Going to school for writing has all but killed the writer in me.
Throughout my adolescence and into my early adulthood, I was a writer. Any chunk of spare time I had, I devoted to writing. I wrote poetry, short stories, letters, journal entries–I even attempted to write plays and screenplays. I did all of this without prompting or purpose–I did not write with the intention of getting published (though it was always a fantasy of mine) or because I had an assignment, I wrote because it was what I wanted to do, all the time. I stayed up late almost every night, writing and collaging journal entries, or typing out letters on a second-hand typewriter I’d borrowed from a friend. I composed opening lines of poems or short stories in my head as I walked or rode the bus from place to place. I looked forward to the end of every shift at every job I ever had because I had something in my head I wanted to commit to paper. Everything I read inspired me to write.
My poems were mostly bad, and my short stories were worse, but the words, terrible as they may have been, came out of me as though a geyser had been loosed. I had no control over them–they were there, and they had to be committed to paper. Though I did have temporary bouts of writer’s block when I was too happy–I’ve always written better when depressed–for the most part, I was never without inspiration. I carried a journal or notebook with me always, and for many years not a day went by when I did not write something in it.
Going to school for writing was an eventuality. Writing is a profession that requires–unless you are stricken with an exceptional innate brilliance, which I was not–at least a college degree. Unfortunately, that eventuality appears to have taken the writer in me and put her into severe hibernation, without a foreseeable date of release. With the exception of this blog, which is usually nothing more than narcissistic ranting, I do not write for pleasure anymore. Though I am always up late at night, usually it is for work, or drinking, or the excessive consumption of inane television. The 8 1/2 x 11 hardbound journals I used to carry around and tape all sorts of things into have given way to a compact black journal which is mostly neglected. I haven’t filled a big fat journal in years. I don’t write poetry anymore–not for years.
The amount of time that I must devote to studying and reading for school has made pleasure writing a thing of my past. I write assignments at the last possible moment before they are due, and with the utmost resentment for their necessity. I frequently have ideas for short stories, and even novels, but I force myself to abandon them because if I were to sit down at my computer and attempt to commit them to writing, I would be taking up time that should be devoted to schoolwork, and I’d fall behind in my classes. I have learned to look at writing with a practical approach–what do I reasonably have a chance at getting published?–and have almost forgotten how to write creatively and without abandon as I used to do.
Right now, in fact, I am ridden with guilt over the fact that I should be working on a paper that’s due Thursday instead of sitting here with this delicious glass of Pinot Noir and typing this blog. The guilt is the culprit, I know. The fact that I have learned this regimented approach to learning, with its deadlines and due dates and page requirements, has killed my ability to write and read spontaneously and for my own enjoyment. The threat of bad grades and irresponsibility–something I never considered before I embarked upon the “college experience” has made it impossible to approach writing as I once did. Right now, with this glass of wine in hand, I could sit on my porch and type for hours, and create something either beautiful or terrible–but I know that I have to get up early, hours before my class, and do the reading. Then, after class, I have to write a paper for a different class. After that, I have to get up and go to school all day, after which I’ll be too tired to endeavor anything creative, and the next day I begin a weekend chock-full of work.
How is it that when I was no more than a waitress or a retail employee, I wrote five times as much as I do as a writing student? And why did the writing process itself feel so much better? Have I made the wrong choice in attempting to make this love of mine into a career? Should I have pursued something entirely different and not requiring of an education in order to afford myself the time and mental tenacity to write?
When I think of myself in the abstract, I see a rebellious girl, or woman, sitting in near-dark with a glass of wine or whiskey, with either a big book or a notebook in hand. I see a woman who lives entirely by her own desires, a hedonist who bends to no one’s wishes. I see a romantic, a person willing to live on nearly nothing in order to be able to create. But that is not who I have become. I have become a “normal,” a person who prioritizes responsibility and deadlines to the crushing expense of her inner desires. For the first time in my life, I’m depressed, and I cannot write because I keep convincing myself I have more important things to do with what little time I’ve got. I watch TV because it requires little participation, and I’ve come to a point where I’m too tired to participate. I don’t craft anymore. I don’t collage. I sleep, and when I wake up I’m always late for something.
I miss the girl I used to be, and I don’t know how to get her back without quitting school and abandoning the path which I’ve always thought to be the only one worth pursuing. I’ve come too far, and it’s cost me too much time and money to give up now, but when I get this degree–this expensive degree that I’ve worked so hard for–will it have been worth my time? Will I be so destroyed as a writer and creative person that I’ll just take the paper and walk away to a life of office work or bartending?
How do I get me back?