Every now and then, I need to remind myself why I write.
Especially on days where I sit in front of an empty Google Doc for hours on end. Lately, that’s been every day. Days in sun-lit coffee shops and cafes where my fingers hover over the keyboard as I contemplate which thoughts should make it to the page. No, this one might be too corny. Maybe this one, but I can’t find the perfect words. Then there are late nights in the library where the only button I can seem to click is “delete.”
I wish it were as easy as sitting at a desk for two hours and walking away with a draft at the very least. Instead, I find myself up at three in the morning typing away loose thoughts in the Notes app. Sometimes the sun sets into a beautiful pink as the perfect song (probably by Steve Lacy) begins to play, making all the words seem to come out just right. Most times, however, a successful day of writing looks like spacing out in calculus and squeezing out a dramatic line or two, like “I miss you, just not the way you made me feel,” in between scribbles of sinusoidal functions. And yet most often, the pressure of having six hours left to a deadline and iced chai lattes are truly what get me writing.
By the time I’ve hit submit, I am convinced I’m a shitty writer. I think about 8-year-old Zafirah telling anyone who would listen that I was going to be a writer. I remember how my mom nervously laughed every time I went into detail about traveling the world and writing stories along the way. I didn’t get it then, but now I nervously laugh at the thought of it too. She worried about me living off a writer’s salary, while I now contemplate if I can even become a writer. I am sure there are long lists of tips and tricks on improving one’s writing process — talking through one’s ideas, planning ahead, reading a whole lot more and so forth. But writing doesn’t exactly work like that for me. I can’t exactly plan how each piece will take a part of me with it. Writing in its simplest form is a way to get my voice and thoughts on paper. To write everything down allows the moment to live on forever. It calls for honesty and vulnerability, all while internalizing the inherent demand to sound great. And once it’s all out on paper and I see things I didn’t before, I start to understand my emotions and experiences with a heightened awareness. This clarity that comes from writing is a double-edged sword. While it brings peace and growth, it also replaces blissful ignorance with the pains of self-awareness. So after the grueling process behind each piece, I have to ask myself — why do I write?
I love writing, I do. I love writing long birthday cards, reminding others of how appreciated they are with run-on sentences and lots of adverbs, and dotting my I’s with hearts in lengthy love letters. I love writing about my plans for the day on pastel post-it notes or filling a blank page with entire dreams for the future. I love writing with authenticity and excitement, hoping my voice and emotion are heard clearly. I write like this because I remember how it felt to read as a kid. The way authors could craft whole beings and worlds with words was magical to me. Books presented an opportunity to live and learn through others. Even more special was how a string of words could easily make my heart jump. I aspire to be a writer who can make their reader feel. I’m especially thankful that I have the means to become that writer through Michigan in Color.
But the truth is I write for myself before I do for anyone else. I write to remember all the delicate and pretty moments of life. I scribble down all the epiphanies, daily updates, growing pains and fears in a little blue book. I write to capture all that I feel onto a page or several. I want to be able to flip back and revisit these memories fondly through my words. I reread them months later with the foresight I didn’t have then, adding new reflections in the margins. I write to understand myself better as I continue to grow and live life to its fullest extent.
So it’s okay if things are too corny or don’t sound entirely perfect because I write for me. And with the hope that my writing leaves the reader with a familiar memory or feeling. Right now, I’m writing this piece knowing I’ll revisit it a few weeks from now. It’s to remind myself that through writer’s block and shitty writing, it’s always a beautiful thing to give my thoughts a space to live.
MiC Columnist Zafirah Rahman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.