Today I had the scary realization that I haven’t written anything in a while. That is, anything of value. I’ll be the first to admit that my thoughts have been pretty sub-par of late, and I’ve had little to no time to do any writing on my own. At work we’ve been hiring freelancers left and right and I haven’t written an article since September, and before that it was June.
It’s a depressing thought to think that I could lose my touch. Writers only get better by practice, by writing every day, by constantly forcing themselves to write and rewrite and write again. If you don’t do that, you’re just going to wallow in your own crapulence. I think I’m wallowing, and the thought frightens me.
Maybe it’s because I have such grandiose dreams. I’ve always thought I’d grow up to be a writer. I’ve wanted to be an author since the first grade when we published little hard cover books with marker-colored pages and dot-matrix text that was pasted in. I’ve always thought that some day I’d have books published, someday I’d be a writer, if not a famous writer. I think I’ve realized that being famous is probably a bit much, but I still have aspirations of seeing my book on the shelf in Barnes & Noble. If I really thought about it, I’d realize that’s probably the most depressing site a writer could see: your book, lost in the sea of a million titles, being overlooked by customer after customer. I can see why some writers develop a neurosis and do strange things like call their local bookstore under a fake name and ask if there book is in yet.
Of course my actions hardly match all those pie-in-the-sky dreams. The dream of being a writer requires the every day sacrifice of writing, of sweating through your work, of continually being persistent as you chase your dream. In a word, it requires consistency–of which I lack. You may claim that three years of writing my thoughts online for the world to see is pretty consistent, but this has often been an excuse. If I write here everyday I don’t have to work on my story, or my essay, or develop my latest idea. If I write here I can slack off, I don’t have to edit, I don’t even have to proof read. It’s a journal, and as helpful as that may be, I don’t think that counts.
Perhaps I’m afraid. Hell, I am afraid. I’m afraid of sinking hours upon hours into a story only to have it crumble into itself. I’m afraid of spending months trying to write the book of my dreams only to have the well of ideas run dry and the words to stop flowing. I’m afraid I’ll discover the product of all those hours could actually be less than I expect it to be–that the fruit of my labors will suck. I’m afraid I might not be that good of a writer, and if I don’t chase my dream I’ll never have to face that fact.
I’m afraid of what it would do to me to actually write like I think a writer needs to write. I’m afraid of what it would do to my marriage, how my wife would groan, roll her eyes, and storm out of the room. How she’d leave me to my computer and go watch TV or read a book, grumbling about my novel. I’m afraid she’d grow to resent my writing because I’d need to spend all my free time making it what it needs to be. I can already see the frustration in her face when I spend too much of an evening camped out in front of the computer screen.
I’m afraid of the rejection that will surely come, even though I tell myself again and again that every writer has to collect a mountain of rejection slips. It’s a rite of passage, a badge of courage, a technicality that every writer must contend with and overcome. If that’s the case I should be on a mission to fill my filing cabinet with rejections, but it doesn’t happen. At best I sit down and send out a handful of submissions, then sit back and wait for the money or the rejections to roll in. In six months I’ve had one bite, and not even the satisfaction of rejections from the others. In that six months I continued to sit on my hands, and thus my trouble with consistency comes up again.
I’m afraid I won’t be able to live up to my dreams. My wife always encourages me, always tells me that some day I’ll write that book. She humors me and listens when I go on and on about some new idea, even though she knows in a week I’ll have completely forgotten that brilliant, best-seller idea. She actually believes I can write the book I so want to write, but no matter how much she repeats her encouragement I still have doubts.
Writers are strange people. If it’s my only consolation, at least I fit in.