By Irene Hao
When I sat down one November evening and stared at the empty Google Doc on my laptop for 15 minutes straight, I knew I was experiencing burnout. Drafting this piece was quite meta: I struggled to write about my struggle to write.
If passion were a flame, then it’s flickered out I’ve got a new candle ready But my hands can’t stop shivering from the cold wind But I can’t find the match to light it I’m scraping the dried melted wax of the last flame Where are the remnants of that candle? If I collect the ashes, I should be able to see that flame again If I collect the ashes, at least let me give this passion a proper burial The lines in my notebook compel me to fill them Letters, scribbles, patterns, sketches Fill me, leave your imprints on me Press the paper so hard you could trace the dents on the next page And I do it, because I want to. But how do I move my pen across the page If nothing moves me anymore? Writing—it’s my thing It’s why I can face college essays unabashedly It’s how I introduce myself: I’m Irene, a writer Expectant eyes, escapist essays, and empty lies I’m a blank slate: “You’re good with words, so please write for me.” “You’re a writer, so just do your thing.” Writing can’t be my thing if the words I write aren’t mine I remember when I knew putting thoughts on paper, Spinning ideas into words, words onto pages, would be my calling I remember the A’s, the praises, the excited gazes Late-night conversations with parents, new friends, and a sense of pride That I stood out from the crowd and that my future would be bright I’ll continue chasing after this flickering dream When I fall, I know that I’ll fall into my safety net: writing But it feels like I’m falling for a lie instead Writing—it’s what got me here, standing proud I should be proud, but I also should be writing this down How I feel, what I say, what I think Every word that spills from my mind Could be left behind, so I craft a makeshift basket out of paper And let the words ooze and bleed through I’m a writer, so I should put something down But how do I move my pen across the page If nothing moves me anymore? If writing were a flame, then this is burnout That’s right, it’s writer’s block, a plateau It’s a blank space, a blank line, a blank mind Is writing even a passion when I don’t feel passionate about it? The pages in my notebook compel me to rip them Tears, cuts, scrapes, and white-out Cross me out. Erase me. There’s nothing you want to write now. Calm down, I tell myself. This will work itself out. I toss the notebook against my bedroom wall And I do it, because I want to My mission is my passion: I love to create and imagine I want my job to be my passion, the source of my excitement And now I’m here. I’m making my way up, but I’m scared of heights, and I want to climb back down But I can’t move. It’s like the hardened wax from all the candles I’ve gone through Has rooted me to the spot. I can’t go back, but where should I go from here? How do I move my pen across the page If nothing moves me anymore?
Irene Hao is a New York native, born and raised, daughter, sister, and student. She is currently pursuing a BA in English at Fordham University in Lincoln Center. She is actively involved in and a regular contributor of her school's newspaper The Observer and student radio Wavelengths. Irene has been published in Teen Ink, Scholastic Writing & Arts Awards, and Canal Street News. Irene loves writing in all its shapes and forms, and seeks to find the intersection between her love for written and spoken word and storytelling with law, politics, and digital media. When not writing, you can find her studying in cafes, belting in karaoke booths, solving crossword puzzles, or playing video games with her friends.