So You Call Yourself a Writer but You Don't Write?
I recently pulled out a new notebook, folding back the pages and pressing them against the table.
As I put pen to paper, I caught questioning my motives. I caught myself with a handful of excuses that amounted to nothing more than just that, excuses.
Excuses, why? Because I’ve fallen out of the habit of writing daily? Because my words might come out clunky and unorganized? Because someone else can do it better than I? Maybe so. Maybe yes to all of these things. Maybe I have fallen out of practice, come up with one too many excuses, leading to heavy and clunky words and the idea that whatever I can do, someone can craft it better.
At this point I’m thinking about how sweaty my palms are. At the sticky sensation they leave between my fingers—I can’t write like this. I think about my feet that are falling asleep beneath my somewhat crossed legs—I can’t write like this. I think about the outline I need to publish and the work I need to do—I can’t write like this. I think about the coffee that sits in the creases of my lips an empty in my cup—I can’t write like this.
I think about how uncomfortable I feel in my body right now—I can’t write like this. I can’t write when this moment has been stripped of its beauty and I’m left alone with the reality of my unwashed hair, anxious thoughts, tight lungs, and sweaty palms (I mean honestly, can they not be?). I want a river, mountains, the perfect sweater, and a candlelit room. I want giant silent snowflakes to be falling from a dark blue sky. I want wildflowers and rolling green hills. I want sun against my back and swift moving fingers.
I want to create magic, be magic, feel like magic, and live in magic. I say I want to write but not until I can rid myself of the realties of this moment. Until I have figured it all out. Until I have created enough space. Until I can drink endless coffee without sweating profusely and those nagging feelings that there are other things to do be doing rush off with the breeze, and in place of that weight I find myself writing with ease beneath a big oak tree as the deer munch nearby and birds chirp overhead.
But Chloe, you need to make money first. Actual money. You need to work harder so that you can support yourself fully—you must be doing something wrong if you can’t. You need to stop breaking down. You need to keep it together in the face of obstacles and unknowns. But Chloe, the reason why you aren’t successful is because you’re not painting a beautiful enough picture for your audience. Because you’re not creating the right kind of art. Because you’re letting too many of the cracks show.
What if they find out that you were about to give up? What if they found out that you didn’t make any money from this, and if you don’t make any money, what do you have to show for the work that you’ve done? What is there to bring to the table? What are you contributing? What are you worth, anyway?
My grandpa always loved to write, in fact, he wrote a book called, “The Death of Captain Ford.” He dedicate himself to it for nearly 10 years, maybe more. He researched, traveled, and crafted a story rooted in something he believed deeply in. He would go up to his office overlooking the rolling green hills and write. He’d write between tending to the farm, digging up potatoes, and feeding the goats. He’d write in between making bread, mowing the lawn, and watching his grandson play basketball.
He’d write between it all, but he also wouldn’t. He’d sit by the pond with my grandma and watch the swallows swooping over the water—-he did a million other things, things that sometimes took the place of writing, but I would never dream of not thinking of him as a writer. He loved writing and when he could, he wrote, but sometimes things come up. Sometimes our health dwindles and our headspace fills.
Sometimes we feel poorly about ourselves. Sometimes we’re hopeless.
Sometimes we have to wander as far away as we can from the things that we love most, that make us who we are, only to realize that the pile of excuses between us and it are a mile high and climbing over, through, and around them, will take dedication. Will take persistence. Will force us to make it work even when your life doesn’t slow down. Even when your health fails you yet again. Even when you aren’t in a field with wildflowers and rolling green hills.
It’s messy and chaotic. It’s a tireless act of showing up and not beating yourself up when you don’t. It takes ample amounts of forgiveness and bravery. It takes falling short only to realize that you miss it. That you aren’t you without it.
My grandpa, Bob (we never called him anything other than that so it’s weird to say grandpa), noticed that I wasn’t writing very much as he faced his last days, and one morning as I held my breath and crept into his room, only to find him happily watching sports and chatting away with Sue (my grandma), he asked me something, but not before we cozied up and read poetry, talked about the particulars of growing the perfect cucumber, and consumed coffee as forgotten bowls of cereal were placed on the bedside.
Eventually, as the room cleared and we all bustled off to our preferred corners of the house, I stood in the doorway, “you will write about this one day, won’t you?” He said, very matter-of-factly. I nodded, swallowed back my tears, and smiled a really, really big smile.
“Of course I will.”
Bob died a few days after that. April 1st, 2018. His book was never published and maybe it never will be, but regardless, he will always be my favorite author and he always made a point of telling me I was a writer.
So a writer I am.