Learning to Write at Home
I’ve always considered myself a writer. For as long as I can remember, writing has been the best way I’m able to express myself, and the truest way I know how to communicate. It makes sense that I studied English in college. While everyone tsked when I told them my major, asking if I was going to be an author or a teacher (obviously the only options when it comes to writing!?) and questioning the fiscal smarts of an English degree, to me it was a no-brainer because writing is how I make sense of the world.
Studying English in college meant that I was constantly writing. When I studied abroad, I tried my hand at blogging. Right after school I joined the Peace Corps, where I chose to document my 2+ years living in Botswana with another blog, so the writing continued. I loved the challenge of choosing what to write about while knowing that I was shaping the image of Botswana in so many minds back home. It became second nature for me to write every morning and evening, and I was always brainstorming new ways to relay my travel adventures.
But before I knew it, those two years were over and it was time to come back home – to the land of peppermint mochas, four distinct seasons, my friends and family, and running water. I was beyond excited to start a new chapter of my life and to write all about it. Yet when I finally returned home, my writing stopped. Every time I started to write about an experience, I quickly got distracted by delicious food, people to reconnect with, things to do. Soon enough, that second nature faded away. I mean, who has the time to write when there’s so much living to do?
Everyone tsked when I told them my major was English, asking if I was going to be an author or a teacher (obviously the only options when it comes to writing!?) and questioning the fiscal smarts of my degree.
I moved to Chicago, got a job, an apartment, and a cat. Months went by without me writing a single word. I knew deep down that the only way I was going to truly readjust and share the last two years of my life was through writing, but I had so many other things to worry about. The easiest thing to do was ignore Botswana. There were times I would open my computer and start typing. But after a few overwhelming moments, I’d stop.
I didn’t know where to begin; I was paralyzed by the countless stories to choose from. And I didn’t feel like I had anything new to say, as my life wasn’t all that exciting anymore. So instead, I didn’t say anything at all. Since I no longer had classes or blogs demanding my writing, I let it slip away and replaced it with work, friends, family, and the all-powerful Netflix.
About six months into my job, my boss reminded me that I had professional development money I needed to spend. I could spend it on almost anything, as long as I could argue that it would help me professionally. I threw around some ideas and then I remembered Pink Pangea. One of my friends from Peace Corps told me about the site and how she used to write for them when she studied abroad. A site dedicated to strong, kick-ass women travelers? Sign me up! One minute I was browsing their website, the next I had registered for their travel writing intensive course.
I was insanely nervous leading up to the first class. I had no idea what the other writers would be like. What if everyone hated my writing? What if my travel stories weren’t interesting? Or worse, what if they thought I wasn’t funny? But if I can say anything about our writing course leader Jaclyn, she is an amazing facilitator. Not only did she encourage every single person from day one, but she discovered how to nurture our creativity and confidence. A
s the next couple of hours passed, a million ideas ran through my brain, and I started to feel confident that I knew creative and fun ways to share them. By the end of that first class, I felt powerful again. That’s the beauty of writing, it gives you the power to share your experiences how you see fit.
When class ended that first day, I didn’t shut my computer. Instead, I kept writing. It was like I had been switched back on; all of my feelings, my thoughts, and my experiences were flooding my brain. I finally wanted to write about my experiences abroad and find an audience that not only wanted to hear, but that could benefit from them. Travel writing has always meant more than a traditional guidebook to me; it’s been a way to share the world with the people around me, and to help introduce them to the places I’ve explored.
By the end of that first class, I felt powerful again. That’s the beauty of writing, it gives you the power to share your experiences how you see fit.
I’d like to say that I started writing again that day and haven’t stopped since. But Netflix is still pretty powerful (TV shows upped their game while I was abroad!), and since that class I’ve moved and started a new job. But I’ve still made time for my writing. Since the workshop, I’ve been published multiple times in Pink Pangea, which is a pretty great way to share your amazing stories with a group of strong women.
I’ve discovered that you don’t need to make a choice between living life and writing about it. Writing about it is a way to live your life. If that writing workshop taught me anything, it’s that I don’t have to travel somewhere new to write. The town where I grew up is just as much a travel story as the village I lived in in Botswana.
Just because it isn’t new to me, doesn’t mean it isn’t new to someone else. I can still be the voice that opens up someone’s eyes to a new place. And once you realize that, you never run out of things to inspire your writing.
Beginning to Write at Home photo credit: unsplash.com. Have you begun to write at home? We want to hear about your experience. Email us at [email protected]