This is one of the responses I got when I asked you guys for writing prompts: In what ways has your life turned out differently than you thought it would when you were growing up? This post is part 2 of a five-part series in which I answer this question.
I’ve always loved to write. But to my child/teen self, writing = poetry. Nothing else. For years, I dreamed of becoming a professional lyricist.
I became somewhat known for this.
At school, a popular cheerleader caught on to my hobby and requested that I write a poem about Matt Damon falling in love with her. I delivered. This resulted in many more requests.
In Sunday school, I turned in my mandatory faith statement in the form of a poem, which led to me being chosen (forced) to read it out loud to the congregation.
In college, I decided to minor in creative writing. There were two tracks: poetry or fiction. I intended to choose poetry, of course, but first I had to take Introduction to Creative Writing as a prerequisite to the higher level poetry workshops. I only got to write poems in the first half of that class; the second half was pure fiction.
“I wish I could skip the second half,” I remember telling my grad student instructor. “I hate writing prose.”
My lack of self-awareness was astounding. Somehow—even though I’d spent the past five years journaling about everything that ever happened to me, and even though sharing humorous renditions of those stories on my blog had become the great joy of my life—it had not yet occurred to me that maybe I was a storyteller.
(I partly blame this on my brief stint in my high school’s literary magazine club. Everyone else in that club identified as a fiction writer, and all they wrote was anime fanfiction. Since they were the only other writers I knew, I literally came to believe that fiction was only written by the type of people who like anime. (Thanks a lot, underdeveloped teenage brain!) It simply never crossed my mind that the types of books I loved were probably written by people not so different than myself.)
For my final project that semester, I had to write my first short story—and I fell in love with it. I longed to keep working on it when I was in class, when I was hanging out with friends, and when I was trying to sleep. It consumed me in a way I’d never experienced with any other homework assignment—or any poem.
So I changed my plans.
I signed up for a fiction workshop the following semester, and every semester after that. I haven’t written poetry since.
And I’ve never missed it. Poetry was a great way to experiment and become comfortable playing around with language as a very young writer, but I now know that it was never meant to be my end game.