If you were to ask about her beginnings as a writer, Steph Shuff would tell you that she never made the choice to write; she would tell you that writing chose her. She grew up the youngest child of an engineer mother and an ocean exploring father on the sunny shores of Jupiter, Florida, and had an upbringing that allowed for plenty of early life adventures.
“I’m definitely a blend of both of my parents,” says Steph. “I have this lust for life, experience, and people that I get from my Dad, but also this overly-analytical way of living like an observer of my life that comes from my Mom. It’s like I’m watching my life happen, assessing it like a story, rather than just living it like most people do.”
So why does Steph feel like writing chose her? To start, some of her earliest memories revolve around the written word: straining to read street signs from her carseat; scribbling in “cursive” before she had learned how to read or write; learning to read in her kindergarten class; a second grade story book assignment; writing her first “novel.” For Steph, expressing herself through reading and writing was never a choice, but the only way she knew.
These days, Steph writes whenever she can, balancing the solitary pursuit of writing with her social nature. Steph lives in Washington, D.C. and works as an Event Producer for The Young Turks, a progressive political media company based in Los Angeles, California. Writing gives her time for herself where she can reflect on what life is all about.
Steph’s style varies and her strength is a chameleon-like ability to match tone and style for the intended audience; her writing experience covers both fiction and non-fiction, and she has written on a myriad of topics ranging from renewable energy, sales development, and team building, to love, travel, food, and art. One of her favorite pieces is a Facebook post she dedicated to her love of pancakes. “It is both very silly and very serious at the same, which is how I like to approach most topics. There is nothing I won’t write about. There is nothing too difficult or too easy.”
So what’s the most difficult part of writing for someone that feels like it was her fate to become a writer? For Steph, it comes down to blending what she wants to write with what audiences will want to read.
“As a fiction writer, I have over 100,000 words written in various journals and documents. My issue has never been with inspiration, but with organization. Writing for release is easy. Writing for story-telling is actually really hard. Beyond that, finding the confidence to reveal my soul to the world has also been tough, particularly when I was younger. What if people don’t want to read what I have to say? What if I’m seen as boring, or unimportant, or trivial? This is the hardest part of being a writer, or any kind of creative artist. If someone tells you they don’t like your art, it’s not just criticism – it’s crushing. It took me a lot of maturing to become confident enough in my own writing and style to say, ‘I don’t care what you think. This is my truth and this is what matters to me.’ Working and living as a creative person isn’t just about paying the bills. It’s personal.”