When I first started writing, I did it mostly so not every thought I had would come directly out of my mouth (according to my mother I should show some self-restraint). I thought if I just wrote it down, I wouldn’t end up in the confessional every week. And so I started to journal and then, in elementary school, entered every writing contest I could (not to brag, but my poems did earn me some pretty big candy bars).
As I got older I fell more and more in love with the written word. I was taken care of by the pages I read; I felt heard, understood. They nurtured the parts of me that were aching for air. My love affair with John Steinbeck, Joyce Carol Oates, and John Irving was scandalous at times. I avoided normal teenage sleeping patterns to spend my nights reading. I withdrew from conversations in class so my mind could be filled by the worlds I hungered for. I wrote down my thoughts and my stories, mimicking the words of the great voices that I surrounded myself with. I filled years of journals with prayers, characters, anger, fears and dreams, never asking anyone to critique my work or offer a selling point or define an audience at which to aim my “message.” I wasn’t worried about editors, agents, query letters—or God forbid—a paycheck.
Somewhere in the last year, though, I’ve started to fear losing my voice, my true story. I fear writing only to please those around me. To make a deadline. To not offend anyone. To not share too much information. To take a political stand. To speak in good “Christianize” as to not rock Peter’s boat. To be liberal enough that I gain a larger audience. . . but not too liberal that I alienate those I believe are foundational to my message. This is where I am at right now. Not knowing where I fit in. Or maybe if I even want to fit in. If I continue to strive to be molded by the world around me and not by the voice in my head—the one that made me fall in love with writing in the first place—then what I have become? Who have I become? A writer? Or a puppet?