I was in eighth grade when I considered becoming a writer. Not just any writer. I dreamed of becoming a rock and roll journalist for Rolling Stone magazine. At that age I read Rolling Stone religiously, and I loved music. Aside from my music journalist aspirations, I dabbled in different genres: I wrote poetry, fiction, song lyrics, you name it. I even attempted to write a novel, or what 13-year-old me thought of as a novel. It was a series very similar to the Real World but–get this–a lot more diverse. I remember writing Chapter 1 and part of Chapter 2…and that was it.
I always wanted to write, and if you are a regular reader of this blog this is not news to you. I don’t know why I was so enamored of writing, but I was. I wanted to put things down and share them with people. I would practice my witty explorations on the page. My brain loves descriptions, details, turns of phrase…no wonder I drifted to literature as a major. Even when I write for an academic audience, I can’t resist creating patterns and using different adjectives in my analysis.
The dissertation almost did away with that creative energy, and I was angry at academia for making me
despise dislike one of the things I held closest to my heart: writing. But one thing I learned from writing the dissertation was to love the process: I embraced writing as a way to learn and not just as a product. Too bad that I’m no longer in the writing classroom because I’d be all about the process and only slightly about the product. (Or maybe it’s a good thing I’m not in the writing classroom.)
Now that I am sans dissertation and that I am off the tenure track, I write and I am not as flustered by deadlines. In a way, once you’ve faced the crippling deadlines of a dissertation that begs to be finished by the semester’s end (and that may or may not result in an anxiety attack post-semester), everything else fits. I must admit though that part of my relief comes from being an alternative academic.
I feel a sense of relief when I write. I also feel a sense of excitement when I sit down to jot down an idea that just came to me. The act of writing is cathartic but it is also stimulating. I feel present when I write.
And so I’ve been doing a whole lot of writing lately, some of it academic, some of it not, and some of it in a hazy, in-between place that I call personal because it belongs to me, not because it is overtly intimate. I write because I want to share ideas with people. In that sense, writing is a selfish endeavor–I write because I enjoy writing, and for some reason I feel others are interested in what I have to say.
One day I want to publish a book. There, I said it. Maybe a revised version of my dissertation or something more in the realm of creative non-fiction–I feel drawn to that genre in terms of my writing. I’m putting it down on my list of goals. I don’t know the first thing about writing a book, but I know that the first step to writing is to just start.
Why write a book? The book market is saturated enough as it is. Well, again, it’s a selfish endeavor: I enjoy writing and I want to push myself beyond what I have already done. And like I said, I’m under the impression that there is someone out there–someone!–who would want to read what I have to say. But, to be honest, part of me wants to fulfill that childhood dream of writing a book and putting it out there for all to see. Although my dissertation would qualify as a rough draft of a book manuscript, lately I’ve been facing a wall in the “Academic Writing” department. (Fodder for A Future Blog Post: who coaches the writing coach?)
What would I write about? I don’t know, although my first inclination is to write something about home, about New York City, about migrating, about city life, about what it means to love another home. Maybe this will be my book for New York. Maybe I’ll interview people. Despite having written a whole dissertation on the subject, I haven’t yet fully established in my research what a home is, and maybe that’s the beauty of home: we don’t need to have all a common denomination of home. No matter how much I explain it, it will always be different for others.
In the meantime, I’ll be taking Anne Trubek’s course on Op-Eds and Essays, to start honing my craft. Sometimes the writing coach needs writing support and encouragement too.