In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Express Yourself!.”

Welcome to Day 12 of my 31-day blogging streak! Not sure what I’m talking about? Click here!


I’m a writer. I can’t dance and I’m not good at drawing or painting or working with my hands. Words are my art.

I know everybody says this about their gifts and hobbies, but I really have loved the written word my entire life. Like most writers, my love of writing was borne of a love of reading. My mom kept a baby book for me, and there is a note in it about how I loved to play with books. I couldn’t even read them yet and I already wanted to get my hands on them!

As a shy, introverted child, I craved a way to connect with the world and the people in it without having to talk all the time or compete for attention in large groups. Books were the answer. In 2nd and 3rd grade I was devouring Goosebumps, Sweet Valley and Babysitters Club books, years before statistical averages claimed I was supposed to be understanding and enjoying them. I got more excited for a trip to Barnes and Noble than to Toys ‘R’ Us, and I wold bring a book with me everywhere I went in case of a long wait at the auto shop or a boring drive across town.

But it wasn’t enough: the more I read stories, the more I itched to create my own. I was the kid in class who asked if I could use the back of the worksheet when I was done with the assignment – not to draw or doodle, but to write a story. I was constantly churning out stories in elementary school – of course, the were all about cheetahs and jungle animals and dinosaurs and gem stones and the occasional haunted mansion (there’s that Goosebumps influence!), but for a little kid I had a pretty decent flair for characterization and plot. And vocabulary: I still remember a day in the 3rd grade when my teacher called me out in front of the whole class to point out my excellent use of vocabulary in my dinosaur story du jour. She was really impressed that my 8-year-old self had used the phrase “the dinosaur nodded off,” instead of just “the dinosaur fell asleep.” As quiet and reserved as I was, I had an imagination that wouldn’t sit still for a minute.

My reading choices eventually grew more complex, as did my writing. In 7th grade, after reading the book Mick Harte Was Here, I wrote my own story about a kid dealing with the aftermath and grief of her cousin’s death in a car crash, even though I had never experienced that personally, and I shared it with my teachers, who were really impressed by it (and hopefully not worried). It was the first time I can remember writing about something that wasn’t about me but rather trying to put myself in someone else’s shoes and imagine a situation that was foreign to me.

There was one moment I can point to that really taught me what it means to be a writer and what is so important about that gift. It was in my 9th grade Language Arts (I think most of you probably just called it “English”) class. Our teacher was an older woman named Mrs. Novy and she always struck me as the type of person who should be on Broadway. She was loud, vivacious, and gregarious but she was also tough. She told it like it is and we had been warned by upperclassmen that she wasn’t the type of teacher who gave praise easily.

Around Christmastime, Mrs. Novy gave us an assignment to write a holiday story. I don’t remember the details, just that it had to be a story from the holidays and I think it had to be true. I couldn’t think of any cool stories, so I just wrote about how for years, we kept all of our Christmas stuff in the basement in a tattered cardboard box that my dad had affectionately labeled “CHRISTMAS SHIT” in block Sharpie letters. I don’t remember what all was in the story, and I will hate myself forever and ever that I didn’t save a copy of it to look back on, but ol’ difficult-to-impress Mrs. Novy loved the story. She thought it was a riot.

When I came into class the next day Mrs. Novy was telling everyone what a funny guy my dad is. Since I was 14 years old and my priority in life was being a total smartass all the time, my natural response to her compliment was “how do you know? You’ve never met my dad before.”

Without missing a beat, Mrs. Novy said: “Yes I did. I met him through your story.

Sadly, writing and reading only continued to get harder after that. The demands of high school and college to constantly read and write as homework really wore on my creativity and my desire to write – and when I was still motivated, it was hard to find the time. When I would write, it became less fictional and more personal essay type writing, about things I was learning and thinking and realizing, that I would just share with my friends. They would always love it and nothing meant more to me than hearing my friends say that something I wrote impacted them and really made them think. But I just seemed to stall out from there.

I thought it would get better once I was finally done with those years of mandatory reading and writing, but I found that once I was out of an academic environment and saddled with the demands of being a productive member of adult society, it just became even harder. Now, even with a blog, I often find myself struggling. Writing is like a muscle – it will always be there, but if I’m not using it regularly, it starts to get weak and rusty.

I also struggle to find an attentive audience. I know that the people in my life care about me and what I have to say, so I guess it’s just my bad luck that I ran into the social media and technology age, where everyone is already inundated with more information than they know what to do with on a daily basis. Not to be a curmudgeon, but it seems like “these days,” people only want to look at pictures and read short listicles. Word count is like makeup: less is more. So what is a writer to do when people’s tolerance for paragraphs full of text has been whittled down to essentially nothing, but my need to express myself with words is greater than ever?

I’m glad this was the topic for the WordPress Daily Prompt today, and that it dug up memories of my life as a writer and what writing means to me. While I don’t think my blogging streak, or this prompt alone, will be the silver bullet that reignites my creativity, I’m glad for this reminder. Thanks for reading.


28 thoughts on “I’m a Writer

  1. You are a talented writer Hanna 🙂
    You paint the best pictures in my head.
    Books are really changing for kids now. I love my Kindle but when I think about how I loved my books as a kid it takes something away from it. I loved the drawings, the covers…it just feels different to hold a book.

    1. Thank you so much Karen! I agree about feeling torn between the convenience of the Kindle and the value of paper books. I think a lot more people than we realize still like the old paper books. They have been around for a long time and are ingrained in our culture, and stuff like that does not go away quietly

  2. Ah you remind me of myself as a kid, and of my 16 year old daughter who won’t leave the house without a book in her hand. While I don’t read as many books as I’d like to anymore, I do enjoy the written word so very much. Great post, Hanna.

  3. I love the way you write. It’s always so clear and on point. I think the reason you write more is because that’s who are and it shows who you are. I don’t think we’d be seeing ‘Hanna’ if you tried to write really short concise lists! (I have no doubt you could do it, but my point is we wouldn’t be getting you!) I wouldn’t have it any other way ❤

  4. I, for one, truly appreciate how well composed and insightful your blog posts are. I think there is still a place for longer-form articles out there on the internet. The NYT “What We’re Reading” newsletter is a great resource for finding excellent long-form pieces (mostly journalism) on the web, none of it from the NYT.

    So much of what you wrote in this piece could be written about me when I was younger. As a Phd student in a humanities-leaning social science (cultural anthropology) I now write more than I ever wanted to write in my life. In recent months I’ve realized that I really am a writer – it’s what I do, quite literally – but it feels so weird to say that out loud. I think it’s because I think “writer” and I think that person ought to be a professional to use the term to describe him/herself. However, I don’t hesitate to call myself a runner, and I’m obviously not making money running! So I like that you use the term writer as we would runner. I should be more free to do so myself.

    1. Thank you so much Lizzy! I will have to check out the NYT column – I follow them on FB but somehow have never seen that.

      It’s interesting how we all get some form of imposter syndrome with at least one thing in our life – whether it’s work or a hobby, like running. I think it has to do with your point about the expectation that those titles are reserved for professionals, or at least in the case of running, people who are fast or accomplished in racing.

  5. You’re such a talented and natural writer, Hanna! Your remark on being a writer in the age of social media particularly struck me; it’s increasing more difficult to actually earn a living as at least a freelance writer, because so many people, both companies and readers, except content to be free since there’s content all over the internet! I do think there is still a following for those longer article – I personally love Running Times (more in-depth and science-oriented than Runner’s World) and the Atlantic.

    1. Thank you Laura! That’s interesting, I hadn’t considered it from the perspective of people who are trying to write for a living, but you’re right that people really do expect everything on the internet to be free these days. I think freedom of information is important, but there has to be a balance between supporting the artists and writers like you who work hard to actually generate quality, meaningful content.

  6. I have always enjoyed your posts, Hanna. One can tell that you are a writer, and a good one, at that! My girls absolutely LOVE to read. I often have sticky notes left for me to pick up their latest reads at the library…I like to read too, lately I am really into audio books because I am in the car so often.

    1. Thank you!! I need to get into books on tape for my long runs. But I think I’d have trouble paying attention, because I can’t pay attention to podcasts when I run

  7. I feel like we are very similar the more I read what you write (and I do truly take the time to read it). I can empathize with you on the struggle to find an audience or actually write for a living, as writing is something I too always envisioned myself doing, and yet I can’t imagine being a writer for most media outlets that are doing well in this day and age.

    1. Thank you Alyssa! I would love to be able to write for a living, but I think it will always be a dream. Even before the internet was what it is now, it was pretty darn hard to be able to support yourself on writing alone, unless you’re Stephen King.

  8. I understand what you mean by the struggle for an attentive audience. I am definitely guilty of finding a bunch of cool links to click on, and then only reading the ones that are short, or comprised of lists, you know what I mean? I think it’s because on the internet I tend to want to just zone out for a few minutes, and then if I *really* want to read something, it’s an actual book.

    1. I do know what you mean. I’m guilty of the same thing, actually. I think we all are. We can’t help it. I really think the internet has shortened our collective attention spans – with the sheer amount of constantly updating information out there, we all gravitate toward easily digestible content. I think it’s different with books because we already know and expect that we have to pay attention and read a lot.

  9. You are most definitely an amazing writer. It was something I noticed instantly when I found your blog. Every blog I follow offers something different, but one characteristic of yours that I love is that with every post I feel like I get to know you better because your writing is so descriptive!

  10. You’re a fantastic writer! We sound very similar as kids – I would always win the prize for the “who could read the most books in a month” in grade school and middle school. I’ve missed you and am excited to catch up on all of your happenings!!! 🙂

  11. I identify with this…I’ve been writing since I was really young, and I’ve completed a few novels. I just love writing! It’s why I blog; I don’t have as much time to write fiction these days, so blogging fills the void a bit. It’s nice to have a kindred spirit in the blog world.

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