Writing for the in-between

By Larissa Huang, Contributor

When people asked me what my hobbies were, I said writing. Conceivably, the more conscientious went on to ask if I was writing for a magazine or journal. I wasn’t. I wrote for myself, usually squirreled up in a lawn chair barraged by more aromas than my partners in the olfactory office could handle, or alternatively, at the local coffee shop, gnawing on inedibles because I read somewhere that it helps the brain do something or the other.
“So you don’t write for anything?”

It’s remarkable how many feelings this careless rhetorical riled up within me. I decided to bust open my padlocked closet door. Aye, it was about time I came out as a writer.

I found myself a tacky (believe me, I know tacky) booklet of Canadian writing contest listings and commenced churning out pieces. Every envelope I licked closed was seen off with a jaunty victory walk to the post box. On more than one occasion, I cackled giddily to myself, thinking how I was in for it big time. But as the commitment became routine, I began to care less about accolades and remuneration. My pieces became more personal. In fleshing out my best, worst, and most unsettling experiences, I interwove my poetry and prose with intimate and often hilarious nuances that probed my boundaries. It was therapeutic, guileless, and traumatic. The bulk of the trauma can be accredited to the fact that there are strict and intolerant deadlines for submission. Combined with confusing SASE (your Self Addressed, Stamped Envelope for notification of results) instructions and unclear requirements (750 words total for three submissions or for each?) the writing contest game can be a royal headache. Albeit a headache made worthwhile by the thoroughly rewarding moments in between.

However (there’s always a “however” in life—didn’t your mother tell you?), school has a way of putting a damper on the things you enjoy. Come exam season, that stack of papers and other miscellany balanced precariously on the corner of your desk likes to disorganize itself and cause you disproportional panic. If you have a job like me, your boss will start asking you to take more shifts. After all, your co-workers have exams too, and you’ll feel rude declining, perhaps the reason he asks you in the first place. Your healthy eating resolution will take a backseat along with your gym regimen and perhaps your dog. And when it all culminates in a mad scramble for those notes you know you made two weeks ago on the morning of the exam, you become helplessly reacquainted with your loyal chum Stress.

And after the blissful week or two after your exams are over, you find yourself caught up in the beginnings of another round of the college life. It’s a not-so-delicate cycle of relaxation, stress, and intermittent motivation. Surely there must be something of more value than a degree amidst the headache, neckache (typing for eight hours, anyone?), and inevitable butt-ache (sitting for eight hours while typing, anyone?) associated with college. For me, it’s those shining moments of satisfaction in between. It’s in the rush I feel when I receive a personal letter from an author I respect with my very bones; it’s in the ache I nurse when I mail something that may as well be my flesh and blood far away; it’s in the meticulous placing of each colon. And here I am, seeking it out at The Other Press.