Writing, for me, is not easy. Is that a bad thing to admit? Whenever I picture a writer, I see two thin white hands: one curled around a cigarette, the other scribbling with a pen across their notebook— all of their thoughts pouring out of their heads and onto the paper instantly. Or sometimes I see my sister’s wild excitement, the way she spills over with her ideas and then runs off to write them down without hesitation. It is somehow harder to imagine my own brown hands hovering over the keyboard, willing the blank document to fill with words that are somehow immediately beautiful and perfect and necessary.
I started writing when I was five years old. My sister would spend hours in front of the large family computer, editing clunky WordArt titles for her stories. And I would watch as younger sisters do, with jealous admiration, until I decided that I would be a writer as well. As an origin story, it feels rather embarrassing. Writing wasn’t a part of me naturally. I willed it to be so. Now whenever I sit down to write, my heart starts to beat too quickly and I have to stop. I hit the backspace key one too many times. If I manage to make it through a first draft, I check it over once, twice, and then a third time until it feels like I’m trying on somebody else’s clothes that don’t quite fit me right, and then I start to think that maybe that is what I have been doing since the beginning. Since I was five and jealous and hopeful.
When you are young, you do not have enough sense to be insecure. You are far too busy believing that because all of your thoughts are new to you, that they will be interesting to everyone else. I cannot recall a particular moment when someone read my work and said, “Hey, this bad,” compelling me to hide all of my journals and pencils and files. I just grew up. I preoccupied myself with the things I could prove I was good at. An ‘A’ on an assignment was an indisputable fact. My confidence was hardly strong enough to stand as an opinion.
If I found anything I didn’t like, I deleted it. I have lost so many pieces of myself this way.
It was either through God’s grace, a glitch in Google Drive, or a combination of both that I was able to recover several stories I’d written in middle school. And I surprised myself by reading every plot hole, every poorly written scene, every shred of immature dialogue with incomprehensible joy. All of them to an extent were poor imitations of stories I’d read, but they were mine. Isn’t that good enough?
I am always seeming to answer this question when I write. Is my writing good enough? The question is incomplete. Good enough for who? I’ve circled around this a few times, attempting to answer if it is for myself, if it is for others. But it doesn’t matter. It will never matter until I answer the real question that has sat in the back of my mind since even before I was hovering outside of the den doorway, quietly watching my older sister. Am I good enough? I believed it then. I was certainly capable of spelling words on the computer and constructing a simple story. I was even capable of creating those unappealing clunky WordArt titles. However, as I grew up, writing became less about the sheer capability and more about me. Were my thoughts and ideas worthy of being shared?
The only appropriate answer to this question, I feel, is nobody knows. But more importantly, who cares?
I didn’t write those stories on Google Drive when I was in middle school because I saw myself as a literary genius with new and sensational ideas. I wrote because it was fun. Because it made me fill up with the same excitement as my older sister when I had stories rush in my head faster than I could type them. I wrote for me. And when I found those once lost pieces, it brought me the same overwhelming happiness. Because at that moment, I was good enough for myself.
This is how I write: I turn off all sounds and shut the door. I stretch my fingers after I’ve written a paragraph without stopping, breathe in and out as a way to congratulate myself. I was afraid to admit my insecurities with this art form, my art form, because I felt as if it could not rightfully belong to me. How could I be a writer who curls up at the mention of writing?
However, this thought too is incomplete. I am not at all appalled by the act of writing. It was simply that I could not stand to be a writer who wrote anything unimportant. I had not grown yet to realize that writing is a deeply personal, self-indulgent task. Which is just a nicer way to say that it is selfish. Nor had I realized that there was and is a great possibility of me never writing anything that mattered much to others. But also, that it is okay. It is okay to write something half-decent. It is okay to fail. It is okay to look back at something and cringe. It is okay to be imperfect. It is okay. It is okay. It is okay. And more importantly, it is enough.
Yes, a writer can be a deeply intellectual white man with a leather-bound journal and a nicotine addiction. But a writer can also be me: a black girl who has enough courage and humility to keep writing when it isn’t easy until one day it is.
Justice Hatcher is from Jacksonville, Florida but now lives in Concord, North Carolina where she attends Cox Mill High School. Although she has yet not had her work published, she has always found her sanctuary in language. Since childhood, she has been an avid reader and writer but was unsure of how to share her creations. After receiving local recognition in middle school from the Cabarrus County Soil & Water Conservation for an essay contest, she began her journey of finding her voice, which she is now beginning to release.