Writing always came naturally to me in high school. I would get assigned an essay topic and write that paper in a day or two because I already had all the points and evidence I would use in my head. The words would flow out of me, and I would never have trouble finding the right thing to say.
Teachers would always compliment me, tell me how well my essays turned out, and liked how well I understood the topic. And this made me proud of myself because I was finally, in some way, succeeding in school.
What I always liked about essay writing was the structure. An essay has three main components: introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion. I could always count on those three things to get me through my writing. All I had to do was support that thesis statement, and I was on my way to a passing grade.
But then I started writing opinion pieces for The Vermilion during my freshman year of college, and that basic essay structure was thrown out the window. This was the first time I had to rely on myself for ideas; I had to make up my own structure. For the first time, I had the freedom to write what I wanted, which terrified me.
I spent so much time hiding my voice in essays, only stating the evidence and never referring to myself while stating my thoughts on a specific quote. I did not know who I was as a writer and I still don’t.
I have never felt comfortable writing about myself because I never know what to say about my life. A majority of my articles for The Vermilion are reviews about various albums, movies and TV shows I like because, with a review, I can hide my personality behind a tangible thing. The reader only knows my opinion of a song, but they never really know who I am deep down.
The saying “you are your own worst critic” has always resonated with me because I am my worst critic. I’ll write a sentence or a paragraph and that little voice of self-doubt that is always in the background is whispering to me, “This sounds dumb,” or “No one wants to read that.” I will delete everything and start over again.
I can never go back and read my past writings because even if someone said it was great, all I see are the mistakes. I will always be self-conscious of the way I sound in writing. I will nitpick the way I worded a particular sentence or remember how much I struggled to conclude that essay or article. My words will always fail me when I need them the most.
My English professor said something in class recently that has stayed with me as I write this article: “A writer’s words are always intentional.” Words are supposed to evoke an emotion when you read them. And I have difficulties with that. I like my sentences to be concise and to the point. I overthink when I write, obsessively worrying that I am not saying enough about my topic.
I still write the way I write essays which sucks when you are trying to develop your own unique way of writing. When you have been taught to write a certain way in school it can be difficult to unlearn what has been drilled in your head for over a decade.
As much as I enjoy my current job, at the beginning (and even now), I was scared about what other people would think about my writing. It is different when a teacher is reading an essay; I can always count on her following a rubric to grade the paper.
But other people do not follow a rubric and what if they see the errors I always see? What if they tell me I am not good enough? I have a bad case of imposter syndrome, and I am afraid I will never be good at what I love the most.