This afternoon, my husband and I were talking about writing.
Yes, it is within reason to be jealous of our Sunday afternoon topics of conversation. However, if you can get past the veil of envy that I expect is now filling your mind with unfettered rage, I’d like to tell you more about it.
My husband has a friend, a dear friend, who works as a copywriter. He came to visit last month and was telling us about his work, which represents a relatively new career shift for him. He writes all day, every day, on whatever topics come through his agency. And he shared that it had never before occurred to him that writing might be hard for some people, or that he was particularly special in this way.
My husband mentioned to me today that when S– said that, Hubs immediately thought of me.
And he’s right. For years, I wrote for school and for fun, with little knowledge that what I was doing was unusual. That bubble of oblivion was partially popped when Facebook landed on the scene (edit, people….EDIT), but the idea that someone can’t easily churn out a two-page paper on the religious philosophy of Bend It Like Beckham in a mere 30 minutes with profound ideas and excellent grammar still leaves me moderately aghast.
I’m not entirely sure that my last sentence proved my point about my superiority in the written language, but bear with me. I’m rusty.
The reason that I’m rusty in writing is that, despite the ease in which I do it and despite the love for it that I possess, I simply don’t do it.
My day-to-day work, at best, involves writing emails and sometimes getting overly editorial in our department how-to manual.
Long gone are the days when I would sit and write page after page or blog after blog. I once had a short-lived, but well-received (among the unbiased audience known as my family and friends) blog that chronicled my adventures in reading. It didn’t last, because as I settled into a new life, I re-prioritized the time it took to consume literature at such a respectable clip, let alone to write about it.
What’s more, writing feels like a solitary and strangely specific endeavor in my life. For all the hours I’ve wasted watching television or perusing Facebook (and consequently cringing at posts of questionable taste and/or execution), I have spent comparatively little time pursuing the things I actually enjoy, like writing. There seems to be, in my own mind, a greater acceptance of mindless, worthless tasks than potentially worthwhile endeavors like writing, which is very likely to be directly related to my level of confidence in a given area.
Let me explain it this way – if someone walks in on you watching TV, they might ask what you’re watching. But even if they sit down and begin to watch with you, the shared experience is somewhat removed from your personal being. You (probably) didn’t write the show, so you have no particular skin in the game – you’re just enjoying it.
Writing, in contrast, is deeply personal, unless (or maybe even when) you’re doing something like Hubs’ friend and kicking out copy for commercial use. When someone catches me writing, I freeze. I don’t want to talk about what I’m writing, or even suggest that I might be a “writer” because that places identity and intentionality around the words that I have or would compose. And that, in turn, puts pressure on the very act of writing to be something, to mean something.
If my writing has to be something or to mean something, then it better be good, right? And what if my late-Sunday rambling on a random blog that I shut down years ago is neither? Should I even write? Should I even say that I like to write? Or should I put that part of me away until I absolutely need it, but be sure in that moment to keep it casual so as to not raise suspicion?
OH MY GOD, PEOPLE, THIS IS EXHAUSTING.
And ironic, because today I told my sweet husband, who finds writing extremely difficult despite being better at it than he thinks he is, that you have to be willing to write total crap in order to get to the good stuff.
Yes, I have to be willing to write crap. And own that I sometimes write crap. And trust that part of the process of being a writer is to write crap and to KEEP WRITING UNTIL SOMETHING AMAZING COMES ALONG and then to write crap all over again until the next time the magic happens.
To write well, to write crap, or to write something solidly in between requires just one thing – to write.
You can’t learn to ride a horse by petting a dog, folks.
Whatever it is that you want to do, or are thinking about doing, or did once and might like again, here’s my advice: do it.
Tell those voices in your head – the ones that tell you that you’re not a writer, or an artist, or a bear tamer** or whatever – to shut the hell up. If you write, you’re a writer. If you draw or paint or glue weird bits of trash together into sculptures, you’re an artist. If you wander into the woods and tame the bears**, you’re a freaking bear tamer. You just have to go out there and do it. And own that you’re doing it.
Some people will praise you. Some will judge you.
Keep at it. Find ways to improve. Get better. Realize that whatever it is that you’re doing is not everyone’s cup of tea. Be okay with that. Keep going anyway, because this is about you, not them.
And you have this thing, this thing that you’re good at. If you don’t use it, work it, it will be lost. And that would be a damn shame, for you and for everyone else.
So what’s next? What will you do next?
For me, next was this blog. This very post. I’m not convinced that this is a fresh launch of a long-dead blog. But it’s one hour on a Sunday afternoon of writing. Just writing – good, bad, or ugly.
And damn, it feels good.
**Please don’t test the theory of you being a bear tamer without MAJOR supervision. Is there a school or something? DO NOT JUST WANDER INTO THE WOODS AND PET THE BEARS. I will not be held accountable for what happens.