You asked | How do I start writing again?

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M writes:

I recently heard you speak and your experiences deeply resonated with where I am in my life. I will be graduating this fall and I feel as if I have been “waiting until I know what I am doing”, which has led me to do nothing. Last year my USB drive was stolen, which contained everything from my most updated resume to all my essays and notes. 

Currently, I am still lost and trying to figure out where my passions lie. However, I do know I can write, and that most of my professors and teaching assistants have always enjoyed my linguistic articulation. I want to start writing again, but for myself, and to rediscover my voice to see where it can take me. Do you have any advice to impart? 


Start where you are. Start something. It doesn’t matter that you’re figuring it out as you go along. Every artist, company, brand, what have you, is adjusting course constantly. The landscape is always shifting so it’s fine to begin without having a fully formed idea of what you want to create, to adjust your approach on the fly. I’d argue it’s better that way because it means you’re adapting. You’ll figure out your focus (or lack thereof) when you’re deeply immersed in it, after you’ve floundered for a bit and realized what feels like a chore and what you find exciting.

Don’t worry about the fact that you lost your resume (I’d recommend creating a Linkedin profile if you haven’t already) and though it’s frustrating that you lost your essays, don’t let that discourage you. I never submitted a single essay to a prospective employer or client because the style is so specific, it’s just not that relevant to any writing job I’ve had in the real world.

The work you do from here on out will be more valuable to you.

I wonder if you, like me, find it easier to write when you have a specific project that’s been assigned to you. I know I prefer when someone else sets the parameters, which I think is actually my fear of setting my own criteria because that would mean I’d have to measure myself against myself and that prospect is frightening. If there’s one thing a literature degree does, it’s make you very, very critical of your own writing.

I have no answer for how to fix that. I just battle through it.

And I read a lot about writing. I loved On Writing by Stephen King when I read it way back when. Recently I found Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert inspiring; the first is more practical, the second is more rah-rah-you-can-do-it. I also love JK Rowling’s Twitter feed. The moral I gleaned from every one of them? Each author has been overcome by self-doubt but they’ve all pushed through it. They’ve collected rejection letters and bad reviews like badges of honour. And they kept on going.

Just start. And then keep going. Your perseverance will get you there, even if you don’t know right now where “there” is.

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  • Reply Kate March 31, 2016 at 1:14 am

    Great tips – thank you so much for sharing them!

  • Reply Kelsey Dundon April 21, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    Thanks, Kate! I’m happy to hear that.

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