When I was little, I delved into the reading world. I’d spread books on the floor in a circle and sit in the middle of them, flipping through the pages. I memorized "Pat the Bunny," just so it looked like I could read. I became obsessed with the idea of writing my own stories, so I started copying letters from the books to paper. By the time first grade rolled along, my teacher was commenting on how my letters looked a little funny because I wrote them wrong.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Everyone asked.
For a while, my answer was a zookeeper. Duh. Isn’t that the dream? But after that phase passed I would automatically respond, “A writer.”
Here I am now at 18, wondering when my cut-off date is to becoming a “grown-up.” I feel like there’s a constant timer attached to my hip, ticking down the days till some alarm will sound. My hamster wheel is collecting some wear and tear after years of sprinting to achieve this “writer status,” but while I'm pouring over papers, books and written dreams, all you can hear is the tiny squeak squeak of the hamster panting while going round and round.
For a while it was all about passion. It didn’t matter if my story had a beginning middle or end, it just mattered that I loved it. As I grew throughout school, almost everybody who knew me associated my name with writing. All eyes were on me entering high school then college, knowing that my career path had been decided a long time ago.
Upon strutting through the arches of Ohio University’s campus, I quickly realized that no one knew who I was here. I’d never had to explain what writing meant to me, people just knew. Scattered around the green and bricked campus, artistic and creative people were everywhere. Students seemed to stand on pedestals screaming “I’m an author! I’m a journalist!”
Then, all at once, when it was my turn to stand all I could manage was “I’m — well, Mallory?”
It was evident that I was uncomfortable with giving myself the title “writer.” Who was I to declare that? Why did everyone have to know? I felt unworthy to claim to be in the same category as so many amazing creative authors before me.
Yeah, unworthy’s a pretty heavy word. But it fits.
I suddenly found myself writing for others, forming my style to fit a certain peg hole that groups could relate to. It was something I was unused to.
Here’s the thing about writing — most of us don’t do it because we’re looking for validation from others. It’s about spending hours playing that computer's keyboard like a piano or finding a blank piece of paper and turning it into something that can make someone feel. We do it all so that we can eventually look upon a piece of ourselves and feel assured that we are proud of who we are. We look down at those words we wrote and learn to love ourselves.
I guess I want to know, what makes someone a writer? Is it when you write your first blog? Or publish your first novel? Sometimes it seems like it’s all about getting your name out there. But even if everyone in the world thinks you're a writer, if you don't believe it yourself, then why bother?
It’s okay to be unsure of who you are, no matter what you’re passion is. Define who you are your way. That’s what writers do. They take a dictionary and dump it out across the table. Anyone can use these words, but writers form them into something completely unique. Take all those letters and spell out who you think a writer should be, who you think you are.
I don’t think I’ll ever completely figure it out, there’s always gonna be one or two puzzle pieces missing. But hey, that makes a pretty good story, huh?