I'm forcing myself to write more.
Which is such a strange thing to say because, by profession, I am a writer. A half-dozen or more times a month, my stories are published and shared on the internet. Except, like many of us who write or create for others—clients, businesses, universities, nonprofits—these stories are not entirely my own.
Many of these are stories about great people and work; ones which I specifically asked to write or would've written even if the decision were all my own: profiles of a Guyanese woman fighting for Black voices in Appalachia, a swimmer battling mental illness to win a NCAA championship in her last college meet, a team of researchers taking on the opioid epidemic across Tennessee.
But, here is the issue. The challenge. The contradiction. When you're paid to give your creative energy to someone else (as many writers, artists, photographers, designers, and producers are), what is left for you? By the time you're handed back control, you're home with a wife you want to sit beside, a baby you want to hold, and eyelids that will barely stay open as you type.
The words don't come. The tank is empty.
Over the years, I have done many forms of public writing. In the late 2000s, during my early college years, I kept a terrible blog with all the outgrown angst of a former emo kid. I wrote songs that no one listened to and posted them on Bandcamp and ReverbNation. I wrote sermons at 22 and preached them from pulpits in churches that probably shouldn't have let me. I kept another blog, and then two others about tennis and soccer. I'm not sure what my ambitions really were at the time. If I thought I'd make it on my own as writer, or if I wanted someone to give me a platform to write.
Eventually, I did got some kind of a platform. I wrote six times for ESPN, the place I made it my goal to write for when I first started my master's degree in journalism in 2013. I won regional writing awards and profiled professional athletes, Olympians, and famous people from all over the world.
There has always been something in me which has yearned for its own space.
But, when you're out on your own, who will listen? The anxiety from asking myself that question has led me to seasons of freelance work. Now, you'll get to really write for you. Late into the night and on weekends, I've written 3,000-words essays and spent double the time it took to write them finding outlet that accepts submissions, reading their policies, exchanging emails with editors, rewriting, then returning my work with fingers crossed it would be published and I'd get paid. If it's not, it's returned like a package you're not sure what to do with anymore. The system, as it exists for freelance writers, has disincentivized my writing. I don't have to time to write, because I don't want to spend the time figuring out how to get it in front of you.
But, for now, I am writing again. Writing for me. For you—any of you who choose to read it. And, if you're feeling in any way the same as I do, I hope you will write, too. Share you work with the world. Your poems, paintings, essays, music, collages, your thing. And don't worry who will see it. Do it for yourself. Because it's what you were made to do.