I did a lot of creative writing in high school. I did much less in college, and after graduation I stopped completely. But lots of people knew I’d aspired to be an author, and periodically the question would pop up: “So are you still writing?”
I don’t have anything to say.
My senior year of college, I got a B in a seminar taught by multiple professors. I flipped out– not only was it literally costing me scholarship money, it meant I wouldn’t graduate summa cum laude. The reason? One of the teachers gave me a C for pulling in outside resources for a paper. Not for plagiarism, not for failing to cite my sources, but for using sources at all.
I had cited outside sources on every other paper that trimester. I was a history major. Citing sources is kind of our thing. So I contested the grade, and won. But I also had an alarming realization.
Without outside sources to inspire and back my argument, I had very little to say.
When I got back into writing, I relied heavily on other bloggers for my prompts, or compiled links on various topics, or gathered funny stuff from around the internet. Then I joined YA Highway, and Field Trip Friday was born. A few months later, the Twitter companion started on my blog.
I was learning a lot and reading a lot and it made me bold, so I took a risk. I wrote a book that was like smashing my heart between the pages, a book that said some things about girls and boys and sexism and sex. It got me an agent. But after multiple close calls, it didn’t sell. I couldn’t talk about that on my blog, and I sure didn’t feel qualified to give advice, so I started making graphs based on publishing data.
Because I had nothing to say.
But a curious thing happened. I compiled links about a few controversies, and realized I couldn’t lay the information out there without some elaboration. I started getting overwhelmed with links, and realized culling the extraneous is inherently a statement of importance. I started a few graphs that were supposed to be silly, but turned into rather damning statements on various parts of the industry.
I was saying things. And I didn’t mean to.
Suddenly I realized not only had I been giving a speech unawares– I’d been doing so naked.
It was yet another alarming realization.
But it was also freeing, as getting naked tends to be. Everyone’s already seen my opinions, so what does it matter if I put a bathing suit over them? Maybe I’ll give them a tie or some killer boots. This blog post here needs some tassels. You! Work-in-progress! You get a cowboy hat!
Sure, people will comment on the color and cut and style, and some will like them, and some will hate them, but the body underneath is solid. It has muscles made stronger by exercises in rejection and bones made of research and teeth sharpened with facts.
It’s already out there. It’s too late to hide. Especially when it was never really hidden in the first place.
A fact finding mission with no goal is pointless. Historians don’t research just for the hell of it– they’re trying to support a thesis. But sometimes, sources disprove your theories. Sometimes what you find isn’t what you expected.
And sometimes, you find you had plenty to say all along.
“Are you still writing?”
Yes. Let me tell you all about it.