It never ceases to amaze me how the simplest and most mindless action can awaken something within you. I’m still reeling a bit! But I should probably explain myself before I go too far down the rabbit hole/spiral I’m going down.
Today I was working on reorganizing the drawers under my desk because my notebook drawer was full and I had just purchased a new notebook and a new planner for next year (it’s undated and I like to plan ahead). I noticed the drawer felt heavier, so I decided to move my notebooks to the bottom drawer because I don’t want to possibly break my drawers! Well I haven’t really gone through the bottom drawer in a while and it was a drawer I labelled Writing Projects which was basically just filled with creative pieces from college and other bits of writing I had done over the years. Down below all the all the folders that were in the drawer.
So I’m just mindlessly pulling folders and notebooks out of this drawer, not thinking anything of it when I can across the piece photographed below… And it stopped me dead in my tracks.
I just stared at it for a moment, remembering all the time I had spent in the cafeteria at the college I attended for my undergraduate degree working on this. I remember the feeling of pride that I had each time I wrote a new chapter or page and how I felt like my story was coming together better even though it was really rough (after all, no first draft is perfect). And I started reading through it, not the whole thing because I still had cleaning to finish, but then I came across another written version and two different typed up versions of this same novel and one had this giant blue Post-It on it (pictured below).
So of course I had to read through that one… and it was a typical first draft, but it wasn’t bad. Truthfully, what I had I could easily work with and make better… So why did I reject it? Why did I stop working on this piece?
And then I came across a stack of folders with more or less the same thing- Piles of pages from various assignments, novels, and other pieces of writing I had worked on and then just stopped working on for one reason or another… All of these various works were just sitting in a drawer under my desk with no thought given to them… And I feel ashamed and disappointed in myself.
Most of these pieces were started in the early 2010s while I was working toward my undergraduate degree and the thing I remember the most about that time was feeling lost, uncertain, and having no confidence in myself or my writing abilities. My anxiety and depression were so bad in the early 2010s and that really reflected on my writing and my ability to keep up with it. I was fine with term papers because those weren’t super creative and I’m good with facts, but I just remember procrastinating on creative pieces, asking for more time to work on them. Eventually I had a professor schedule a one-on-on meeting with me to find out why I kept avoiding in-class critiques and I was honest- I was worried my writing wasn’t good enough for others to read. I was worried that my classmates would read my work and hate it, confirming that I wasn’t meant to be a writer. She understood, but I had to face my fears and I did at her urging. The feedback I had received from my classmates wasn’t too bad (though someone asking why they were speaking German in a piece that was set in Germany was some of the most unhelpful and overall dumbest feedback I have ever received).
And from there, others started jumping on the Michelle-share-your-writing-with-others bandwagon. That’s originally why this blog was started, but then due to my lack of self confidence and all my other issues, this quickly went into the figurative drawer with all my other work at the time (but those were in a literal drawer). And now 6-8 years later I have a drawer full of writing that was waiting until the right moment to tell me it’s time to pick them back up and make them into what they were always meant to be- Stories that people will want to read.
I know that mental health is hard to deal with, especially when you’re unsure what’s causing it and everything you try feels like a dead end. It’s hard to believe when others tell you you’re a great writer when you don’t feel it yourself. No one else ever seemed to doubt my talent or my ability to write well except for me. The biggest cheerleader in my corner was my advisor, mentor, and friend Chuck French. Chuck more than anyone was confident in my abilities as a writer and that I needed to keep writing. Honestly if it wasn’t for Chuck, I would have given up a long time ago because I didn’t feel good enough to be a writer.
But now here I am, almost twenty-nine years old working on a graduate degree, posing weekly on this blog, and in the best mental health I’ve probably had in over a decade… and it’s time. It’s time to empty out that drawer and work on all those pieces that have been waiting for this moment. Obviously I can’t work on all of them at once because that would super overwhelming and I do have a novel I’m committing myself to at the moment, but I will commit myself to working on them when this current novel has a first draft. This is the wake up call, the epiphany, and the kick in the ass I needed.
I’m just sorry it took me so long to get here.