I am an English major.
I further identify myself as an English Writing major. I, first and foremost, am engaged in the study of words and the art of creating stories. So, when my mom recently asked me, “Do you like to read more than you like to write?” I was confused why she would even ask the question.
My first inclination was to object and stick up for the love of writing. But when I thought about it, my answer surprised me. “Yes, I do, in fact, like to read more that I like to write.” My answer came from my childhood experiences that developed in me the passions I have today. When I was younger, my parents discouraged book reading at the breakfast table and during dinner time with my family. I began to understand that it was impolite to read in front of other people when you are eating a meal together. That being said, I read everything in my line of sight, cereal boxes, the back of the ketchup bottle, a stray newspaper that had fallen into the chair next to me…in essence, I read anything I could get my hands on. I was desperate for literature. I wanted to know things.
If someone asked me, “What’s the second ingredient in this bottle of ketchup?” I wanted to be able to tell them what it was, because it was exciting to be able to feel as if I had accomplished something by retaining that fact. (The answer, if you are wondering, is Distilled Vinegar, after Tomato Concentrate and before High Fructose Corn Syrup).
So what does reading ketchup bottles have to do with loving reading over writing?
Becoming an avid reader was necessary to give me the passion to write. The fact that I even cared to know and read the company’s history on the back of a ketchup bottle pushed me to think about who wrote it and why they wrote the words I read. Outside of the words I found on ketchup bottles and cereal boxes, I loved most every character I met between the pages of a book, and I saw myself in many of them. I understood why characters acted in certain ways and I wondered what made people around me act like they did. I started to write stories centered around school and people I knew. It was my way of journaling and working through tough periods of middle school. I turned to poems, which were hopelessly far from modern literature. They were sloppy, feeling driven excerpts from my life that took the form of poems. It was personal, written by me and for me, as I learned more about the process of writing. Save two poems, which I entered in a contest for the judges’ eyes alone to read, I hid my writings away where no one would read them. It was my form of self expression as I wrestled with God’s sovereignty, homework, crushes on classmates, etc.
And here is the moment where I am vulnerable with you. I still write poetry. “Really?” You ask. “I’ve never read any of it.” There’s one poem I have published and one spoken word I’ve preformed, but, to the mass number of people I know, the rest (and there are quite a few of them) stay hidden. Few people have access to it, because I am so vulnerable when it comes to sharing my writing; I feel that I am giving the reader a part of myself. That is hard due to the personal nature of my poems. They are the world as seen through my eyes, and not every season in college has been easy for me. I am a writer who is afraid to share my most developed portfolio with the world. Even my greatest idea for a novel is hidden away. I am so passionate about it that I feel I can’t write it down. I try, and the product is nothing like the vision in my head, so I let it sit in the back of my mind until one night I wake up at 2 in the morning and have brilliant idea that I jot down before rolling back over in my bed. I will say that I love telling people’s stories. If you have not read anything else on my blog (I won’t be mad if you haven’t), know that most of my posts are stories about individuals I have met on my travels. I love telling their stories. In doing so, I capture a memory in writing that will live forever. It is my attempt to capture the small moments and everyday encounters.
So, I absolutely love writing; I am passionate about it, but I am more committed to reading.
I will stay up until the wee hours of the morning telling myself “Just one more page.” I still feel the need to know more and reading allows me to learn about other cultures, time periods, and ways of thinking. Reading is important to me, and I love discussing books with my friends. “Did you read this passage in Chesterton’s book?” I’ll ask, “What did you think? I love how he said…” It is a way of sharing life with people and learning more about the world around us.
Yes, I am an English Writing major. Why am I not an English Literature major? you ask. I have come to believe that I know how to read, and I understand how to analyze and appreciate a novel, play, or poem. What I haven’t quite grasped is how to write in a way that I can have confidence in what I have created enough to say, “I am happy with it.” I don’t have to perfect every single detail, but I am seeing that revisions happen and first drafts are allowed to be terrible. Being a Writing major helps me to balance my foundation of reading with the passion to write, to tell my story.
Oh, and if you ask whether I will go on to teach, the answer is: I have no clue. 🙂 I just want a job where someone will pay me to read books for a living. That is the dream, folks.