When A Writer Writes For a Living...

Illustration by Midnight Breakfast.

I've been consistently writing ever since I was 8 years old. It all started with poetry inspired by Kronk from the Emperors New Groove (yes, I'm serious) and a short story about an unsolved murder at an all-girls school in France. (Still very proud of this one.)

However, through all of this somewhat-silly yet somewhat-serious writing, I always was doing something else at the same time. You know, school, work, social stuff. Just being a human, I guess?

Then...I started writing professionally, which is one of the best things to ever happen to me. I have complete job flexibility meaning I can travel whenever I want and shape my own schedule. All of my work is remote / freelance, meaning if I choose to get a permanent not-so-remote job, I have the power to do so. 

All of that is obviously very awesome and I would never complain about it. I no longer have to clean up urine someone 'accidentally' left on the bathroom floor at Chick-fil-a. I no longer have to be emotionally abused because there was too much foam on someone's drink at Starbucks. I no longer have to participate in hidden corruption. Yay!

Charles Bukowski once said, "Bad luck for the young poet would be a rich father, an early marriage, an early success or the ability to do anything well."

In a sense, Bukowski is right. The writer isn't inspired to write when everything is perfect. I wrote poetry on a daily basis in my notes on my phone during my first semester in college. Why? I was broke in New York City, slaving away under a corporate company, dealing with social drama, and going to college. I had so much to write about. 

Not saying everything in my life is perfect. It's far from it. Like, really far from it. However, considering I write for a living now, things have changed a lot. My job is staring at a computer writing about everything for everyone. 

Sometimes I think to myself, "If all I do is write, what will I write about?" Yes, I have a pretty vast imagination. And yes, with the internet, I could easily educate myself on any subject within a very small time frame. Therefore, technically speaking...I could write about anything and make it sound somewhat decent.

But I don't want decent. That just doesn't sound okay to me. My love for writing started in elementary school, but I defined what it meant for me in high school. Writing was about authenticity, connection and feelings. 

These two quotes pretty much sum up why I started writing and why I still write:

"Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility." -William Wordsworth

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” -Henry David Thoreau

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I've had to write about things I don't particularly care about a lot. And even worse, I've had to write personal articles that don't even relate to me. It's not like I was writing a huge narrative that ended up being a lie, but I was being assigned articles that I couldn't 110% relate to. The subject matter makes it seem like it's not a big deal...but still....

Most of them were listicles in the format of: 
XX Things You'll Understand If ___________
XX Things Only ______ Will Understand
You'll Relate to This If _____________
Yada yada yada, you get the point. They were things I didn't personally understand or experience, but I still wrote about them. The listicles turned out fine and people positively reacted to them, but something just felt weird on my end.

Personally, I feel uncomfortable reading an article about black women when it's written by a white man. You can tell they are trying their hardest not to be offensive or not to make it about them, and I think that distracts from the point their trying to make. It's just not natural to write about something you can't relate to. Sigh.

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I don't consider myself an expert when it comes to words. I mean, I know proper grammar and I studied a lot of literature in my lifetime, but I'm certainly no academic writer. I make mistakes, I make typos, and I don't consider everything I put out there a masterpiece. (So random people in my email, stop attacking me because I accidentally forgot to add a period or something.)

But at the end of the day, I want everything I put out there to represent me. Sometimes, people will say, "You're a writer! Oh how cool. Can I see some of your work?" I quickly browse my portfolio, looking for the best example. Sadly, I never know what pieces to show them because most of my pieces are for other people.

This is just one of my writing gigs though. I still write poetry when my soul calls me to do so, but even now, I feel like expectations are high. I used to just write for myself. Now I am aware I have an audience...sometimes, that can be terrifying. 

Still, all of this reminds me of yet another quote by E.B. White, "A writer who waits for the ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on the paper."

Not everything I put on paper (or on virtual paper) will be perfect. It's not all going to represent me, but at least I'm still writing. At least I'm still putting my thoughts into words...

I can only go up from here.

XO

Maria Elena

1 comment

  1. Great job sharing your story as a writer. Your poetry and personal writing can be part of your portfolio, and so can your writing here on your blog! You can even add things that you have written but have not been published anywhere. I'd suggest putting together an online portfolio so that you have an easy way to share some of your work when someone asks for clips, as well.

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