I heard today on the radio an interview with someone who wrote a successful (NYT bestseller) memoir. After hearing a few excerpts read out loud, I exclaimed to myself and my dog, both of us in the kitchen, “I’m a better writer.”
It wasn’t jealousy or bitterness that motivated me. It was absolute clarity and self-awareness: I know what I’m capable of. I know that I’m good. I know, if I put my mind to it, I could write my way into the hearts and minds of millions of people.
And yet, I am not doing what needs to be done.
I can no longer blame grief. On the contrary, grief seems to be a muse of sorts. I wrote feverishly after Kaz died five years ago, and again after my father died this past February. But in the last few uninspired, exhaustive months, I’ve just been “living life.”
Oh, I’m writing… press releases, bios, web copy, articles, interviews. But that’s not me. That isn’t my voice. That’s the voice of the publication, or the person I’m interviewing, or just a blank impersonal corporate voice that we read online every day and sounds like no one in particular.
I’m trying to wrap my brain around why I haven’t been writing for me lately.
I could blame “writer’s block” but that’s not entirely true (and anyway there is no such thing). The truth is this writer’s brain is always writing – dialogue, scenarios, fantasies, entire plot lines – using real people as characters, actual events as inspiration. Maybe the difference between sanity and insanity is knowing when to take your inner dialogues seriously, and when not to.
Then again, my inner dialogues have become louder lately, which can happen when I don’t write for a long time. I start to feel less grounded… as if writing is the lighthouse and my center is the shore.
I could blame my PT job, which has been FT demanding lately.
I could blame my freelance career, which has also been demanding lately (not complaining)… and (even more dangerous) gives me the false illusion that I am actually writing.
I could blame the weather, which has been beautiful for most of the summer and therefore the antithesis to staying inside and writing. I have actually thought, “I write better in the winter.”
I could blame my dog, the ultimate joy… and distraction.
I could blame my new workout regimen, or my new obsession with re-watching HBO series like Deadwood, The Wire, Rome, Game of Thrones, House of Cards and Boardwalk Empire (drama is my thing, clearly).
All true. All bullshit.
Something else is holding me back.
Rather than self-analyze or berate, I’m writing this post to remind myself how much I love to write, how I need to write like I need air to breathe, that writing is the power that lights up my soul, and when I’m not writing that light is literally diminished.
When I don’t write, I am no one. Rather, I am just like everyone else. Time passes without meaning, without contribution, without voice, even though I am living and talking and communicating on a daily basis.
When I don’t write, something – thoughts, emotions, ideas – accumulates in my brain, like so many marbles, bouncing around frenetically.
Writing calms me down, makes me feel purposeful, fills me up like nothing else.
A man recently said to me, “You can never know who you are if you don’t know where you’re from.” When I hear that I think not of a place, or a people, or a religion… I think of my passion.
Writing is what I enjoy most in the world.
Writing is torture, the only kind worth enduring.
Writing is power… not over others, but of expression.
Writing is freedom.
Writing is ultimate vulnerability, also the most powerful shield.
Writing is courage, love, heart, soul, music, rhythm, sex, nourishment, LIFE itself.
The only thing more powerful is Nature… the most prolific writer of all. And Nature never stops.
So, here I am… middle of the night… pleading with my inner soul…
Love yourself enough to write something every day for you.
Be disciplined and/or selfish enough to write no matter what the fuck else is going on.
Don’t ignore or be afraid of your voice, let it say what it wants and be heard.
Know that you have a story inside you that only you can tell.
And, most importantly, never ever ever give up on your dreams.