Writing prompts generally elicit questions or scenarios writers can draw from to start filling up blank pages and computer screens. For a writer immobilized by a blank page or computer screen, a good writing prompt or two can be a godsend. There are numerous writing prompt specific websites out there for writers and wannabe writers like me to glean ideas from in times of need. In a recent journey through the cyberworld of writing prompts, I came upon a question that made me stop and literally laugh out loud, “What’s the most important thing you’re putting off?” “Are you kidding? I thought, what haven’t I been putting off lately. Like most people, I have a penchant to put off tasks that I abhor doing and that carry little to no interest for me. Where this has become problematic in my life is when a significant portion of my waking hours are filled with tasks I’d much rather avoid. Nowadays, it seems like I can’t turn around without stumbling upon a task I’d pay to avoid. Yet, there are people who can plow through a multitude and variety of tasks with relative ease and zero procrastination. I’ve always admired the tenacity of individuals who could look in the face of the task least welcomed and complete it, resisting the temptation to flee. Most outside observers can typically assess the tasks I least want to tackle by looking at what I have scrawled on post-it notes and random pieces of paper. It is the tasks that I haven’t memorialized on post-it notes and scrap paper that I most want to do, but that I fear attempting to do the most. On the top of my fear based task pyramid is writing, specifically, the task of working on trying to get an article published online and/or in a magazine. Although I love to write and cherish every second that I get to push pen to paper, I am paralyzed by the fear that not only am I not a good writer, but that I will never achieve the goal of having an article published. I believe this fear started a few years back when my application for admission to law school was rejected.
There was a time when I lived and breathed getting into law school; it was all I could think about and all that I was mapping out to achieve. I was convinced that there was nothing in the world I wanted to be, or should be, other than an attorney. Failing to gain admission into law school was both devastating and cathartic; devastating in that I was convinced I had lost a piece of my identity, cathartic in that I began working through this sense of loss on paper. In hindsight, I am grateful that I did not gain admission into law school for this failure ultimately lead me back to my first love, writing. As I flash through memories of my years in college, I recognize that my writing courses were the ones that most filled my heart with glee and which influenced me to add English with a writing concentration as another major. A memory that stands out the most for me is the day when my memoir writing professor read one of my memoir pieces out loud to the class. I did not know that he was going to read my essay, but was ecstatic that my piece was chosen to be read. Granted, not all of my college writing experiences were this thrilling. In fact, one of my first writing classes in college lead me to tears. Thankfully, I had professors who were not willing to settle for anything less than what they believed I could produce, and in that resolve, they obliterated the essays they believed I treated as an afterthought. It took some time for me to realize that my professors scrutiny of my work was not sadistic, but instead a tool to push me to write well, with the added bonus of helping me develop a thick skin. Over time, however, layers of this thick skin have been shed. And as a result, I am wary of stepping into an arena where thick skin isn’t a luxury, it is a necessity.
In the grand scheme of my life, I suspect that whether I ever have the opportunity to write on a professional level will not make or break who I am becoming as an individual, nor will it quell my desire to write. Additionally, I believe that my lost layers of thick skin will eventually find their way back to me, perhaps adhering more tightly to me than the last time. In the meantime, I will slowly, but surely, work on developing the spirit and tenacity to confront both the written and unwritten tasks set before me.