I can’t write

Ellie McDowell

More stories from Ellie McDowell

It takes a village
April 19, 2023

Ellie McDowell

Each column less than 100 words. I can’t write.

I’ve been trying to write this column for three days. I genuinely can’t do it. I have never had a problem with words. I have never once said the words “I can’t write.” But I can’t write.

Eyes the color of the ocean.

Eyes the color of a field, spotted with the occasional flower.

Eyes the color of the clouds right before rain falls.

Blue and green and gray eyes are all anyone ever talks about. All anyone ever sings about. All anyone ever writes about.

A person’s eyes are the first thing I notice about them. In the past year or so, I have started to notice a beauty in brown eyes I hadn’t seen before.

I started a column about brown eyes, but I couldn’t figure out where to take it. The boy with the brown eyes means the world to me, but the words I want to say to him just can’t be written yet.

Five-year-old me would be shocked by who I am today.

At some point, my hot pink tutu changed to leggings. My bright, frilly t-shirts changed to oversized hoodies and college t-shirts. My pink walls became gray and the blankets on my bed from pink to black. The pride I used to have in reading Junie B. Jones is now focused on writing my own story.

Five-year-old me would be shocked because I am happy now. I don’t have nearly as many friends as I did. I don’t have the imagination I did.

I started a column about the girl I am today and how my past self would feel about it. As I’ve grown up and found more and more pieces of myself, I have become someone less and less recognizable to the little girl I used to be. A lot of things have changed, hopefully for the better.

Dear future me,

I hope you’re doing well. I hope move-in day went the way it was supposed to, and I hope you’ve settled in. I hope your classes are going well. I hope you aren’t too overwhelmed by everything yet.

I’m excited to see how the rest of this year goes.

I started a letter to my future self, but this is the first time I couldn’t focus on the future. I’m always focused on what the future will look like, so much so that I often lose sight of the present. This time, though, every time I looked toward the future, I get sad and scared. This time, I just couldn’t do it. But future me, I do hope everything is going well.

I struggle with words.

That is never something I thought I would ever say. When I was in first grade, Mr. Skinner yelled at me because I wouldn’t stop talking. When I was in fourth grade, Mrs. Redmond said that no matter where you put me, I will talk. That’s just the person I am, and the person I have always been. 

I started a column about struggling with words, which is ironic because I couldn’t write more than 62. I’ve always been talkative. I’ve never struggled to write a single word. I’ve gotten ‘A’s on every essay and article that I’ve turned in on time, but something about this week has made writing impossible.

I can write.

Dear high school, 

You didn’t live up to my expectations. 

I started a column about high school and how it didn’t live up to my expectations, but the column didn’t either. The problem is that there were so many expectations that it didn’t live up to that I can’t put them into words. I expected so much out of the last four years that I haven’t gotten, and it kind of makes me angry. The books and movies I read about high schoolers have romanticized the idea that these would be the best four years of our lives, and at best, they have been meh. I’m angry that my expectations weren’t even close to met.

Time has never moved so quickly, yet it has been the longest six months of my life.

I started a column about time—a thing I neither have enough of nor have things to fill it. The last six months of my life have been the fastest and slowest six months of my life, and there aren’t enough words or minutes to put into words how much that has affected me.

I have never before said “I can’t write,” but before I started this column, I said them out loud. I just have to remember that writing is like a puzzle sometimes, and a puzzle has several pieces. Maybe those pieces are several started stories that made me doubt myself. Maybe those pieces just needed to be moved around to fit.

I can write.