The first thing I remember quitting was softball. We were warming up, tossing the ball back and forth to one another. My hand-eye coordination has never been anything to envy, so, when my teammate threw the ball to me, I missed the catch by an inch or so, leaving the ball to connect with my ten-year-old belly. When the ball hit my stomach, it knocked the wind right out of me. I don’t know if I fully regained my breath before I quit. Growing up, I quit a lot of things. I gave up on ballet, art classes, soccer practices, piano lessons, the list is embarrassingly long. As a kid, I was under the impression that I would know I was good at something, based solely on the fact that it came easy, that I would want to do it every single day. Therefore, everything that was too hard or didn’t come naturally, well, I wouldn’t give it a fighting chance.
I don’t know when I started writing, but I can honestly say, I didn’t start caring about writing until I graduated high school. I began to care once I learned that good, beautiful writing defies and expands itself so far beyond the high school research paper. I began to care when I started reading the work of those who placed their heart in their essays, gave everything they could to their work. I wanted to evoke the same feelings that I experienced when I read. I wanted to be a part of the conversation. I started to pick up the pen, tried my hand at journaling. I did my very best to write what I thought needed to be written; things that I thought mattered. Writing, like softball and dance, does not come easy for me; writing takes sitting down and staring at a blinking cursor on a blank Word document for what can feel like an ungodly amount of time. It’s about starting essay after essay that, in the back of my head I know, will just sit in my graveyard of unfinished work. I get frustrated when pieces don’t turn out how I imagined. I have deleted file after file, sometimes feeling that the best thing I have written all week is my grocery list. Some days, I hear the escape artist in me, “Just quit. Take up gardening or yoga, switch your major. This is too hard.”
Writing is a conscious decision for me. It has to be. Because, whether I like it or not, whether I fight it or not, my natural instinct is to back away, let the blank page win. I choose to write. I write every day; sometimes a sentence, sometimes pages. I do my best to write well. But, for me, part of the process is allowing it to be a battle, allowing my writing to feel like an upward climb. I have been reminded of the softball to the gut too many times. Reminded of the younger version of me, hands on my knees, gasping for breath, staring failure in the eyes. I can still feel that now, the dread that I don’t have what it takes, I don’t have enough creative thoughts. So, yes, some days I want to quit. But I am learning to love the quitter in me, learning to regard her more as a pesky office mate. I am finding out how to stand up to her, how to say, “Leave me alone, I can do this. I want to do this.” When it comes down to it, the quitter in me, she’s a source of motivation. I write because good, beautiful things are worth that feeling of frustration and defeat. I write to prove her wrong.
Hanna Bourdon, Assistant Editor