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From Person Who Writes, to Writer

A personal essay on my journey as a writer.

By Ashley LimaPublished 15 days ago Updated 13 days ago 9 min read
Top Story - September 2023
From Person Who Writes, to Writer
Photo by Mike Tinnion on Unsplash

Ever since I was a child my Nana always encouraged me to keep a journal.

Every year for Christmas, she would gift me a new notebook and pen. The first year this tradition started, I got a little spiral book with a duck swimming through the water on the cover. I was in the 7th grade, and I remember writing about the intricacies and emotions of middle school. They were silly little musings with no real purpose, and there were months between the entries. Not much has changed about my writing style. I'm on top of it hard, and I fall off hard. There's no in between.

If I go back far enough, I can recall stapling together construction paper in our childhood "art room" to write "books". I wrote about the colors of the rainbow and specific topics of interest to me, such as my favorite dinosaur, Sue.

Sue is a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and she is the most well-preserved and extensive fossil specimen that's ever been found (at least she was back then). I used to really want to be a paleontologist, and I was an avid reader of dinosaur lore.

Sue, the T-Rex, from Wikipedia.

In elementary school, I would be pulled out of class for activities sometimes. One of these activities happened to be bookmaking. In that class, I told the true story of our family dog, Daisy, depicting the time she got trapped underneath our family's back deck. It was complete with illustrations, done by yours truly. I remember my dad had to use a crowbar and rip up some wood to get her out. I can see the drawing for that scene in my head, but I have no idea where that little book is these days.

In the 6th grade, I entered a poetry contest for Arbor Day. I forgot I even wrote anything. Maybe my teacher even submitted the poem without my knowledge. Can't remember much about it. Either way, I ended up placing in the contest and getting loaded up on a short bus to visit the Falmouth Art Center, where I was to read my poem to many adults. It was scary, but I did it, and it was a beautiful spring day that I look back on fondly.

In high school, I didn't really write at all. Nor did I read. I lost a lot of motivation to live, and it reflected in my grades; I went from getting straight As to nearly failing out by senior year. I guess years of bullying and being too fearful to ask for genuine help will do that to a person. I didn't know who I was anymore. I had lost myself. I lived in my own little world, consumed by distractions, so I didn't have to confront the substantial emotions that I was feeling, while they slowly ate me up inside.

As an adult, I had to relearn my love of writing and reading, and that happened for me in college.

I initially attended film school, intent on becoming the next big comedic director. Problem is, one has to be funny for that to happen. While in film school, I discovered I really did not care for the technical aspect of things. Could I shoot, edit, color correct, and ensure continuity in a short film? Sure - but it bored the heck out of me.

What I really loved about movies were the stories. I was more of a storyteller than a filmmaker, so when I had to leave film school in search of a more affordable university, English felt like the right direction to go.

It's funny to look back on because I had to take an English 101 class at said film school. I remember one class we were analyzing a play called Topdog/Underdog. I raised my hand to add to the conversation and my professor asked me what major I was in. I told him I was studying cinema, and he followed up with the most peculiar response:

You're going to graduate with an English degree.

So, on I went to my new school, and I had no idea what I was doing at all. All confidence I had in myself during film school was depleted, and I was filled with regret about the decisions that led me to where I was.

Am I making a mistake?

Am I even a good writer?

What the fuck am going to do with an English degree?

Who even am I?

What do I even want out of life?

I was filled with existential dread, and panic attacks were a routine ailment; a weekly nuisance. I was abusing psychedelic drugs just to feel something. I didn't have any money, but I felt it worth spending $10-20 dollars for a hit or two of acid so I didn't have to exist in my current reality for at least an 8-hour shift.

I remember one day, after not sleeping the entire night due to purposeful hallucinations, I spotted a poster outside of my geology classroom. I was getting ready to do revisions for midterm, but I couldn't help but let it capture my attention. It was for a spoken word poetry contest.

I was not a poet. I abhorred poetry at this point in my life. I didn't get poetry. I didn't know how to compose it. I didn't feel comfortable trying. But something about that poster spoke to me (it was the $500 prize).

I took a photo of the poster and headed off to geology once the doors were opened. We were supposed to be taking notes on our laptops to prepare us for the test in two days' time, but instead, I spent the whole class drawing up a poem to fit the prompt, which was "injustice in education." It went a little something like this:



Broke, Broken, Broke

Am I broke, or broken

Am I both?

Stuck in system that denies me any aid

Cause my daddy gets paid

Well, that’s bullshit, cause I don’t


I’m slaving away at a job that I hate,

Cause I’m living on my own

And I’ve got bills to pay,

So I drive everyday

An hour each way

To attend the classes

With the masses,

Tell me, are you feeling the same?


Are you stressed everyday?

Or am I alone?

I’m struggling, I’m grinding,

There’s aches in my bones.

There’s aches in my mind,

And weight on my shoulders,

I’ve got so much debt,

I’m doubling over.


In over my head,

How will I get out?

I’m stuck in this system,

I’m filled with such doubt...

I wish I never took those loans out,

But what was my other choice?

“Be a loser, with no job,”

Getting a degree is important.


“You gotta spend money to make money”

But what’s 50k in the hole?

I have no degree yet

And over half my education to go.

And if I drop out now,

that’s $600 a month

On top of my rent, and my car

That’s too much.


So I gotta keep going,

I can barely get by.

I apply for scholarships

But all I am is denied.

I don’t meet the criteria,

My parents make too much,

That makes no sense,

That’s so out of touch.


My parents gave me life

And a home till I was grown

But I’m 20 now, in the real world,

I’m on my fucking own.

Stop making me dependent

Cause I assure you I’m not,

What I make is what I make

And that’s all I got.


Under 20 grand a year,

Can you imagine that?

I can barely afford to eat,

I gotta pay for my gas.

Falling behind on school payments,

I really don’t mean it.

I’m trying my best,

I just wish you could see it.


When am I gonna get help?

Where’s my handout?

Why am I not good enough?

What’s that shit about?

I struggled last semester,

To get back on my feet,

Now I’m back and better than ever,

I won’t take the defeat.

This sucks and it’s hard,

But I’m making it through,

I’m just wondering, please tell me.

Why’s this easier for you?

Listen to "Broke(n)" here:

When I think back on the first piece I wrote, "Broke(n)" is the first piece I wrote with intention. It's the first thing I really put myself into (outside of film, at least). It's the piece that changed the trajectory of my career.

I ended up winning first place in the competition, and I was up against 29 other collegiate writers. I was not expecting it. The sole judge had a lot of really great things to say. He appreciated the rhythm and flow. He appreciated the message. I remember him saying something about my voice being the type of voice that needs to stand up in front of Congress and look Nancy Pelosi in the eye. It meant a lot to me, and I think it aided in paving my way as a leftist activist in my spare time.

Entering that competition and seeing the grand prize at the end of it lit a fire under my ass. It made me start taking myself more seriously. I wrote this poem in the confines of a class when I was meant to be doing something different. I figured I must have had a knack for the writing stuff, and as many teachers told me growing up:

Imagine what you could do if you just tried.

So I did. I tried. I failed sometimes. But I always got back up again. And I continued trying. I found a new love for the craft and kept working at it to get better.

With time, I did get better. My style has evolved as I've grown and changed as a person. I'm more confident in my authorial voice, while at the same time, acknowledging that there is always room to continue growing.

While I look back on this piece and cringe with embarrassment, at the time, it was something to be proud of, and I'm still proud of it in many respects. It serves as a reminder of where I've been, it shows how far I've come, and it allows me to acknowledge that I will always have a future in this medium as long as I keep at it.


About the Creator

Ashley Lima

BA and MA in English. Editor by profession, novelist, short story writer, and poet in my free time. I enjoy writing fantastical realism, horror, mystery, and nonfiction.

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  2. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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Comments (26)

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  • Naomi Gold6 days ago

    Hey Ashley, I’m almost done with my second read through of your book. Sorry it has taken me a while—I’ve been writing my ass off, and not doing much reading. But I’ll have detailed feedback for you before the weekend is over. Catching up on your Vocal work this evening, and this is amazing. I think it’s so funny that you don’t feel it’s that good, despite it winning. It shows your growth. And even while congested you have a great voice. I got chills reading about that English teacher knowing you’d switch majors. Some people just sparkle (and I don’t mean in a Twilight way). 😉 You have a knack, and it’s so exciting for me to witness part of the journey.

  • Joe Patterson10 days ago

    This is one of the most inspirational and important stories ever. I absolutely love this, it is an honor to follow the work of someone who has come such a long way. You are a terrific writer, never forget that and be proud of yourself.

  • Jenna Tidd13 days ago

    Great poem! I've never been a fan of poetry and have only recently begun to appreciate it. Yours feels alive with raw emotion and sincerity. Thanks for sharing it along with the rest of your story.

  • LC Minniti14 days ago

    Love this. That poem is too real! Congrats on the TS and thank you as always for sharing your growth/journey as a writer. It's not easy!

  • Gerald Holmes14 days ago

    I loved that poem. It really shows your voice as a writer. Congrats on the Top Story.

  • Whoaaaaa that's soooo awesomeeee! Congratulations on winning the first place! Your poem was outta this world! Also, congratulations on your Top Story!

  • Naveedkk 14 days ago

    Congratulations on top story,

  • Sue is cool! And glad you got back up! You’re awesome! Great work!

  • Congratulations on your Top Story🎉

  • Great story, Ashley! Congratulations!! 💙Anneliese

  • Babs Iverson14 days ago

    Magnificent story, Ashley!!! Congratulations on Top Story too!!!❤️❤️💕

  • Donna Renee14 days ago

    Wow, this one is really powerful. I love the story of the professor who called it!

  • Cathy holmes14 days ago

    Wonderful story. Congrats on the TS.

  • Ian Read14 days ago

    That poem is so relatable. But all in all, I look back on where I was and where I am now. While things are only marginally better (only with new pitfalls), I am happy to have at least moved forward. I am glad you shared this with us. Oh, congrats on TS, by the by! :)

  • Alexander McEvoy14 days ago

    That poem was captivating! It captured a lot of the feelings I had in my undergrad. Thank you so much for sharing this story with us :) I'm so happy to have had the change to read it

  • Brilliant as usual ! This was a super special piece because it gave such a wonderful indight into your journey into writing! I, for one am very glad you didn't take the cinema route, and I am sure the many others who get to read your work are too! Congrats on top story! 🤍

  • Judey Kalchik 14 days ago

    Congratulations on a well-deserved Top Story recognition. (I wish that could be another $500 in your pocket!)

  • Ariel Joseph14 days ago

    This is amazing, and I love your poem Broke(n)! It's very relatable. I still hold out hope the powers that be will try harder to fix a system that in my opinion is indeed very broken.

  • Sid Aaron Hirji15 days ago

    Wow. Funny thing in 08 my university English prof said i should get a Masters in Literature but wasn't sure I wanted to do it for financial reasons. No education is wasted

  • Alivia Varvel15 days ago

    This is lovely. Thank you for sharing this part of your life with us.

  • Rob Angeli15 days ago

    It is very different in many ways than what you write now, but the raw emotion and pissed off desperation is still something powerful. High School is truly an existential nightmare and almost feel a little of it left over in that poem. You hit the ins an outs of struggle in life and creation really well here, and helps us curious readers get to know you even better. Good work!

  • Sarah D15 days ago

    Your story is inspiring inspite of the difficulties you faced. I think as writers, that is indeed relatable, and deep down I too had moments where you question everything. But in the end you realized that keeping doing what you are doing is what it is really about. Read another from a fellow writer? https://vocal.media/fiction/fuchsia-and-her-podcast

  • Kendall Defoe 15 days ago

    Everyone finds their own speed. Everyone finds their own path. I have been teaching for a long time now, but I still feel that I am a writer who just hasn't been given the laurel crown yet. Keep going... You never know where you will end up.

  • Let me tell you, I felt that poem. There's no way I would have gotten any money. I was lucky to have the jobs I had and easy payments. Whew, there's a reason you won! This was so interesting, from the fact you didn't even like poetry to look at you now! On top of all that, you are now a full manuscript in!🌟❤️ simply astounding

  • Mark Gagnon15 days ago

    I always find it interesting when I listen to what people of your generation talk about what there journey has been to this point. Comparing both generations the obstacles are different but the goal is the same, to succeed in life. Well presented, Ashley!

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