I’ve been writing this post in my head for a while.
Been wanting to give you and me a break from the memoir drafting stuff.
It is hard, hard, hard to be in self-examination mode, and to stay there, and to stay sane. I spent a lot of last week weeping. Part of it is I was half sick, but I’m feeling good today, forward momentum for the first time in like nine days.
It doesn’t usually take me that long to get it back.
I’ve learned some shit about myself and some of it ain’t easy to deal with. And none of it is easy to accept responsibility for. But at the end of all of this, I hope I’ll be a better person.
But that’s not what I mean by Real.
What I mean is that I am finally, finally, finally actualizing. I have been thinking about myself as a writer since I was a kid. But I have spent an absurd amount of energy and ambition and intellect trying not to be a writer.
And for about the last year, I’ve paid lip service to being a writer, and have been looking for the way home, and have been doing a lot of right things, but somehow missing the mark.
And it’s true that almost no writers get to be only writers. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about centering myself around my sense of myself as a writer.
Doing that helps me to make better choices about all the other things that are compulsory owing to adult responsibilities.
I suddenly do not feel like I’m missing out on some mirage on the horizon if I take an afternoon off, or if I take a long walk for no reason other than to walk, or if I take a day off, or if I just don’t do anything for a little while. I feel like I’m recharging. I feel like I’m getting back to the bricks of the story I’m always writing in my head.
I feel like a writer, I am all right with it. It is the rightest, goodest thing in my life. Owning it is the best thing I have ever done for my mental health.
Yes, Child is superb, but I generally feel like a fuckup of a parent. I am a better writer than I am a mother. I’ve had loads more practice
How I got home:
1. I write every day. My own work. Not stuff I’m getting paid to write, not articles, not blog posts. I make my own art five out of seven days. I view the writing I’m being paid for or the blog as other work, and I do it at a different time of day, and I think of it as separate from my own writing.
2. I read every day. Not shit I’m getting paid to read, shit that helps me be a better writer. Shit that is neither shit, nor uses the word shit as liberally as I have in this blog post.
3. I learned the value of spending time around other writers sometimes. I am giddy, giddy, giddy about going to AWP in like eight days. I will hear smart people talk about writing for an entire weekend, and if I am brave, I will hunt down writers whose work I like and tell them I like it. I will also get a literary tattoo with my friend, Brooke.
4. I feel comfortable with my sense of myself in a way that is difficult to describe. It is like finding the perfect pair of Jeans? I have spent my life looking for this perfect cut, color, fit, and here they are, and now that I’m wearing them, I never want to take them off? That they make me feel and look so, so fucking good that I am more confident and capable willing to wrestle adversity to the floor? That’s an imperfect analog, because it feels even better than that.
In my next memoir
I will try to figure out how and why I have always known I am a writer, but got the idea that it was an invalid thing to be, or that I could never make any part of a living at it, or that I should try like hell to be something, anything else.
In the meantime, I’ve got about 145 pages out, another ten or so in progress, and ideas for at least a hundred after that, not counting the fleshing-out I’ll do in revision, or all of the trash I’ll make of things I’ve put in that don’t belong. This reminds me of that old joke: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
If you are an artist, be an artist. There are lots of people who will tell you why that’s a damn fool thing to want to be, and they might be right, but you’ll know if you have a choice, and if you don’t, don’t fight it. Just do it. And celebrate it. You won’t be thwarting that central part of yourself, so you’ll do better in all the other parts.