I have never thought of myself as a writer.
‘Writing’ has always been something I associated with English class. It was in English that we learned the mechanics of commas and the structure of essays. ‘Writers’ were, in my mind, literary types – people who wrote novels and composed poetry.
I have always been a science nerd. Ever since the fourth grade, fascinated with my teacher’s science demos – swinging buckets of water and dissections of various organs and organisms – I had identified with science.
But as it turns out, I’ve been a writer all along.
I was 5 when I wrote in my first diary: “Today we went to the zoo. Bye!”
What compelled me to write that first entry? I’m not sure. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that I was a girl and I received stationery sets every year for my birthday. You know, the ones with pretty paper and matching envelopes and a little bound diary with a lock. (Do those even exist anymore?)
Or perhaps it had to do with some sort of innate desire to write and record thoughts, however trivial?
When I was 12, I became a journal writer in earnest. During the next six years of my life, I filled up more than 7 spiral-bound notebooks with written and typed entries. I did not write publicly. The entries started off as descriptions of everyday happenings – family trips, my younger brother’s soccer matches, a botched piano competition, etc. When I was in high school, the entries reported on high school gossip and provided detailed analyses of friendships and structures of cliques. In between, many entries were reflective (at times raw and emotional), expressing my struggles with introversion and feelings of being an outcast.
The journal writing slowed to a trickle when I went to college (and all but stopped when I went to grad school). There simply was too much going on, and I felt an overwhelming need to either jot it all down or jot down nothing at all.
At difficult times, I returned to my journal to vent. I thought at first that my writing had turned from archival to emotional. But I think the truth of the matter was that I had finally learned how to confide in others – for much of my story-recounting and self-analysis, I no longer needed my journal.
I think my history of journal writing helps to explain my tendency to write self-reflective blog posts.
I’m not saying that I’m somehow a better writer for having kept a journal in my formative years. I’m also not saying that everyone who keeps a journal or diary (or writes long emails) is a ‘writer’ in the full sense of the word.
What I am saying is that I’ve really surprised myself. Writing had played such an important role in my life, and yet, as recently as last year, I was unable to think of myself as a writer.