Fun fact: The moment I decided to try writing for publication, rather than writing and forbidding anyone from reading my work, was while listening to an interview with columnist/author Caitlin Moran. I was working on my thesis and feeling run down, so I put on an hour-long interview with Moran as background noise. While listening to her hop back and forth between serious topics and bizarre anecdotes, I felt a pang of jealousy.
Jealousy of what? Well, I wanted to have a voice like Moran. I wanted to be able to be silly one moment and take down the patriarchy the next. She’s articulate, but not alienating. She has opinions, but isn’t a bully. She doesn’t take herself too seriously, but you can’t help but be inspired by her. I wanted to be that kind of woman. I wanted to have it all.
I’d spent the past seven years studying and writing papers on Iran, and in that time I’d learned one important lesson: People didn’t expect a smiley girl in a polka-dot dress to be an expert on the subject. Women, in general it seems, have to throw their all into something in order to be taken seriously. I was still pretty dedicated to building my career on a foundation in Iranian politics, but there was a sadness in the decision. I felt like numerous doors were closed to me; I couldn’t cover my arms in tattoos or write about anything but Iran. My fear was, of course, that anything that deviated from the norm or pulled attention away from my work on Iran would somehow lower my value in a highly competitive industry. In order to earn my spot, I had to be that one piece of my personality all the time.
Which is why I envied Caitlin Moran in that moment. I envied her freedom, her strength, her ability to embrace all these facets of herself and make a living doing it. I was staring down decades of the same old thing, the same frustrations, the same grueling hours. I saw Moran’s work as something I wanted to do, but wasn’t talented or brave enough to do.
As I sat there, feeling grim and cornered, I decided it was time to try something new. I could see clearly what I wanted, and I knew that the only way to get it was to give it a shot. I opened a new document and started typing. One hour later, I sent the piece to xoJane. Two hours after that, I got an email saying they were going to run it in a few days.
I was shocked, but also hopeful. It was just a small win in a long battle to becoming a writer, but I had taken the first step. I had started on that road. It would take me months to decide if being a writer was what I wanted to do, and months after that to actually start seeing substantial progress towards building a career. But everyone starts somewhere.
Now, when I feel buried by deadlines and my mind is boggled by jumping between topics, I think about that day in October, 2013, when I had tunnel vision so badly I couldn’t even think about anything but one, specific subject. And then I think about all the interests I’ve remembered, all the passions I’ve rediscovered, and all the new things I’ve learned as a result of getting outside of my own head that day. And then I think about how I owe it all to one interview with Caitlin Moran.
Bridey is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C.
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