Starting Again

I took my first journalism class on a whim after transferring from a Biology to English major my freshmen year of college. “Introduction to Literary Journalism” I believe it was called. If this is starting to sound like the beginning of a romcom meet cute, that’s because it is exactly what this is.

I often look back and fearfully wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t taken that class. If I had signed up instead for intermediate sculpture or women’s studies, or had heeded the academic counselor’s advice and not taken the max amount of units every quarter. Would my passion for writing have eventually found me? I like to think so because looking back, it was always hovering on the edges waiting for me to notice it.

Growing up I had been drawn to medicine because it seemed the most tangible way to help others. But the more I began to study journalism, and eventually start writing as a career, I quickly learned the pen can be just as powerful for doing good. Stories empower people, give space to difficult conversations  we struggle to have, and shine light on the truth that people try to bury. Stories make us laugh and feel seen and push us to learn from perspectives far beyond our own communities. Stories keep the past alive but also allow us to make our futures better. They’re just, well, you can tell I’m a big fan.

Writing has always been a rollercoaster of emotion for me. The highs of getting to interview someone about their passions, the lows of missing a deadline. The high of the byline, the low of the rejection letter (or worse, the ghosting rejection letter). But the more I wrote, the more I wanted to write. There never felt like there was enough time for all the ways I wanted to engage in storytelling.

But two years ago I stopped writing.

While the subject of YouTube and digital media became my focus by lucky accident after I graduated college, it was never my end goal with writing. I feel lucky for all the opportunities it gave me to write about feminism, to helm my own column, to shatter taboos about mental health, and advocate for survivors of sexual assault. But after years being a freelance journalist on this ecosystem, I published a reported piece in 2018 that received prolonged backlash. One of the many rippling effects of that backlash was I stopped writing — first out of fear and later out of severe loss of confidence.

I learned a lot in those two years away, a lot of it painful, but all of it important. In terms of writing, I learned to look back on my habits and identify what wasn’t working — my chronic habit of turning articles in late, of taking too many pieces on at once, of putting so much pressure on myself to be constantly producing that I lost a sense of my own value. I learned that while I had once believed there was only one form of journalism success, that was 1000 percent untrue. I also learned that I didn’t want to write about tech or social media or YouTube anymore. I felt rudderless and directionless and too exhausted to keep moving forward as I had been before.

While during those two years my confidence in my own abilities was at an all-time low, I never stopped loving storytelling. On walks home from happy hours when my imagination would mingle with the bubbles of the wine, I’d dream of the articles I’d pitch if I could report on anything. Long form features that involved me spending months within communities. Pieces on women’s health and sexual violence prevention. If I could do it all again, I’d write features on wellness pieces and mental health and self discovery. I’d dream until the next morning when my fear would propel me to take down my post its of scribbled ideas strewn across the closet. Because what experience did I have writing about these grand subjects? My knowledge was in covering the YouTube ecosystem so after five years of doing that and two years of being entirely byline-less, was it even possible to pivot what I write about and get pitches picked up by magazines? Was it safe to be back out there again? Was I ready?

They say that when you decide to pursue a new venture there is a power in shouting it into the world. Perhaps that power comes from holding yourself accountable or giving your family a break from you prattling on about all the pros/cons of starting something new. Whatever the reason, I’m hoping it rubs off a little here because this is me — the new me, the one cognizant and cautious but determined — yelling my dreams into my little corner of the world. I wasn’t ready for so long, but I think I am now.

So hello, HI, I am starting to write again. I AM WRITING AGAIN! I am writing regularly on this blog about topics I think are important and diverse and true to me. I am starting to send out pitches and submissions to magazines with the hope of building new relationships. I now want to write regularly about wellness, mental health, female empowerment, being a human trying to figure it out, and features on pioneering individuals. I want to volunteer my skills to help non-profits or mentorship programs or arts and recreation centers. I want to work on social justice-based storytelling projects that give underrepresented communities the tools to tell their own stories and also create a handbook that uses writing to help trauma survivors heal. I want to write my own long-form stories about my experiences and my anxiety and healing from trauma. I want to create a wellness newsletter and maybe write a book (or two) and someday land more acceptance than rejection letters. I want to write stories that make people feel seen and feel less alone in their experiences; stories that teach something new or make people laugh or find relief in their tears, stories that are integral to who I am and what I believe. And I want to empower others to tell their own stories in whatever form speaks to them.

I am starting to write again and I am terrified and hopeful and grateful and determined. Whatever the outcome may be, I know I’d regret not getting back in the ring to pursue this passion that makes my brain and heart tingle with some type of literary magic. I am not the same writer who started all those years ago. I’ve come to peace, and even now appreciate that. I am grateful for 22-year-old’s spunk and fearlessness, but I am also grateful to have learned about resilience and safety and self-care since then. As I start writing again, I recognize the need to incorporate these three things more deeply into my writing ventures in order to make this a marathon instead of a sprint.

So here I am, declaring to the world my dreams. I am writing. I am writing. I am a writer. I am writing. So I guess … here we go?