For a long time, I have thought of myself as a writer. But I’m not sure if I am. When it comes down to it, I don’t like to write. I really don’t.
I love to read. I read a lot. I always have. For some reason, the two acts, the writing and the reading, have always been intertwined for me.
When I was little, I wanted to be a writer. I told people all the time that I loved to write. English class was my favorite. I have written stories and poems for as far back as I can remember.
When I was 10, I won a Young Author competition in my school. I won for my grade level and won for the school overall. My school was tiny, so it wasn’t that impressive, but still. As part of my “prize,” I attended a Young Author’s conference an hour from home. It was a daylong event where I sat among other “young authors” discussing what we liked to write and what we liked to read, and receiving superfluous praised for our imaginations, our diligence, and our proper use of punctuation and spelling. In some ways, it was great. In others, it was awful. I didn’t enter the competition ever again.
Writing is a release. It lets out the voices and stories and words that shake around in my head. But the act of putting it down on paper is laborious and disconcerting and disappointing.
There’s such an immediacy with the act of writing, for me, that I never can get it right. When a story or a thought or a phrase pops into my head, it’s only there for a fleeting moment. If I don’t writing it down RIGHTTHATVERYSECOND, it’s gone. I can’t get it back. That loss feels terrible. Trying to conjure something that has fled is the worst feeling in the world. Rather than feeling good, it makes me feel horrible.
The older I became and the more responsibilities I acquired, the less likely I was to be able to respond to the moments of “inspiration” that struck me. I started just letting them slip on by. I numbed myself to the stories that wanted to escape my brain. I avoided thinking about the ideas I wanted to explore on paper. I encouraged my mind to go elsewhere. And in the process, I think I irreparably injured my writing “muscle,” whatever was there to begin with, that is.
Finding time to write is difficult when you have a family. And a job. And a house. And, and, and, and. What is even more scary is realizing that when you find the time to write, it doesn’t work. In the quiet warmth of my shower, in my mind, I can compose paragraphs, create characters, fabricate plot points—all with ease. Put me in front of my laptop two hours later, and the ideas are all gone. Where do they go? They escape into the far reaches of my brain, I suppose.
All of this makes me wonder if I really am a writer. Perhaps I’m just an avid reader. Perhaps the ideas and thoughts that appear in my head are just residual aspects of things I have read. Perhaps they are completely unoriginal; memories that transition and adjust in my mind, altered so that I can give myself credit for them and then curse them when they disappear later. Perhaps they were never really mine to begin with.
I know I can phrase things effectively (sometimes). I know how to use grammar and punctuation and syntax correctly. I know the value of alliteration and repetition and how a run-on sentence (or a fragment) can be a useful interruption to otherwise flawless prose. It can.
But that doesn’t make me a writer.
I’ve identified myself as a writer my whole life and I can’t help but wonder if it’s habit now. If it’s a notion I convinced myself of long ago, one that I’m not willing to relinquish because it’s comfortable and reliable.
Because, honestly, the idea of sitting down and actually writing something, terrifies the hell out of me. I do it. Sometimes. But other times, I just can’t do it. I know I need to establish a rhythm, a schedule, a pace that works in my life. I haven’t been able to do so for a long time. I don’t know if I ever will. So, I just avoid thinking about it, but I finally convinced myself to put these thoughts down. I have doubts. I don’t know that I am a writer, but I do know that I feel compelled to write. I just can’t decide how that all works and what it all means. But I guess I don’t have to.