on inspiration and fearlessness

I realize I have been neglecting this blog in a terrible way, and I realized that is largely because I have been feeling like I keep feeling as though I have nothing worthy of writing about. I hate looking at my life/this blog in that way because the truth is it is often tiny ordinary things that make the best subjects for reflection. I didn’t start this blog to pump out polished, publication-worthy pieces of creative non-fiction, I created it in order to provide myself a forum for thinking, reflecting, and as a way for my friends and family to keep up to date on what was going on in my life/in my head. But as a result of being afraid that I have nothing that is valuable or profound enough to write about, I haven’t been writing in here at all. And for that cowardice, I apologize.

I have actually been encountering a lot of things that inspire me lately, things that choke me up, that tease out tears, things that I’m convinced are what keep us going most of the time. As a writer I feel that I especially crave inspiration, whether it’s witnessing inspiring events, meeting inspiring people, or sometimes even just thinking inspiring thoughts–but I think that without inspiration it is nearly impossible to move forward, to grow, to better ourselves and to give all that we have to the world around us.

I was sent an advice column in an online blog by a friend of mine the other day that was so meaningful to me that I actually teared up while reading. It seems to be keeping with the theme of my looming post-graduate future, but when I read the advice of others who have decided to take a path similar to the one I’m looking down, it feels like someone is wrapping my dreams and aspirations in a warm hug and always makes me feel better. (The article can be found here–warning: some profanity). One line in the middle of the column struck me with particular force: Let whatever mysterious starlight that guided you this far, guide you on into whatever crazy beauty awaits. Sitting on my bed reading that, I felt like the words had jumped off my computer screen and grabbed me right around the heart, like they had been put there just for me. And I knew immediately that that sensation, that experience is exactly why I want to be a writer in the first place. For the slight, off-hand chance that someone, somewhere, will read something I’ve read and get to feel that way, even if just for a second. That quote immediately got added to the collage of photographs, quotes, and magazine clippings that plaster the wall of my bedroom. I think often words are more physical than we could ever imagine, can interact with us in a more visceral, tangible way than we thought possible. When used in intentional, well-crafted, inspired ways, they can come to life.

We got an email over the creative writing listserv the other day about a new volunteer site for the Northwestern volunteer group NCDC called 826Chicago, which is a non profit founded by the amazing writer Dave Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius) that helps kids between the ages of 6-18 with creative/expository writing through workshops, tutoring, and in-school programming. I was immediately drawn to the combination of writing and working with kids, but was hit with hesitation– I’m a senior, and part of me feels like it’s too late to join groups or start extra-curricular activities now. But right after that initial moment of reluctance, I was visited in my thoughts by the voice of Tyler, a friend of mine who died last year who had the most positive, centered outlook on life of anyone I’ve ever met. Too late? You’re twenty-one years old. It’s not too late to do anything. Tyler never would have let the fact that he was a senior stand in the way of him getting involved in something that was compelling and meaningful to him. And so without allowing myself to doubt any farther, I RSVP’ed attending to the info session that was this past Friday. Sitting in the small classroom in the beautifully remodeled Harris building, each second that I listened to the two 826 staff members describe the project I was more and more glad that I had made the decision to come. It was incredibly encouraging to realize that there are other people in the world, and even in the greater Chicago area who think the same things are important that I do. “Real life,” as we refer to it in college, doesn’t just have to be brain-numbing, soul-sucking desk jobs. There are people out there doing wonderful, amazing, generous things to make the world a better place, little by little. Even though it was 6 on a Friday night and I attended in the info session alone, there are few decisions I’ve made this quarter that I’m happier with or prouder of. I can’t wait to start volunteering with 826 as often as I can. Thanks, Ty.

One of the worst things a writer can do is not write, especially out of fear that what they write will not be good enough, will not be perfect. It is far better to write something that sucks than not write anything at all. I will try to update this with more diligence and less fear.

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