I remember this first phase of self-awareness—of knowing I needed to write down my feelings in order to process them (and pay homage to my many schoolgirl crushes, who am I kidding?) hitting me in middle school. With Debbie Gibson or New Kids on the Block blaring in the background, I would flip open a spiral bound notebook filled with peach-colored paper and write song lyrics. I mimicked the song structure I found in the liner notes of my cassette tapes, and then I would dance around my room singing them at the top of my lungs. I thought they were great at the time, when really there wasn’t a lot of substance to be found in those lyrics.
Later in high school, I got the opportunity to experiment with different types of writing, but there were still those awkward fits and starts. Did this piece want to be a poem or an essay? Where was my thesis statement buried in a paper? I also got my first taste in journalism when I signed onto the yearbook staff, and I enjoyed walking around and interviewing my classmates so I could spotlight them in the pages.
Then the college years, where everything I still needed to learn about writing was magnified tenfold, especially after I declared myself a communications major. I struggled there because I was at a liberal arts college, where I had to write many long academic papers as part of my classwork, but then in the same day I would have to turn around and crank out an article about why the student government association president had resigned, and the style had to be completely different.
Over the years I feel as if I’ve had to become a chameleon in many ways, depending on the type of writing required of me. Sometimes I’ll look back at something I wrote in the past and it doesn’t even sound like my voice. And my first few attempts at writing fiction were even more of a hot mess—too much telling and not showing, revealing too much of the story in the opening chapters, etc. But the more I write and the more books I read, the awkward phase slowly starts to melt away. I grow more confident in my abilities and how I present myself professionally, much in the same way my kids grow more accomplished each day as they realize their goals.
Did you go through an “awkward phase” as a writer? What helped you grow out of it? I’d love to reminisce with you!
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