word count: 34 reams of copy paper


By Laura D. Testino

The number one rule my language arts teacher in the seventh and eighth grade told me to follow was to never, ever, say “Hello, I am Laura, and I’m going to tell you about insert topic here.”

She is the primary reason I can organize my thoughts, somewhat manage my time, understand Shakespeare, write confidently, and hopefully survive as a journalist.

To her, then, I am incredibly sorry.

Because I’m going to tell you that I am writing this to find some inspiration to write something else. And this sort of inspiration is much lower in caloric value than a bag of peanut M&Ms and an iced green tea, so, here we go.

A friend of mine was in Starbucks today, and as we were talking about our semesters, I told him where all I was writing, and who I had written for before, and he jokingly asked me who I didn’t write for, and my immediate response was

“for myself”

which prompted a casual crisis near the bar and a writer’s block larger and heavier than 34 reams of copy paper.

And in the realm of portfolio-augmenting purposes, I suppose that’s not a terrible thing, but, as I have learned from dancing, there’s no way to survive in a creative endeavor if you ever forget its value and importance beyond its academic or monetary weight.

This is not to say that the publications and classes I write for don’t allow me to choose topics to write about – that statement actually could not be further from the truth – but even when you’re writing about dance or pets or your school, you have to be much more of an analytical craftsman than when you’re cleansing your own heart and your own brain with an empty page and a keyboard.

I suppose that makes a two-source story when you have a disagreeable head and heart (my brain said), but much easier to write still, than when you’re the interpreter of the heads and hearts of other people, whose lives you are curious about and somewhat empathetic to, because hell, you’re a writer, and you didn’t sit through five hours of interviews because you enjoy the pay.

You enjoy the reward. Of making someone human, of presenting a variety of perspectives, of making a story tangible, hardening the thoughts and ideas that were once sound waves lost to time into ink stamped both delicately and firmly across a page, copied thousands of times over, and there to stay (my heart said).

I’m shitty at shutting up and not asking why, and I’m shitty at writing short stories, so since (I suppose, anyway) crime stories and hard news beats are not for me, I can throw complete objectivity out the window and practice a pragmatic truth, and keep my voice (if you’re lost, read my post here).

And if you want to have any sort of voice when you write, I believe you have to know how to write for yourself. Craft the words of your own head and your own heart into some organized form that’s worth staring at for the duration of the story.

Here, 500-something words later (much better than 34 reams of paper), now that I’m officially employed for myself again, I’ve got some writing to do.