I hate brainstorming, I hate the act of writing, I hate submitting pieces by a specific deadline, I hate every part of the process whether I do it for fun or for school.
Now, with all of this hatred, you are probably thinking “Hey, here’s an idea: stop writing.” Funny enough, that’s not possible because I actually major in professional writing in university.
So, that brings us to two possibilities: I either enjoy putting myself in situations in which I would suffer, or I actually used to love writing and something killed that part of me.
Spoiler alert: it’s the latter.
I started this program riding on a false high that came from the support of my teachers, the rush of winning multiple English awards, and winning a school essay competition.
I was fresh out of high school and seemingly ready for whatever university would throw at me. That is, until I got a 42% on my first paper with comments that said I’m a good writer, I just did not meet the expectations laid out in the rubric.
After crying for days, I decided to completely change my writing voice because it did not meet expectations.
I was no longer writing with passion in a conversational tone; I was writing as a student, one that craved academic validation no matter what the cost.
In this case, the cost was losing my own genuine voice and the passion that I once had for this craft. The reality is, I wasn’t myself. I was restricted from being true to who I am. Though I was more successful academically, I was not myself and losing that part of me has been so difficult.
Even more difficult was finding my way back and it hurt because, yeah, everyone told me university would crush my spirit a little, whip my writing into shape even, but no one said it would force me to erase my voice as a writer.
I miss the voice I once had, I miss who I was before this program, I miss being a true writer.
That is what I am here to talk about.
I sacrificed who I was as a writer so that I could follow guidelines and “meet expectations” and, unfortunately, I am not the only writer to do this.
Tons of writers in this very same program are experiencing this and it doesn’t stop there.
We have writers all over the world who do exactly what I did so that they can meet the expectations of their teachers, supervisors, and more.
Over time, we all lose our way, and it is so incredibly difficult finding our way back to who we once were when the path is blocked by assignments and impending deadlines.
Knowing this, though it might be a tough task to take on, I want to be the one to break this cycle.
I want to go through the process of writing for myself, even if it takes me away from reality for a bit.
I devoted myself to this craft for a reason, we all did, and though that reason is a little lost right now, I know I can rediscover it.
The process will be as simple as writing a piece that I care about without the stresses of picking a topic for someone else, meeting a deadline, or adhering to a rubric. A piece for me and only me – this piece.
We have been given the freedom to pick any topic that we are passionate about, there is no solid rubric, and considering how late I have been in submitting this, the stress of the deadline is also gone. I am going to dive deep into the issue and hopefully, in doing so, I can remind myself of where I started and maybe encourage some of you to do the same.
This is my piece, my experiment, my key to loving writing again. Let’s get into it.
One of the things that drove me to losing my voice as a writer would be the pressure that I put on myself. My need for academic validation has clouded my vision but it isn’t wrong.
In this society, these grades are what help us get ahead in life. Your GPA matters from the moment you step into high school, to the point in which you are done with school which, today, for a lot of us that means after we complete our masters. The fact of the matter is, we need good grades if we want to do what we love.
This is why so many of us lose our voices as writers and we shift into this “student voice.” I knew from year one that I wanted to be a lawyer and to do that, I needed a good GPA. That requirement for a good GPA then turned into a desperate need for academic validation.
Suddenly, I was writing for my professors and TAs, not for myself.
Could I have learned to write in my own voice while still impressing my instructors? Probably, but who has the time for that when you have five classes, work, friends, and everything else that is a staple in an 18-year old’s life?
I put the pressure on myself to conform to what is expected and I didn’t even give myself a chance to try a different path because I was so busy.
By the time I realized what I had done – rather, what university had done– it was too late.
Being in my third year now, I am doing better. I try not to put so much pressure on myself. This comes at a different cost that I will discuss later, but the pressure is slowly fading because I have learned to change my practices.
I still only write because I have to, but I write about topics that I am passionate about and that makes writing feel like less of a chore.
Do I still want and need a good GPA for law school? Absolutely. That part of the path never changed. But my attitude sure did, and I think there is a lot of peace to be found in that.
All of this pressure made me lose my voice as a writer and, eventually, it might make me lose who I am entirely for the very reason being that writing is a part of who I am.
So, this process starts with reminding myself of that and I think that is where you should start too if you’re like me.
This process isn’t going to be easy, it starts with a lot of self-reflection and changing some toxic habits; but that these practices are necessary to get back on track to finding yourself again.
Remember when I said that reducing the amount of pressure that I put on myself came at a cost? Yeah, funny story, I stopped adhering to stressful deadlines and rubrics and I started to lose marks.
Writing about topics that I was passionate about and submitting them a few days late led to the loss of 2% a day and few extra marks because “the topic didn’t fit the assignment.” Though I am not back to receiving E’s, getting a B is practically the same thing in the eyes of law school admissions officers, so I was not much better off.
My point here is, as much as I am trying to reduce the amount of pressure that I put on myself, the pressure is still there from my professors and TAs.
Is there any escape?
With strict deadlines and expectations, as well as penalizations that can go as far as deducting 33% for every day that the assignment is submitted late, I find myself stuck. If I miss a deadline, I am penalized. If I make a deadline, well, it is at the cost of my sanity.
It is as though I have been put in a box.
This year, however, I have had the pleasure of being taught by professors who do not penalize students for submitting their work late and who, instead, encourage me to write about what I want to write.
These changes lifted a weight off my shoulders because they reminded me of why I went into this program in the first place.
I started to take my time and write about topics that I was genuinely passionate about and, as a result, my grades have been exceptional. I don’t entirely hate the pieces that I write anymore. I wrote about procrastinating on Twitter, made a TikTok about a book that I love, and now I am writing about an issue that means a lot to me.
I am thriving now more than I ever have before because I have room to grow and master my craft. I am finally learning, and it is because my professors are giving me the opportunity to without added stress.
Do I think we should eliminate deadlines entirely or have full and complete control over everything we submit? Maybe not, but that isn’t the point.
The point is, there is an excessive level of rigidity in this program, and it is contributing to the loss of our creative voices as writers.
It’s ironic, isn’t it? This program was designed to shape our writing and help us master a craft but, instead, we are shoved into a box, leaving many of us feeling stuck and lost.
Language is so incredibly important. We use it to communicate, educate, express ourselves, and more.
Language is even more important when you are a writer. At one point, language was like magic to me. I was able to put words together, manipulate them, and craft them into a piece that I was proud of. All that I wrote reflected who I was as a writer and as a person.
I used language to create pieces that I cared about and to amplify what was once a very quiet voice.
To me, living with/in words meant using language to communicate with others, and to create something magical that shows who you truly are. When I got into university, I realized that may not be the case.
To the educational system, language is just another thing to be graded on, something to determine your worth as a student. When you are in school, language is not magic, it is not free; it is restricted by deadlines and rubrics that lead to grades that, for the most part, will determine your future.
My idea of what it means to live with/in words is very different from that of the educational system.
Though I do not think my notion is the only correct one, I do believe that the educational system needs to revise theirs.
As this piece comes to an end, I am reminded of the writer that I once was. With every word that I type and every idea that I present, I am reminded of my devotion.
I can’t say that I wholeheartedly love writing again because that simply wouldn’t be true. What I can say is that, through this piece, I feel like myself again.
I am slowly rediscovering my genuine writing voice, the one that made me fall in love with writing at the start.
This rigid system isn’t working.
As creators, we need more room to grow, and we don’t have that right now because there is so much pressure coming from within and from others. Writing this piece outside of that system is what helped me get back on track and I know it can do the same for other writers that are lost.
That being said, more needs to be done beyond just writing a piece outside of the rigid system. We need real change. We need to be given the chance to step outside of this restrictive setting to be ourselves without being penalized.
When we are told to write with restrictions, we become as rigid as the system that we are in, and we lose ourselves.
Writing has always been – and always will be – a part of who I am, but I have not truly written in years.
Now, I am writing
SUHA MOMAND is a third-year Professional Writing student at York University. With this being her first year participating in the PWSA symposium, she is excited to share a piece that speaks to her experience in the Professional Writing program and who she is as a writer. Beyond her program, Suha is also involved with the York Federation of Students (YFS) and Founders College, where she works to create a fun and safe space for York students. After her undergrad, Suha hopes to attend law school, where she can take her passion for writing and combine it with her love of law.