Earlier this year, I wrote out a list of my New Year’s resolutions for 2017. It included the following:
I will write: articles, essays, angry Facebook rants, snarky status updates, poetry- whatever I feel like writing at the time. I will write, and I will publish, and I will ignore the voice in my head that says “Don’t bother writing; people don’t really care about what you have to say.”
If eight-year-old me could see that resolution, I’m not sure whether she would be happy that I still write, or sad that I have to remind myself to. Eight-year-old Rebecca loved stories. She loved reading them, and she loved writing them. She dreamed of someday becoming an author and writing historical fiction novels about strong, brave, independent girls like the ones in the American Girl books she loved so much.
Twenty-three-year-old Rebecca doesn’t have that dream anymore. I also no longer share eight-year-old Rebecca’s dream of being a costumed character in Colonial Williamsburg, but that’s probably for the best. I’m not sure when or why I stopped wanting to be an author, but somewhere between the ages of eight and twenty-three, I forgot how much I loved to write. Writing was never completely absent from my life–that just comes with the territory of being in school. But instead of writing short stories, I wrote papers. And even though I was a nerd who actually kind of enjoyed writing academic papers, writing no longer held the same joy and excitement it did when I was eight years old and writing stories.
A few months ago I started writing again as a way to cope with and process my anxiety and ADD. Then the 2016 election gave me ample opportunities to compose angry political Facebook rants (I know; I’m an asshole). They weren’t short stories about plucky heroines coming of age during the American Revolution, but these articles and Facebook rants gave me that same thrill I used to get from writing. For a brief moment, I felt like I was eight years old again. Briefly. Because while the process of writing may feel just as fun and exciting and cathartic and empowering as it did when I was eight, my post-writing feelings could not be more different. Eight-year-old Rebecca looked at everything she wrote with pride and joy, as if she’d just written the Great American Novel, and not a third-grader’s attempt at fiction writing. She was eager for everyone to read her stories, and had no qualms about asking people to read what she’d written. Twenty-three-year-old Rebecca finishes writing and then agonizes over whether to hit “post.” Is this good enough? Did I say everything I wanted to say? Does this make me sound stupid? Does it make me sound pretentious? Why am I even writing this? Will anyone read it? Do people actually want to hear what I have to say? Who am I to write this? Who am I to have my voice heard?
Those last questions hit hardest and cut deepest, because they reveal an ugly truth about why I stopped writing. I didn’t stop writing because I stopped enjoying it; I stopped because I felt like I wasn’t worthy of it. I’m not very good at self-promotion. Self-deprecation is more my style. Publishing anything, even a brief Facebook post updating friends and family on my life, felt presumptuous and narcissistic. It felt like intruding on a conversation I hadn’t been invited to join. Forcing my words on people who hadn’t asked to hear them.
This is what has kept me from writing for so long. And I’m done with it. I’m done with believing I don’t deserve to write. I’m done with seeing speaking up and sharing my thoughts as being presumptuous or imposing on others. I am smart and well-informed and a pretty good writer. Sometimes I’m even witty. There’s no reason why people shouldn’t want to read the things I write. The world is full of people who would like to silence me: because I’m a woman, because I’m gay, because I’m proud to be both a woman and gay, because I’m not ashamed of having anxiety and ADD, because I call people out on their bigotry and challenge systems of inequality. If I let my doubts keep me from hitting “post,” I’ve done their job for them. I’ve silenced myself. I don’t want to do that. I won’t do that. Writing is not narcissism. Writing is defiance. Writing is power. Writing is a celebration of myself and all that I am in a world that tells me I’m wrong. Who am I to write? I’m Rebecca Louise Winchell, that’s who.