Detours from home: Left my writing job, rediscovered writing
[Editor’s note: Detours from home is a Rappler column where readers can share about the new things they have learned while in quarantine. A writer shares how quitting her writing job is what helped her start truly writing again. You, too, can share your own Detours from home story.]
Like a lot of us, I was working from home since they announced the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). I knew that the transition to working from home wasn’t going to be easy, but I never expected it to be that hard. It completely obliterated my carefully constructed boundary between work and the rest of my life, which took a huge toll on my mental and physical health.
I was a writer for an online network and an editorial assistant for two digital publications. My job completely exhausted me, even though I was just sitting down and writing most of the day. It got to a point where I’d barely sleep, eat, or communicate with others outside of work, so I decided enough was enough. I quit my job, smack dab in the middle of a pandemic. I’m lucky enough to have a supportive family and money saved up to help me live while thinking of what to do next.
After formally turning in my resignation, my goal was really just to start writing again. For two years, I’ve been writing for specific audiences like stay-at-home moms, lifestyle enthusiasts, and millennial middle management. I’ve been writing as these people for so long, I didn’t even know what I sounded like anymore.
So when I tried writing for fun, my first instinct was to find a target market and write it in their perspective. I drew up a bunch of ideas that I thought would resonate with them, but every attempt just ended up being scrapped because I thought it was horrible and nobody would enjoy it. I thought writing just for fun would be easier, but it was just as excruciating as writing for my job.
None of this was working, so I re-evaluated my approach. I remembered something Stephen King said about writing, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” I was honestly too scared to write, so I decided to do the reading part first.
I called up my high school literature teachers and asked them for reading lists. Aside from giving me a list of works they thought I’d enjoy, they also gave me a very important piece of advice: “Write for yourself, not anyone else.” I immediately felt like an idiot because of how I’ve been going about things. I used to be so confident in my own writing, but writing as other people for the past couple of years had me feeling like everything was lost in translation.
Another huge thing holding me back from writing for myself was my ego. I had put in so much effort to protect my pride. I was hesitant to write anything genuine because I was afraid that I wouldn’t like it, or that nobody would like it, or having people read it would be a waste of their time.
It also felt too dangerous to put my work out there, because according to my old boss, “You leave parts of yourself in everything you write.” At this point, I was a huge mess, so throwing my words into the world would be tantamount to exposing what a mess I was on the inside. All this pent up fear and anxiety convinced me that I should put my writing on the back burner, at least until my last day of work.
About a week later, I went to my old office to collect my things. I had a few requirements left to take care of, so I spent the day socially (and emotionally) distancing myself from my co-workers while completing pending scripts for our shows. I hid away in an empty conference room on that rainy afternoon with my Spotify playing in the background. All of a sudden, a song called Cave Me In came up and time just stopped. I heard that song a couple of times before and liked it enough to add it to my playlist, but this time, I was truly listening.
It’s like inspiration just walked right up to me and screamed at my face.
The night I got home from work, I spent hours watching reaction videos to that song and evangelizing my friends in an attempt to get them to listen to it. It got to a point where I had so many ideas and thoughts about it that I needed to write it all down just to quiet my mind. I hunkered down and wrote a two-page outline that turned into a four-page essay just to satisfy my fangirling heart.
I loved it so much that I went “AND IN THIS ESSAY I WILL-” and actually wrote the essay. To me, it was the type of song that just demanded to be written about.
My enthusiasm didn’t wane. I sent it to my cousin who introduced the song to me and my closest friends, who encouraged me to put it out there. I even revived my old Wordpress blog just so it could have a nice “home”. It felt like I was standing on the edge of a cliff and screaming how much I loved this song into the void. But the thing is, I didn’t care if the void responded. I just had a lot to say.
With some reluctance, I ended up sharing the essay on Facebook. The minute my finger released the “post” button, I was flooded with instant relief. I said everything I wanted to say about my current hyperfixation, and it felt amazing. I didn’t care if anyone read it or what they thought. This was the moment I realized “Oh my God. I’m free.”
I thought back to the last few weeks and realized none of this would have happened if I never quit my job. Leaving my job was probably stupid, but I don’t regret it because it freed up enough emotional and mental real estate for me to really love something and say (even just to myself) just how much I loved it.
At the start of the quarantine, I was hoping that this entire thing could be my own personal renaissance for my creative work, but now I don’t even care. I’ve taken this huge detour from what I thought was “home”, which turned out to be quitting my comfortable job and being face-to-face with an uncertain, bleak, and even tumultuous future. Though that may be the case, that’s for future me to worry about. For now, I’m just happy to be happy with what I’m writing. – Rappler.com
Andreiana Yuvallos, a Manila-based Cebuana, is a (newly) freelance writer and editor who loves baking, stand-up comedy, and writing about her current hyperfixations.