At almost every high school graduation party I attended, there was a moment where someone would say “let’s play volleyball!” and all the gangly teenagers would put down their plates of cake with the graduate’s face and pick teams. It was always moments like these where I’d find myself looking for an ally. Because I could nearly count down the seconds until someone would say “Liz, are you playing?”
I do not like volleyball. I do not like volleyball because I am not good at volleyball. And I know that’s counterintuitive and I know that maybe if I took a singular second to try to learn or to practice, it could very well become my new favorite backyard game. But as it stands today, I do not like volleyball.
When I went to college I switched my major/minor combination 3 times. The only thing I knew for sure going into university was that I wanted writing to be a big part of it. I declared a writing minor at 18 and it’s basically the only thing that stuck.
I like writing. I like writing because I have always been told I am good at writing. And because it was something I was encouraged in my entire life, it’s remained a deeply important part of who I am. Because I told myself I was good at writing, it became something I spent hours studying. I consumed as much literature as I could. The library became my favorite place in the world.
At work a couple weeks ago—where I am incredibly fortunate to get paid to write—I was staring down a blank Google document. In fact, I’d been staring the document down for several days. Even after an hour of “serious focus music,” I still found myself at odds with an empty page.
In that moment, I wondered if I really liked writing.
It was something that had come easy to me my entire life. Something I loved more than almost anything else. I started writing. But sometimes the words don’t click. Sometimes the topic is too big. Just keep writing; you can edit later. And my goodness, writing is hard.
I looked up from my computer. Done.
I took a few deep breaths and looked at what I’d spilled onto the virtual page. When I got to the end, I knew I had a solid first draft. But it took a lot out of me. This wasn’t easy writing.
And for the first time in my life, I acknowledged what my non-writing friends had been telling me for years: Writing is hard.
It was something that I’d never really thought about or acknowledged. Whether a piece is particularly moving or not, writing has always been my coming home. To feel so unsteady in it, to feel so challenged by a particular assignment, to put so much weight behind each punctuation—felt holy.
I thought I liked writing because I thought I was good at writing. I thought I disliked volleyball because I’m bad at volleyball. But maybe it’s not a matter of “good” or “bad.” Right or wrong. Maybe it’s a matter of where we put our energy… of what we give our heart to.
I’m not asking for every writing day to be easy. I’m just asking for the courage to dust off the notebook, take a deep breath, and write the first sentence.