Writing Wednesday – Why I Write

Hi Hi Hi, much-neglected blog-space.

I feel the need to make it clear that I have not been dormant, even if I’ve been rather internet-quiet. Quite the opposite, really. I’ve been active, sometimes too active. I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants across oceans and countries and the vast expanses that grow between friends as we age. I regret nothing.

Still, today, as my life begins to settle into a lovely Autumn cooldown period, I’m leaving a half-eaten taco to do that thing that I love to do on a Wednesday – write about writing. People love that right? I mean, I know I do… I’ll pause just about anything to remind myself that my favorite authors have struggled to fit writing into their very real lives, or to hear the voice of another up-and-comer who is piecing together the same realizations as I am.  Something about it provides a healthy  dose of connectivity for this introvert. So, here I am to lend my voice to that cacophonous backdrop of writers who have been there, are there, are thinking about going there, went there and want to go back…

I’ve had some huge moments lately, and they’ve done a lot to solidify my writer identity for myself. I’m still processing my recent revelations, but mostly I’m just feeling really good about taking up a bit of space to firmly plant my feet and call myself a writer. Even after writing my first book, I didn’t feel comfortable doing that. I don’t know why, and I only have half-baked theories about what has changed, but I can say that previously I treated my writing very differently than I am now.

I would often brazenly declare myself a writer and just kind of hope that the person across from me wouldn’t sneer or roll their eyes. And when someone started questioning me, I could feel myself grow hot with frustration. Why couldn’t they just accept that I love doing this thing and that it’s my favorite and I actually feel really good about doing it and shut their filthy mouths? Why did I have to answer questions about my favorite authors and whether I was published and what my book was about? When people would ask questions like, “Are you published yet?” It felt akin to asking a newly married couple if they were pregnant yet. Creepily malicious at worst, and out-of-bounds curious at best. I’m not saying anyone has ever meant those questions to be interpreted that way (although, we definitely all know that one Physical Therapist was trying to be a dream crusher when he asked me if I thought I even had a chance with people like J.K. Rowling out there), but my own anxiety about being a writer made me totally incapable of hearing those questions as anything other than a gentle challenge to who I’ve chosen to become.

See, for me, writing really isn’t just a career, a vocation, what have you… it’s an identity. It’s my craft. It’s the work that I do that gives me a window into the world that I navigate every day. It’s the way that I process and recover (and has been for as long as I’ve known how to do it). It’s every bit who I am as it is who I am not. Everything that I do that is not writing feels like I’m learning how to do it as I go. It feels foreign and new and sometimes really fun and sometimes really terrifying, but always a little outside of my comfort zone. Writing isn’t that way for me. Sure, yes, I am always looking to learn more and grow as a writer. I am always trying to figure out new and different ways to approach my work, and yes it can be fun and terrifying too, but it’s the difference between breathing air naturally and relying on an oxygen tank. Writing is just breathing… the rest requires thoughtful planning, conscious movement, and an exit strategy. All of which this control freak tries to manage without letting too many seams show.

I fool myself sometimes into thinking that I’m really a whole person without writing. I’m not. Truthfully, without writing, I’m not myself at all. I go through motions and I function and I adult, but so much authenticity is lost when I don’t take the time to process through my pen. I have to say, there’s almost nothing I love more than being around other writers to nudge myself into remembering that I am one too. I read their words, or hear them speak and feel my heart lift and say, “Yes, see baby, you showed up at the right party. You are right where you need to be.” I love that feeling. I love when I call myself baby.

So that’s it. That’s why I find myself writing my morning pages, squirreling away notes for the next novel, and developing plot lines and characters in every traffic jam, waiting room, and grocery checkout line. And I’m finally arriving at a place where that is enough to proudly proclaim myself a writer. Maybe the next time that cheeky cake eater has to set my back to rights I’ll have the guts to ask him who his favorite Physical Therapist is. Probably not, mostly because I don’t really feel like I need to, now that I’ve written about it. 😉

Words and wiles,
Betty C

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