I write… Therefore, I am a writer…

“If we had to say what writing is, we would have to define it essentially as an act of courage.” Cynthia Ozick

I have not written in my blog for a long while. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t write. I understand I have not published as much as I should have by this stage of my life. For many reasons, some obvious. But I write all the time. In my daily journal. On apps in my phone. In my head. On the computer. I am writing while I am painting. I am writing while I am driving. I am writing while I am walking, jogging, running, working out. I am writing while I am cooking or eating or cleaning, and even while I am asleep, in my dreams. It has always been this way… since I was a child. So many pending pieces on many topics. Some on paper and some in the mind. Most in the mind, perhaps. Imposter syndrome and anxiety and perfectionism has been off the roof the past few months (and even years), unfortunately, during a difficult transition period of my life. I know many can relate to these sentiments…

On my research, I am still processing the “trauma” of my experiences, and among the traumas, still processing what I was able to complete and how much I didn’t get to do with the large data corpus, hoping that the qualitative data, though not in “real time,” could still be of value, especially when the research was essentially about “lessons learned.” Only I can make that happen. Only I have that power to extend its significance to the larger question, which remains relevant and pertinent. But I can only make it happen by pushing through those emotions preventing me from progress.

So when I sit down to write, the imposter syndrome engulfs me, overwhelms me, ultimately numbing me… A beloved colleague recently told me I am a good writer… another person recently told me I have “potential”… Potential. I go off thinking…. How is it, that I am 37 and still only “have Potential”? Sigh. It’s a process, I guess. It’s a process that works differently for each person. And indeed it was the depression and anxiety that took away so much from me…and with OCD, as many of you know and experience, it takes away time and energy from what we love to do, and what amazing things we can share with the world… But at the same time, it can be a blessing…

“Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom.” Søren Kierkegaard, Danish philosopher

Reading some of my stuff from my younger years, and in highschool, I knew I was born to write, whether my writing was good or bad. I am beginning to make a stronger effort to “re-learn” “good writing.” A little late perhaps, after writing a 400 page public policy dissertation.

I knew that writing was something I had within me. I always had this objective. And I have now been able to finally convince myself that I am actually not that bad. And telling myself that I am not bad, when I am just “good enough,” will make me strive to be better.

There are many things I love about qualitative research. It allows you to “bend the rules” a bit (within the boundaries of research ethics) and harness your creative side. I know I was born to create and be a creative. The possibilities, in terms of connecting with social science research…it’s endless and so incredibly exciting. For instance, I have a passion for social network analysis and data visualization. There are very cool, creative ways to visualize the data, and I have barely scratched the surface. I have always loved creating all sorts of content.  I like taking the examples of others who came before me, crediting them, but also pushing for originality, even though it is the hardest thing these days to be original, maybe even impossible. But I’ll continue to harness that creative within.

My next blog piece entitled “Twenty Years” (which I will publish within the next day) is something I have been meaning to put out for the past few months (among other pieces)… before September 11th, and it will also help push me through the barriers in my mind and soul, stopping me from putting things out there and moving forward… I guess I was caught in a lot of personal things within the next transition in life (like trying to find a roof over my head and figuring out how I will put food on the table – starting from the bottom in many ways again perhaps), so it has taken longer. I know I have to get this out of me now or I will go insane, Lol.. But that struggle has been quite the thrill, quite the story to share someday… it helps maintain stamina in “the fight” when you see it that way…

I know I don’t have to write such long posts. That may be the primary issue that repels “the world” from giving my words a chance. It is especially difficult these days, with our attention span naturally getting a little shorter. What a challenge for traditional writers and bloggers to keep readers engaged in today’s world of 10 second snapchats and 15 second Tik Toks or Instagram Reels. I myself get trapped in them from time to time, and I’m pretty “old school.” In fact, the feedback I received from the few people who have read my blog, included that I should consider “going mainstream,” that some of my pieces have been powerful, but I should write shorter posts and more often. I can do that, now especially since I have completed my doctorate. I will try. Some may be 2500 words or more, like the next piece… Some may be 750 words. That is totally doable.

I just need to be writing and putting the words out there. I always feel something is missing if I don’t put words down on a page. Blogging helps with the feeling of accomplishment for writing a piece and publishing, even if it’s your own website/blog, and as a sort of self-apprenticeship, and especially when it involves some catharsis, revealing your authentic voice behind the academic/scientist.

As I have stated before, even if there isn’t much of a readership, I will keep writing. Because if one person finds value in the words, even if that one person is me, I mustn’t stop. It won’t be great and it won’t be perfect, but it must be done. In the end it adds up as part of that “identity capital.” I haven’t been able to produce and publish much beyond social media posts the past several months. But I shouldn’t discredit my dissertation. It was published recently on ProQuest and the entire process this past year and the past decade was a massive endeavor. I MUST remind myself that. And I have to remind myself (as we all should) that it is totally okay to take the time to heal and to move at your pace (especially in the current climate) even if the world around you is moving so much faster and you cannot seem to keep up. There is no need to feel shame or guilt for not being able to “keep up,” especially because you needed the time to heal… especially during today’s challenges… More on this later…

I did want to put out this piece because I hope this can help to break down the barriers in my mind on various things and push through harder as I jump to the next piece and many more to come forth both in my creative and academic/policy-oriented writing pursuits. It’s interesting, because this post was something I began writing as a post I would use to introduce the next blog piece on Facebook or social media. LOL. And then it turned into a blog article instead. Actually many of the posts I have written on Facebook over the years are like blog articles and could be expanded into something more meaningful and lasting in this space or any other medium.

Hoping that revival of my blogging will help get the creative and academic writing flow once again…. Because what constitutes as the definition of a writer is never concrete. It is not quite like Aristotle’s “I think, therefore I am.”  You are taking actions… and daily. You are doing more than thinking. But thinking can be a form of action. Just like it is a necessary part of the dissertating analytical process, it is a big part of the writing process. Even if your writing is only happening in your mind, it’s happening. The challenge is to find the courage to get it out on paper as closely as possible to what is being written in your head…

I love to write. I may not love many things about myself…Indeed, I am working on fixing that too. But I love that I am a writer. I love the artist in me that is “turned on” by a blank page or a blank canvas. I know some things I write (like the previous sentence) are cheesy or cliche, but I write with honesty and openness, and transparency. Writing is my freedom… Even though I am not a prolific or published writer as I had hoped to be before my late 30s, the simple discovery that writing (alongside my painting) is where I feel most free, is quite powerful and enlightening

I also have to remind myself sometimes, and perhaps this may help others too, that although we need some “mental space” for writing, we can ahieve that no matter where we are in life. We don’t need to be somewhere in life, temporally or geographically, in terms of place, time, and life stages, to write. That “fixed” mindset prevents us from growing as writers…

It is possible to break through this.. And even if nothing more gets out there before the end of this year, this “breakthrough” will be enough to carry into the new year

If you are facing similar challenges in your writing, keep pushing yourself, stay hopeful…

Piece by piece, we can push through this…

“A writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, or because everything she does is golden. A writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing any way.”

– Junot Diaz, Professor of Writing. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize of Fiction, 2008

With peace, warmth, and blessings,

Your Elsa

The Warrior KQueen

“She wasn’t looking for a Knight. She was looking for a Sword.” – Atticus

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