Surviving My Awkward Phase

Tuesday, December 05, 2017
Right now my kids are in what could be considered “the awkward phase,” all elbows, knees, glasses, braces, retainers and gap-toothed smiles. As they mature and grow (my son just got contact lenses and my daughter’s braces have been removed to reveal a lovely new smile) I started thinking about how we as writers often go through our own “awkward phase.”

I remember this first phase of self-awareness—of knowing I needed to write down my feelings in order to process them (and pay homage to my many schoolgirl crushes, who am I kidding?) hitting me in middle school. With Debbie Gibson or New Kids on the Block blaring in the background, I would flip open a spiral bound notebook filled with peach-colored paper and write song lyrics. I mimicked the song structure I found in the liner notes of my cassette tapes, and then I would dance around my room singing them at the top of my lungs. I thought they were great at the time, when really there wasn’t a lot of substance to be found in those lyrics.

Later in high school, I got the opportunity to experiment with different types of writing, but there were still those awkward fits and starts. Did this piece want to be a poem or an essay? Where was my thesis statement buried in a paper? I also got my first taste in journalism when I signed onto the yearbook staff, and I enjoyed walking around and interviewing my classmates so I could spotlight them in the pages.

Then the college years, where everything I still needed to learn about writing was magnified tenfold, especially after I declared myself a communications major. I struggled there because I was at a liberal arts college, where I had to write many long academic papers as part of my classwork, but then in the same day I would have to turn around and crank out an article about why the student government association president had resigned, and the style had to be completely different.

Over the years I feel as if I’ve had to become a chameleon in many ways, depending on the type of writing required of me. Sometimes I’ll look back at something I wrote in the past and it doesn’t even sound like my voice. And my first few attempts at writing fiction were even more of a hot mess—too much telling and not showing, revealing too much of the story in the opening chapters, etc. But the more I write and the more books I read, the awkward phase slowly starts to melt away. I grow more confident in my abilities and how I present myself professionally, much in the same way my kids grow more accomplished each day as they realize their goals.

Did you go through an “awkward phase” as a writer? What helped you grow out of it? I’d love to reminisce with you!

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who also works as a marketing director for a nonprofit theater company. Visit her website at


Angela Mackintosh said...

Renee, I think I'm still going through my awkward phase, unfortunately! I loved hearing about your writing journey. We all have growing pains. I used to write these long romance stories for my friends in high school about them hooking up with a boy they liked. They loved it! I wish I had them still because I'm sure they are ridiculous. I recently pulled out the novels I wrote ten years ago, and they are totally awkward. Too much telling, strong in voice, but super weird and raw. Truthfully, it's exactly how I write now...all I did is switch genres because it's okay to be more telling in nonfiction. :)

Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--I wrote angst-filled poetry, along with humorous features for the school newspaper in junior and high school. I too wish I still had them. I could have laughed over the awkward phrases and the clumsy wording.

For years after high school I didn't write. Then I became a teacher, wrote with and for my students... and that started me up again as a writer.

Mary Horner said...

I'm also still in that awkward stage, but I love writing and keep working to figure it all out. Maybe some day!

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