By Maria Orlandi
I never really had trouble figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. Ever since I discovered that I enjoyed reading as a child, I decided I was going to be a writer. I loved the idea of creating stories; of being able to move people just like I was moved by all the stories I read. But even though I had somewhat figured out my path, there were still more discoveries to be made.
It’s especially difficult for hopeful writers to figure out their futures. We read so many great novels and stories while we’re in school and we automatically think that’s how we should write one day. As a high school student, I was enamored with authors like Fitzgerald, J.D. Salinger, and C.S. Lewis. I thought that because I loved their writing so much, it meant I should aspire to reflect their style and prestige in my own work. I spent years writing short stories that never got me anywhere, poetry that was trite and unoriginal. I wanted so desperately to be a “great” writer and I thought that meant writing serious, profound pieces. What I didn’t realize yet is that great writing is the result of inspiration, the work of individuals who know what their strengths are and follow them.
My junior year of high school, I was sitting in a coffee shop trying to finish an essay, but procrastinating all the while. Scribbling doodles all over my notebook, I suddenly started writing. It was a poem unlike any other poems I’d ever written before. It was a silly, rhyming poem about a little girl who finds a teddy bear. I kept writing until I had filled up three pages. Reading it over I was surprised to find that I was proud of it. I had never been truly proud of my work before.
That poem represented the beginning of my personal discovery. After high school, I was still writing my “serious” stories but I kept thinking back to that one poem I had written – the one that filled me with light-hearted happiness and excitement. The summer before college I began to write even more. But I was slowly and surely changing my style. I drew my inspiration from the childhood authors I had read, and soon I had my own small portfolio of children’s stories.
It took me a long time to realize that just because I knew I wanted to be a writer that didn’t mean I had it all figured out. As writers, we always feel like we’re being pulled in a million different directions. We’re influenced by what readers are looking for, which writers we love, and our own internal beliefs about what writing should be. But once I finally cast all those nagging voices in my head aside and began to write pieces that I truly enjoyed, I finally found what I was “supposed” to be writing. It was whatever felt truest to me.
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