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June 16, 2010

Road Trip Wednesday: The When & Why

Kate Hart
Today YA Highway asks one of the most basic writing questions:
When and why did you start writing? 

More interesting, regarding my life:
Let's talk about when I stopped writing. 

Answer: College.

For two reasons. One, the lovely and talented Veronica Roth covers here.

Two is a little more difficult for me to discuss publicly.

I have stack upon stack of binders full of angsty poetry and short stories "loosely" based on my junior high and high school life. I fancied myself a writer, but in large part, writing was less about art and more about therapy.

In college, I started treatment for clinical depression. As the need for literary therapy faded, my writing not only felt unworthy and unnecessary, but also dangerous, like an indicator that something was wrong with me again.

Flash forward seven years. I'd tried academia, teaching, my current job, obsessing over my parenting, all kinds of crafts and arts, and still felt... adrift. My children were old enough that I finally had time to read again, and on a trip to the beach, I read that damn vampire book everyone was talking about. Stayed up all night reading it. Went to the grocery store and bought the next three in the morning.

Spent the two-day drive home admitting to myself that I wanted to start writing again-- and it was okay not to write the great American novel.

So here we are. It's a struggle still, sometimes, when I spend all day in my head, pieces of story flashing behind my eyes.When a writing day ends in guilty bedtime kisses for my boys. The publishing roller coaster doesn't lend itself to emotional stability, and my current WIP doesn't either. The emotions are much closer to the bone than my last book, and that can be dangerous, as my friend Myra McEntire pointed out in her brave and honest look at writing with depression. I couldn't have written this post without hers, to be honest.

But that feeling of being adrift, of not following your passion, is a slippery slope into depression too. The need to write isn't a measure of what's wrong, and its product isn't a therapy tool. It's a measure of how far I've come, of my ability to balance its emotional demands with my own, and if I'm not well enough to do that, I'm not really well. As Myra says, "I know that writing is my calling. I rest in the fact that I am absolutely doing what I'm supposed to do."

So that's why I started writing again.


Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

We'd love for you to participate!


  1. I <3 you. And I definitely think this is what you were supposed to do, too :)

  2. I agree with Kaitlin. You are def a born writer :)...thought: is it just me or do you always have TWO reasons? It's not a bad thing...just something I noticed.

    Also, I gave you an award over on my blog :)

  3. A fabulous post, Kate. The depression + writing topic has been addressed by a few well known authors recently, too. Lev Grossman (THE MAGICIANS) did a very candid post on his blog about writing on medication.

    Also, *hugs*

  4. Thank you for this post - depression is one of those topics so many people go, "oh no, don't talk about that...ignore it and it's not real" so it's good to see such an honest post about it.

  5. I went through the same thing. My first year of college, I was a pre-law student with no creative outlets and a serious case of depression. When I admitted I missed writing, I was able to change schools, change majors, and change my future, basically.

    Thanks for sharing this <3

  6. Ditto. And ditto. I'm struggling with where my own dark work is taking me because I don't want to go down that rabbit hole. <3333

  7. I could say a million things in response to this, but I think I'll just settle with: I love you :) & that last quote made my heartbeat speed up. We are lucky people, in the end. <3

  8. Really good post. Thanks.

  9. I definitely agree with Myra's quote. And thanks for sharing this.

  10. This was a great post! I really identify with high school/middle school writing just being therapeutic and not about art. That's definitely how it was for me, too. And I'm glad you've started writing again!

  11. great post. It must strike a chord with many people - I know it does with me :)

    Thanks for the link too :) Off to check it out.


  12. Oh man, great post Kate. I know what you mean about "accepting" we don't have to write the next great American novel, too. But for me, it was that annoying wizard series everyone was talking about that I devoured and made me say "I can do this." :)

    Your new WIP might be draining emotionally, but all of that emotion is coming through loud and clear with every snippet you post.

    <3 you

  13. Such a brave post! Thank you for writing.

    And yes! You are absolutely supposed to write! :-)

  14. I just loved this post. And I'm so glad you picked writing back up.

  15. Thank you for being so honest with us. I'm sure many of us can relate to the ups and downs. Great post! :)

  16. Thanks! (Who doesn't love Paper Towns? Certainly no one I'd acknowledge in public :) )

    This was an amazing post. I know it took a lot
    of strength to write about what you've been through.

  17. You and Myra are so brave to share your experiences. You are definitely not alone. Thanks so much for sharing and reminding me how powerful writing truly is.

  18. I said it on Twitter, but I wanted to say it here, too. I love you dearly, you are precious to me, and on my mind often.

    Remember that time I sent you a DM at 3 in the morning?


    Also, because it needs to be said:

    If you're going to spew, spew in this.

    *holds out cup*

  19. *spews into Myra's cup*

    Thank you all so much for the comments. I've been wanting to write this post since I saw Myra's months ago, and the RTW topic finally gave me the nerve. You are all amazing friends. <3


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