On Writing

‘One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.’

Jack Kerouac

Writing is such a mundane thing. From work emails to an Instagram caption, everyone writes every day. This is rather obvious, I know, but I think I only realised that last year when I was doing my master’s degree. Up until then, writing was for me an almost sacred activity – to sit at a desk and write was a reflective and holy occupation which I highly admired. To write a story, an argument or an opinion was something precious, an activity I cherished whenever I had the chance to do it.

However in academia, writing is always quantified in the numbers of words you have to write for your piece to be valid, to be good enough to receive a pass, to be worthy of publication. Of course, there’s little room to develop a style as a master’s student – especially when English is not your first language. I felt bound to fail in terms of writing, I knew that I would always be brought back to my strangeness. I did get praise, but it was almost always because I was French, not because my writing was good in itself. Writing became painful, a chore. I had to force myself to my desk and type words. Nevertheless after a rusty and tough start I did enjoy writing and let my words flow as my fingers dictated.

It reminded me of a sweeter time in my life when I did not care about my worth or what people would think. When I was little, I would always be scribbling fantastic stories in my multitude of notebooks. My schoolteacher had even asked me to read a tale I wrote to the whole class when I was eight! That was a little bit crazy but it made me so incredibly happy and proud. I remember, it was the story of a Prince sent to the future to find a damsel in distress. He ended up divorcing the princess and died of an overdose of pizzas… it is really quite silly, but I love this story. It was so imaginative and you could see the fun I had writing these grotesque characters. Up until my last year of high school, I wrote regularly. When I was sixteen, we did a writing exercise in our French class with a local playwright and some of us would read our little texts in the evening, as the supporting act of the play she was presenting in our town. It was all a bit strange and random, but I enjoyed the exercises. I felt like I was writing poetry for the first time in my life – it didn’t necessarily make a lot of sense, but I was putting a lot of emotions in the words I wrote. I read my poem in front of a crowd and I loved it so much. It was called “J’attends” (I wait) which has been a leitmotif in my life after that, as it happens.

But then I became self-aware, self-conscious, self-hating. Every time I have been writing outside of school or work, I have been hiding it from the world. I feel illegitimate, ignorant, illiterate. I attached my sense of worth to the words I wrote and I found them stupid and shameful… like me.

But I’ve had enough now. Enough of always feeling inferior to everyone, thinking about social interactions hours later, resigning myself to shut up because I feel like I’m not legitimate to have a voice. I have started working on feeling better about myself but this process takes time, so I don’t want to wait to heal completely before writing again. I hope I will be able to write more over here, and that if I stop writing it’s because life got in the way – not my insecurities.

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