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My love-hate relationship with writing

How I realized that my words can be so much bigger than me

<p>Emma Keller is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily.</p>

Emma Keller is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily.

I love to write. There is just something about the act of physically stringing together letters that become words, sentences and stories that I find fascinating. I would even go so far as to say that I am most in tune with myself when I am alone with my thoughts, a pencil and a sheet of paper.

For me, writing is therapeutic — like some kind of thermometer that checks my socio-emotional temperature or like a psychiatrist that sits back and nods attentively, yet I still feel 10 times better when my hour with them is up. 

So, I am sure I have made it clear enough — I love writing. But I also kind of hate it. 

I really struggled to write this column, not because I did not have any ideas, but because I was terrified that what I came up with would be disappointing compared to my last column — a hate letter to 2020. That column is so precious to me because it was raw, vulnerable and unapologetically me. 

There was no silver lining at the end, no “look for the positives” tone because I knew that was not what people wanted, or needed, to hear — it certainly was not what I needed to hear. So I embraced the negatives, acknowledged the depth of the dark cloud that has been over my life this year and I got some really great responses that meant a lot to me. I felt heard and like I had expressed in words the feelings people had not yet allowed themselves to feel. The pursuit of that kind of satisfaction is what keeps my hand moving across the page. 

But how can I follow something so meaningful to me? I love to pour my heart out onto the page  — or I guess onto the screen — time and time again, but as liberating as it feels to literally spell out my thoughts and emotions, sometimes I cannot bring myself to do it. It gets too hard. So I stop writing — at least for myself — until I find the courage to start stringing those words floating around in my head back together.

I often find myself daydreaming about what it could be like to pursue a career writing for a trendy literary journal or perhaps a posh fashion magazine. Yet, at the end of the day, I know that I am scared. I know that chasing a job in the media industry, especially in writing, is not easy or considered a stable, sustainable post-college career. And I hate that I have not even found the guts to admit that maybe an “easy,” stable job is not something I want.

So, in a sort of ironic way, writing reminds me of a future that I have not really allowed myself to even dream about — and I kind of hate that too. 

It is really a love-hate relationship — this thing writing and I have got going on. 

I love the freedom that comes with writing down my innermost thoughts and physically letting them go, yet I hate the exhausting vulnerability that it takes. But at the core of all of this back and forth, I think my biggest struggle with writing is that I wrongly believed that the things I write always have to center on me. I have only begun to realize this year that writing is not really about me — it is more than me. 

I have the ability to use my words and the privilege to share them in public places. I can act as an amplifier, lifting up the voices and stories of the people around me who too often go unheard — that is pretty powerful. 

It took me a while to realize just how many times “I” and “me” appear in my writing. There is nothing wrong with that — this is a column written for the Life section after all — but I just had not noticed the prominent “I”s littering my pages before. 

Writing can be so much bigger than me, if I choose to look for stories outside of my own experiences — and thank God for that, because my life can be a pretty boring thing to read about sometimes.

I want to use my letters, my words and my stories to promote a narrative that it is not always mine and one that is much more equitable than other forms of media we consume in this country. 

I am not quite sure what that looks like yet, and I refuse to limit myself by mapping out my entire six-job career path now — I still have a little time left here. However, I do know that my love-hate relationship with writing leans a little more towards the love side now — but it is still a close 60-40 split.


Emma Keller is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com.

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