Why I’ll Probably Never Be A Famous Writer – And That’s Okay

Written on February 16th, 2016

Last summer I worked as an AmeriCorps tutor in my hometown, a job that opened my eyes to the value of volunteering. I was paid a small stipend for my work, but the focus day in and day out was always on how we could do more to push ourselves to help our community beyond even the provisions set up in our contracts. It was an amazing experience for me – so naturally I reconciled it with my newly found identity as a college student, and I wrote about it.

I was proud of these insights and I wanted to share them as much as possible. There was a college-oriented blogging site that had an open submission option, so I sent the article in and awaited a response. A few days later I received a short email that said my submission would not be moved forward. As someone who continually strives to improve (and who also struggles a little with rejection, I’ll be honest), I reached out and asked for some feedback on how I could be a stronger writer in the future.

They told me there was nothing wrong with my writing – it’s just that college students aren’t interested in reading about volunteering. They then suggested that if I wanted to get published, I should instead write a listicle about why the University of Wisconsin-Madison was better than the University of Minnesota. I closed out of my email and haven’t had the desire to work with them since.

The things that our society pays the most attention to are not necessarily the things I want to focus on. Don’t get me wrong – I love celebrity gossip and college sports rivalries and viral videos of adorable pandas as much as the next girl, but I don’t want to devote my life to writing just about the whims of the public. I want to write about things that matter.

I want to write about my mother and the disease that plagues her day in and day out. I want to write about the human experience, what it means to exist on this planet, how it feels to be full of joy or distress or shame or hope. I want to write about how I see the world and how that’s changed over time. I want to write about the things that go unnoticed, the things that could change someone’s life if they were just willing to click off of the mainstream media – the importance of volunteering, the reality of stereotypes, the idea that you are never alone in how you feel.

Moreover, within that writing I am also determined to stay true to my own voice and style. I will respect and listen to my editors, but I will also see the core of my original vision for a piece through. If there is a certain word or sentence structure that I feel I just have to use in order for my ideas to be presented the way I want them to, then I will fight that until the end. Writing and reading are both extremely personal endeavors, and if you water down an author’s style so that it appeals to everyone you’re going to lose a lot of the magic that comes with the rawness of honest expression. I want to be real, and raw, and unabashed. I will abide by grammar conventions and I will appreciate the input of seasoned publishers, but at the end of the day I will also be me.

If refusing to compromise my honest self means that I won’t get published or won’t be as popular of a writer, then so be it. I would rather have an honest piece of writing touch a few people deeply than have a superficial listicle reach thousands of eyes. There is value in all forms of writing – and appeasing the general public’s craving for gossip and humor is nothing to be ashamed of – but for me personally, I want the majority of my writing to do more than just elicit a chuckle. I want to be true to myself and the ideas that bounce around my head late at night. I want to be new, and innovative, and open and honest and real.

I want to be a writer, and I want to be me. I will not allow those two identities to become separated.