While reading a friend’s blog this morning (The Incurable Dreamer), I found myself thinking about what it means to be a writer. She is a brilliant writer and has chosen to dedicate herself to it, which makes me happy for her, and for me, and everyone who gets to read her stuff. She gets what it means to be a writer.
I come from a family that is overflowing with achievement; there are doctors, lawyers, city planners and politicians, and then there is me. Whenever I meet a friend of my parents (invariably another doctor), they always get excited and ask me if I am the “doctor daughter”, and then look uncomfortable and slightly disappointed when I tell them that I am a writer; when I tell them I write poetry, they can’t get away fast enough. I don’t fit into the perfect package that my family represents and that makes people uncomfortable; and, ok, having an abundance of tattoos may also factor into the discomfort thing a tiny bit, but I kind of love that.
Don’t get me wrong, my family is supportive of my writing (not so much with the tattoos), but for so long, I felt like being a writer wasn’t a viable thing because I hadn’t gone to school to study how to be a writer and because I wasn’t getting published in all the top magazines; I had no clear signs of accomplishment and that meant I was a big pile of nothing sitting off in the corner while my accomplished siblings were being praised for all of their hard work, as if I could never understand what it means to work hard. My parents and my brothers and sisters are all super amazing people who do work really hard and I am proud of them, but I am not nothing. I am a writer. I am a writer; but what does that mean? It took me a long time to figure it out and to be able to talk about it with confidence.
For years, I struggled with the question of whether or not I was actually a writer and doubted myself whenever I told people that I was. I have written everything from poetry to one-act plays, but until recently my writing was sporadic. I was a writer in moniker and desire, but not in practice. I wasn’t writing.
I didn’t believe I had the credentials to be a writer, so I went about trying to find a real job. I found a thousand real jobs; some I liked, some I hated, but none made me feel fulfilled, or like I was doing the thing I was meant to do. I knew, in my heart, that I was a writer. I had been a writer since I was 6 years old when I wrote a Thanksgiving story about a turkey who commits suicide; it was called “The Sad Turkey”, and it was about a turkey who decided to commit suicide because he knew he would be killed for some fancy Thanksgiving dinner. Pretty imaginative for a 6-year-old, right?
When I stopped working a regular job in 2009, I had big plans. I was going to write a memoir and get published; instead, I made a lot of popcorn and watched a lot of T.V. When I started this blog, I was certain that it would be the answer to my writing woes; it would help me get my memoir done and get me published. But, I barely posted; months went by and I didn’t go near the computer because I felt guilty for not writing blog posts.
I know now that I needed the time to adjust to the reason that I had stopped working a regular job; I had to give myself time to come to terms with the fact that RP had started to affect my life in more impactful ways and I wasn’t ready to write about it on a regular basis. I had been given a gift of sorts, but I wasn’t ready to open it up.
Years went by and I still wasn’t writing regularly, even though I know that when I am writing I feel full and satisfied. I had stopped writing poetry because I felt that it would never be lucrative and I really had no business calling myself a poet given that I have no formal education in writing. The problem was that poetry is my first love, as a writer. Poetry is where my pulse lives and it is what inspires me.
A few years ago, I decided to stop stressing about the blog and start writing poetry again. I felt inspired and satiated. I wrote tons of poems and edited a bunch of old pieces; I got motivated and started to enter contests and submit my work. I returned to the blog with a new energy and I dedicated myself to writing.
Degrees and publication credits don’t make me a writer. I am a writer simply because I write. I have discovered that, for me, being a writer means doing the writing, fulfilling that part of myself that only writing can fulfill ; it is reaching into your darkness and your light, being brave enough to face whatever you may find there, and sharing those discoveries. Being a writer is hard work and often lonely work, but it is the work that speaks to me.
I am not nothing. I am a writer.