a scary world out there.
Since it’s still the beginning of the year, I decided to make a goal. No, I’m not pledging to lose 10 pounds or win a gold medal in the Olympics (though, it would be great if I could find a sport between now and then). I’m going to rediscover why I love to write.
Somewhere in the internship, newspaper articles, source notes, and general journalism assignments, I think I lost it. It became work for me. It became a job, something I had to do for class.
I’ll tell you and the rest of the world a secret. I’m one of those strange people who used to love to write essays. I saw it as a game. I loved to write so much, I decided journalism was the obvious choice. I’m not blaming the journalism program at Oregon. I’m blaming myself because I stopped having fun with it. I was writing only for the “A.”
I’m taking a class that is about women and minorities in communications this term. I’m actually already glad that I took it, because I learned something very important about myself in the first assignment. What was this assignment?
We had to write an essay reflecting on our childhood and how we were influenced on the media. Handwritten, three to four pages.
“Why handwritten?” the class complained. The professor just smiled at us.
I sighed to myself and dug out the loose-leaf notebook paper from the bottom drawer of my desk. I sat down with a pen and paper… and wrote. Arguably, what I wrote wasn’t important. It was how the words flow from a pen and paper, compared to a keyboard and computer screen. It was how I was frustrated that I couldn’t just delete things, I had to cross them out carefully. There was no word count. There was no annoying spell check that underlines words that actually exist, just not in their dictionary.
I sat there with my essay, probably the first handwritten one that I’ve done since early high school (not counting essay tests). It wasn’t my best essay. But it was more “me” than anything I’ve written in years. That voice crept back into my work. I had the opinions and biases that I attempt to keep out of my normal work. I marveled at how my handwriting had become so bad (probably because I stopped needing to use it so much).
See, I used to write stories. Silly stories, but that’s not so important right now. What was important was that I’d write them in my school notebooks, on the backs of old homework assignments and on scattered college-ruled notebook papers. They’d be written in pencil or black, blue, purple or green ink. I’d have to scour my room to find all of them and put them in a semblance of order.
It wasn’t the most organized way to write, and not something that I’d do for a class assignment or a job. But I would still write my rough-drafts out by hand back then. Maybe I should start doing that once more. Yes, the standard nowadays is a crisp, clean Microsoft Word document. I can still type faster than I can write. However, the words flow differently from pen to paper than they flow from keyboard to Word document.
Where is this key for rediscovering my love of writing?
Maybe it’s scribbled in the plethora of old class notebooks sitting at home on my bookshelf.
Maybe it’s in the words I wrote on the back of those old homework assignments.
Maybe it’s in those scattered loose-leaf papers.
Maybe it’s still in me, but I have to start using a pen and paper to figure it out again.
Do you love to write? Do you use pen & paper, a computer or something else?
I’d love to hear from you!