I’ve been writing a lot lately.
Actually, that’s not true at all.
I’ve been thinking a lot about writing and talking a lot about writing and reading a lot about writing. I’ve even been studying writing with a great teacher. But sitting down and actually writing? Not so much.
And this not writing all the while learning about how to have a career as a writer has left me feeling disjointed, like I’m busying myself sprucing up the outside of a house that has cracks in its foundation.
I’m making time for the idea of writing, but not for the act itself. And why is that?
Well, first there’s the fear. As long as I don’t put myself out there, I can never be sure whether or not I can really succeed. I can go on thinking that this dream is viable, that editors will love my writing and readers will too. I’m not used to being unsuccessful so the idea of receiving rejection letters – and, yes, I know they will inevitably come – doesn’t sit easily with me. I want to steel myself for them and prepare myself for the pep talks I’ll have to give myself when they do. And, if I’m honest, sometimes I convince myself it would be easier not to try at all.
And then there’s the work. Thinking and talking and reading and studying writing are all a lot easier than writing itself. Writing is not a task-oriented undertaking. It isn’t about highlighting and taking notes and checking things off of Post-it Note to-do lists, tasks at which I excel. Instead, writing takes orginality and focus and insight, all of which are even harder to come by than time.
And then there’s the question of voice. I’ve written before about my ability to play lots of different roles, my comfort with lots of different kinds of people. This trait – which I usually think of as a good thing – has made it difficult for me to figure out which version of me I want to be when I write. The down-to-earth me? The moony intellectual me? The snarky critical me? Any why try to be any of those things when others have already done them – and done them better?
There are so many minefields that keep me from putting pen to paper – the practical, the emotional, the mental. But it’s time, I realize, to stop futzing (yes, futzing) around and start writing.
Because you know what? The only way out is through. Writing is what helps me get through. I need to write in order to write.
I was watching my daughter yesterday as she gnawed on Sophie the Giraffe. Everything she does, at seven months old, is an exercise in making sense of the world. And right now her mouth is the vehicle through which she comes to understand things. If it’s within her reach, it goes into her mouth. She’s learning smooth, crinkly, bumpy, rough, gumming her way toward what she likes and what she doesn’t.
Ever since I started writing, putting my words down on paper has been how I’ve come to make sense of things. My pen is my vehicle for understanding. So when I don’t do it enough – when I worry about the machinery of writing, talking about writing and buying pretty notebooks rather than actually writing – I deprive myself of my chance to understand what’s going on in my head and in my heart.
So excuse me, if you will. Enough talk. I’ve got some writing to do.
What role does writing play in your life? Are you more of a consumer of words or a producer of them? How do you procrastinate?