August 3, 2019
What I’ve Learned From Writing
“words words wordsSource: Traditional Art | Penelope Peru Photography
yawn yawn yawn
just sleep all day
The gift of gab has been bestowed upon me since I was pulled from the warmth of the womb, but it hasn’t always been such a gift.
Overtime, I harnessed my rambles into writing, which would eventually become my career.
A Bit of Context…
As my parents would proudly tell you, my first words were the “Hello” I cooed in the delivery room. I was always a very talkative child, going on and on about everything and anything I could; music, art, my favorite cartoons, my friends. Hell, one of my first diary entries reads, “MY COUSIN IS GOING THROUGH PUBERTY” due to how often my aunt blamed his bad behavior on it. That entry dates way, way back to very early in my childhood, long before grade school.
When the English language wouldn’t suffice, I’d end up teaching myself basic phrases in other languages, thanks to no other than an Anna Banana game I had for PC. My family wouldn’t realize I had taught myself basic Japanese until we accompanied my father on a business trip to Hawaii in 2005, where they heard others saying what I had been parroting around the house for the last few weeks.
When I Began Writing
I’ve been keeping journals and diaries for just about as long as I can remember. Perhaps I was influenced by the likes of Nickelodeon’s “As Told by Ginger,” or Disney Channel’s “Lizzie McGuire” (not to mention, Hilary Duff and Avril Lavigne were my angst-ridden idols). Perhaps I just had a lot I wanted to say and writing was the most effective outlet.
“What Dreams Are Made Of” from the Lizzie McGuire movieSource: What Dreams Are Made Of | Yousif Anwar
In any case, these journals and diaries, often adorned with doodles along the margins or on pages in between, would evolve into poems and lyrics. By five, I was recording myself on an old video camera, strumming aimlessly on an acoustic guitar and belting out love songs I had written, most likely based upon my favorite music.
In third grade, we were given the opportunity to write our very own hardcover book. We had done something similar for each class in second grade, with each student getting a page in a book, but this year, we’d be getting a whole book to ourselves.
We could choose to write a book of poems, short stories, and probably a few other genres that have long since in gone one ear and out the other. I chose poetry and used the skills I had developed to strengthen the songs I had began writing years ago.
When given the same opportunity in 5th grade, I again, chose poetry. Once I reached middle school, I began posting my poems on my blog. I wrote about love, I wrote about hating school, I wrote about wanting to fast-forward through adolescents and skip straight to adulthood; the sort of subjects you would expect from a young girl.
Shortly after leaving public school for home education, I began writing more and more; stories, scripts for my animation projects, lyrics, and so on.
Writing and I would find ourselves in an on-again-off-again relationship, often taking long hiatuses to throw myself into science. I was 11 when I first developed an interest in psychology and genetics. At 13, I began teaching myself how to program. A year later, I would be begin taking psychology courses online through Coursera and teaching myself college-level math through Khan Academy.
However, I always kept journals or introspective comics, even when I was sure that I would end up a mad scientist later in life.
Doodles and comics from 2018 through 2019Source: Traditional Art | Penelope Peru Photography
I graduated high school at 16 years old, a few months before my 17th birthday. I had flirted with the idea of journalism after spending months binging VICE documentaries and Vox on YouTube. I looked up to Joss Fong, who I would later have the opportunity to interview.
It was also around this time that I realized I’d need to start pocketing some cash, but I didn’t have a license and I wouldn’t learn how to get around via public transportation until I was 18.
I began freelancing on a website called Blogmutt (later rebranded as Verblio), where I would sell 300 word articles for $7 (this was before they raised the pay rates; now writers earn $10.50 per 300 word article). To this day, I still swear by Verblio.
I went into college thinking I’d be a neurologist, a lawyer, or loosing my mind and finally embracing my inner artist. I was all over the place, as most freshmen in college are.
Overtime, becoming a journalist grew more and more alluring; it would give me the opportunity to be anything and everything I wanted, living through interviewing others and getting paid to travel the world. I would get to learn, talk to people, and write about it for a living. How could I resist such a career path?
A journal entry and comics about journalism from 2017 through 2018Source: Journal Tour // June – September 2017 and Sketchbook Tour // Oct – Dec 2018 | Penelope Peru Photography
During my third semester, my English professor sent me an email after our first writing assignment. I had written an essay comparing the works of poets Sylvia Plath and Emily Dickinson, particularly the way their poems allude to mental illness. She asked me if I had ever considered being an English major due to my strong skills as a writer.
I told her I’d been bouncing around the idea of journalism, but had no idea where to begin. She promptly connected me to the head of the journalism department, who made a special exception for me due to circumstance and my prior experience, allowing me to consistently write for the school’s paper in spite of never taking a journalism class prior.
The winter break following that semester, I was hooked. I couldn’t go a whole month without writing articles and freelancing wasn’t quite giving me the feeling I got while in the newsroom on campus.
I decided to begin my own publication, The Burgundy Zine; a blog that released a 15 to 20 page digital mini zine on the 28th of each month.
Little did I know that by the second issue we’d already be at 65 pages, shortly thereafter growing into a 100+ monthly publication.
What I’ve Learned From Writing
Writing has been my outlet for self reflection, emotional processing, growth, income, and cementing what I’ve studied over the years. It has taught me how to express myself, how to communicate with others, and how to understand my feelings – even when they seem irrational or downright idiotic.
How I Learned to Write
I’m often asked how I write so fast, so much, and always seem to know exactly what I want to say and how to express it. While I joke that it’s the byproduct of my 11 year tug-o-war with my love of coffee and other caffeinated beverages, it’s a skill I’ve spent a lifetime refining.
Becoming a strong writer doesn’t happen overnight. It takes bouncing around with different genres and forms of writing to find what best suits you, struggles with writer’s block and the empowerment that stems from pushing through it.
Reading also helps. It took me until I was older to appreciate books, but now I spend every chance I get in bookstores throughout the city. It takes you out of the whirlwind of your own head and into that of a stranger’s. Reading between the lines, you’ll grow your vocabulary and quickly figure out what you do or don’t like about how the author expresses themselves.
In turn, you’ll find yourself with a toolbelt that holsters a myriad of words you’re drawn to. The more your play around with them, the sooner you’ll develop a style of your own.
I also can’t stress enough the importance of journaling. I’m not saying you have to write down every thought that flies through your head, every little detail of your day. Rather, jot down a few sentences about your feelings, perhaps a funny thought you had, an observation you made throughout the day, or a situation you found peculiar. It doesn’t have to be perfect, neat, or grammatically correct, for that matter.
Journal entries from 2017 and 2019Source: Journal Tour | Penelope Peru Photography
Enough about me, I want to hear your story. August is our month for reflections; “what I’ve learned from ___.” Head on over to our submissions page to learn more about being featured in this issue on Aug 28th!
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