I want to be a writer. I want to be a writer more than anything else in the world. I've wanted to be a writer since I was about six years old. Sometimes I call myself a writer, just trying it on for size, hoping it will stick, like an affirmation, the way I might tell myself, “My house is clean and organized,” “I really only like healthy foods,” or “I am confident and self-assured.” (None of those have ever actually worked for me, either, but I keep trying.)
Sometimes other people call me a writer, and when that happens, it's so exciting and fulfilling that it sometimes makes me giddy for days at a time. Like when I met Meredith Hall, the author of the best memoir I have ever read, at a reading at the library, and she signed my copy of her book, Without A Map, “To Amy, a fellow writer.” Wow! Or when I overheard the library director tell a patron, “The writers are meeting downstairs this morning.” That's my writing group, six late-middle-aged women who have been meeting monthly at the library for nearly two years now to share what frustrates, exhilarates, hinders, and inspires us in our writing lives. We've become each other's confidantes, critics, and cheerleaders. We're writers.
I talk about writing, read about writing, think about writing, dream about writing. I subscribe to two writing magazines and own a few dozen books about writing. I devour every NPR offering that features a writer sharing what inspires her, talking about her writing process, reading from her work.
My desk is cluttered with books of writing prompts, a thesaurus, a dictionary. My bulletin board features inspirational quotes like, “[Writing a novel] is like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way” (E.L. Doctorow), and “Nulla dies sine linea” (“Not a day without a line”), and “Butt in chair!”
Writing fires me up, calms me down, challenges me, assures me that I am good at something. It gives me an outlet for pent-up anxiety and frustration and anger, as well as a way to express the more tender sentiments I often struggle to verbalize. Writing connects me to my authentic self: I am most myself when I am writing.
The problem is, I don't actually write much.
The reasons are many. A few of them are even somewhat valid. I'm busy. I work. I cook from scratch and can't bring myself to do it any other way. I don't live alone, and I'm very easily distracted. I'm committed to a daily exercise program and I floss my teeth every single day, and, geez, it's hard to find time for everything.
But the biggest problem is probably the way I've always regarded my writing: as a form of entertainment, a fun thing I can do if I have time. But who ever has extra time? Writing has been my reward for getting the floors vacuumed, the dishes done, the laundry caught up, the junk drawer organized...and if you've ever seen my house, you know the likelihood of those things actually happening regularly.
Obviously, I need to change my thinking. I need to make writing a priority. Maybe I need to post a new quote, like this one from Margaret Laurence: “When I say work, I only mean writing. Everything else is just odd jobs.”
So, New Year's Resolution #1: I will take my writing at least as seriously as I take the vacuuming, the dishes, and the laundry. And, dammit, more seriously than the junk drawer!