Sunday, January 27, 2013

The One That Could Have Been

If you caught the Friends reference in the title, be my lobster.


Between finals and SATs and revising and interning, the last two weeks were probably among the most hectic of my life. So, while running around and studying and reading and missing the deadline for tennis leagues and forgetting to practice piano and trying to boost my SAT score up another thirty points and doing homework and desperately searching for time to revise, I found myself wondering if my life would have be easier if I hadn't started writing. I wondered what it would have been like.

I came up with this.


Amy Zhang is a small and rather clueless junior with a love of books. In the morning, she gets up after hitting the snooze button 3.4 times (on average, that is--her most recent career interest is statistical analysis), gets dressed, and goes to school. She has maintained her class rank, due to the fact that she has nothing better to do in AP Chemistry than listen. She actually takes notes in her notebook instead of scribbling ideas and worldbuilding details in the margins. Her Physics grade is in good shape, because she is also considering a major in civil engineering (not that she knows what civil engineers do. She just thinks it sounds cool).

When she meets with her counselor to discuss her future, she lists off a few other careers she's thinking about and tries very hard to ignore the fact that she isn't quite suited to any of them. Math and science are her strengths; that's what everyone has always told her, so it must be true. Sure, she likes reading, but she can't exactly read for a living. Or at least, she had never heard of such a career. Anyway, her AP English grade is wobbling; she only took this class so she could write it on her college application. Her mind obviously isn't meant for literature. Her world is made of numbers and lines, and creativity is a childish thing.

After she goes home, she does her homework and plays piano, and then she reads, because frankly, she doesn't have much else to do. Writing is a mystery to her, authors are distant and mystical figures, and she is only vaguely aware of the existence of a publishing industry. She digs through an old box out of boredom and comes across an old notebook. It's mostly empty. The first few pages hold a story with no end, and she smiles because she was once silly enough to try to turn her imagination into a tangible thing.


The fact that I was thisclose to living that reality scares the hell out of me. There's a line, I think, between writing and being a writer, and when you cross it, there's no going back. You don't write, you are a writer. Words become a desperately, irrevocably living part of you. Don't ignore them. Don't abandon them. Write until your fingers are brittle and your heart is raw with all the stories you've told. Write until your words are greater than your doubts. Just write.

(Also, what would you guys have been doing if you hadn't started writing? Share! I'm curious :)


  1. I loved how you said this: "You don't write, you are a writer." Too true. I can't imagine what I'd be doing if not writing. I've been writing solidly for 2 years now...maybe I'd be a musician teaching kids squeaky violin songs? ;)

  2. If I hadn't started writing, I think I'd... I don't know. I've been writing since I was seven, so it's kind hard to think about NOT writing. :)

    I also think Civil Engineering sounds cool. And I have no idea what they do.

  3. Wow, this is brilliant! If I hadn't discovered writing I think I would be a completely different person too. Creativity is my life. I am not strong at maths or science so I don't think I would aim for that, I probably wouldn't know what to do with my life. :P
    Thanks for posting, this is such an inspirational post! :)
    Just found your blog, new follower.

  4. I am late to the party but this post is beautiful. Also I will be your lobster. XD

    I identify a lot with this. I'm also one of those people good in math and the sciences, so from a young age I've felt that others expect me to use that—at times I still feel a bit guilty that I'm not helping to cure cancer or something like that. A more quantifiable contribution to society, you know? But I have a mother(and have had a few teachers) who recognized a creative gift for storytelling in me and didn't stamp it out, or redirect it into more 'left-brained' pursuits. Even though there's been that outside pressure, I've always had people in my corner encouraging me to just go for it. So I'm still doing that. =)