I quit my job in July and I no longer know how to write for myself. In my past job, I was working on projects that often had very specific, and opinionated, stakeholders. It was important for me to be able to express their ideas directly, succinctly, and with an appropriate tone on behalf of the company overall. I often wrote for the internal blog and picked my own topics, but even then I was well aware that I was writing to a specific audience with a specific goal, and my voice was mine but only subtly.
In some ways, my job was a six-year long disappearing act. It made my writing sharper and clearer, into something I can wield if needed. But I didn’t do a good job of writing for myself, of exploring my own thoughts and feelings and documenting them, adjusting and refining them, turning them into something more intentional and steady than everyday thoughts and feelings. In my undergrad, I focused on writing and on creative non-fiction in particular. I was at the very least pretty ok, and I was confident in my ability to create, to write essays that, even if they weren’t great, showed promise and a little bit of flair.
Now, in some ways, I’m not even sure if I know how to think for just myself and not on behalf of some other entity, which is…troubling. I’ve often approached writing as a way to excise the thoughts that creep, amorphous and difficult but persistent, where I can’t quite reach them. Sometimes, I’ve found, the only way to figure something out is to get it out, onto the page or the screen or wherever and make it take shape, even if the initial shape is wrong. Until it’s text it’s recursive.
I haven’t been haunted by any preoccupations, though, and I don’t feel as playful, charming, or eloquent as I remember my written self being. Mostly, I feel like I should create something, and not just consume things, but I don’t know what to make besides food (which I then consume, so, you see how it’s roundabout).
I’m going to graduate school to study public policy this fall, and I intend to spend the majority of my professional life focused on improving health care in the US. I told a friend from college this on the phone a few months ago, and she said something like, “So you’re giving up on writing, huh?” And the answer is both yes and no. Like in my last job, I anticipate that a lot of my writing will be in service of something else–a project, a policy, an objective–and I’ll need to wear different voices for different audiences. But I don’t want to disappear as much as I’ve been disappearing. I don’t want to forget which voice is really mine.
On a practical note, this means I intend to use this blog more. Intentions are fuzzy things, and I’m not making any commitments as to content (books? food? crappy reality tv? notes on Jon’s canon of health care books?) or frequency. But I hope to share more of my thoughts and feelings here, if only to pin them down and claim them as mine.