I think I’m a writer, but I’m not doing it every day

The following entry is a response to this article, “Writing Begins With Forgiveness“. My fellow writers, please please please read this! So encouraging!

I understand the sentiment behind the advice that to be a “real” writer, you should write everyday. To get good at a craft, you have to practice. You have to be dedicated. It’s a lot like any other creative discipline. You also have to study the masters. And you have to do things that aren’t fun, a lot, to enable those moments of transcendent creation, those moments that truly make it all worth it.

When you study creative writing, you are challenged to write in a multitude of styles, adhering to different forms, rules, and limitations. You try everything out. You study many works critically to see how other writers employ literary techniques. You read a lot. And you write every day. And you read your work out. And you go to every reading you possibly can. And you organize multiple reading series and writing workshops. And you become a shining pillar of the literary community. Of course this is the only way to become a legitimate writer.

Here’s a paragraph that resonated so hard with me:

Here’s what stops more people from writing than anything else: shame. That creeping, nagging sense of ‘should be,’ ‘should have been,’ and ‘if only I had…’ Shame lives in the body, it clenches our muscles when we sit at the keyboard, takes up valuable mental space with useless, repetitive conversations. Shame, and the resulting paralysis, are what happen when the whole world drills into you that you should be writing every day and you’re not.

 

And this:

 Beginning with forgiveness revolutionizes the writing process, returns it being to a journey of creativity rather than an exercise in self-flagellation. I forgive myself for not sitting down to write sooner, for taking yesterday off, for living my life.

I’m working on some things right now. Letting go of guilt and shame. Trusting my gut, my inner voice. Knowing what’s right for me. Trusting that. Not pushing things when they feel too forced, or lying to myself about who I really am and what I really want. As I move into the next major chapter of life, this authenticity and truthfulness to myself is crucial.

Here are some personal truths I’ve accepted. I don’t like reading my work out in public a lot. I don’t want to go to events because it’s what I’m “supposed to do” when it isn’t always the best choice for me. I want to go because I’m eager and excited to.

I deal with chronic anxiety and depression, as well as other related mental health conditions. I am still learning to live in the face of a tumultuous past. I don’t want to feel guilty or like a fraud because I’m not doing enough right now.

The truth is that at about age seven, I became a writer. When forced to clean my room, I hid behind the bed and read instead, until all the books were confiscated. I wrote and illustrated a YA series with my best friend, and began journaling prolifically, a practice I continued through high school. Those were pre-internet, pre-cell phone years, and in many ways they were glorious.

Here are some other things I think are fine:
I think a lot of contemporary writing is formulaic and pretentious.
It’s ok if I don’t want to write flash fiction.
It’s ok if I don’t want to write fiction at all.

The article mentions a quote from Anais Nin, that “shame is the lie someone told you about yourself”. So right on. I idolize that woman.

Tied up in this mandate to write every day is the question of who is and isn’t a writer. The same institutions and writing gurus that demand you adhere to a schedule that isn’t yours will insist on delineating what makes a real writer. At my MFA graduation, the speaker informed us that we were all writers now and I just shook my head. We’d been writers, all of us, long before we set foot in those hallowed halls. We’re writers because we write. No MFA, no book contract, no blurb or byline changes that.

I sometimes feel like the slew of creative writing undergrad programs and MFA programs have created this new school of writing, where you have to be snarky and abrupt and tell a story in five words. It has to be clever. It has to be succinct. But does it have to have a voice? Must it be genuine? Is it stunning? Breathtaking? Gorgeous? Moving? (actually)Funny? Does it compel me? Why should I care? Should I like it because I’m told it’s serious literature? Because it’s presented in a literary magazine?

I spent all this time in my undergrad trying to wrestle my voice into a box, to tame it into forms. And I’m glad. I’m so glad I did that. I’m so glad I learned everything I did from that.

Writing fiction is a challenge for me. But I have stories to tell. Stories that are dying to be told. And they aren’t fiction, but I’ve sometimes actually repackaged them as fiction, and people always love these the most. Non-fiction is calling out to me. Memoir. Essay. Non-fiction stories. These are the forms that are begging me to come, learn, pour forth. I still love poetry, and I will never stop writing it. I may even try my hand at fiction again someday.  I had to study those forms and listen to the rules to come to this conclusion, and what I learned from them holds value in any style of writing I choose to do in the future.

I’m learning what kind of writer I am, what kind I want to be, and figuring out how to get there. So far I don’t write every day. I don’t go to that many readings right now. I’m not(yet) in a place to be recommitted to and fully invested in writer’s groups. I’m still not there. And it’s ok. It’s not a place anyone ever fully arrives. But I am finding my way, and my voice, and it’s ready to scream.

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Things I want in a perfect day, in a perfect world

To fall asleep without paralyzing fear
To wake up carefree, no obligations, no commitments, no deadlines
To lounge in bed for a couple hours, petting my cats
To leisurely ride my bike to Honeydip donuts for a cream filled long john with rainbow sprinkles and then to shop at Value Village
To sneak into the woods in search of wild leeks, morels, and fiddleheads
To nap in bed as the warm wind blows on my skin
To be held
To cook the most delicious meal and feed it to someone worthy
To dance the paralyzing fear out of my soul
To glow in the stars
To watch them fade as I mourn, watching the sun blaze away my one perfect day

54 things for which I am grateful this year

1. Learning to set and enforce boundaries.

2. Making a conscious effort to become a better listener and less self-involved.

3. Not apologizing for my existence.

4. Still being here.

5. Taking better care of myself so I can take better care of others.

6. Separation of Church and State.

7. My pets.

8. My best friends.

9. New friends.

10. Confronting difficult truths.

11. Learning to advocate for myself.

12. Music.

13. Poetry, both reading and writing.

14. Music.

15. Singing again.

16. Believing in myself.

17. Music.

18. A roof over my head.

19. Nourishment.

20. Christian Fascists still being mostly kept at bay, so women aren’t getting stoned (in the non-fun way) or forced to marry their rapists.

21. Not living under Sharia Law.

22. Strengthened relationships with family.

23. Holding myself and others accountable.

24. Passion.

25. Sex.

26. Candy.

27. Alcohol.

28. Managing addiction and compulsive behaviors.

29. Love.

30. Awareness.

31. Piano.

32. Humor.

33. Some people.

34. New Family members.

35. Tastebuds.

36. Fashion.

37. Fun.

38. Being alive.

39. Letting go of fear.

40. Getting a handle on my binge eating disorder.

41. Lovers.

42. Decadence.

43. Distractions.

44. Cute Stuff.

45. Activists.

46. Beauty.

47. The pursuit of justice.

48. Learning more about myself.

49. Pain.

50. Growth.

51. Existence.

52. The Universe.

53. Pantheism.

54. Everything.

I won’t believe

you love me until you’re desperate to beat me into a sniveling puddle of mush
I won’t believe you love me if you can’t smell my pain,
If you can’t feel my thoughts
I won’t believe you love me if, when I shriek across the desert, you leave your head in the sand
I don’t believe you love me because you can’t slit yourself down the middle and let your guts fall to the floor in front of me
You can’t let your lungs flutter open and your heart squeeze tight while I watch
You are sewn shut.
I don’t believe you love me just because you bring me lamps and peppers and frozen pizza.
I don’t believe you love me because my needs are inconvenient for you
Because you painted me a picture and gave it to someone else
Because you make me feel most alone in your arms than anywhere else
I don’t believe you love me because you don’t care how I say ‘I love you’
Because you can live without me
I don’t believe you love me because you’re never sorry for anything you do, or don’t do
I don’t believe
you know what love is

Response to Abercrombie Bullshit

I don’t usually do this sort of thing, but I was bored today, and this struck a nerve with me. Also, I realize his comments were a few years old, but still. Don’t care. Still pisses me off. Many of you may have read Mike Jeffrie’s bullshit statement about how Abercrombie is only for cool, skinny kids. In case you didn’t, here it is: “In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids… Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.” He’s said a lot more ridiculous things than that, btw. Just one small example. Here is my response that I sent to Abercrombie’s “marketing feedback” department.

I have a response for Mr. Mike Jeffries about his recent statements on Abercrombie is only for “cool” and “non-fat” kids.

Your clothes are not, nor have they ever been cool. They are boring, generic, and overpriced. I would not be caught dead in your clothing, because I would rather not function as an unpaid advertisement walking around with an abercrombie logo plastered across my chest.

Your clothes are for unoriginal, uncreative, people who think that it is possible to “buy” cool, and you take advantage of this by only using these so-called perfect “all-american” models, hoping that these desperate wanna-bes will believe that they will somehow magically transform into the models in your campaigns upon putting on your clothing.

The people who most commonly wear your clothing in high school become alcoholic soccer moms and fat football coaches. They also never develop a unique personal style.

I really feel sorry for anyone who literally buys in to your cool kid ethos. Do you want to know what cool is?

-Not caring what other people think of you
-Being inventive
-Setting the trend instead of following
-Being able to laugh at yourself
-Not taking things too seriously
-Knowing how to have fun
-Being likable

My guess is that you were a miserable fat kid in high school, and instead of embracing yourself, you chose self-loathing and decided to make amends with the world and yourself by somehow becoming “one of the cool kids” through this strange brand?

The irony is that your brand isn’t even cool! It is boring, tired, washed-up, and only cool to skinny, overly tanned people for whom high school is the pinnacle of their existence. Sad.

It’s too bad that you care more about this than spreading a message of positivity, as opposed to “us” and “them” mentality and exclusivity. I wonder if you know what it’s like to suffer with weight and self-esteem issues as an adolescent? If not, your statements are cruel and lack basic human dignity. If so, even more so.

Peeling back the ego

I was placed on the path of religion so I would learn what not to do. I lost my religion so I could learn faith. I needed faith so I could dream big. My first big dream failed and I suffered to learn humility, but in humility, I found strength. I needed strength to endure my illnesses. I needed to be sick so I would know desperation. Desperation brought me to hell; it was in hell that I learned spirituality, and through it, I have seen the face of God.

Rumi has been a great source of inspiration to me recently.

Why didn’t someone tell me about Rumi sooner!? Reading Rumi is like a religious experience, a handbook for writers, and therapy all wrapped up in one. It is a lesson in condensed, exquisite poetry . The most powerful epiphany lies in a single couplet; in Rumi, a handful of words holds the universe.

You were born with potential
You were born with goodness and trust
You were born with ideals and dreams
You were born with greatness
You were born with wings
You are not meant for crawling, so don’t.
You have wings
Learn to use them, and fly.

– Rumi

Here are a couple of examples of some of his two or three line gems:

They are the chosen ones who have surrendered.
Once they were particles of light
now they are the radiant sun.

And another:

To search for God with logical proof
is like searching for the Sun with a Lamp.

Oh and if you’re a poet, I hear the Barks translation is it.