A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.
— Franz Kafka
(Note to Mr. Kafka: I understand today is your birthday. You don’t look a day over … very, extremely dead.)
How often do you sit down and try to dissect the core of your being? For me it’s about every five minutes. Yes, I know and I agree: That’s probably excessive. But this is the way my brain works. Always has.
So you’d think that rewriting my “about” page when I was revamping the old bloggity would’ve been a breeze. But no. It may have been the hardest thing I’ve ever written here. I made several false starts until I finished it. In one of them, I ended up exploring why on earth I write in the first place. Before I could stop myself, it turned into a whole thing about figuring out who I really am in the marrow of my soul. I thought I’d share it for all of you fellow seekers.
Why I write
I’ve always been a closet writer. Even when I’m not writing my brain is in writer mode, listening for intriguing bits of dialogue, crafting people into characters, and looking for the narrative in whatever I’m doing at any moment.
It’s fucking exhausting, to be honest. In fact, I spent many, many years trying to avoid writing. I barely put down a word for a decade while I was busy becoming a professional working person, a homeowner, a wife, and a mother. But still, my brain kept insisting that it was a writing brain.
Somewhere between my first and second child, my brain began to give in to the neglect. Things got … quieter. The writing part of my mind started shutting down. I thought, “Maybe this is what contentment is like? Maybe I’ll be happier now without that I-should-be-writing impulse all the time. Why don’t I try to relax into this?”
But I didn’t feel content. I felt lost and stupefied, like I was sitting on the side of an icy mountain in the middle of a blizzard, one glove off, trying to pet a hallucinatory bunny. Once I realized what was happening, I knew I had a choice: I could go numb and die while petting the pretend rabbit or I could get up and walk off that mountain, one step at a time. (Who reads a lot of books about mountain climbing? This girl.)
In the end, it took more energy to suppress the writing impulse than it did to give in to it.
So finally, I came out of the closet as one who writes. I feared judgment and scorn from family and friends. Who did I think I was, that I dared to call myself a writer? Did I think I had talent or something? Oh, look who’s taking herself so seriously …
I suspect some people did think that. But you know what? I didn’t matter because I was so busy — and happy — finally stepping into the me that I’d been hiding away inside for so long.
What’s your secret?
I think a lot of us have a secret something-or-other inside. You’re thinking of your thing right now, aren’t you?
So often we wait for the validation of others before we decide whether or not we can bring that secret out into the light. But here’s the thing: No one else can see what’s inside of us. Only we know that. No one else knows our true potential. No one else can tell us what makes our hearts sing.
Don’t waste your life coloring inside any lines that you didn’t draw for yourself. Stepping into you is an awesome experience. You won’t believe the relief that comes along with it. Everything in your life will get better. Everything. You’ll like people more — or at least you’ll be less annoyed by them. Food will taste better. You’ll smile more. Why? Because that metallic taste of regret that was parked on your tongue so long that you just got used to it will finally disappear.
You don’t have to cut an album. You don’t have to write a novel. You don’t have to start a business. (Unless, of course, you want to do those things and driven to put the time in.) I think we Americans tend to assume everything has to have money or fame attached as an end goal.
But even if you’re not going to turn your thing into a career, you’re still going to need a certain amount of bravery when you first reveal your secret wish. If you’ve been harboring a dream for a long time, you’re probably not going to be fantastic at articulating it in the beginning. The first few people you mention it to may not get it. You might feel silly and foolish. It might shake your confidence.
Do it anyway. Keep in mind that most people are so busy with their own dramas that they’re not paying attention to yours for very long. So slink away and start.
It seems funny, but for years I didn’t think I had the right to call myself a writer. It seemed like such a loaded, important word. To use it made me feel like I was putting on airs. But now I hear that word and I think, “Yeah. That’s me. I am that. I am a writer.”
Call yourself what you are. Start today.
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