I’m retracing my steps with writing

STEEPED BY SAMIA #1 | 6.13.22
Exploring the difficult & illuminating process of rebuilding a relationship with your life’s passion. Sometimes you feel lost, you know?

I wasn’t sure how to describe this period of my writer’s journey. But one day in April, the words came to me: I’m retracing my steps with writing. Sometimes, it feels like I’m Nancy Drew, analyzing my memories for illuminating clues and dusting for fingerprints. Sometimes, it’s a casual walk down a stone-lined path, letting my thoughts come and go. In this first post of a new iteration of my blog, ‘Steeped by Samia’, I explore how I’m redeveloping my relationship with writing — and what led me to start blogging again. 

Writers naturally go through moments of doubt and creative lows. 

These moments, while painful, can be filled with important realizations. The past 2-3 years, my writing was tied to social media in a way that it never was before. I developed mixed feelings about being a creative online. Yes, it can be cool to share your story / perspective and find virtual community. I’ve met so many amazing people and have grown a lot as a communicator and storyteller. At the same time, it’s just…not it. I was navigating, for the first time, the uphill battle of being a writer on the internet: the metrics, expectations, pressures and how social media platforms are becoming less and less conducive for writers to share their work. 

A new layer of anxiety formed on top of my relationship to writing — and it was hard to tune out the noise. I didn’t have answers for myself on why I write, what was keeping me motivated, or what I really wanted to do with it. My internal well of creativity and reassurance was low, especially toward the end of 2021 when I faced a crossroad with my career and mental health. 

Career-wise, I’m coming to terms with the idea that — maybe, just maybe — I’d be happier doing any sort of job in my skillset and focus on writing as a personal project. Quite frankly, my labor as a writer will never be as financially or socially valued compared to the labor of people in STEM, business, and medicine. I kind of knew this; but after working in various editorial, writing, and content strategy roles, I see a fuller picture of that interesting shift between writing as a hobby, to writing as a job. 

In the midst of (f)unemployment, I went back to what I needed.

To write, little by little, every day. To go on long morning walks on the trail near my house. To roam the contours of my interior world and journal about my dreams. To read, listen to, and watch a lot of things. To have multiple bad days with writing, followed by a decent day. To ask myself things like: What is eating away at my creativity? How do I want to look at writing in the next 3-5 years? Should writing just be an outlet for myself?

I’d see flashes of memories from a time when writing was blissfully uncomplicated: my tweenage years. I remember journaling for hours on my flower-printed bed in my ‘Journal / Diary / Notebook-thingy’. Secretly passing around a notebook to my friends that contained a hand-written romance story I wrote (It was called The Prince & the Maid — iconic, to say the least, lol). Reading voraciously and feeling curious about the lives and creative processes of writers. Daydreaming about fantastical stories in my head and anchoring them to outlines and first chapters. 

These past couple of months, I did things for my inner child. I watched Sagwa: The Chinese Siamese Cat with my cats. I tried to track down a whimsical book I read in 1st grade (I still can’t find the title + author or evidence of its existence online — so mysterious!). I identified the names of flowers I saw on my walks, sketched them, and wrote descriptions in my journal. 

Lately, I’ve been feeling this urge to write in the digital world again.

I’m not sure why I’m feeling this way or in what capacity. I recently came across a tweet I wrote in November 2021:

It occurred to me that Steeped by Samia could be a new blog or newsletter theme. The current concept is to simmer on thoughts about life, digital culture, my interior world, creativity, and more. I want to take a look at memories, both formative and bizarre ones, and extract new meaning from them. And ultimately, to take crisp ideas and explore their potential to the fullest. Basically, to do the writing thing on my own terms.

I am building my capacity to hold multiple truths about writing. 

  1. If I don’t put my work out there, that’s okay. If I want to put my work out there, that’s okay, too.
  2. I have a lot to learn as a writer and feel a little lost. I also know that I’m damn good at it and believe in my potential. 
  3. I want to create work I’m proud of, that is brimming with creativity and imagination. I also want to create random, not good, messy things. Because why not?
  4. I want people to get to know me through my writing. I also want to understand myself better and put language to experiences and emotions that go un-communicated to myself.

“Today, I read an interview with Jia Tolentino in The Creative Independent, and it was something I really needed to hear. She says, ‘The only thing you can guarantee yourself pleasure and challenge from is inside your own writing process.’ This is exactly why I’m retracing my steps with writing. I don’t want to lose the essence of why I write. I know that the desire to make sense of my interior world is there.” 

— “The Pleasure of Writing?” / A journal entry from April 29, 2022

It’s been such a process to take steps closer to my ideal relationship with writing — including a fair share of wandering and stumbling. Every misstep, though, has eventually led to some sort of clarity or new intention, even when it’s not clear right away. I’ve learned to be more kind and patient with myself lately, and that’s not always easy. 

I’ve spent so much time thinking about writing and reading everything that makes me curious. Even then, I have no grand treasures to share from this experience. It isn’t a spiritually enlightened journey, like in the The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. And that’s okay; I’m chasing an elusive feeling of contentment, one that will keep me moving forward.  

Sometimes, when we’re confused in life and ask questions to ourselves, God, or the universe, the answers that come back are profoundly simple. Like: You’re a writer. Regardless of how it shows up in life, what goals you have, or how you’re perceived, you’re a writer. That’s all that matters, right? 
— S.A.


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