I’m going to confess something up front: I do not write every day.
And do you know what? I doubt that many of us do.
Sure, there are always those people at workshops and conferences who announce, “I write every day because I can’t not write”—as if the mass of material inside their heads is so dense they crank out stories just to keep the swelling down. Now don’t get me wrong: I have no hard feelings in the least. If what they claim is true, well, then I say God bless ‘em! I hope they can mine that lode for a lifetime. Really, I do.
Okay, confession number two: Actually, it drives me bananas when people make that claim.
Even today, after having acquired an MFA and proven to myself that I’m capable of writing both well and prolifically, hearing that line still leaves me with a shaky feeling in my gut. And it used to be worse. Time was I’d wither in shame whenever someone spoke of writing every day, or boasted of their ability to produce two or three thousand words regularly in a single sitting. For a long time, I was even hesitant to call myself a writer in public.
And humiliation was only my first reaction. Like the stages of grief, I slogged through skepticism, envy, seething, and finally, resentment. Oh, the resentment I harbored for these wordy whiz-kids!
But the truth is they never had anything to do with the issue. Just like that threadbare breakup line: it wasn’t them, it was me. The people I envied were only doing what they did best–writing fast and furiously. My agony and self-abasement emerged from my own innate understanding that I was not, and would never be, one of them. I recognize that now, of course, and I’m more comfortable with the notion. But in those days I wasn’t able to see it through the murk of emotion.
It took time, but eventually I allowed myself to believe that I too am a writer—just one of a different makeup than those other folks, the human assembly-lines of the trade.
So here I am, as I am: an inveterate slowpoke, a chronic reviser. A tortoise in the race for publication. When at last I finish a paragraph to satisfaction—which sometimes can take an hour or more—I might get up from my chair, grab some cereal, and eat it from the box while staring out the picture window at nothing in particular. That takes ten minutes, at least. Then I’ll check my Facebook status. Ten more minutes. And if the paragraph I’ve just crafted is really good, I might—no I will—drive ten miles to the nearest Starbucks drive-thru for a tall Pike Place, no room. Finally, after another thirty minutes, I’ll return to my chair, rewarded and caffeinated, to settle in and begin writing the next one.
You get the point. There will be no “novel-in-a-month” packet mailing out from my home address any time soon. But that doesn’t mean I’m not a writer. Do you feel that way too? Whether we are prolific or plodding, writing is our way of life, our station. And while we will never be the same across the spectrum in terms of output or expeditiousness, we all share the distinction of being fortunate to have been given this knack for words.
And now to that next paragraph…