Close your eyes and imagine a writer. Where are they? What are they like?
When I used to think of a writer, I would think of a person sitting at a mahogany desk, or maybe at a Parisian cafe, or maybe a really Brooklyn-esque cafe (you know, with like slabs of wood for tables, and loose leaf tea, and no drip coffee, just espresso, and milk crates, but like trendy, expensive looking milk crates, for chairs, and music playing via a cassette tape). The writer is content in these places, the writer fits right in. They are writing by hand, in a leather bound journal. In cursive, probably. Poetry, or something poetic. They love symbolism, and coming up with it comes easily. As they write, they talk around what they want to say in a complex way that paints a beautiful picture for the reader. Next to them, on the table, sits a book, their favorite book. It is one of the classics. The writer loves the classics, and understands the language in them easily, on the first read. The writer is deep, serious, passionate, and inspired.
Can you see it? Is this close to what you imagined, too?
According to this image, I am not a writer.
According to this image, I have never been a writer.
But I’ve always enjoyed writing, and I thought that maybe, I could become a writer. However, this image of The Writer haunted me.
Here is what I think of when I think of myself, writing:
Girl sitting in bed, violently typing words onto a page because they are due in probably an hour. Playing very loud music over Spotify. Deciding that she needs to treat herself and eat a snack, even though she is not that hungry and her work is due in probably an hour. She is writing something incredibly blunt, probably exposing herself for one of her many flaws or a strange way in which she perceives life. On the floor next to her, there is a stack of books of essays, mostly by contemporary female authors, that she thinks are interesting and funny. She has read each of these books probably five times in the past year, and all of them have coffee and food stains all over their torn and creased pages.
I am not The Writer, and so I always believed that I could not be A Writer.
All throughout school, I took creative writing classes, because I enjoyed them, but told myself that I didn’t fit in and wasn’t good enough to be there. Everyone in the classes would read their beautiful poetic work, and our homework would be to read from the classics, and that was writing and those were writers.
But I loved what I was creating, and I loved to create. I just knew that this creative outlet was not for me, and so I tried to find a new one.
I came to Columbia College Chicago my freshman year of college to major in comedy. I figured that, since I liked to have fun with my creativity, comedy was the right place for me. First semester, I took one creative writing course, as an elective, and was nervous to attend because I just knew that I would look like a fraud among all of the other real writers in the class, the way that I always felt in all of my other writing classes.
However, when I attended the class, something truly magical happened.
Every writer was different, and my teacher encouraged each individual style of writing. He assigned us wide ranges of readings and prompts and forms to write in. Everyone brought something different and everyone was creating beautiful content. No one in the class was The Writer.
I thrived in this class, and it was then that I realized that I could, in fact, write, that there was nothing wrong with me for not fitting into this mold that I had imagined I’d needed to fit all of my life. After that first semester, I changed my major to Creative Nonfiction Writing and have felt so in the right place and so happy since.
With the rest of my life, I obviously want to create, but I also want to teach. I want to be the teacher that I had first semester of college who showed me that I could be any type of writer I wanted to be. I want to show students that there is so much to the world of writing, that not everyone is the same, that there are so many different paths and journeys you can take to become a writer.
Writing is incredible. It makes you feel things. There are so many different feelings to have and so many different ways to get those feelings across. I want to encourage more variety, I want everybody to find their creative niche.
If I could share one message and really drive that message home with students, it would be that everybody has a story to tell and everybody deserves to tell that story.
Lauren Antonelli, Assistant Editor